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Symphony X/Iced Earth/Warbringer Concert Review 2/28/12 Austin, TX

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Austin’s metal scene was a bit lacking when I moved here 5 years ago.  San Antonio has always been the metal capital of Texas but I think Austin has been picking it up a bit in the last few years.  While we’re still not getting Maiden, Priest, Scorpions and other big headliners like that, we’re still getting a steady stream of smaller acts.  Megadeth has come regularly and Motorhead always comes.  Luckily I get to see them together this coming weekend for Gigantour 2012.

Emo’s has been pretty consistent for bringing good metal since I’ve been here.  Now that they’ve moved to a bigger venue on the east side, they’ve been doing their due diligence and booking decent shows.

Last night was Symphony X/Iced Earth/Warbringer.

Warbringer opened up and I am indifferent about them.  Solid retro-thrash, but not bringing anything new to the table.  Like I said last night, “they’re just ripping off Testament.”

I once was a huge Iced Earth fan, then they released Something Wicked This Way Comes and I was out.  I’ve tried listening to all of their albums and they’ve never got me back.   I saw them in 1999 and filmed it.  You can see the entire show on Youtube. They picked up another singer recently, Stu Block, who used to be in Into Eternity.  The band was solid, as expected.  Jon Schaffer makes sure he’s got good players in his band.  They played 3 or 4 older songs and sounded good and the new stuff they played sounded fine.  Stu has a really good and clean high range, but his “normal” voice is a bit too much like Matt Barlow, minus the Hetfield-ah! tendencies that Matt had.  Whoever their lead player is these days is pretty good.  One annoying note, I really hate the crowd participation songs and they did it in over hald their set.  “hey hey hey hey!”  Ugh.

I saw Symphony X in 2000 at L’Amours in New York when they opened for Halford.  I thought they were good, but just not my cup of tea.  I like a handful of tracks from their first 3 records, but prefer to hear them on CD than live.  All very talented guys.  I left after their first song.

Iced Earth


Written by The Metal Files

February 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Iced Earth…a retrospective

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It was 1991 and I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was at Danile’s house hanging out for a few and I saw a cassette sitting on his bed.  Iced Earth (self-titled debut)?  Who?  Century Media Records?  What?  Well, it had a cool cover.  That was a good start.  So I popped it in.  Whoa.  Cool opening riff.  Singer was a bit odd but it worked well.  As the tape went on I just sat there kind of quiet (rare I know).  The riffs, the vocals, everything.  This was refreshing.  Remember, this was 1991.  Metal was going back to the underground and MTV was pushing new cash cows.  And hey, good for them.  But Iced Earth brought something new/old back to the game.  Galloping riffs, decent lyrics, and just well-played metal in general.  The riffs were well-crafted.

Shortly thereafter I was buying a copy for myself and hoping that a follow-up was in the works.  Much to my joy in 1992 they put out Night of the Stormrider.  New singer, better album.  This album is practically perfect from beginning to end.  Just awesome really.  It was really nice to have a newer metal band to dig on.  They were getting few and far between in the 1990s, ya know?  I absolutely adore this album and still listen to it regularly.  You should too!  Seriously, this is such an awesome album.

Icead Earth – 1991

Night of the Stormrider – 1992

Three years later they released Burnt Offerings.  Another singer change.  Some dude named Matt Barlow who ended up being their most popular singer and a favorite by most of their fans (not by me, mind you).  This album is very good, though.  A little darker than Stormrider, but the patented Jon Schaffer riffs are all there.  Barlow’s vocal performance is strong but he has always reminded me of Hetfield and Paul Stanley wrapped up into one, but with a better range.  Last December is the standout track for me for sure.  This album is definitely worth owning if you liked the first 2.

Flashing back to 1991 again, I went up to JMU to see Kelz for a weekend.  From my beer soaked memory of that weekend, I remember him letting me read a newer comic called Spawn.  I read the first few issues and thought it was a cool story.  When I had read that Iced Earth was doing a concept record based around the Spawn story, I was intrigued.  I’m not a big comic book fan but this one kept me interested for a few years.  As it was, Iced Earth released The Dark Saga in 1996 with an album cover by Spawn’s creator, Todd McFarland.  While this album is more straightforward than the previous 3, it was well done.  They fleshed the story out pretty well in my opinion and I still listen to this album quite often.

Burnt Offerings – 1995

The Dark Saga – 1996

It was right around mid-1997 time that I had started my own little online CD business and was starting to get promos from labels like Metal Blade and Century Media.  I remember them sending me Iced Earth’s Days of Purgatory.  Essentially it was rerecorded versions of some demos and songs from their first 2 albums with Barlow handling the vocals.  In the words of Homer Simpson…”BORING!”  Seriously, what a letdown.  But it gets worse for me.

In 1998 they released Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Iced Earth was at their height of popularity in the US and were HUGE overseas.  This album was them jumping the shark for me.  It got whimpy.  Too many ballads, the riffs were lacking, and Barlow’s voice was really grating my nerves now.  Do you really need that much emotion?  I was done.  Jon Schaffer, their mainman, was integrating too much comic book imagery and such and in my opinion their music started to suffer.  Sure, it’s his band and he can do what he wants, but I always felt that he was selling out to a degree.

On this tour I was given the privilege to interview Schaffer and Barlow before the show.  I don’t think Schaffer was too happy with the interview.  I pulled no punches, I never do.  Iced Earth is legendary for their numerous lineup changes and I questioned him about it.  He gave the right response in saying that it’s his band and if someone isn’t toeing the line like he wants, they’re gone.  Right on, I respect that.  But he didn’t like the question.  hen when I asked him about Keith Menser (Mystic Force) being pictured on the album but not actually playing on it, he got a little pissed and talked shit about Keith, but in a politically correct sort of way.  Overall Jon was cool and he had some issues with the venue that I think had him worked up.  They almost didn’t play at all because of the hip-hop that was playing on the jukebox when they were setting up for soundcheck.  Barlow didn’t speak much, but he was super cool and very amicable.  The show they put on was great and Barlow even mentioned my little cable access TV show between songs.  Very cool!  I never aired the interview.  I should post it one day.

So in 2001, Iced Earth released Horror Show which had songs related to characters in horror films.  Without saying anything else, I’ll just say this.  “zzzzzzzzzz”.  That was it.  No more for me.  I heard clips of subsequent albums that featured Ripper Owens (one of the most boring singers ever!) and the return of Barlow but I just couldn’t get into them.  That early stuff just couldn’t be touched.  It still can’t.

With the above being said, I do have a ton of respect for Jon Schaffer.  While I may not like the changes he made in the band’s musical style, I love how he marketed his band.  He obviously read the marketing handbooks written by KISS and Iron Maiden.  Put out shirts, EPs, anything.  Make the cash!  I totally respect that.  Make people know who you are!  They have done a great job with that, even if it did come mid-way through their career.

If you’ve never heard them and want to start somewhere, this is the order that I’d recommend them to anyone:

  1. Night of the Stormrider
  2. Iced Earth
  3. The Dark Saga
  4. Burnt Offerings
  5. Everything else

Through much of the 90s, I used to work November-January at a mall record store for some extra cash and just out of boredom.  When people would come in asking for metal recommendations, I’d quiz them a bit about the style of metal they were into and if they were of the Maiden/Priest/Accept/etc type metalhead, I always offered up Stormrider as my recommendation to them.  I even offered a guarantee that if they didn’t like the album to bring it back and I would buy it off of them.  I guess I probably sold about 10 or so of them and no one ever brought one back.  A few people even came back and thanked me for it.  That was pretty cool.

Video from the show I filmed in 1998.  The rest of the show is up there as well.  Enjoy!

Written by The Metal Files

November 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Yngwie Malmsteen, San Antonio, TX, 10/4/08

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i first saw yngwie in 85 opening for triumph and was already a huge fan before seeing that show. i think this was my 8th or 9th time seeing him since then. i got what i expected.

now…the review…

packed house @ scout bar in san antonio. my guitar player and i went. he had actually seen yngwie with steeler back in the old days (bastard!).

nice venue, good sized stage.

opening act: ANJ from Moscow – they blew. kudos to them for being able to do a US tour but they were pretty awful. boring.

before ANJ played, yngwie’s drummer called me and asked me to meet him at the backstage door. we walked over and hung out with him for about 15 minutes or so. cool guy, always a pleassure to talk to him.

so the lights go back down after ANJ get’s their stuff off the stage and yngwie starts up. the sound was terrible…the whole night. owens commented on it several times. drums sounded like shit, could barely hear the keyboards or the bass (which is typical for an yngwie show).

owens sounded pretty good all the way through except on i’ll see the light tonight. he is a good frontman. he also used some cheat sheets to help with lyrics.

yngwie was yngwie. he played very little ryhthm guitar which is disappointing because he writes great riffs. his guitar tech was a bit of a dumbass. you had to see what was going on to get it i guess.

yngwie can still play his ass off. he looked a bit thinner than when i last saw him although i think the melon on his shoulders gets bigger, and i am not referring to his ego. but whatever, he shredded. he did some beautiful acoustic work.

his keyboard player stunk. just awful. i was a bit shocked. he’s had some fine key players over the years but missed the mark on this one.

i was also a bit disappointed that they didn’t do any new songs. i mean c’mon, the album comes out in 2 weeks, give us a preview!

here’s the setlist out of order:

rising force
cherokee warrior – yngwie on vocals
cracking the whip
demon driver
rise up
i am a viking – ripper sounded decent on this
i’ll see the light tonight – he sounded ok, got the lyrics wrong in the first verse. i’ll post the vid later.
black star
you don’t remember, i’ll never forget
gates of babylon
suite opus 4
some other instrumental

turn your volume down before starting this video:

Written by The Metal Files

October 5, 2008 at 2:59 pm