Review Summary: The only Iced Earth album necessary for casual fans.
Live albums are meant for hardcore fans. A casual fan isn’t going to want to deal with crowd noise and in-between song banter just to get to the next track. Also, live albums almost always have a sound that is inferior to the studio albums -- Decade of Aggression
comes to mind as an exception to that rule. There are times, though, when a live album is actually kind of cool. If the track list is comprehensive enough, a live album can serve as a ‘best of’ release for those that don’t want to buy every album. Also, if a band member has been switched out it can be cool to hear how the new guy does with the older material – Anthrax is a perfect example. Iced Earth’s latest live album manages to hit on all of the potential positives while avoiding the typical pitfalls that afflict most live releases.
First and foremost, Live In Ancient Kourion
has an excellent production. The songs all sound just as powerful (if not more, depending on the age of the original track) as the studio albums they were pulled from, and the individual instruments come through crystal clear. Also, a quick glance at this double album proves that the band chose all of their best songs, with very few (if any) duds. They’ve got classics such as “Angel’s Holocaust” and “Storm Rider” along side newer tracks such “Dracula” and “Invasion” – and the entire rendition of “Dante’s Inferno” too. Of course, the most interesting part of this live album is the inclusion of their latest vocalist, Stu Block. Personally, I think he is the best vocalist that Iced Earth has ever had. He can pull off the classic songs with ease and includes a power that was missing from the originals. He can also mimic Matt Barlow’s baritone perfectly while also adding an occasional death/black metal shriek from time to time. Honestly, I’m not too familiar with the Tim Owens-era material, but I’m willing to bet that Stu is recreating those vocals perfectly, as well.
It’s not very often that a live album will appeal to more than just hardcore fans, but this one does. If there’s only one release that you need to get for the entire Iced Earth experience, this is it. The song selection is excellent, the sound is flawless and the band’s latest vocalist is the best they’ve ever had.