Matt Barlow was the American Heavy Metal band Iced Earth’s singer for six years between 1995 and 2001, he wasn’t the band’s first ever singer but he was arguably their most popular. After he left the band to join the police force following 9/11 Iced Earth recruited Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens for the superb The Glorious Burden album as well as the concept album, Something Wicked Part 1: Framing Armageddon, which was one part of a two album set.
For the second part of this two album set however, rather than stick with Ripper, Iced Earth welcomed back former singer Matt Barlow which feels a little untidy to me, first of all because Ripper was a great vocalist and the albums he sang on weren’t even considered failures (like what had happened with Iron Maiden in a similar situation) and secondly, if you’re going to do a two part story it feels odd to switch singers. Even more untidily, this would then be Matt’s final album with the band as he would leave once again straight afterward. Its almost so untidy as to be off-putting, luckily however, Matt Barlow is a superb talent and a natural fit for the band and everything he touches is top quality.
Regardless; of who is singing, this is an interesting album for the band. It is quite a progressive album for the band, focusing less on classic Thrash Metal and Power Metal sounds like those which made the band famous, and concentrating more on rhythms and textures than ever before. There’s also quite a bit of background percussion every so often. Its also a slower and more mid-paced record than a lot of the band’s previous work. It shows the band exploring a different side of things and is definitely interesting for the long term fan. The 2008 record was produced by the legendary Jim Morris and sounds terrific.
The story about the ‘wicked child’ called Set and his messianic relationship to the Setian race (of Aliens) versus his destructive relationship with human kind makes for interesting listening. If you focus on this side of things you get a little bit extra and if you’re not interested you still have a great Heavy Metal album to listen to.
Highlights include the fun doomy ‘Crucify The King,’ as well as ‘Divide Devour’ which is the albums heaviest hardest track (yet features choral chanting and a catchy Sabaton-esque chorus) and the seven-minute ‘Come What May’ which has flutes, violins and extra percussion to spice things up.
Overall; this is an interesting transition between the Stu Block era of the band and the previous Tim Owens era. Musically it isn’t exactly the album you expect when you say Iced Earth but it is a very interesting addition to their discography and a strong album in its own right and so adds a little something extra to their sound. If you like the band, don’t miss out.