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On disc: Iced Earth



Burnt Offerings - Volker Raabe - 10 stars
Dark Saga - Volker Raabe - 10 stars
Days Of Purgatory - Volker Raabe -  
Horror Show - Claudia Ehrhardt - 7 stars
Horror Show - Volker Raabe - 10 stars
Alive In Athens (DVD) - Claudia Ehrhardt -  
Framing Armageddon - Claudia Ehrhardt - 5 stars
Framing Armageddon - Victor Kzyto - 10 stars
I Walk Among You - Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
The Crucible Of Man
(Something Wicked Part 2)
- Claudia Ehrhardt - 8 stars
The Crucible Of Man
(Something Wicked Part 2)
- Mike Thompson - 6 stars
Dante's Inferno 2011 (Single) - Mike Thompson - 10 stars
Dystopia - Claudia Ehrhardt - 9 stars


www.icedearth.com







Dystopia

Dystopia
(Century Media - 2011)


Okay, I confess that so far Iced Earth without Matt Barlow didn't work for me, but when Jon Schaffer announced Stu Block (Into Eternity) as Matt's successor I was confident that he can fill this shoes. A feeling I haven't had when Iced Earth announced Tim 'Ripper' Owens. And to set this straight, I think Tim is an incredible singer, just not the right one for Iced Earth.


The opening off Dystopia is the title track and it's done in a typical Iced Earth manner. It takes about a minute til you get first sign of Stu, but a little later he adds more then just a scream. His powerful, deep voice fits well and he's like a chameleon adding high-pitched parts - la King Diamond - and so gives the Something Wicked follow-up something special. And right from the start I knew, this is what I haven been waiting for for so many years!

Slowly with they lead you into Anthem, an epic tune based on a heavy bass riff and Brent Smedley's powerful drumming. Stu Block's vocals show some similarities to Matt Barlow, but he's far from copying him. It's more that the song demands this style and he adjusts to it - just the way Matt did. The heavy mid-tempo track is catchy, offers great guitar play - as always - and is made to sing along. A new Iced Earth hymn! Then they speed off for Boiling Point, a track which revives the times when Iced Earth had a thrashy edge. A straight forward track with sharp riffs, gang shouts and varying vocals, so you'll find some short falsetto parts la Tim 'Ripper' Owens.

With Anguish Of Youth they present a power ballad in the vein of I Died For You. I know some will criticize they to copy themselves, but I don't think so. Jon Schaffer always been the creative mastermind of Iced Earth and this is simply his style. V is a quite typical Iced Earth tune and towards the end you will join in and sing along. But it's also a bit different, coz it's a bit straighter and less bombastic, but has big backings.In a way this can be said about the next two songs, but it should be added that Equilibrium shows great dual guitar play as well as a very cool short solo. One might say it's a bit repetitive, but only if you look at certain passages, coz Stu Block showed once more his different 'voices'. At Days Of Rage they show their more aggressive side and you can hear the anger in Stu's voice. At the same time the guitar riffing is razor sharp and just pumps up the aggressiveness.

Time for another slow, melodic one with acoustic guitar - End Of Innocence. It's a very personal tune for Stu Block who wrote the words for his mother who fights cancer - but won't win this fight.

The closer Tragedy And Triumph they present another tune which is following up the Something Wicked saga. Marching drums lead you into this up-tempo tune. The song has the typical Iced Earth sounds... But seems to add something to it, it's almost like a glimpse into what might come...


For me Dystopia is already in my top 3 Iced Earth albums - and I exclude Alive In Athens, as I attended the 2 shows in Athens -, so I can just recommend to get yourself a copy of Dystopia. Was it a surprise? No, coz I had high expectations after talking to Jon at RockHard festival! And they didn't disappoint me. Kudos!


9 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 

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Dante's Inferno 2011 (Single)
(Century Media - 2011)


Over the summer Iced Earth played several festivals as part of Matt Barlow's farewell tour, culminating in an emotional public farewell at Wacken Open Air. Fans were heartbroken again as undoubtedly one of the finest singers in metal once more left the Iced Earth fold. The replacement had already been announced in the form if Into Eternity frontman Stu Block. With a vocal style including death metal growls Block seemed like an odd choice for Iced Earth and the legions of fans waited with trepidation to hear just how he would sound with the band.

Recently, a track was uploaded to the official Iced Earth website for free download. This was none other than the epic Dante's Inferno! Re-recorded in its entirety with Stu Block on vocals this song has given fans the opportunity to hear the new guy sing a true Iced Earth classic. Not only that but the re-recorded version also means that the band now have the means to play it live for the first time since the recording of Alive In Athens!

Now, I'm not always a fan of classic songs being re-recorded. The Days Of Purgatory album, which featured Barlow singing older Iced Earth songs just didn't cut it for me and the new version of Battle Hymns by Manowar was a joke. In general I find bands always lose the very essence of what made the original a classic. Rest assured though, this has not happened here.

This version is quite simply amazing. You already know the song is magnificent but the big question is how do the new vocals affect it? Well, Stu Block's voice fits and his timbre is in actual fact very similar to Barlow's. The emotion and spine tingling atmosphere created by Matt Barlow in the original is present here, as is the raw malevolence that appears throughout the track. The new guy just nails it.

Aside from the vocals the main thing you will notice is that the orchestral/keyboard sections are a little more prominent. If anything this adds an even more atmospheric touch to the song.

It would of course be a heresy to say that a re-recorded version is better than the original but if anything is worth that accusation it must surely be Dante's Inferno 2011. This is a classic redone and improved in every way it could be.

The band will be playing this song live at every show during the upcoming tour in support of forthcoming album and the band's tenth studio album overall - Dystopia. I can't wait.

Download Dante's Inferno 2011 here!


10 stars

Mike Thompson
 

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The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)

The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
(Steammhammer - 2008)


To many Iced Earth fans the return of Matt Barlow, whom many would argue to be the best singer in metal, was met with euphoric delight. He had filled the gap in between his departure and return to Iced Earth by singing on the excellent Pyramaze album Immortal and he sounded just as great as ever on that record.
After the disappointing Owens era, for which I blame the compositions rather than Owens vocals many fans were hoping for a return to the glory days of Burnt Offerings, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Dark Saga... Iced Earth with balls.
Since Something Wicked This Way Comes Schaffer had always maintained he would write a full concept album based around what was begun in the Something Wicked Trilogy (Prophecy, Birth Of The Wicked and The Coming Curse) and yet when the first part came it was met with such negativity by the majority of fans, many of whom blamed the Owens vocals. I must admit that Framing Armageddon really grew on me after a while and their were some hidden gems like The Clouding hidden amongst the many unnecessary interludes. Of course, it was never going to be an Iced Earth classic. A short while later Owens left the band and back came Matt Barlow and so we come to The Crucible Of Man, the second part of the Something Wicked story.
Those who had heard the single I Walk Alone will, as I did, feel misled when they hear this album. I Walk Alone was a decent song that showed something of a return to classic Iced Earth material. This album was, if I remember rightly, written almost concurrently with Framing Armageddon and is full of yet more epic, progressive, experimental and yet extremely dull filler songs. Matt Barlow's vocals, as good as we know they can be, just don't lift this album at all and to be honest I even feel that Owens would have done a better job on some songs!
This is not to say the album is a complete letdown. Its certainly listenable and there are some good songs on here like the aforementioned I Walk Alone as well as Divide Devour and Come What May. Unfortunately there's just none of the stuff that made Iced Earth great in the first place. This album isn't even as good as Framing Armageddon. Of course, its still well-produced and has its moments and if you're a fan of Framing Armageddon then this will be right up your street.
Overall I really can't wait for Iced Earth's next album. Now that Schaffer has got this concept out there he might be able to concentrate on writing some good metal songs again, songs which are written for Barlow to sing with the passion we all know he has and Schaffer's 90-million-mile-per-hour right hand crunching out some vicious riffs.


6 stars

Mike Thompson
 








The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)

The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
(Steammhammer - 2008)


I was as curious as everybody else to hear the new Iced Earth, coz Matt Barlow is for me essential for Iced Earth. And what they showed at Rock Hard festival was very promising.
They open up with the symphonic In Sacred Flames with a choir and so this intro leads into Behold The Wicked Child. The song is a typical fast Iced Earth tune which fast drumming and precise riffing - on top the unique voice of Matt Barlow. The melody line isn't hook you up immediately, partly it's the more complex sound of the tune and so it needs time to grow. With a heavy groove they present Minions Of The Watch, and even if Barlow sounds partly a bit different, this one can hook you up. And at The Revealing they return to full strength, but the next song A Gift Or A Curse shows them quite differently. A slower and balladesque tune with a bombastic touch... I wouldn't have expected this one, but cool! Later the song explodes and becomes a heavy, guitar-driven rocker. And again Barlow sings with a deeper tone... And then they return to the slow passage. Even if musically different, it made me somehow think of The Dark Saga, perhaps it's the atmosphere which is created by the conceptual piece of work... the story behind it. And so it goes on, Jon Schaffer wrote some songs which are typical Iced Earth, but also added new elements to their sound. Usually conceptual albums have their own sound due to the story line and I'm not sure how much of the music was already written before Matt returned to the band.... A quite typical tune is Harbringer Of Fate which could have been on some previous album with Matt Barlow. Catchy and emotional - the way they always been best. And the bombastic passage add a new element to their sound. A fast and riff-based track is Something Wicked (Part 3) which has a catchy refrain, also has this bombastic edge. At Divide And Devour they even use some violins, but here the majestic vocals of Mr. Barlow is what gives me shivers.
Some fans will be disappointed, coz it's not another Dark Saga or Something Wicked This Way Comes album, others would criticized them when the album would be too much like their former top albums. I think that Jon Schaffer tried to stick to their roots, but also tried to move on. But you can't really tell, if Iced Earth are truly back before there is another album. But this album isn't a total disappointment for me, not the killer album some hoped for, but way better then the stuff with Ripper Owens! But I confess, that for me Iced Earth without Matt Barlow isn't working - and it didn't worked for me pre-Barlow as well.


8 stars

Claudia Ehrhardt
 








I Walk Among You

I Walk Among You
(Steamhammer - 2008)


Many Iced Earth fans are waiting impatiently to hear some new stuff of the American band, especially the fans who loved them for The Dark Saga and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Now singer Matt Barlow is back and this is the first new song with him which is called I Walk Alone. A straight, guitar-driven rocker with an epic chorus and some dark, almost threatening atmosphere. And even if this tune needs a few more spins to develop it soon will haunt you! The song - even if a bit darker - could have been on Something Wicked This Way Comes...
Interesting are the 2 other tracks, even as they are taken off Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt 1), coz originally sung by Tim 'Ripper' Owens, you know can hear Matt Barlow sing these tunes. The fast Setian Massacre don't show the difference between Owens and Barlow as good as The Clouding. The fast, powerful tunes fit better to Ripper Owens voice, but in my opinion Matt Barlow is showing more variety. But when you listen to The Clouding, a slower track, then it gets obvious. Matt Barlow gives the song it's soul! He can express emotions and his vocals give you shivers! At the album Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1 ) the song didn't get me at all. It had no depth, but the new version - only vocals are re-recorded - it is much stronger and is a masterpiece. In the second half of the track they speed up and at that part Ripper did well, but still Barlow ennobles the tune - and shows what a difference a singer can make!
The future looks bright for Iced Earth now! They are back!


8 stars

 






Framing Armageddon

Framing Armageddon
(Steamhammer - 2007)


With Framing Armageddon the Something Wicked trilogy starts and to be honest I don't have high expectations... Why? Well, with The Dark Saga and Something Wicked This Way Comes Iced Earth released two masterpieces, but that was about 10 years ago. And even if I think that Tim 'Ripper' Owens is a good singer, he can't keep up with Matt Barlow. Again Jon Schaffer has new faces in the band.... Guitarist Troy Seele and bassist Dennis Hayes (ex-Seven Witches). Brent Smedley returned and is now finally playing on a studio album.
The album has 19 tracks, but many are just interludes which in my opinion don't tie up the songs, they are separating them. Opening with Overture which is based on some tribal drum pattern and strings which add a symphonic touch... It takes too long until they start of with Something Wicked Pt. 1 - in my opinion... Something Wicked Pt. 1 is a guitar-driven tune and has all the trademarks of the Iced Earth sound, but it lacks the certain something. Even after several spins it's not sticking... Beside that Ripper Owens voice don't have the expressiveness' Matt Barlow has. And the drum sound is powerless and a bit hollow.... The first interlude Invasion has some female vocals... the sound of a battle... Actually I don't see any reason to put this intermezzo in here. Motivation Of Man has the sound of marching men and soon leads into Setian Massacre... Another riff-based up-tempo tune with an epic touch, but the drums are too much up front and the vocals are drowning in the instrumentation. During the chorus it has a bit of Blind Guardian / Demons & Wizards, but still don't really hook you up. A nice change offers A Charge To Keep where they slow down a bit and where Ripper Owens has more space to enunciate. The drums lost power and sound dull... This time the guitars are dominate. When Reflections starts you have the hope that this is a highlight... Something sticking out.... Where they can really shine... But again it's flat and with a long scream kicks off Ten Thousand Strong. At the time you listening to the song it seems catchy, but as soon as it's over you have forgotten the hook line! And this is one of the best tracks on the album! The Clouding isn't a typical Iced Earth tune.... A slow, relaxed one with a different atmosphere which seems not to fit into the album... And it shows why Ripper Owens usually sings faster tunes and add screams, coz the slow parts sound emotionless. The intonation is good, but emotions are missing. Towards the end it gets more heavy and they push the accelerator a bit and it seems that Owens feels more comfortable, but it takes them more then 5 minutes to add some speed and power!
For me this album has no real highlights... Too many interludes... Too many screams... And not enough variety. The guitar sound is good, but the drum sound is partly dull and the instruments are unbalanced. Beside that I think that Matt Barlow could have added with his voice the certain something... I don't want to minimize Ripper Owens as a singer, but he can't fill Barlow's shoes!!! He just don't have the vocal range. The album isn't too bad, but from a band like Iced Earth who presented albums like The Dark Saga and Something Wicked This Way Comes I expect more! I know that there will be many metal fans who won't agree, but at the end it's a matter of taste... And I still prefer the two above mentioned ones!


5 stars

 






Framing Armageddon

Framing Armageddon
(Steamhammer - 2007)


The second album with Tim Owens on vocals. And the first of a two part concept, something that Mr. Schaffer likes a lot - the conceptual albums. A very heavy album with all the ingredients that made heavy metal great. Speed, power, crunching guitars, the rhythm section destroying everything they find in front of them - and the awesome voice of Mr. Owens along with the orchestra and the interludes around the history. Songs as Something Wicked (both parts), Setian Massacre, Ten Thousand Strong and Framing Armageddon will made you jump from your seat and play air guitar as a possessed one, while A Charge To Keep, The Clouding and The Domino Decree shows the great capability have this band to create masterpieces. And if you only want to head bang yourself, listen to the rest of the album specially Order Of The Rose and When Start Collide. Iced Earth is a band that you could not miss on tour, cause this album is going to blow the world!!!


10 stars

 






Alive In Athens (DVD)

Alive In Athens (DVD)
(Century Media - 2006)


Finally a DVD of the Athens shows get released on DVD. Most metal fans will have the 3-CD and / or 5-LP vinyl box and fans in Germany might have seen a 45 min. special on German music TV channel Viva somewhere in 1999. The 2 concerts were shoot by a video crew of Viva TV who also did the backstage footage and the stuff filmed in Athens.
The concerts were recorded in January 1999 when Iced Earth had their high time. And many fans will be happy to get the chance to see Matt Barlow singing the tunes. Some fans will probably miss one or the other songs, but the DVD has everything from the early days up to their latest album at that time. Especially Watching Over Me and Blessed Are You will give you shivers!
I was at the shows and so I know why some footage was shoot from some strange angles... The stage was extremely high, but from a professional video crew, I expect better work! That the DVD can't transport the atmosphere is no wonder, coz it was absolutely overwhelming! Both days been amazing and the crowd was the best I ever saw! They were singing along loudly, so loud that live producer Jim Morris had to turn them down!
As there is no other DVD of Iced Earth with Matt Barlow and as this set list is just great, I recommend the DVD to all Iced Earth fans - and power metal fans in general -, even if the quality isn't as good as it could be... Jon Schaffer wasn't happy about the release of the DVD, but as the rights are owned by Century Media he had no possibility to stop them. He moved to a new label and will record a DVD, but this will be with Ripper Owens and even if Ripper Owens is a great singer, it's not the same!


Track list:

01. Intro
02. Burning Times
03. Vengeance Is Mine
04. Dark Saga
05. Last Laugh
06. Cast In Stone
07. Last December
08. Pure Evil
09. Desert Rain
10. Dante's Inferno
11. The Hunter
12. Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
13. Angels Holocaust
14. Stormrider
15. The Path I Choose
16. Watching Over Me
17. Diary
18. Blessed Are You
19. When The Night Falls
20. My Own Savior
21. Travel In Stygian
22. Violate
23. Stand Alone
24. Brainwashed
25. Disciples Of The Lie
26. I Died For You
27. Prophecy
28. Birth Of The Wicked
29. The Coming Curse
30. Epilog


 






Horror Show

Horror Show
(Century Media - 2001)


No more waiting, but will Horror Show fulfill the expectations? First impression... It's typical Iced Earth, the guitar riffing became a trademark for Jon Schaffer & co.
The album opener Wolf starts with a kind of intro before developing into the Iced Earth sound. One of the fastest tracks of Iced Earth.
Other songs have the kind of choirs we know from the bands last releases. Richard Christy is a great drummer, but personally I think that the drum sound and some breaks doesn't really fit... I also miss the catchiness you found on some songs in the past. On Damien they worked with different tempi and whispered parts. A more than 9 min. long track!
The lyrics deal with persons / monsters who might gave us nightmares as a kid... Talking about Jack The Ripper, Frankenstein and many more.
On Horror Show songs have a large variety, but this is IMO not the best album of the quintet. A decent one, but... Make your own opinion about!


7 stars

 






Horror Show

Horror Show
(Century Media - 2001)


For days this CD is in my player and still rotating! I can't stop listening! Seriously, what this band is doing is always pure metal! So, what should I tell you about this leading power metal band? Everybody who doesn't know this first class metal act, isn't into metal! Masterpieces like The Dark Saga, Something Wicked This Way Comes or the triple CD-box Alive In Athens document the quality of the band of mastermind Jon Schaffer. And so their new album isn't a Horror Show, it's the best metal album which was released this year so far!


10 stars

Volker Raabe
(translation: Claudia Ehrhardt)
 






Days Of Purgatory

Days Of Purgatory
(Century Media - 1997)


Great idea! Matthew Barlow sung all tracks from the frist 2 albums and the songs were slightly overdone. But on the other hand I think that you shouldn't shake up cult only for the money. Or do you think that Iron Maiden or Judas Priest will re-record the old releases with their new singers? I don't think so!


Volker Raabe
(translation: Claudia Ehrhardt)
 






Dark Saga

Dark Saga
(Century Media - 1996)


Metal is dead? Ridiculous! Listen to this album and you know that metal isn't dead! The band from Florida have recorded a masterpiece which is called Dark Saga at the legendary Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida. Beside that fact that Jon Schaffer's solo parts this time lack the high notes, the quintet is consequently going the chosen path. On the Dark Saga they show their traditional metal, but even better then in the past. And for the first time in their history the band released two albums with the same singer! A better singer then Matthew Barlow a band can't find, coz he perfectly combines powerful vocals with very emotional parts. There are just a handful of singer who have this skills in the whole biz, so Iced Earth are fortunated to have him. Beside that the guys have a song like I Died For You on the album which could have been from Kiss or Crown Of Thorns. But the power ballad is from the no. 1 power metal band - from Iced Earth! So, hurry and get your copy!


10 stars

Volker Raabe
(translation: Claudia Ehrhardt)
 






Burnt Offerings

Burnt Offerings
(Century Media - 1995)


Wait, I thought this band has already broke up, but it seems that I was wrong. Iced Earth - a name which melts on the tongue. After 2 successful tours in Europe with Blind Guardian the Americans disappeared. Almost 3 years after the release of Night Of The Stormrider they are back with a new line-up. New in the line-up are singer Matthew Barlow and drummer Rodney Beasley. And they are going straight ahead! The opener and title track Burnt Offerings shows what's their musical direction. Slightly progressive song structures in combination with a vary and powerful riffing and with genius vocal lines will let the adrenaline level rise. This is a killer!!!! Burnt Offerings is the perfect and final crusade to kill new trends! A killer album!


10 stars

Volker Raabe
(translation: Claudia Ehrhardt)
 

           ©2008-2014 by Claudia Ehrhardt • E-Mail: contact@ice-vajal.com


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