Symphony X and Iced Earth share stage in Vancouver

By Jacob Zinn
[contributor]

It took them a good 18 years, but Symphony X finally made it to Vancouver.

The New Jersey progressive metal group – joined by Florida metallers Iced Earth – shredded through 12 blistering songs at the Commodore Ballroom on Valentine’s Day during the sole B.C. date of their North American co-headlining tour.

Both bands performed 90-minute sets, with Iced Earth and its new Vancouverite lead singer, Stu Block, going on first. The denim-clad vocalist stirred up a circle pit and opened the show with the rip-roaring title track of the band’s new album, Dystopia.

The band exhausted their 10-album back catalogue, jumping from 1991’s “Angels Holocaust” to 1996’s “Slave to the Dark” to 2004’s “Declaration Day”. The raucous crowd responded well to “When the Night Falls” off the band’s self-titled 1990 debut album as guitarists Jon Schaffer and Troy Seele soloed through the classic tracks and the energetic Block provoked a synchronous raising of fists.

Their new songs included “V”, “Dark City” and “Anthem”, as well as the metal ballad “End of Innocence”, written about Block’s mother who is fighting cancer. The band followed that with its encore, featuring thunderous double-kick in 1995’s “Dante’s Inferno” and the eponymous “Iced Earth”.

After a 30-minute intermission and nearly two decades of anticipation, Symphony X took to the ballroom’s stage for a long overdue hour and a half of neo-classical metal at its finest. Lead singer Russell Allen, with a half-empty glass skull of what looked like whiskey in hand, pumped up the crowd for the show they’d been waiting for.

Touring on their 2011 record, the band opened with the title track of Iconoclast, followed by “The End of Innocence” (not to be confused with the song Iced Earth had just played). The enthused fans rocked out to “Dehumanized”, “Bastards of the Machine” and the scream-powered “When All is Lost”, but were anxious for some older songs to contrast the band’s current sound.

Between songs, Allen addressed Symphony X’s label of prog metal with an if-you-say-so attitude.

“There are all these subgenres of metal,” said Allen, spouting off a few for good measure. “The only thing that matters is metal.”

Founding guitarist Michael Romeo intricately finger-tapped the intro to “Inferno (Unleash the Fire)” off 2002’s The Odyssey, showcasing his obscenely flawless fretwork and burning through arpeggios up and down his custom Caparison Dellinger II.

The band returned to their new material, with Allen carrying his brash, smash-mouth vocals through “Electric Messiah” and the anthemic “Children of a Faceless God”. The oldest song in their set turned out to be the moshpit-provoking “Of Sins and Shadows” from 1997’s The Divine Wings of Tragedy.

Symphony X left the stage momentarily before returning for their last three songs, all of which were from 2007’s Paradise Lost. Allen high-fived fans during “Eve of Seduction” and the audience marvelled at Romeo’s adept hammer-on and pull-off skills for the “Serpent’s Kiss” and the keyboard-heavy “Set the World on Fire (The Lie of Lies)”.

By the show’s end, the crowd left the Commodore knowing that this calibre of symphonic metal is hard to come by. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take Symphony X another 18 years to show us how it’s done.

Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Iced Earth's Troy Seele (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Iced Earth's Jon Schaffer (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Symphony X's Russell Allen (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Symphony X's Michael Lepond (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Symphony X's Russell Allen (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

Symphony X's Michael Romeo (Jacob Zinn/The Runner)

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