Project 86 “Among” Rock and Metal’s Best On Phil’s Picks 2017 Top New Hard Rock & Metal Albums

Courtesy: Project 86/TAG Publicity

For those about to rock, we salute you!

Yes, everyone knows that phrase from AC/DC’s classic song by the same name.  As popular as it is, it is more than just a song lyric and title.  It is a statement of honor for the acts and audiences who span the rock community.  This year, as with every year prior, there are so many bands to honor as the year nears its end, including hard rock and metal bands.  In case it hasn’t become clear by now, this article focuses on this critic’s choices for the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.  As with every list before, compiling it was not an easy task.  New releases from Project 86, Arch Enemy, Iced Earth, and so many others made this year’s field of new hard rock and metal albums very crowded.  That is putting it lightly.  Between well-known mainstream acts and their lesser-known independent counterparts, the two sides collectively offered so many impressive new albums.

Topping this critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums is Project 86’s latest album Sheep Among Wolves.  The band’s 10th full-length studio recording in 20 years, this record takes all of the best elements of the band’s past — both musically and lyrically — and uses them to craft a work that is just as memorable and engaging as its predecessors.  Also on this year’s list from Phil’s Picks are new albums from — as already noted — Iced Earth and Arch Enemy — as well as new offerings from Overkill, Act of Defiance, Prong, Adrenaline Mob, Blacktop Mojo and others. As with every list, this list presents this critic’s Top 10 titles plus five additional titles for a total of 15 records.  That being noted, here for you is Phil’s Picks’ 2017 Top 10 New Hard Rock & Metal Albums.


  1. Project 86 — Sheep Among Wolves
  2. Prong — Zero Days
  3. Act of Defiance — Old Scars, New Wounds
  4. Overkill — The Grinding Wheel
  5. Iced Earth — Incorruptable
  6. Blacktop Mojo — Burn The Ships
  7. Adrenaline Mob — We The People
  8. Marty Friedman — Wall of Sound
  9. Corroded — Defcon Zero
  10. Dragonforce — Reaching Into Infinity
  11. The Haunted — Strength In Numbers
  12. Doyle — As We Die
  13. Demon Hunter — Outlive
  14. 36 Crazyfists — Lanterns
  15. Arch Enemy — Will To Power

That’s all for this list.  Again, it was not an easy list to compile.  Acts the likes of Eve To Eve to Adam, Marty Friedman, Sepultura, Annihilator, Mastodon and so many others all deserve their own share of credit.  With that in mind, it becomes easy to see why no disrespect was meant to any one act or another here.  Every noted act released its own impressive album.  Only so many spaces were available, sadly.

2018 is already shaping up to be an interesting year in its own right, with new material from Ministry on the way alongside new albums from Judas Priest, Saxon, Machine Head, Corrosion of Conformity, Tool, Clutch and lots more.  Stay tuned for all of that in the new year.  To keep up with all of the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at


Iced Earth Unveils ‘Black Flag’ Video

Iced Earth has hit the high seas…sort of…for its latest video.

The band unveiled this week, the video for its latest single, ‘Black Flag,’ which is taken from its latest full-length studio recording Incorruptible. The video places the band in the middle of a high seas battle between English forces and pirates complete with swords and guns. Viewer discretion is advised as some of the violence is explicit, including the video’s final scene, which ironically takes a page from the hit 1995 blockbuster movie Se7en.

Courtesy: Century Media/Century Media Records

While some of the video’s scenes were clearly shot on sound stages, the high seas battles were set against a CG backdrop. Audiences will soon get to hear ‘Black Flag’ and other songs from the band’s latest release live when the band launches the next leg of its tour in support of the album. That leg is currently set to launch Jan. 9 in Saarbrucken, Germany and run through March 29 in Chicago, Illinois.

The band’s current tour schedule is noted below.

                                                       ICED EARTH Live:

1/9   Saarbrucken, DE – Garage &
1/10 Berlin, DE – Festsaal &
1/11 Hannover, DE – Capitol &
1/12 Geiselwind, DE – Musichall &
1/13 Leipzig, DE – Hause Auesee &
1/14 Osnabruck, DE – Hyde Park &
1/16 Hamburg, DE – Markthalle &
1/17 Wiesbaden, DE – Schlachthof &
1/18 Bochum, DE – Zeche &
1/19 Regendsburg, DE – Airport Obertraubling &
1/20 Memmingen, DE – Kaminwerk &
1/21 Pratteln, CH – Z 7 &
1/23 Thessaloniki, GR – Principal Club &
1/24  Athens, GR – Fuzz Club &

2/22 Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe  #

2/23 CIncinnati, OH – Bogarts #
2/24 Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom #
2/25 Milwaukee, WI – Turner Ballroom #
2/26 Minneapolis, MN – Music Hall #
2/27 Omaha, NE – Sokol Underground #
2/28 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall #
3/2 Edmonton, AB – Starlite Room #
3/3 Calgary, AB – Marquee Beer Market & Stage #
3/4 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater #
3/5 Seattle, WA – El Corazon #
3/7 Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades #
3/8 Los Angeles, CA – Belasco Theater #
3/9 San Diego, CA – House of Blues #
3/10 Anaheim, CA – Parish @ House of Blues #
3/11 Phoenix, AZ – The Pressroom #
3/13 San Antonio, TX – Aztec Theatre #
3/14 Dallas, TX – House of Blues #
3/15 Houston, TX – House of Blues #
3/16 New Orleans, LA – Parish @ House of Blues #
3/17 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade #
3/18 Charlotte, NC – Underground #
3/19 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage #
3/21 Wilmington, DE – The Queen #
3/22 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre #
3/23 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall #
3/24 Quebec City, QC – Imperial Bell #
3/25 Montreal, QC – Corona Theater #
3/26 Toronto, ON – Phoenix Theater #
3/27 Cleveland, OH – Cambridge Room @ House of Blues #
3/28 Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall #
3/29 Chicago, IL – Bottom Lounge #
& with Freedom Call & Metaprism
# with Sanctuary & Kill Ritual

More information on Iced Earth’s upcoming live dates, its latest album and more is available online now at:



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Iced Earth Guitarist Announces Departure From Band

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Iced Earth is looking for a new guitarist. This after Troy Seele announced this week that he is leaving the band.

Seele released a statement explaining his departure. He said that he and his now former band mates parted ways on completely positive terms, saying that family responsibilities were the reason for his departure. His full statement is noted below.

After close to ten years as a guitarist in Iced Earth, the time has come for me to step away. Some of you know, but many do not, that I have a child with Autism.  In the past I had a great support system that has allowed me to pursue a career in music. That is no longer the case and it has forced me to make a difficult decision. I’ve always believed that family comes first, and now it is time for me to focus on that.

The demanding life style of being in a professional heavy metal band is no longer an option for me. Knowing the band is focused on a new album and touring cycle, and given my circumstances, this is the best time for me to step down.

Playing in Iced Earth has been a great experience. It’s taken me around the world many times and given me the chance to meet many of my heroes, as well as play in front of crowds larger than I ever dreamed of.

I personally want to thank Jon and the guys for the music and the amazing times through the years.  Thank you to the fans for understanding and for your support.”
Troy Seele


Iced Earth front man Stu Block shared his thoughts on Seele’s depature, noting his sadness at the announcement but that he fully supports Seele in his decision.

“It’s very sad that Troy is leaving.  He will be missed and will always be considered family to us.  I wish him the best of luck in everything he does,” Block said.

Iced Earth founding member Jon Schaffer was also supportive of Seele in his decision.

“Troy was a good friend before he became a part of the team and always will be,” Schaffer said.”  I understand and respect his decision.  We shared some of the most amazing times of our lives together.  We laughed hard, and we laughed often.  Be well brother.  We all wish you the very best.”

The band is currently accepting audition submissions for Seele’s replacement. Audition videos can be sent online here.

More information on Iced Earth is available online now along with all of the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews at:









To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Plagues Of Babylon Proves Iced Earth Is Still One Of Metal’s Elite Even After Three Decades

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Iced Earth has been one of the leading bands in the metal community since Jon Schaffer formed the band with its original lineup in 1984.  Now three decades since the Florida based band formed, it has continued to prove why it is still one of metal’s elite acts thanks to the release of Plagues of Babylon, its eleventh full length studio release. This latest release proves that Iced Earth still has plenty in the proverbial tank.  Those that are more familiar with the band’s body of work will appreciate this album first and foremost in that it is largely a follow-up to its 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes.  Whether or not audiences are seasoned fans of Iced Earth, audiences will also appreciate the work put in by new members Luke Appleton (bass) and Raphael Saini (drums) on the record.  Of course, the work of front man Stu Block and the dual guitar attack of Jon Shaffer and Troy Steele is not to be ignored anywhere throughout the record, either.  That collective talent, and the record’s aforementioned factor make this record well worth a listen by any purist metal head and Iced Earth loyalist.

When Iced Earth released its epic 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes, the album was met with much praise from both fans and audiences.  Seven years removed from that album’s release, founding member Jon Schaffer and his current band mates have revisited that album on Plagues of Babylon.  The result is six tracks of pure metal that will instantly transport longtime fans back to that standout album and a time when metal was truly metal.  That’s only the first tracks, too.  Fans will appreciate just as much the album’s second half.  The remaining seven tracks that make up this album are all stand-alone pieces that each have their own charm. One example of that charm lies in the form of ‘Peacemaker.’  It’s a hard rock song with a slight southern rock twinge about it.  (Stu) Block sings in the song, what seems almost like an old west story.  He sings, “Rode in town with a loaded gun/My face is burnt and I’m on the run/The whole damn town won’t look me in the eye/Took a seat at the local saloon/Piano man playin’ outta tune/A shot of whiskey to wash away the pain.”  That one verse alone paints such a vivid picture.  And it’s not the only one that does, either.  Block sings about a showdown with another man with a price to pay.  One wouldn’t expect a Wild West type story from the likes of Iced Earth.  But this song proves that this veteran hard rock outfit can handle anything.  And it can handle anything with as much gusto today as it ever has.

The songs that comprise Plagues of Babylon are a major part of the album’s success, despite what some might want to believe of the album.  The musicianship of the current lineup is just as noteworthy.  The work of the band’s two newest members—drummer Raphael Saini and bassist Luke Appleton—expertly compliment the talent of vocalist Stu Block and guitarists Jon Schaffer and Troy Steele.  Saini demonstrates his talents right from the album’s opener/title track.  His single, pounding hits aligned with the foreboding guitars in the song’s opening moments expertly help to foreshadow the oncoming plagues.  He becomes the solid, beating heart of the band in its more up-tempo moments, too. And bassist Luke Appleton works right in time with Saini to give the song just the right amount of force. Of course, one would be remiss to ignore the talent of the other members of Iced Earth on this record.  Stu Block’s vocals have never sounded better than they do on this record.  One need only take a pick of the tracks on this album to know that.  ‘If I Could See You Now’ is just one of so many examples of Block’s talent on this record.  He shows on this mournful tune that he is just as adept at handling more emotional songs as he is with the band’s harder edged pieces.  He sings in this song, “Where can I turn/You’ve gone away/I need your words of wisdom/Sometimes I’m lost/And in a rage/Taking things for granted/You were the one that did believe/When no one else could see/If I could share what’s on my mind/If I could see you one last time.”  One might not expect such emotion from a band (or singer) that has made a career of making metal for the masses.  But Block does such an impressive job of expressing the pain the song’s lyrics.  It’s nice to hear this other side of Block on this tune.  And guitarists Jon Schaffer and Troy Steele are just as worthy of commendation on this (and other songs, too).  They show through the control of their instruments their ability to interpret this (and each) song.  The songs noted here are but a portion of what Iced Earth offers its audiences on its new album.  There is so much more for audiences to hear for themselves.  Plagues of Babylon is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online from the Century Media online store at  The band’s North American fans will get the chance to see the band live this Spring when the band makes  its way back to the states for a handful of dates across America.  Fans can get a full listing of the band’s upcoming North American tour as well as all of the latest news from the band online at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Iced Earth Announces New Album, Tour Details

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Iced Earth is set to release its latest full length studio effort next month.  The band will drop its eleventh full length studio recording on January 6th worldwide and January 21st in North America.  The new album, titled Plagues of Babylon, will be released via Century Media Records.  In conjunction with this announcement, the band has also announced that it will launch the “Worldwide Plagues Tour” in support of its new release.  The tour includes a six-week run across America beginning April 4th in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Sabaton and Revamp will offer support for the tour.  The complete tour schedule is included below.


ICED EARTH with SABATON & REVAMP in support:


04: Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection

05: Milwaukee, WI – The Rave

06: Chicago, IL – House Of Blues

07: Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

09: Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE

10: Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall

11: Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom

12: Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall

14: Toronto, ONT – Phoenix Concert Theatre

15: Quebec City, QC – Imperial Theater

16: Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre

17: Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero

18: New York, NY – Best Buy Theater

19: Worcester, MA – The Palladium

21: West Springfield, VA – Empire

23: Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade

24: Orlando, FL – House Of Blues Orlando

25: Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution

26: Saint Petersburg, FL – State Theatre

28: Houston, TX – Scout Bar

29: Dallas, TX – Trees


01: Tempe, AZ – Club Red

02: West Hollywood, CA – House Of Blues Sunset

03: San Francisco, CA – Slim’s
05: Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory Concert House

06: Seattle, WA – El Corazon

07: Vancouver, BC – The Venue

09: Edmonton, AB – The Starlite Room

10: Calgary, AB – Republik

11: Regina, SK – Riddell Centre

12: Winnipeg, MB – Park Theatre

14: Denver, CO – The Summit Music Hall

15: Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater

16: Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom

Exclusive VIP packages for the band’s North American tour are available now.  Fans can go online to to order their VIP packages.  They will remain on sale while supplies last.

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Iced Earth fans will be interested to know about Plagues of Babylon that the album’s first six tracks are part of the band’s ongoing Something Wicked universe.  The album’s artwork was designed by Eliran Kantor.  Kantor also did artwork for albums from Testament, Atheist, and Hatebreed just to name a few.  The album also includes guest vocals from Volbeat front man Michael Poulsen, Symphony X/Adrenaline Mob singer Russell Allen, and Blind Guardian front man Hansi Kursch.  It was recorded at Principal Studios in Senden, Germany.  That is the same studio in which Kreator, In Extremo, and Grave Digger also recorded.  The complete track listing for Plagues of Babylon is listed below.


1. Plagues Of Babylon

2. Democide

3. The Culling

4. Among The Living Dead

5. Resistance

6. The End?

7. If I Could See You

8. Cthulhu

9. Peacemaker

10. Parasite

11. Spirit Of The Times

12. Highwayman


If and when the band announces any additional tour dates or other pertinent news regarding Plagues of Babylon, fans can get it all online via the band’s official website and Facebook page at and  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Iced Earth Live In Ancient Kourion One Of 2013’s Best Live Recordings

Courtesy:  Century Media

Courtesy: Century Media

Iced Earth’s new live release, Live in Ancient Kourion is an example of a live release done right in so many ways.  With its combination of solid audio and visual recording and equally impressive packaging, this triple-disc release has set itself in this critic’s list of the year’s best live recordings.

So much can be said of Live in Ancient Kourion.  So what better starting point than its packaging.  The packaging for this release is the first factor that scores points.  It is presented in a triple-disc gatefold package with the DVD and each of the set’s two CDs placed into their own spot in the packaging separate from one another.  There are those that might argue against this form of packaging, and more in favor of the traditional plastic packaging with dual sided insert for the CDs.  Given, this is an ergonomically sound form of packaging.  But it isn’t without its faults.  The use of the plastic packaging increases the risk of accidentally cracking the case or even the insert that would hold the audio portion of the recording.  One of the quick retorts to the use of plastic casing would be the risk of getting the material used for non-plastic packaging wet.  But in reality the risk is just as great for water damage with both plastic and non-plastic packaging.  So that argument is instantly negated, thus making the packaging in which this set is presented that much better of a choice.

Having noted the packaging of this new live release, the next step is to take a look at the recording’s audio and video quality.  The overall audio and video mix of this recording is just as impressive as its packaging.  It goes without saying that this is the most important part of any live recording.  Sadly, there are live recordings out there that are not bootlegs, yet their audio and video mixes are either slightly or completely out of balance, leaving listeners to wonder how experienced the engineer(s) behind the board was/were.  Luckily for fans of Iced Earth and for the band itself, that can’t be questioned in the case of Live in Ancient Kourion.  The mix is expertly balanced both on this recording.  Hearing the pyrotechnics go off on the audio portion is one thing.  But hearing and seeing it throughout the video portion makes the experience all the greater, whether this marks the first time for fortieth seeing Iced Earth live.  Being that this is the most important factor of all in this and any live recording, it goes without saying that Iced Earth fans and that members of the Metal Nation the world over have in this release a concert recording that definitely lives up to the reputation of being one of the year’s best live recordings.

Getting into the actual performance, one can’t help but marvel at the ability of current front man Stu Block to carry a career’s worth of music from this band.  Considering the number of singers that have fronted Iced Earth, he shows in his performance that this doesn’t factor at all.  He shows full confidence throughout the near two and a half hour, twenty-seven song set.  Just as incredible is that this far into the band’s career, Bloc’s band mates show no sign of rust or age.  The songs are just as full of power as they were when the band’s original lineup first recorded them.  Once again, the only thing left to say in taking into account the band’s stamina along with the recording quality and packaging is that this performance is Iced Earth at its live best.  It is one of the best live recordings of the year both in the metal community and in general.  It is available now both in stores and online and can be ordered direct online from the Century Media Records store at

Fans overseas will get to see Iced Earth live this Summer and into 2014, even after picking up this new live release as it tours in support of Live in Ancient Kourion.  Fans around the world can keep up with all of the band’s latest tour updates and news when they “Like” Iced Earth on Facebook at  Fans can also follow the band on its official website,

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Iced Earth Celebrates New Live Release With New Live Video

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Iced Earth officially releases its first ever live DVD and Blu-ray today.  Live in Ancient Kourion hit stores and online outlets today.  In celebration, the band has released a brand new live video for a song from the brand new live release.  Fans can check out the video of the band’s performance of ‘Anthem’ now.  It’s available via YouTube at

Fans can also check out other live performances from the band now on YouTube and SoundCloud.  The link to each performance is available below.

‘Stormrider’ (Live Video):

‘I Died For You’ (Live Audio):

‘Dystopia’ (Live Video):

‘Damien’ (Live Audio):

Live In Ancient Kourion Trailer:

The band will hit the road this Summer to tour in support of its new live release, beginning with a festival performance at the Burning Sea Festival in Croatia on June 8th.  A full listing of tour dates and news from Iced Earth is available on the band’s Facebook page, and on its official website,

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at