American heavy/power metallers Iced Earth have returned to London once again. Their most recent jaunt to these shores was only last October in support of Danish hard rockers Volbeat, which undoubtedly earned them a wave of new converts in attendance at the O2 Academy Islington tonight. The London faithful are out in force this cold evening to support these metal veterans once again.
Support comes from American retro-thrash metallers Warbringer who enjoyed considerable success in the thrash metal revival around five years ago. With label mates Iced Earth's brand of melodic metal undeniably flavoured by thrash metal, it seems fitting for the headliners to bring along a young thrash act that a vast portion of Iced Earth's fans would probably like. The Californian five-piece are confident in their furious headbanging while serving up riffs heavily inspired by classic thrash metal acts including Slayer and Exodus that effortlesssly instigates a mosh pit in the centre of the venue.
With four albums to their name since the release of debut 'War Without End' in 2008, Warbringer have a wealth of material from which to compose their setlist with. Dishing out favourites including 'Severed Reality', 'Living in a Whirlwind' and 'Combat Shock', the quintet prove to be a fun thrash metal act in the live sphere and a well-selected support act for the headliners judging by the audience's overall reaction.
Anticipation is high for Iced Earth and the audience explodes into a volcano of appreciation as they launch into new song 'Plagues of Babylon', the almost eight minute long title track of their new studio effort released at the start of this year. The energy of the band strikes the audience positively and the darker tones of this dynamic and boundless type of power metal shine particularly in concert with countless opportunities to headbang to the unconventional melodic metal heaviness. Their interpretation of metal is gallpoing and violent, like Iron Maiden crossed with early Metallica, harbouring memorable melodies that possess an edge of aggression. Strikingly, singer Stu Block's vocals are low in the mix, clouding his usually impressive vocal range with a haze that strains above the instruments.
In spite of its youth, 'Plagues of Babylon' songs are a mass proportion of the setlist including the longer numbers 'The End?' and 'Cthtulu' alongside 'Among the Living Dead', 'Demonicide', 'If I Could See You' and 'Peacemaker'.The remainder of the setlist is rich in rarities, including the thrash metal orientated 'Disciples of the Lie', the insistent 'Red Baron/Blue Max' and the sinister 'Jekyll & Hyde'. A wealth of fan favourites are performed such as 'Dark Saga', 'Blessed Are You' and 'My Own Savior' with the same professionalism and sharpness that their recorded counterparts wield. The fan reaction is incredibly spirited with persistent mosh pits and headbanging throughout the set, as can be expected at an Iced Earth show.
Impressively, closer comes from the lengthy and emotively-driven 'A Question of Heaven' a fantastic eight minute long treat for the die-hards from 'The Dark Saga'. Following a departure from the stage, the power metallers return for a three-track encore, leading with the title track from 2011's 'Dystopia', followed by the sing along opportunity that is the ballad 'Watching Over Me' and concluding with the usual Iced Earth curtain calling song 'Iced Earth', that ensures the audience deliver one final hurrah.
As always, Iced Earth leave behind a devastating volley of '80s influenced metal that seeks to create its own identity and adapt seamlessly with modernity. The proliferation of the 'Plagues of Babylon' tracks contributed positively to the set and this show is certainly one that the most ardent Iced Earth fans love due to the inclusion of songs that have rarely been performed.