CONCERT REVIEW: Iced Earth/Symphony X/Warbringer

I missed the first few songs of Warbringer’s set, but if you only see half their set you get the idea. Every song thrashes the crowd equally. Unfortunately, being the first on the bill they played to a smaller crowd they deserve. Yet they managed to get the pits moving. As usual, the Palladium doesn’t seem suitable for their music. I don’t know if it was simply because they were early in the show, or the acoustics there doesn’t quite work for them. For some reason their sound comes across as muddled. With earplugs in, all you could hear were the vocals and drums. With the plugs out the guitars were much clearer, but too harsh. Nevertheless, the band put on a show worthy of horns up.

Symphony X kicked ass. Having seen them before a couple of times I knew that they would, but I never really saw them in a venue that large, playing for a crowd that big. They certainly knew how to work that crowd. Vocalist Russell Allen was a true front man. He knew how to work the crowd without being obvious about it. He didn’t really need to, anyway. With progressive power metal as technical yet rockin‘ as theirs, all he had to do was get into the music. I saw one audience member mimic Allen’s movements to a friend to poke fun at how trite they were. Yet Allen can pull it off. For one thing, he’s an excellent singer in a band onstage cooler than all of us. For another, his fists look like they are bigger than my head.

Michael Romeo is a guitar god. I normally don’t say that. Usually I’m not a fan of guitarists who can play well, yet just play songs to prove it. He plays solos with master-class proficiency and technicality, yet in a way that conveys the emotion of a song without straying off-course. I stayed up front for the whole show; when he launched into solos it was the few, rare times I got pissed off with moshers pounding me from behind. He is definitely not only one to listen to, but to watch.

Symphony X gets horns way up.

Alright, I admit it: I run a metal blog, I’m a big metal-head, and yet I know very little about Iced Earth. I understand they are one of the bigger names in the metal world, and I can tell why. Yet for some reason they never quite did it for me. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a great band. Last night they certainly proved that they were formidable performers and can really get the crowd moving. They have their share of great songs that I really like (one of which, “The Reckoning [Don’t Tread on Me], they didn’t play last night), but overall I just can’t get into them. That said, they certainly put on a good show. Aside from some mic issues on the first song, the sound was well-mixed and added a powerful intensity to the music.

The main thing that kept me there for their whole set was Stu Block. I’m already familiar with his work in the band Into Eternity. I knew going into this that he gives every performance his all, working the audience like a good front man should. Aside from stage antics, however, the biggest quality is his voice: he wails like no other. He hits the high notes with such volume and intensity he gives any power metal vocalist a run for their money. He doesn’t stay there, of course, singing his full range with bravado and precision. (Check out the aforementioned Into Eternity to hear how he handles the growling death metal vocals as well).

Not to dwell on just Block, the rest of the group gave it their all as well. They give the air of a band that’s been around the block. They know what they’re doing and don’t try to hide the fact behind a false sense of humility. Then again, you could tell that by the merchandise table, displaying a poster of guitarist John Schaffer that says “Don’t be a pussy!”

Overall, horns up.

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