- Iced Earth
There's the underground, and then there's the underground. Black/death bands have achieved vanguard status in modern metal. Because of their radical symbolism and rhetoric (burning churches and the like) and because of their eternal faster-harder-lower-noisier arms race, they're seen as the future, not a potential dead end.
Traditional "power" metal, meanwhile, languishes under a virtual media blackout. Mainstream rock magazines cover black metal bands for a goof, but power metal acts can't even get their discs reviewed in some metal 'zines. Yet when the bands come around, the fans appear, as if by magic, summoned in mysterious ways hipsters can't fathom. And with the combined forces of Iced Earth, Jag Panzer, and In Flames -- all of whom play variants of the melodic trad-metal that was heavy music's lifeblood during the pop-metal '80s -- power metal is getting one of its biggest tours in years.
Headliner Iced Earth is close to Iron Maiden in spirit, as demonstrated by its cover of the instrumental "Transylvania" on 2000's Horror Show. Jag Panzer is the oldest band on the bill, having been slogging it out since the early '80s. The band's latest album falls squarely within the power metal tradition: Vocals shoot for the uppermost registers, while the drums cram every empty space with fills and crashes. It's heady, time-machine stuff that can make listeners feel 15 again.
The odd band out is Sweden's In Flames; it's the only non-U.S. band on the bill, and it's the hardest of them all, playing something closer to thrash than the classically influenced, lushly melodic material of its tourmates.