A night of piercing vocals, power metal and heavy hearts dominated the performance put on by Iced Earth, Sanctuary and Kill Ritual last Tuesday at the Aztec Theater. And you can add another description: entertaining.
Iced Earth, touring in support of late 2017 release Incorruptible, blistered its way through a 15-song showing split nearly evenly between new tracks and old. The brainchild of rhythm and lead guitarist and lone remaining original member Jon Schaffer in the late 1980s, Iced Earth captivated the general-admission crazies up front and those watching from the mid-level VIP sections.
Opening with new track "Great Heathen Army" (setlist in photo gallery), the band out of Tampa, Florida, with Canadian frontman Stu Block packed a punch with its uniquely themed songs mostly based on 19th century battles, wars and other historical points. During new tunes "Black Flag" and "Raven Wing," Block soared as high as his voice when he climbed Brent Smedley's drum riser and became a picture of vertical vocal prowess, steadying himself while holding the mic with his other hand (ATM Facebook Live footage of the former here).
Along with guitarist Jake Dreyer and bassist Luke Appleton, Iced Earth kept the molten metal coming with classics such as "Vengeance is Mine" and "Dystopia" plus Incorruptible track "Seven-headed Whore." Watch ATM footage of "Brothers" and "Dracula" here.
Schaffer, who shared that he changed the name of his band from Purgatory to its current moniker in 1988, took over lead-vocal duties on "Stormrider" from 1991's Night of the Stormrider. Smedley, marking his fourth stint in the group, pounded the rocks all evening while Appleton and Dreyer more than held up their end of the bargain.
Although Iced Earth's classics were relegated to songs from Block's 2011 debut on Dystopia and earlier ones from former vocalist Matt Barlow, the band shelved any taste of the Tim "Ripper" Owens era from The Glorious Burden and Framing Armageddon. Still, Block's penchant for showcasing his multi-octave range was impressive, particularly to those who may have not caught Iced Earth live before. Get a taste by watching complete ATM footage of encores "Clear the Way (Dec. 13, 1862)" and "Watching Over Me" below.
Sanctuary, meanwhile, was the middle band of the trifecta but performed easily the most meaningful set of the night.
The tour had been announced a couple of weeks prior to the Dec. 27 death in Brazil of a heart attack of original vocalist Warrel Dane, who was recording a solo album over the holidays. Rather than drop off the tour, Sanctuary original guitarist Lenny Rutledge and drummer Dave Budbill chose to use it to honor Dane's legacy, which also included his time in Nevermore and as a solo artist. The pair recruited Witherfall singer Joseph Michael, along with guitarist Joey Concepcion to join bassist George Hernandez in putting on an hour-long set.
Sanctuary, discovered and produced by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, debuted in 1988 with Refuge Denied and followed two years later with Into the Mirror Black. Due to the changing music scene of the 1990s and assorted other issues, Sanctuary would not release another album until reuniting for 2014's The Year the Sun Died.
After dropping demos compilation Inception last year, Sanctuary made a rare Alamo City appearance opening with classic barnburner "Die For My Sins," with Michael 's high-pitched opening lyric "Youuuu're living in a lie" doing a young Dane justice from the 1988 release. Those not familiar with Michael's prior work in Witherfall came to know him quickly throughout the set, aided by his performance on "Seasons of Destruction," "Soldiers of Steel," "The Year the Sun Died" and riveting finale "Taste Revenge," which he sang among the crowd (setlist in photo gallery). Access ATM Facebook Live footage of "Future Tense" here.
Kill Ritual, which three weeks earlier dropped All Men Shall Fall, kicked things off with a 30-minute set. The group, formed in 2010, has undergone a variety of changes, with guitarist Steven Rice the lone original member in attendance and vocalist David Reed Watson having joined in 2015.
Check out a 60-photo slideshow of all three bands below.