Iced Earth plague Pittsburgh

Metal miscreants Iced Earth have recently launched their Worldwide Plagues North American tour in support of their latest album, Plagues Of Babylon, making their way across the country with Swedish power metal heavyweights, Sabaton, and Danish symphonic metal masters, ReVamp, serving as openers. The good people of Pittsburgh were fortunate enough to have the tour make a stop at premier concert venue Stage AE. Pittsburgh’s own Vermithrax landed the coveted spot of local support. Anyone who has had the distinct pleasure of seeing them in the past knows exactly what they bring to the table, why they are highly regarded as one of the best Pittsburgh has to offer and why they would be chosen to start the show for metal legends like Iced Earth. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Iced Earth Worldwide Plagues Tour/Vermithrax/\”] Due to a scheduling snafu concerning the start time of the show, a few missed their set, which was a damn shame because those who caught it were treated to a blistering, high octane five-song set. It may have only been five songs, but tracks like “Architects Of Fear,” “The Summoning” and “Extinction Event” earned them a massive response and set the bar extremely high for anyone unfortunate enough to have to follow them. Fortunately ReVamp were more than up to the challenge set forth to them. It took mere seconds to see exactly why Floor Jansen and her angelic voice were picked to replace Anette Olzon in Nightwish. She is a charismatic, natural born frontwoman, but fans shouldn’t have expected to hear any Nightwish tonight- ReVamp is a much heavier beast, all of its own. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Iced Earth Worldwide Plagues Tour/ReVamp/\”] Jansen held the impassioned onlookers in the palm of her hand and they did as she commanded. She had surrounded herself with some very impressive players who made the most of their short but sweet seven song set, thrashing about the entire stage as hair windmills spun out of control and horns were held high during tracks like “Wild Card,” “Nothing,” “Disdain” and closer “Wolf And Dog,” after which, Jansen invited the crowd back to the merch area to have a beer with the band. Sabaton were next and their unique brand of power metal was well received indeed. They hit the ground running, moving straight in for the kill like a rabid Mike Tyson seeking to deliver the fatal knockout blow, only stopping after their monster smash, “Carolus Rex,” for frontman Joakin Broden to jokingly say “For those of you who don’t yet know us, we are the Village People,” which prompted enough chants of Y.M.C.A. to cause the band to play a few bars of the 70’s hit complete with the letters being spelled out with their arms. Friends, it doesn’t get any more metal than that. Each and every song is an anthem greater than the last that had every fist thrust high in the air. Broden took to the mic one final time to say “It has been fantastic fun to play for you tonight. I’m glad to see all ages represented and please you young ones, don’t tell your Mom I said the f word.” He went on to add “Bad news is that this is our last song. Good news is Iced Earth is next.” [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Iced Earth Worldwide Plagues Tour/Sabaton/\”] They then ripped relentlessly into closer “Metal Crue” and the feverish fans took full advantage of their last chance to mosh. At last, the stage lights dimmed, the intro music began and headliners Iced Earth finally took the stage. From the opening notes of “Plagues Of Babylon,” it was instant pandemonium and the most brutal pits of the night opened the floor like a powderkeg of dynamite going off. The vocal acrobatics and piercing falseto of frontman Stu Block screamed through the air like a human buzzsaw as he prowled the stage, frequently jumping off the drum riser and commanding the crowd. Every member of the band was in top form as they roamed around like a pack of wild savages, owning every inch of the stage. Block worked the crowd into a frenzy without ever saying a word by just raising his arms as the rest of the band flexed their musical muscles on “Red Barron/Blue Max.” The use of dark and dank purple and red lighting, fake smoke and turbulent kick drums during ferocious classics like “Vengeance Is Mine” just went to further help set the mood while “My Own Savior” spawned the most lethal pits of the night and was the perfect accompaniment to the breakneck speed and fist pumping chants of “Hey Hey Hey” that ran through it. [lg_slideshow folder=\”2014/Iced Earth Worldwide Plagues Tour/Iced Earth/\”] Closer “A Question Of Heaven,” was prefaced by Block saying, “We got a few left. Do you still have a few in you? Then let’s hear your singing voices all the way to the heavens.” The band briefly exited the stage before returning moments later amid clouds of smoke and flashing lights to deliver the encores of “Dystopia,” “Watching Over Me” and “Iced Earth” to a deafening response that nearly brought the house down. Despite the place only being a little over half full, the crowd was louder than a trainload of TNT derailing into a nitro glycerin factory. -Eric Hunker