Iced Earth at Baltimore Soundstage

After the immense high of seeing Judas Priest in concert, and with news of an impending snow storm coming the following day, I was excited to chill out for one more great concert with Iced Earth at Baltimore Soundstage on March 19, 2018. What’s more, they were bringing Sanctuary with them, a great metal band who recently had experienced turmoil, but were persevering to bring their music to the masses. Opening for these two respected metal acts were Kill Ritual, and a particular delight to me, MindMaze, a group I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several times before.

MindMaze: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iTunes 

Pennsylvania-based MindMaze is a talented foursome, featuring siblings Sarah (vox) and Jeff Teets (guitars), bassist Rich Pasqualone, and drummer Mark Bennett. Having seen them open for Udo Dirkschneider (ex-Accept), as well as attending a headlining show of theirs, I’m familiar with their intricate, melodic brand of heavy metal. Opening for Iced Earth was a great chance for them to showcase this to a new audience, and their six-song set brought a huge response from the crowd. Bennett’s monumental beats crashing down supported the meanderings of Jeff and Rich as they attempted not to get their fingers tied in knots wandering their fretboards. Sarah’s banshee wail closed out the final notes of “This Holy War,” widening eyes and ushering applause from the audience.


Kill Ritual: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | iTunes

Next up were West Coast metallers, Kill Ritual, supporting their newest album, All Men Shall Fall. Though only four of the quintet were present (bassist Jim Pegram being on tour with Mudface, so guitarist Chris Lotesto took up bass duties), they put on a solid set. They were very relaxed, feeling at home on stage and off! In fact, during the third song of their set, vocalist David Reed Watson disappeared and suddenly showed up in the photo pit with us. Soon he was standing on the barricade, screaming into the crowd, while Lotesto and guitarist Steven Rice commanded the stage alongside drummer Seamus Gleason.


Sanctuary: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Sanctuary has had a rough time in recent memory. In December 2017, frontman Warrel Dane (ex-Nevermore) passed away. However, with the tour already in place, the band decided to continue, dedicating these performances as both a tribute to Dane’s life and as a farewell tour for the band. Joined by Witherfall vocalist, Joseph Michael, they put on one Hell of a show for Baltimore, drawing on equal amounts of material from their three studio albums, Refuge Denied, Into The Mirror Black, and the most recent release, The Year The Sun Died. The songs were nailed down tight, and Michael hit high note after high note, while guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Joey Concepcion (Armageddon) seared through dual guitar solos. All in all, it was a wonderful send-off for the band and I wish them all the best of luck on their next endeavors.


Iced Earth: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Iced Earth, on a world tour in support of their album, Incorruptible, took the stage to a roaring crowd. The setlist was a mix of extremely early and extremely recent material: while the plurality of songs came from Incorruptible, the majority of tracks came from 90s releases, with the focus on the band’s sophomore album, Night Of The Stormrider. But early or old, the crowd was ecstatic to be in attendance. Every hand in the audience was thrown up, pounding forth to the rhythm of the music in the form of a clenched fist or horns. “Do we still have energy out there?!” vocalist Stu Block screamed to the crowd, who cheered back a forceful wall of affirmation. “Good, that’s the key,” he responded, before going into The Dark Saga tune, “Vengeance Is Mine.” Soundstage was suddenly filled with chants of “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!”

Something unexpected and truly special for fans occurred during the encore. As the group tore into the heavier portion of “Watching Over Me,” former vocalist Matthew Barlow emerged onstage and joined in. Hitting the highs of the chorus while Block took the lows, they sang shoulder to shoulder, then let the music drop off suddenly, allowing the audience to continue the chorus A Capella. The night closed out, all members, including Barlow, bowing to that same roar of the crowd which had greeted them when they first took the stage.

Top heavy metal albums of 2014

As we close out 2014, we should look back on the metal albums that stood out these past 12 months. 2014 was the year of the comeback as several legendary bands released notable albums after considerably lengthy absences. This includes At the Gates, Behemoth, Entombed A.D. and Sanctuary. With one more year under our belt it is safe to say 2015 will definitely deliver the goods. Now without further ado a list of the best heavy metal albums of 2014.


1. Behemoth- The Satanist



2. At the Gates – At War with Reality



3. Crowbar – Symmetry in Black



4. Sanctuary – The Year the Sun Died



5. The Haunted – Exit Wounds



6. Prong – Ruining Lives



7. Entombed A.D. – Back to the Front



8. Septicflesh – Titan



9. Judas Priest – Redeemer of Souls



10. Vallenfyre – Splinters


CD Review: ‘The Year The Sun Died’ by Sanctuary

Before Nevermore, there was Sanctuary. The Seattle power/progressive metal band released two albums; Refuge Denied (1987) and Into the Black Mirror (1989) before splitting up in 1992. Since that time, vocalist Warrel Dane formed highly acclaimed metal outfit Nevermore with guitarist Jeff Loomis. However, with Nevermore on indefinite hiatus since 2011, Dane has again turned his attention towards Sanctuary. The Year the Sun Died is the band’s third album and its first release in 25 years.

“Arise and Purify” opens the album and is the record’s first single. The song is a colossal machine of strong rhythm guitar and sweeping leads. The Nevermore sound is apparent from the start as the musicianship is technical and precise. Although fans will miss Jeff Loomis’ outworldly guitar work, Brad Hull and Lenny Rutledge are fantastic shredders in their own right. The machine continues on the mysterious “Let the Serpent Follow Me.” The hypnotic chorus is the highlight as it sways back and forth like a snake. The apocalyptic psychedelia of “Exitium (Anthem Of The Living)” is only made more dramatic with the despairing chorus. Dane is in top form on this track and belts some powerful notes. The band gets into a nice groove on “Question Existence Fading,” that does not relent until the end. Again, Hull and Rutledge pull out some razor sharp riffs underneath stellar lead work. The melancholy of “I am Low” hits hard thanks to a descending acoustic riff and Dane’s solemn vocals.

The apocalyptic theme is evident throughout this album. While the record is not a concept album, the songs are connected by dour lyrics and urgent musicianship. Zeuss (Crowbar, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall) produced the record, which is an interesting choice as he is known for producing hardcore records. Still, the sound is crisp and lush, and there is no clicking or dryness anywhere. Production is always a primary issue for power and progressive metal albums. It is necessary for all instruments to be heard in order to convey the complex musicianship on each track.

The Year the Sun Died will satisfy fans of Nevermore. Although some will argue that Nevermore should regroup, Sanctuary should silence most critics with this record. It is a strong American metal release that stacks up with any contemporary prog/power release. While the youthful vigor found on the band’s first two records is largely absent, the heaviness and musical dexterity is abundant. The Year the Sun Died radiates heaviness.

The Year the Sun Died will be released on Oct. 14, 2014. Follow the band on Facebook at