You have to give the devil his due. I don't think there has been a band that's worked as hard as Iced Earth and overcome so many issues with revolving-door vocalists in the process. Always looking to do something bombastic and large, this live 2-CD, 3-LP, and DVD release Live in Ancient Kourion does what few bands these days would ever attempt. Sure, Iced Earth did do a landmark live album with Alive in Athens, but few have come back to the Mediterranean for a second go, this time on the island of Cyprus, set up in an ancient ruin, truck in tons of generators, and throw a 3-hour concert in suffocatingly hot weather. There's something to be said for that. It should command much respect, admiration, and inspiration.

Iced Earth has always been that American band playing a style that appeals more to Europeans, and thus, they know where their fans are. They may sell out a rock club here but they sell out arenas overseas. I have not seen the DVD so I can't tell you what that vibe must have been like, but going by the crowd it must have been amazing.

Now, to the meat of the issue. Iced Earth is one of the tightest live bands I've heard recorded. Relentless touring will do that to a band. It's even to the point where drummer Brent Smedley can kind of emulate former drummer Richard Christy's playing on Wolf, a song they haven't played live until recently (taking nothing away from Smedley, but Christy is just inhuman on the kit).

For many of us, this was our audition for latest frontman Stu Block. Dystopia showed us how well his voice worked with the band in a studio environment, and it seemed to me, at least, that Stu was almost underutilized. If you have heard his vocal acrobatics with Into Eternity, even discounting his screaming, then you know how versatile he is. But, how would he handle the massive boots of Matt Barlow and Ripper Owens?

The latter, he aces, in fact, supersedes. Owens truly is a god when it comes to that Halford-influenced style of vocal, but Stu Block has much greater dexterity at higher notes, and he shows this quite well on this live recording when he improvises. The former, though, I am not so certain. Stu seems to struggle to bring his voice down in range to sing some of Barlow's passages, and at times, sounds like he's melting. Now, that could have just been the weather and I want to be clear, belting that way for three hours in excoriatingly hot conditions would kill most mortal men. Stu has shown that not only can he sing material from any era of Iced Earth well, but that he has the endurance to do it all night long under difficult circumstances.

So where does this leave me? I can't say I am the biggest fan of Iced Earth, as many of their songs just don't grab me. I dig a few and that's probably all I'll ever get into. Yet, I can't deny how amazing this performance is. I have to judge a live band on more than just the songs, but on how well they are played live. While I may have skipped through a few tracks on this, overall, this was consistently strong through the whole of both discs. If you are one of those devout Iced Earth fans, this is a must-have.