This is a very tight, strong and consistent record which showcases the band at the top of their game, delivering some of the best examples of their craft to date. The first two tracks; the bouncy up-tempo “Burning Times,” and the grandiose mid-paced “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” are two of my personal favourite Iced Earth songs.
Mixing elements of early Queensryche with Iron Maiden, then injecting a flavor of the Bay Area Thrash stylings of Testament and Forbidden into things here, Iced Earth release a crunchy, tasteful and thoughtful take on Power Metal that still delivers the triumphant atmosphere and enjoyable melody, but with some added ferocity.
There is a lot of emphasis placed on the dynamic and varied vocal stylings of the very talented Matt Barlow, as well as the solid riffing and enjoyable lead guitar work of band leader John Schaffer. If you generally like powerful Metal Front-men with wide ranges, or impressive guitar virtuosos, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Its not all about showing-off however. The band are quite skilled at mixing different moods and tempos into single tracks. Iced Earth can make liberal use of both acoustic guitars and full-speed-ahead double kick drums, and make both sound convincing. You may think one song is all about Thrash Speed and heaviness, but suddenly an atmospheric passage will take things in a whole other direction. You may think a song is going to be a ballad, but suddenly a grand Metallic guitar will ring out and signal the band to kick things up a gear. They do this without sacrificing succinct song structures, or compromising the logical flow of the material. It’s skilled, perfectly crafted songwriting in other words.
Highlights include the fierce, menacing “Stand Alone,” as well as the instrumental “1776” and the aforementioned opening duo. There’s also the “Something Wicked Trilogy” of the final three songs, which tell a story that would be continued on two full-blown concept albums later on in the band’s career.
Overall; Something Wicked’ is a very solid and well-written album from a very talented band. I think this is a fine album to start your Iced Earth collection with, and a must-have for any existing fans. I highly recommend it to fans of bands like Hammerfall, Sabbaton, Manowar, Nevermore, Queensryche, Savatage, Testament, Exodus, Forbidden, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon etc.