March 13, 2018 Iced Earth Corrupt Los Angeles, CA 3-8-18 w/ Sanctuary & Kill Ritual
One of the hardest things to do is replace an original member of a band – whether it be a drummer, guitarist, or most of all, a lead vocalist. The bottomline, there will always be a notable difference since each member of any act has their own unique style. Finding a compatible and equally skilled replacement can be quite a challenge, but times change and a band must adapt in order to grow. A great example of achieving such a feat was portrayed on Thursday, March 8th, 2018 when Heavy Metal heroes Iced Earth brought their headlined Incorruptible Tour to Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, California. The sixth overall show on a tour supported by Sanctuary and Kill Ritual through March 29th, it was a night full of Heavy Metal bliss and then some.
First to the stage was local opener Thrown into Exile who offer serious competition to Iced Earth; to who has had more member changes over the years, although, Thrown into Exile has only existed around seven years in total. Now to just call Thrown Into Exile a local act, honestly, is a disservice. The band did in fact partake in the now defunct Mayhem Festival back in 2013. A chance for them to get more exposure, they built a following quickly, but unfortunately the band was still going through some growing pains, and back in 2014 had major lineup changes. Leaving Guitarist Mario Rubio as the only original member, Thrown into Exile continue on with Drummer Scott Shelko, Vocalist Joey Dalo – who has a great range from clean to harsh – Guitarist Ray Sanchez, and Bassist Dave Corsile. Together they help guide the band in a very heavy, futuristic direction that looks bright with brutality.
For those who have heard Thrown into Exile before, their sound has changed over the years – from Metalcore, to Thrash Metal, to Deathcore. Bringing it all together, they played tunes such as “The Wronged” and “Death’s Reprise,” keeping the energy at maximum level throughout the set. Showing strength and the ability to keep going strong, they have become one of the more popular bands on the Los Angeles Heavy Metal scene, continually booked on the larger touring packages for good reason. With Rubio leading the way, Thrown into Exile fit right at home on the large platform of Belasco, serving as a fitting opening act.
Next up was Kill Ritual, who once again, only has one original member, Guitarist Steven Rice. Sustaining their own lineup changes, the current configuration of Kill Ritual rock it out with Guitarist Chris Lotesto, Vocalist David Reed Watson, Bassist Jim Pegram, and Drummer Seamus Gleason. Initially come together in 2010, the band are out in support of their latest album, All Men Shall Fall.
So what does Kill Ritual have to offer? Together, their solidified lineup really seems to have a grasp on nailing a classic Heavy Metal sound with some elements of Thrash loaded in as well. Building a fanbase one show at a time, they seem to be climbing the ladder, and although this evening was a rushed set due to tight scheduling, they were enjoyable from start to finish. They offered their own sound, not rehashing anything, utilizing unique Metal riffs and impressive clean vocals. Heavy Metal through and through, a notable highlight was their great rendition of UFO’s “Lights Out.” Full of energy and life, Kill Ritual were tight until the end.
With two acts down, it made way for the most somber, bittersweet, and cherished band of the evening, Sanctuary. Those less up to speed on the news in the Heavy Metal community, back in December of last year, Lead Singer Warrel Dane unexpectedly passed away at the age of 56 due to a heart attack. Tragic on so many levels for Sanctuary and Nevermore fans, the Sanctuary tour was already booked, so how would the surviving members go about proceeding? As it turns out, Witherfall and former White Wizzard Vocalist Joseph Michael took on the task of carrying the band forward. To many turning more into a tribute and farewell to Warrel Dane, there is no doubt some fans came into the show a bit apprehensive as to what to expect.
Well, Michael proved himself up to the task, offering a very impressive vocal range and pitch that, at times, could cut through glass with its sheer intensity. Not to make Sanctuary’s set all about the late Dane, but anyone familiar with the vocalist knows he had a very dynamic range and style. That in mind, Michael was a perfect choice to continue the Sanctuary legacy for the sake of this tour. Hopefully he will stay on and become a full-time member. Afterall, it would be a shame to lose the band forever, even though Dane was a significant part of it all.
The rest of the band – including two core, original members, Lenny Rutledge on lead guitars and Dave Budbill on drums, along with George Hernandez on bass, and touring Guitarist Joey Concepcion – sounded quite cohesive. Yes, there were times it was noticeable that they were not quite used to Joseph’s personal vocal antics, but that is not a knock because it is so new to them and they were so accustomed to Dane. That part was the hardest to swallow in terms of a realization of Dane’s passing, but the honesty that came across just made them come across stronger as musicians instead of looking weak for getting slightly off beat.
Impressive, they started off the set jumping right into “Die For My Sins.” For the introduction of “Battle Angels,” Rutledge offered a little heartfelt Dane tribute speech, ending with the statement, “Are you ready to go into fucking battle?” An emotion arousing way to kick off the performance, other highlights of the set included “The Year The Sun Died,” “Soldiers Of Steel,” and “The Mirror Black.” Older and newer songs alike, Sanctuary crushed the audience to a pulp, got the pit riled up, and gave it their all. They proved they are prime to continue into the future, but the band and fans alike will never forget Warrel Dane.
As the night grew darker, and later, the time for headliner Iced Earth finally arrived! Out supporting their 2017 album, Incorruptible; one many are calling their best since 1998’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, there was a buzz in the air that could not be denied. Led by Riff-Master Jon Schaffer, their latest configuration includes former Into Eternity Vocalist Stu Block since 2011, Luke Appleton on bass, Brent Smedley on drums, and their latest edition, Jake Dreyer on guitar. Fortunately, as the voice of Iced Earth, Block has won over the polarized fanbase, now having three full-length albums under his belt a part of the clan. So, without any further ado, let’s get to the show!
First and foremost, Iced Earth came with their own lighting designer, so the stage’s illumination was drastically improved, immediately opening fans’ eyes. They also had the most elaborate drum setup for Smedley, with tall metal bars surrounding it, to which Block sometimes used as monkey bars as he sung. With this visual imagery now in your head, they started the set with rigor and speed on “Great Heathen Army” before smashing into other favorites including “Dystopia,” and “Seven Headed Whore.”
Moving forward, later on, Block and company manhandled “Vengeance Is Mine” and “Raven Wing.” Energetic and engaging, Iced Earth brought each song to life in the most vivid way possible. Performing an eighteen song set, no one seemed to lose interest as the band carried a great inspiring intensity. In fact, Dreyer is well beyond his years in regards to his skill level and his raw talent is capable of mastering any complicated riff with ease. He fits the modern Iced Earth in a refreshing way, as does Block with all his charisma and bold energy. A Metal orchestration through and through, they plummeted into “Storm Rider,” “Angels Holocaust,” and concluded with an encore performance of “Watching Over Me.”
Overall, the full production of Iced Earth was well-worth the ticket price and the emphasis on playing songs from Incorruptible did them justice since the record is full of powerful, driven tunes. Truthfully, this tour with Kill Ritual and Sanctuary is a perfect fit for Iced Earth, who really thrive in the setting of Thrash and Power Metal, all while maintaining a classic Heavy Metal sound. As mentioned in the start, it is always best to trudge through the tough times and create a future with whatever means necessary. Sure, some fickle fans may not like the outcome, but you cannot please everyone. Both Iced Earth and Sanctuary have proved they are strong as ever as cohesive units, making this tour a must see!
Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography