This was an absolutely brilliant performance from 'new' Iced Earth and it dispelled any last lingering doubts that the band would decline without Matt Barlow. On the contrary, with Stu Block at the helm, Iced Earth have now moved up a level or two and finally look set to achieve the big success that they have deserved for so long now.
Stu has got all the stage presence a frontman ever needs. He looked like he had been in the band since the beginning as he skilfully worked the crowd and entertained between numbers with a seriously great sense of humour. Taking the mickey out of gaffer Jon Schaffer went down well and showcased the confidence, cameraderie and spirit he has brought to the camp.
I'm a big fan of Matt and was disappointed when he left but sorry Matt, Stu has outdone you in a big way...
Article continues below...
The magnificent Fury UK started a very early night. They have some club going on after 10.30pm at the Academy so the lads from Manchester started at 6.45pm! There was a concern that due to the ridiculously early start, they would be playing to a half empty hall but that was not the case at all.
The crowd was more than respectable in terms of numbers and Fury UK delighted long standing fans and gained plenty of new ones with their rather superb setlist.
This band has what it takes to get to the top of this business. They have the look, the sound, the songs and they are very much for real.
I fully expect Fury UK to become one of the top British Metal bands in the next two or three years and they really deserve it. Excellent musicianship delivering great, piledriving songs is a surefire recipe for success and these guys are ready for a big break.
MetalTalk.net will be supporting Fury UK in a big way over the coming months but we'll have to keep bass player Luke Appleton away from the offices or the girls will get no work done!
White Wizzard were supposed to be second band on but they didn't appear. Nobody knew they weren't going to play until Fury UK had finished and so far there is absolutely no word at all from the band as to why we didn't get to see them. The fans who paid to see three bands deserve an explanation...
And Iced Earth took everyone by surprise with their set list. No 'Melancholy', 'Ten Thousand Strong', 'When The Eagle Cries', 'Coming Curse' or many, many others that I expected to hear, yet the whole thing worked superbly well, each track knitting together to create a kaleidoscope of magical Metal that enthralled from beginning to end.
Special mention should go to an undersung hero, Troy Steele, the barely ever mentioned lead guitarist of Iced Earth who really is a majorly important component of the band. Troy put in a superbly enthusiastic performance and should be praised highly for his guitar virtuosity.
'Damien' was a special, unexpected treat and it was impressive to see Mr Schaffer himself do the spoken part in the middle of the song.
Jon seems to have a new lease of life now that Stu has joined the band. He seemed freer and larger than in previous years.
And there are no touring restrictions on Iced Earth now because Stu doesn't have a second career that limits the time he can spend with the band. That means they can tour as much as they want to now and that, coupled with the fact that this is the best Iced Earth line-up ever, means that they can now move ahead and take their place at Metal's top table. With Fury UK following in their footsteps and heading for the same place.
A great, great night. Don't miss the 'Dystopia' tour. Remaining dates below...
Slave to the Dark
When the Night Falls
Tragedy and Triumph
ICED EARTH 'DYSTOPIA' TOUR 2011 REMAINING DATES
05.11.2011 GBR Birmingham O2 Academy
06.11.2011 GBR Bristol O2 Academy
08.11.2011 FRA Paris Alhambra
09.11.2011 FRA Lyon Transbordeur
10.11.2011 ESP Barcelona Salamandra 1
11.11.2011 ESP Madrid Sala Heineken
12.11.2011 ESP Bilbao Rock Star Live
14.11.2011 ITA Milano Alcatraz
15.11.2011 ITA Rome Alpheus
18.11.2011 GRE Athens Gagarin 205
19.11.2011 GRE Athens Gagarin 205
20.11.2011 GRE Thessaloniki Principal Club
21.11.2011 BUL Sofia Yubileina Hall
22.11.2011 ROM Bucarest The Silver Church
23.11.2011 SER Belgrade SKC
24.11.2011 HUN Budapest Club 202
25.11.2011 SVK Bratislava Majestic Music Club
26.11.2011 POL Warsaw Stodola
27.11.2011 LTU Vilnius Forum Palace
29.11.2011 RUS Moscow Tochka Club
01.12.2011 FIN Helsinki Nosturi
03.12.2011 DEN Copenhagen The Rock
04.12.2011 GER Hamburg Markthalle
06.12.2011 GER Herford X
07.12.2011 GER Köln Essigfabrik
08.12.2011 GER München Backstage Werk
09.12.2011 GER Geiselwind Christmas Metal Festival
10.12.2011 SWI Pratteln Z7
11.12.2011 GER Ludwigsburg Rockfabrik
13.12.2011 TUR Istanbul Refresh The Venue
15.12.2011 CYP Nicosia Pavilion