After a tumultuous few years with lineup changes Iced Earth returned in 2011 with the excellent ‘Dystopia’ album and now we are being treated to ‘Live In Ancient Kourion’ in a variety of formats. My problem is that I’m only reviewing the 2CD audio version, so cannot comment on DVD or Blu-Ray quality but judging by the CD alone; this must have been a very special evening indeed. Deciding to record at The Kourion Amphitheatre in Cyprus might be an unusual choice, especially with all of the logistics that came with the decision, but Iced Earth do have a fanatical following in this part of the world, as can be heard on the ‘Alive In Athens’ album from a few years ago and, true to form, the Cypriot audience is rabid to the extreme.
Of course, this is also the first official live release with new vocalist Stu Block and so the main question is, at least for those that haven’t actually witnessed him, ‘can he deliver?’ I have seen him with Iced Earth and the resounding answer is a huge YES; in fact, he delivers with plenty to spare and you almost immediately forget that he is following in the footsteps of Matt Barlow and Tim Owens such is his command of the songs. I honestly think this is the strongest Iced Earth lineup to date, with Luke Appleton proving what a wonderful addition he has been on bass with some excellent and clear playing. Gigging as much as the band have done recently has also paid off, with the 27 song, almost two hours twenty minutes set sounding as tight as my jeans were in the 1980s. They play a good part of the ‘Dystopia’ album but also a big selection of material from previous albums, thereby keeping fans of all ages happy.
My only real issue is that this is just the CD version. With a set as expansive as this, filmed at an incredible location, I want to be able to see what is happening. Lights, explosions, crowd, grimaces and sweat all need to be appreciated. This isn’t so much a live album as an audio rip from the DVD and, as such, you are losing a huge amount of what makes this performance special. As a bonus set accompanying the DVD then fine, but I would not buy this version on its own, unless I was an Iced Earth completist. That takes nothing away, though, from what is a great band in full flow and I will indeed be getting my own copy of the DVD to savour. With a new studio album planned for later this year and dates for an extensive world tour in 2014-2015 already booked, Jon Schaffer, and his ‘never say die’ attitude has taken Iced Earth from a precarious position to arguably the best they have ever been.
LIVE IN ANCIENT KOURION
Review by Rick Tilley
70:31 & 68:02
15th April 2013
CD1: 1) Intro; 2) Dystopia; 3) Burning Times; 4) Angel's Holocaust; 5) Slave to the Dark; 6) V; 7) When the Night Falls; 8) I Died for You; 9) Invasion; 10) Motivation of Man; 11) Setian Massacre; 12) Stormrider; 13) Pure Evil; 14) Wolf; 15) Dark City; 16) Dracula; 17) Ten Thousand Strong
CD2: 1) Anthem; 2) Declaration Day; 3) Days of Rage; 4) Melancholy; 5) Encore Intro; 6) In Sacred Flames; 7) Boiling Point; 8) Damien; 9) Watching Over Me; 10) Dante's Inferno; 11) Iced Earth; 12) The Hunter
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...Jon Schaffer, and his ‘never say die’ attitude has taken Iced Earth from a precarious position to arguably the best they have ever been."