Iced Eath – Something Wicked Part 2: The Crucible Of Man Review

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.

Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden Review

Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden
Iced Earth – The Glorious Burden

Iced Earth’s seventh full-length studio album; 2004’s The Glorious Burden, saw the US Power Metal band trading in long-time vocalist Matt Barlow for former Judas Priest singer Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, when Barlow felt the call of duty to serve as a law enforcement officer.

Though my personal favourite singer Iced Earth has ever had (they’ve had five over the years) is probably Matt Barlow because that’s who I heard first (usually how these things go), Tim Owens is a fine replacement with a wide range, a good attitude and some real power in those lungs. He’s clearly a very talented guy and fits the band well, matching the traditional high standard of Iced Earth singers.

The album was released via SPV records and was recorded in the famous Florida studio Morrisound, co-produced by Jim Morris and band–leader Tim Schaffer. Naturally, the album sounds fantastic. Crystal clear, grand, and yet still heavy.

The music itself on The Glorious Burden is fairly in line with what you would expect from Iced Earth, if perhaps focusing a little more on the mid-tempo aspects of their style. Mixing the sounds of Traditional Heavy Metal, early 80s US Prog Metal, USPM and a surprisingly high dose of Bay Area Thrash… Iced Earth have a definite identifiable, proudly Metallic sound and don’t deviate too far from it here. It you like melody, double kicks, guitar solos and a crunchy riffs its all here to be had.

The band do stretch their wings however on the fabulous, slightly progressive, three-part album closer “Gettysburg,” which is full of civil-war era music mixed with the band’s triumphant-sounding Metal music (even going so far as to make Metal versions of melodies from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Dixie” and add them into the proceedings). This trilogy of songs is really worth checking out and practically worth the price of the album on their own.

In addition to that however, there are also an album’s worth of brief, well-written, masterfully executed Metal tracks on the disc too. Things like the memorable “Declaration Day,” “Valley Forge” and “Red Baron/Blue Max.” This is yet another consistent, filler-free effort from the band. If you are in the right mood, and give these songs the time to sink in, you can really grow to love this record.

Overall; The Glorious Burden is a strong and interesting album from the veteran band. Iced Earth fans should enjoy it. Tim Owens fans should enjoy it. Fans of a lot of Metal style should like it too (Heck; even if you have a prejudice about Power Metal due to the Keyboards, Goblins & Wizards stereotype, this should give you a new perspective on the possibilities). If you wonder whether this album is for you, take a listen to “Valley Forge” and judge for yourself.

Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes Review

Iced Earth - Something Wicked This Way Comes

Iced Earth – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes is the fifth full-length studio album by the US Power Metal band Iced Earth. It was released in 1998 through Century Media records and was recorded at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with legendary producer Jim Morris.

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.