The album was to be the temporary final album to feature singer Matt Barlow at the time, (who subsequently was replaced for two albums by ex-Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens) until his temporary return in 2007 and eventual final exit in 2011. Horror Show also features Testament/Death bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who’s bass is very clear and prominent on this release. The band also continue their Judas Priest/Spinal Tap-esque luck with drummers and replace Brent Smedley with Richard Christie.
The lyrics from the album are influenced (and in some cases feature lifted material from) Horror stories; such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, Creature from the Black Lagoon etc.
Musically; this album features a lot of variety in the vocals, be that through layering, choral sounds, or guest singers (“Damian” “The Phantom Opera Ghost”). There’s a bit less of the Thrash influence, and a bit more mid-paced material on here (“Im-Ho-Tep” “Dragon’s Child” “Frankenstein”) as well of plenty of acoustic guitar passages. There are a lot of parts on the album that are designed to show off the drums, sometimes inserted almost jarringly into the proceedings, which can feel like the band eschewed flowing structures for instrumental highlighting, which in fairness does help the album have its own identity in the band’s discography. Their previous album was all about succinctness and focused on structure, and this is a bit broader and focused on musicianship. Combine that with the relative lack of speed and it definitely has its own vibe. On some editions, there’s also a cover of the early Iron Maiden instrumental “Transylvania.”
Highlights include the powerful, Thrashy opener “Wolf” as well as the catchy “Jekyll & Hyde” and the fun, memorable “Dracula” which starts off as a broody acoustic number and explodes into a fun, bouncy Headbanger.
Overall; Horror show is one of the band’s least aggressive releases, and is arguably fairly experimental for them, but still has enough of the core Iced Earth hallmarks to sound familiar. If you like the band, this would make a fine addition to your collection. If you are all about the Thrash then it might seem a bit slow paced, but otherwise there’s plenty to love here.