Iced Earth, Sanctuary, and Kill Ritual took over the Corona Theatre on March 25th for what was undoubtedly one of the year’s most anticipated tours. The prodigal fathers returning and the ceremonial honoring of another’s passing made for a special atmosphere in Montreal. Hundreds of fans showed up to pay their respects and bang their heads to two icons of the genre, and made it a night to remember.
I really only knew Kill Ritual by name when walking into the show. After speaking to a few people, the words “Dad rock” kept coming up, which was funny at the time, but definitely proved to be more accurate than not. The band blends classic rock, metal, and a bit of grunge into a pretty rad mix of energetic music. I jokingly said to a friend that these guys probably kill at biker rallies, but that really does seem to be the ideal demographic for them. Vocalist Davis Watson was in particular my favourite of the band, sporting a barely-buttoned shirt and wailing with an impressive range into the mic. The whole show had a certain cheesy element to it, but was fairly enjoyable nonetheless.
It was a little depressing watching Sanctuary take the stage. The weight of the loss of singer Warrel Dane was felt by generations of metal fans, and many were eagerly looking forward to the band’s live return. But even under that dark cloud their resolve to honour their bandmate and put on an amazing show was dominant, and they put on an incredible performance in the name of their fallen comrade.Witherfall vocalist Joseph Michael proved to be a perfect sub for Warrel. His range and execution were flawless, all while not trying to mimic him. Another new addition to the Sanctuary camp for this tour was ronin guitar slinger Joey Conception(The Absence, Jasta touring band), whose flawless performance was incredible to watch side by side with main axe Lenny Rutledge. The set list consisted for songs from Refuge Denied, Into The Mirror Black, and their 2014 comeback album The Year The Sun Died, all of which beautifully showcased the group’s dynamic songwriting and Warrel’s powerful vocal melodies.
Iced Earth have been noticeably absent from the stage since 2015, save for perhaps a handful of festivals, and by the looks and shouts from the crowd, they had been sorely missed. Any worry that rust may have set in during their time off were very quickly dashed away. The band are not only back, but looked better than ever. Taking no prisoners, they quickly stormed the stage to “The Great Heathen Army,” a cut from their newest album Incorruptible, leveling the packed and eager crowd. The lion’s share of the set was taken by songs from Incorruptible which is a risky move for a band with such a beloved back-catalogue, but I didn’t hear anyone complain about it, and frankly the new material stood out very positively amongst their more familiar songs.
Singer Stu Block has always been a vocal force, but since ascending into the Iced Earth ranks he’s hit another stratosphere. It’s truly inspiring to watch someone sing at that caliber for an hour and forty-five minutes knowing he’s going to get up and do it all again tomorrow. The length of the band’s set was a little daunting, but thankfully the quality of songs and overall performance kept things interesting til the end. Guitarist and main man Jon Shaffer hinted during the show that a recording of either the Montreal or the Quebec date may be used for an upcoming live album, so hopefully news of that will surface in the coming months.
Overall, the show was a bittersweet affair. On one hand we were welcoming back one of America’s premiere metal forces after a lengthy absence, and on the other we honored the memory of a fallen hero of our musical world, taken before we were ready to let him go. Regardless, Iced Earth and Sanctuary made some powerful statements Sunday night, and we thanked the metal gods for these wretched blessings and more to come.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Mihaela Petrescu
*edited by Kate Erickson