Heaven & Hell / Lamb Of God / Iced Earth
10 November 2007
Wembley Arena, London

Whereas other parts of Europe have tasted a full headline Iced Earth set, in order to boost their UK profile, the Americans had taken this opening slot giving British fans only a brief 30 minutes teaser. To maximise this time there were few pauses in a breathless set which by my watch actually clocked in at 25 minutes.

Focusing primarily on their new epic Framing Armageddon, Iced Earth appeared to the battle sounds of Invasion with Tim Owens stood with arms outstretched in a crucifix pose. As on the record, Motivation Of Man bled into Setian Massacre as the guitars annoyingly popped in and out of the mix with Jon Schaffer looking somewhat perturbed.

After a quick question from Owens of “Are we ready for some metal?”, Burning Times was up next with the sound beginning to balance. This was the first time I’d heard Owens handle a song from the Matt Barlow era and whilst I can’t deny missing the familiarity of Barlow’s voice, there is no denying that Owens has an amazing set of lungs. Bent forward his shrieks soared higher as Declaration Day followed, again without a pause. Troy Steele’s solos could now be heard clearly and Schaffer showed little effects of his well known back problems swaying his long grey hair and looking not unlike Billy Connelly.

Owens really put his stamp on My Own Saviour which turned out to be the highlight of the set. Stalking the stage the man also known as The Ripper seemed absorbed in the song, at one point gripping onto Brent Smedley’s drum kit with a pained expression.

The anthemic nature of A Charge To Keep seemed to go down best with the crowd, Owens conducting matters stood upon the drum riser. The speedy Ten Thousand Strong wrapped up the set leaving us wanting more.

Iced Earth set list:
Invasion (intro) / Motivation of Man / Setian Massacre / Burning Times / Declaration Day / My Own Saviour / A Charge to Keep / Ten Thousand Strong

Lamb Of Godseemed to have been a controversial addition to this bill, though we had seen a lot of their shirts on route tonight and as a hellish red glow seeped through the dry ice, a chant of the band’s name emerged. Hourglass kicked things off with a somewhat blunt sound. Frontman Randy Blythe, sporting increasingly lengthening hair was a live wire bounding around the stage headbanging.

Whilst playing to a somewhat more mature crowd than usual, Blythe wasn’t changing his approach with a demand to “Get your asses moving!”. The tale end of Pathetic dropped in a bottom end so low you could feel your internal organs move.

With a quick change to the Sacrament album cover backdrop and a dedication to the road crew, things moved up a gear with the sound improving for Walk With Me In Hell. Comparative to Blythe, bassist John Campbell and guitarists Mark Morton and Will Adler were more static, shadowy figures with lights constantly behind them. The Slayer like guitar runs cut through as horns were raised.

Heading back to the Ashes Of The Wake album, Now You’ve Got Something To Die For and Laid To Rest continued the intensity, but it was the Pantera like stomp of Redneck that this crowd took to most. Switching backdrops again to their black and white one star US flag, Lamb Of God’s most catchy song may have lulled some into nodding along, but Blythe promised “Shit is about to get f**ked up!”. Black Label closed out the set on an aggressive note. I suspect opinions would have remained divided on Lamb Of God. For myself, 40minutes was an optimum length for the Americans to entertain.

Lamb Of God set list:
Hourglass / Pathetic / Walk With Me In Hell / Ruin / Now You’ve Got Something To Die For / Laid To Rest / Redneck / Black Label

Naming themselves Heaven & Hell was a clever move from the Dio-era line-up of Black Sabbath. It may have appeased Ozzy and Sharon, but it also freed them from the constraints of the Ozzy era, allowing them to concentrate on the two classics and the one not-so-bad studio album this line up put out. However, having seen Ozzy at this venue a mere 5 months ago, it is difficult not to compare the two. Heaven & Hell is apt in this respect. Heaven was one of the best, if not the best, set seen this year tonight. Hell was Ozzy stumbling through a set with the crutch of his backing band. They may not have filled the Arena like Ozzy did, but I’m sure more left tonight satisfied.

As the E5150 heralded the band’s arrival, the stage lit to reveal a churchyard like setting of brick work, iron fence and three church like windows, which contained a variety of projections and film throughout the set. The Mob Rules opened the set and immediately it was apparent we were in for a treat. The first thing that hit you was Ronnie James Dio’s vocal from the start was absolutely top notch. True, he has never let me down in the live environment, but he seemed on another level tonight. Sorry Jack Black, it is definitely not time for Dio to pass the torch!

Following the opener, Dio called for the house lights so he could get a look at the crowd’s faces. Dio came across very genuine and there was a sense of ease amongst the whole band. For Children Of The Sea, the Heaven & Hell album cover appeared behind the band with images of waves and rain. Tony Iommi was the epitome of cool calm. With a silver crucifix shining hung from his neck the classic riffs rained down like the waves on the screen behind him.

Visiting the Dehumanizer album, I sat well in the set and as Dio stomped around the stage twirling his mic stand one fan on crutches next to me headbanged furiously. Sign Of The Southern Cross, backed by stars, was simply immense. On the surface some of these songs seem so simple, yet they are so powerful. Skeletons twirled around the band as Voodoo came next. Whilst these songs aren’t particularly fast, I don’t think I’ve seen such frantic fingers on a bassist as Geezer Butler. It really is no wonder he has been such an influence on many metal bass players as his work rate is relentless yet the feel is never lost.

Vinny Apice took centre stage for an inevitable drum solo before Dio returned with a change of shirt from white to black as the band continued with Computer God. Meanwhile Iommi’s solo was sandwiched by renditions of Falling Off The Edge Of The World and Die Young.

Of course the jewel in the crown was the song of the band’s current name. Completely uncalled for the crowd began singing the riff as smoke and fire whipped up from the stage. Dio took charge and conducted the audience before the song continued with an extended jam section.

Returning for an encore, Shadow Of The Wind proved that the band’s new material can sit amongst the classics and the now planned new album will be one to look forward to. As the band wrapped things up with Neon Nights, the sheer quality of this performance and the way the players gel together make it no surprise that Heaven & Hell have decided to continue this adventure.

Heaven & Hell set list:
E5150 (intro) / The Mob Rules / Children Of the Sea / I / Sign Of the Southern Cross / Voodoo / Drum Solo / Computer God / Falling Off the Edge of the World / Guitar Solo / Die Young / Heaven and Hell / Shadow of the Wind / Neon Knights

Heaven & Hell
Lamb Of God
Iced Earth