Stu Block

All posts tagged Stu Block

By Carl Begai

In 2011, Iced Earth said goodbye to fan-favoured vocalist Matt Barlow (again). A potentially disastrous situation for a band that had clawed and carved its way to something pretty damn close to the top over two decades, but they were given a second chance (again) with the entrance of Into Eternity frontman Stu Block. His Iced Earth debut album, Dystopia, went over a storm compared to its cold and dense predecessors – Framing Armageddon (’07), The Crucible Of Man (’08) – and the world tour that followed cemented Block’s position as the band’s singer. Iced Earth’s new album, Plagues Of Babylon, doesn’t exactly pick up where Dystopia left off in that it comes off as darker and more aggressive – and hell, more epic – but it most certainly matches Dystopia for intensity and being a solid no-bull fan friendly package.

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“Sometimes you hit things right on the mark for the fanbase, other times you do what you feel like as an artist as much as for the fans,” says guitarist/founder Jon Schaffer. “I don’t think it’s a contrived thing. This album is a little bit more epic compared to Dystopia, but the writing period was the same length as it was for Dystopia. I was going through a very difficult time in my personal life and a lot of shit happened, but somehow I was able to put together a really strong record in spite of everything that was going on. With Dystopia, I just felt that was the way to go and I don’t think Plagues Of Babylon is too far from that direction. I think Plagues Of Babylon has a couple more songs that are a bit more epic in terms of the writing, sure, but we stayed on the course set with Dystopia.”

“I produced this album, and one of the things I wanted to do was make it heavier and give it a live feel,” he continues. “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t over-produced. I got really good takes out of everybody but I wasn’t so anal as to make sure that everything was 100% perfectly in tune and perfectly on time. That’s a trap you fall into as a producer. I wanted to capture the essence and energy of a band that’s been touring its ass off and I think I accomplished that.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

It takes remarkable strength of character to throw yourself to the wolves knowing you’re going to get bitten and potentially ripped to shreds. So it goes that, regardless of what Into Eternity fans may think of vocalist Amanda Kiernan stepping in to replace Stu Block – now a member of Iced Earth – for the band’s live activities, they have to respect her for willingly putting herself in harm’s way. It turns out that Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourn Block’s absence, the majority of fans willingly giving her the benefit of the doubt. It’s anybody’s guess how the future will play out now that the band essentially has two singers and Block’s Iced Earth career has exploded, but the bottom line is that Kiernan is committed to shedding even more blood, sweat and tears in order to make things work.

Her journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.

“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim (Roth/guitars, founder) wanted me to do.”

Roth recalls the events leading up to having to place the ad that eventually snared Kiernan…

“We (the band) were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals Stu hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth. And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer (guitars) knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

It takes remarkable strength of character to throw yourself to the wolves knowing you’re going to get bitten and potentially ripped to shreds. So it goes that, regardless of what Into Eternity fans may think of vocalist Amanda Kiernan stepping in to replace Stu Block – now a member of Iced Earth – for the band’s live activities, they have to respect her for willingly putting herself in harm’s way. With a few gigs under her belt at the time of this writing, Kiernan had made more friends than enemies amongst Into Eternity fans even as they mourned Block’s absence, the majority seemingly able to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s anybody’s guess how the future will play out now that the band essentially has two singers and Block’s Iced Earth career has exploded, but the bottom line is that Kiernan is committed to shedding even more blood, sweat and tears to make things work.

Kiernan’s journey began in November 2011 when Into Eternity put out the call for a “touring only” singer. She jumped in with both feet.

“I found out about the audition and called (Into Eternity drummer) Brian Newbury right away,” Kiernan says. “I just wanted to push myself to the top and prove to myself and others that I can actually do this, and that there are no limitations. After I called him we both went to my studio and spent two days recording the audition songs that Tim Roth (guitars / founder) wanted me to do.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

When word came down in March 2011 that Canadian bashers Into Eternity’s vocalist Stu Block had replaced Matt Barlow as the singer for Iced Earth, it caused major confusion amongst fans in both camps. Iced Earth followers that were aware of Block’s shriek-and-growl style were convinced guitarist / founder Jon Schaffer had lost his mind, while Into Eternity fans were left wondering if the band had a future without Block’s unique vocal talents. Both he and guitarist Tim Roth have maintained that Block is still with Into Eternity – a claim that rang true with the recent release of the single ‘Fukushima’ – but news that The Order Of Chaos singer Amanda Kiernan had been brought in as Block’s live replacement so the band can tour served up another barrage of questions. With that in mind, Roth was happy to hook up and set the record straight.

“We were rehearsing on a Friday, and after a whole weekend of rehearsals he hit me with the news that he’d joined Iced Earth,” Roth recalls when asked how Block broke the news of getting the gig. “And then he hit me with a CD of him singing some new Iced Earth stuff. So not only did he tell me, he showed me some of the material they’d already recorded. I was just floored. Stu and I are best friends, and we weren’t doing anything at the time, so it makes sense that someone would come in and invite Stu to join their band. Jon Schaffer knows talent, I know talent, and Stu has always been that shining diamond in the rough. When I’d seen him in his previous band he really impressed me. I knew I had to have a guy with his kind of vocals in Into Eternity.” Continue Reading

Welcome, Canuckleheads! Time for an update…

Folks may remember Dream Theater frontman James LaBrie decapitating diehard prog-metal fans in 2010 with his fourth solo album, Static Impulse. It was anything but a continuation of his better-than-DT Elements Of Persuasion record, smacking people upside the head instead with the most aggressive music of his career, complete with death metal vocals (supplied by Darkane drummer Peter Wildoer). Attention Deficit Delirium’s Bryan Reesman recently caught up with LaBrie, who offered some insight on his next solo album, which is currently in the works:

“Right now, Matt (Guillory / keyboards), I and the other guys are writing. We’re about halfway through. I would say our main focus is that we want to raise the bar as far as the actual song compositions, so with the arrangements we want to see if we can better ourselves first and foremost. As far as the elements that we want to include or implement into the music, a lot of those elements will be familiar because we want to keep it consistent. It has to make sense and have a sense of continuity from where we left off, but there are some things that we’re talking about we want to bring in that will bring in some intriguing kind of sonics to give it its own identity.”

The complete interview can be found here.

Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

It’s been a long, long, long time since Iced Earth has done anything for me, with Something Wicked This Way Comes from 1998 standing as the last knock-down no-holds-barred skull basher in guitarist / founder Jon Schaffer’s catalogue. There have been some noteworthy moments since then – ‘The Phantom Opera Ghost’ from Horror Show and ‘The Reckoning’ from The Glorious Burden being the mindblowing faves – but nothing that dug its hooks in down to the bone for the space of a full album. With that in mind, the usual industry hype that preceded the release of Dystopia sounded like smoke-blow for the hopeless fanboy, automatically setting my expectations on the low side as a failsafe against disappointment.

The first spin through Dystopia yanked jaw to floor. Repeated listens since then – again and again… and again – have convinced me that Iced Earth is back in the game and capable of surpassing the brightest moments of The Dark Saga / Something Wicked… breakthrough era from over a decade past.

Dystopia’s charm and staying power stem from the fact that Schaffer has dialled back his penchant of the past five years for delivering music in epic and sometimes too-big-to-be digested portions. By no means is this a sign he’s lacking in ambition these days; it’s just being channelled in a new (old) way. And, Schaffer should be applauded for stripping things down and keeping focus on the bloody point. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Vancouver-born Stu Block made a name for himself in 2006 as the new singer for Into Eternity, adding a welcome new dynamic to the band’s established extreme prog metal sound on The Scattering Of Ashes. In 2008 the band released a follow-up, The Incurable Tragedy, which cemented Block’s reputation as one of metal’s most versatile (and severely underrated) vocalists. Iced Earth founder/guitarist Jon Schaffer was paying attention, however, and when it was confirmed that fan-favoured singer Matt Barlow would be calling it quits, he followed through on a third party recommendation and brought Block in to fill the vacant slot. The end result is somewhat mind-boggling for those that are familiar with Block’s Into Eternity brand of shred and Iced Earth’s traditional metal sound; he fits the songs on the new album like a glove, bringing an intensity to the new songs that Barlow hadn’t exhibited in ages and Tim “Ripper” Owens never had. It’s fair to say Dystopia may well be Iced Earth’s strongest album in over a decade.

“Joining the band, it felt like I’d won the lottery,” laughs Block, an admission some Into Eternity diehards may take exception to. “Really, there was a feeling of validation. Joining Iced Earth is a huge opportunity, so I was feeling a mix of pure joy, excitement, and being scared shitless (laughs).”

For the serious musician with leanings towards the old school, accepting an invitation to join a band with Iced Earth’s credentials would be a no-brainer. Take a moment to look at the big picture, however, and you see the mountain of responsibility Block had to consider before accepting Schaffer’s offer.

“There are certain factors in my life where it was sort of a tough decision,” Block admits, “but I knew in the back of my mind that it was a no-brainer. My mom is dealing with some stuff right now, and I’m going to be on the road, but you can’t live your life being held back. Anyone can find an excuse not to do something. I know this will be a life changing experience, I’m going to be away from my home and my fiancée for months on end, but I have a such a great support system in my family that everyone including my mother is encouraging me to do this. They told me I’d be a fool if I didn’t do it and I agreed wholeheartedly. I try to keep a positive attitude towards the whole thing, knowing what I’ve gotten myself into. In the back of my mind it was a definite yes.” Continue Reading

For you Hoser-loving heathens…

First off, unless you’ve been living under the weight of a large rock and your own self-importance, you’re aware that former Skid Row vocalist Sebastian Bach has released his new album, Kicking & Screaming. (Yes, yes, I know he lives in the U.S., but Doodness grew up in Peterborough, Ontario and cut his teeth in Toronto). As I mentioned in my review (found here), the record didn’t do anything for me during the first spin, but it won me over and has since become a regular listen in the hallowed halls of BW&BK’s European crash pad. Apologies to Baz for my initial misgivings, but the album is a brilliant piece of work. If you were ever a fan of the Skid Row debut and Slave To The Grind, pick it up.

Check out my illustrious BW&BK colleague Aaron Small’s recent interview with Bach here. Continue Reading