"Alive in Athens"

(Century Media)

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RATING: 8/10

If you were enthralled with ICED EARTH's live album, the three-disc "Alive in Athens", then you're in for a real treat with the DVD treatment of those same two shows filmed at the Rodon Club in January 1999. The look, the feel, and the all-around aura of the performance makes for pure heavy metal bliss brought to you by one of the classiest and most respected bands in the world. As it turns out the video footage of the show was not uncovered until much later and has been re-mastered for 5.1 DTS surround sound. That the original CD release went to number one in Greece and was certified gold tells you why the band chose Athens above all other cities to record these songs. (NOTE: "Slave to the Dark", "A Question of Heaven", and "Iced Earth" did not make the DVD version due to technical difficulties). The Greeks adore ICED EARTH, as you'll see from the rabid audience reaction.

Some will lament the fact that the shows were captured with only three cameras. However, in many ways this makes the DVD feel more intimate. Plus, when the band is this good and the songs so magnificently written and performed, the number of camera angles becomes virtually meaningless. The visual quality is just fine anyway, as is the sound. "Alive in Athens" is a true heavy metal performance in the most traditional sense, so much so that it makes one wonder why the band never received the same kind of reaction from stateside audiences. As for the song selection, it's not a question of what's included, but what's not included. The crowd singing in unison to the mellow opening section of "Dark Saga" followed by chants of "Hey! Hey! Hey!" when the riffs get heavy will send a shiver down your spine. The crowd hangs on every word sung by Barlow who puts on a vocal clinic, and gives him plenty of help throughout the show. Barlow, rhythm guitarist Schaffer, lead guitarist Larry Tarnowski, bassist James McDonough, drummer Brent Smedley, and hidden keyboardist Rick Risberg are professionals of the highest order. The playing is simply outstanding.

A brief look at the band backstage, as well as a mini-tour of Athens and the venue by Schaffer, including an introduction to his parents and wife, makes up the bonus portion of the disc. The rest is two-and-a-half hours of ICED EARTH magic that will show new fans why the lineup with Barlow was such a special one and provide long-timers with a must-have release. You already know that the CD release is a live classic, so there is no need to reemphasize it here. The DVD version may not blow anyone away from the standpoint of production values and bonus material, but what really counts here is the first rate performance.


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