Saturday, July 16, 2011

Festivals of the Wicked - Iced Earth - 2011

Iced Earth: Festival of the WickedIced Earth treated fans to a massive collection of live material this week with the simultaneous CD and DVD releases of Festivals of Wicked, collecting live performances from 2007 and 2008 featuring both Tim "Ripper" Owens and Matt Barlow. The double-DVD set includes three full European performances from Wacken Open Air 2007, Rock Hard Festival 2008 and Metal Camp Slovenia 2008. The CD, a single disc, collects highlights and bookends four Owens tracks from '07 between four Barlow tracks each at the beginning and close of the album. For fans previously only blessed with Alive in Athens, Festivals of the Wicked serves as an inverse to that set (a single DVD and three-CD album) and, for the DVD portion, rivals in both quality and volume of material Amon Amarth's Wrath of the Norsemen, the current benchmark for heavy metal DVD releases.

The DVD set takes the cake over the CD by a longshot, the latter more or less serving as a sampler at best. While the material on the CD is top-notch, it is far too brief and feels simply like a drop in the bucket compared to the generous contents of the DVD collection. Additionally, while I thoroughly enjoy both "Ripper" Owens and Matt Barlow as vocalists, it is a little jarring to switch from Barlow to Owens and then back mid-album. I realize that the reality of music sales in the present day all but eliminates the possibility of another triple-live set but I would have gladly paid three times the price for a collection of all three shows in audio alongside the DVD.

All three shows on the DVD feature Iced Earth as headliners and all shows look absolutely great. Alive in Athens satisfied despite technical issues but Festivals of the Wicked delivers on a grand scale. These are big shows, look and feel like big shows and sound like big shows - and the sound quality, video and editing is superb throughout. And, as always, the performances are technically spot-on while remaining emotionally charged. The presence of an exceptional Tim Owens set says a lot about Jon Schaffer and the band's willingness to acknowledge more than just the most recent lineup. Add to these shows a handful of music videos, photo galleries and an hourlong documentary and you have enough Iced Earth to justify a day off of work. This is a great way to wrap up the Barlow era (once and for all?) and I, for one, anxiously await Stu Block and Dystopia.

CD Tracklist:
01. Dark Saga*
02. Vengeance is Mine*
03. Burning Times*
04. Declaration Day*
05. Prophecy**
06. Birth of the Wicked**
07. The Coming Curse**
08. Ten Thousand Strong**
09. Travel in Stygian***
10. Dracula***
11. A Question of Heaven***
12. Iced Earth*
*Metal Camp Slovenia 2008
**Wacken Open Air 2007
***Rock Hard Festival 2008

DVD Tracklists:
Metal Camp (Tomlin, Slovenia):
01. Dark Saga
02. Vengeance Is Mine
03. Burning Times
04. Declaration Day
05. Violate
06. Pure Evil
07. Watching Over Me
08. Ten Thousand Strong
09. Dracula
10. The Coming Curse
11. I Died For You
12. Travel In Stygian
13. A Question Of Heaven
14. Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
15. My Own Savior
16. Iced Earth

Rock Hard Festival (Gelsenkirchen, Germany):
01. Dark Saga
02. Vengeance Is Mine
03. Burning Times
04. Declaration Day
05. Violate
06. Pure Evil
07. Watching Over Me
08. Ten Thousand Strong
09. Dracula
10. The Coming Curse
11. Travel In Stygian
12. A Question Of Heaven
13. Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
14. My Own Savior
15. Iced Earth

Wacken Open Air (Wacken, Germany):
01. Burning Times
02. Declaration Day
03. Violate
04. Vengeance Is Mine
05. Ten Thousand Strong
06. The Hunter
07. Stormrider
08. A Charge To Keep
09. My Own Savior
10. Prophecy
11. Birth Of The Wicked
12. The Coming Curse
13. Iced Earth


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