Iced Earth were originally formed as Purgatory by guitarist Jon Schaffer in 1984, the band spent five years paying their dues in the clubs. Their 1988 "Enter the Realm" demo was an underground favorite, and after changing their name to Iced Earth, the band recorded their first CD. Their sound is a combination of 80's thrash with the classic metal approach of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
After 1991's "Night of the Stormrider," Schaffer decided to call it quits due to any lack of recognition, much of which had to do with poor marketing. However, Iced Earth would re-emerge three years later with 1995's "Burnt Offerings," released on Century Media Records and featuring extraordinary vocalist Matthew Barlow. Barlow is to Iced Earth what Bruce Dickinson was to Iron Maiden, defining and refining their sound to perfection.
I didn't discover this band until after "Days of Purgatory" was released in 1998. Shortly afterwards "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was released which, in my opinion, is a phenomenal true metal disc. While the music is reminiscent of many different classic metal bands, they still somehow sound fresh. Fashion trends may come and go, but Iced Earth have remained committed to flying the heavy metal banner through through thick and thin. After years of laboring in obscurity and undergoing countless line-up changes they have emerged as one of the greatest hopes for classic metal in America. After the 9/11 tragedy in 2001, Matthew Barlow left the band and was replaced by ex-Judas Priest vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens.
Iced Earth - Enter the Realm (bootleg) 1988
1. "Enter the Realm"
HA! Now this was the deal of the century. All those who trade on the PM Board missed out. Ralf Walter offered this VERY HIGH QUALITY bootleg of the original Iced Earth demo/EP. Everything is included right down to the full-color glossy cover with the original demo artwork and all the original liner notes, lyrics, thank you lists, and song credits. I mean, if I did not know this was a bootleg, I would have swore it was a Century Media release. Even the cd itself is printed like any other Iced Earth cd. The sound quality is spectacular as well. Anyhow, as I was saying, Ralf was offering these for trade one time only on the PM Board and apparently no one bit (except me). Well they missed out because the one other copy of this that made it onto eBay sold for $30. Thanks again for the trade Ralf and for helping to round out my Iced Earth collection.
Iced Earth (Century Media) 1991
1. "Iced Earth"
Not a bad album, but compared to the rest of Iced Earth's catalogue, this one falls by the way side. By the next album these guys were just outstanding. This is not to say that this album sucks by any means. The songs "Iced Earth" and "Colors" were still being played by the band live as of 1999. The rest of the material is good as well. Perhaps for me it's just that I had heard this disc after hearing incredible discs like "Stormrider" and "Dark Saga" The cover above is the re-issue cover. The original cover is much cooler, but is harder to find.
I wrote the review above a few years ago and I am still not sure what the story is on the two different covers. I have read that the cover with the falling angel is the reissue cover and that the other is the "extremely rare original." I have also read more recently that the "rare" cover is not really that rare, but is just the European version. Well which ever it is, I now have both. Personally, I like the European cover better.
Also, after living with this disc for a few years now, I have changed my opinon of this disc and can honestly say that I like it as much as the next two. Looking back over the last few months alone, this disc has had more play time in my cd player than both "Stormrider" and "Burnt Offerings" together.
Iced Earth - Night of the Stormrider (Century Media) 1992
True metal excellence! "Travel in Stygian" is an inspired power metal song, and one of my all time favorites. Not sure which I like better, the original version or the version with Matthew Barlow on vocals on 'Days of Purgatory.' Great follow-up to the self titled album and one of the finest power metal albums ever released. Bought this copy on the right for $8 on Century Media's web site. The other is the original cover release that a good friend found for me in Germany.
Iced Earth - Burnt Offerings (Century Media) 1995
The first album to feature the incredible Matthew Barlow and one of the best power metal discs to ever grace my cd player. "Burnt Offering" is a metal classic in every aspect. Long live metal!.
Iced Earth - Days of Purgatory (Century Media) 1997
One thing that Iced Earth's
early material lacks is the strong voice of Matthew Barlow, so they re-recorded
much of their older material with his vocals. The sound quality is slightly
superior to the old material as is the musicianship. All the aspects of the
band that make them so impressive to me are present on this disc: energetic
staccato riffing, dual guitar harmonies, melodic acoustic passages, complex
arrangements, loads of double bass and superior vocals. My favorite track "Travel
in Stygian" is a nine-minute epic tune that shows Iced Earth at their creative
best. Have wanted the double disc, import version of this disc forever. Special
thanks to the German Metal Giant for hooking me up with a mint used copy.
Iced Earth - The Melancholy E.P. (Century Media) 1998
(Holy Martyr)" (4:46)
I found out a bit late that Iced Earth had released a limited edition EP called "The Melancholy EP." I went direct to the source, Century Media, and ordered a copy for $5 as it was still available according to their web site. I was bummed when I got an email message back that they had sold out. Checking eBay, I found out that the stinking thing was already selling for $50. That is a bit to rich for my blood, especially since it only contains five songs, only two of which are exclusince to this disc. Well, patience payed off because in the winter of 2001, Century Media released a European version of "The Melancholy E.P." with two extra tracks not on the American version. "The Ripper" is a Judas Priest cover taken from the "Judas Priest-Legends of Metal" tribute. "Colors" is an unreleased live track from the "Alive in Athens" sessions. The two exclusive tracks from the US release are cover versions of Bad Company's "Shooting Star" and Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral."
Iced Earth - Alive in Athens (Century Media) 1999
"Alive in Athens" is three CDs of live metal recorded over two nights on the supporting tour for "Something Wicked this Way Comes." This is a great live package. Each disc is packaged in it's own individual digi-pack, each with a different cover and packed with live pics. The American version, of course, only has two discs, so I had to pay the $25 to get this import version. It was well worth is to hear these great songs; all pulled off with perfection on the stage. Certainly not a cheap live album, this band gives the fans their moneys worth.
Iced Earth - Horror Show (Century Media) 2001
Horror Show is a concept album based on many infamous monsters. Drawing from legend, literature and film, each song off "Horror Show" tells the story of creatures like Frankenstein, the Mummy, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll and Hyde, Jack the Ripper, Damien (The Omen) and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. An excellent cover of Iron Maiden's "Transylvania" was recorded as well, and is included on the limited edition first pressing of the album on a bonus disc that also contains an exclusive interview with Jon Schaffer! Musically, this disc continues in a similar style as the last two discs, but with more symphonic elements, bringing in the Blind Guardian influences. Also new to this disc is the addition of some female vocals to some of the epic songs, including my favorite song of the disc, "The Phantom Opera Ghost." I must add that unlike the last two studio discs, which just clubbed me over the head and had me hooked, this one took a few more listens to get into. After listening a couple of times however, I can honestly say that this is an awesome true metal disc.
Iced Earth-Dark Genesis (Century Media) 2001
Disc 1-Enter the Realm (see track listing above)
As has been the case with the past few Iced Earth releases, the band knows how to make a nice package. This five disc box set is no exception. There is a 30 page full color book complete with lyrics, bio, commentaries, photos, and new artwork for all five albums. Disc one, which has never before been officially released on CD has been remastered and sounds a bit different from the bootleg copy I have had for a few years. Discs 2 through 4 are remastered versions of the band's first three cds. "Tribute To The Gods" is disc number five from the box set and features covers from Schaffer's most inspirational bands. Absolutely stunning collector's box set. Unfortunately a few months after the release of this set, Century Media released all the remastered discs in single CD packages, first as digi-packs, then later in jewel cases.
I already have the original "Tribute to the Gods" that was released as part of the box set (see above). However, I really wanted this individual disc so that I wouldn't accidentally destroy the box disc. (I know, I'm anal!) Since I payed premium for the box, I waited to find a good used copy and finally found one for a mere $5.99. The CD and digi-packaging are in perfect shape.
"Tribute to the Gods" features covers of some of Jon Schaffer's favorite bands, and apparently the ones that inspired him the most to become a musician. 1. KISS - Creatures Of The Night; 2. IRON MAIDEN - Number Of The Beast; 3. AC/DC - Highway To Hell; 4. BLUE OYSTER CULT - Burnin' For You; 5. KISS - God Of Thunder; 6. JUDAS PRIEST - Screaming For Vengeance; 7. ALICE COOPER - Dead Babies; 8. BLUE OYSTER CULT - Cities On Flame; 9. AC/DC - It's A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock n' Roll); 10. BLACK SABBATH - Black Sabbath; 11. IRON MAIDEN - Hallowed Be Thy Name. Of course what can be said of one of my all time favorite bands covering songs by many other favorites of mine? After all they cover two KISS songs, two AC/DC songs and two Iron Maiden tracks. What more could I ask for? The booklet also includes lengthy notes about how each band inspired Shaffer.
Iced Earth - The Glorious Burden (SPV) 2004
Seems there are two schools of thought on this CD. Either people love it or hate it. Apparently some old fans are upset but the departure of Matthew Barlow and think his replacement, Tim "Ripper" Owens is to much of a Halford clone. I must admit I was a bit bummed about Barlow leaving as well. He was a great singer who gave Iced Earth character. However, all I have to say after hearing this CD is that all you complainers need to get a ladder and get over it. Barlow is gone, Ripper rules! This album is G-R-E-A-T! Tim Owens has come out from under the shadow of Halford. This is an Iced Earth CD and not a Judas Priest (circa 97-02) CD! I've also heard complaints about "When the Eagle Cries." Some claim the lyrics are just to corny, while others say the song is pure propaganda. "When The Eagle Cries" corny? HELL NO! This song absolutely annihilates. The emotion that this song portrays is incredible. The lyrics absolutely bring a sense of pride to this red blooded American. INCREDIBLE is how I would describe it. Only the heartless couldn't see the sincerity in these lyrics."The Reckoning" is incredible as well and well deserving to be the single from this CD. Once again, Ripper rules! OK, so he sounds like Halford at times. SO FREAKIN' WHAT! The guys can sing, and scream like no ones business! There is not a weak spot on this CD. Almost the entire CD is based on American and World History. It opens with a cool, electric guitar rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner", then launches into "Declaration Day". Apparently the fact that the band has moved away from the darker themes of past albums has also upset some fans. Again I say, get a freakin' ladder and get over it. Personally, I think the lyrics here are refreshing. "Valley Forge", a song that also appeared on the Reckoning EP, is a galloping, Maiden inspired tune with more some smokin' lead guitar work by Ralph Santolla laid on top of Schaffer's signature rhythm work. Other highlights includes the ballsy ballad "Hollow Man", in which Owens sounds incredible, and "Red Baron" which is another heavy, ballistic track. Must also make mention of the 30-minute 3-part opus, "Gettysburg (1863)" which is beautifully written, masterfully played and quite intruiging. Complete with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the cannons of war, this trilogy is one of the finest, epic tracks that Schaffer has written yet. This album features the BEST songwriting of Jon Schaffer's career though, and Gettysburg (1863) is the pinnacle of it. This is the epic that all others will be measured by for years to come. So all you complainers and grumblers can sit around and mourn the loss of the great Matthew Barlow. As for me, I will be sitting here jamming to one of fine metal albums!
Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon-Something Wicked Part 1 (Steamhammer) 2007
OK, first of all, I must admit up front that I am a bit disappointed in the direction that Iced Earth have taken with this album. I have long been a fan of Iced Earth, but with "Framing Armageddon", Shaeffer is taking the band into a more symphonic, progressive direction and basically following in the footsteps of Blind Guardian. It almost seems to me like Shaffer has something to prove. Personally, I prefer the more straight forward heavy metal approach that the band is known for. Also, while I am sure people are tired of hearing about Matthew Barlow's absence, it is just a fact that his absence has changed Iced Earth's sound forever. He gave the band character. Tim Owens is a great singer in his own right, but he is very different from Barlow, so naturally he makes the band sound very different. (Notice I said "different", not "bad).
So, what of the album? Well, almost a decade ago Shaffer announced plans to record the "Something Wicked" concept with its anti-hero Set Abominae. Well in 2007 we get the first part of the story, with the second part scheduled to be released on the follow-up CD. As mentioned things have changed considerably for the band in those 10 years. Aside from the obvious change in vocalists, the music steps away from the borderline speed and thrash metal that Iced Earth were doing and heads into a more progressive direction. Shaffer's signature rhythm playing is still a fixture here, but much of it is more mid-paced, although the occasional fast riff is also included (see "Ten Thousand Strong"). The entire focus of the songwriting here is basically geared much more towards the epic and atmospheric. Of course Iced Earth have always written epic length songs, but something is different here. The story and how the lyrics are worked into the songs seem to have become more of a priority than on past epics. Also, between each song there are interludes that I suppose are suppose to help build the story. These might help the story, but don't really help the overall enjoyment of the music. Personally I find some of these to be incredibly boring. The instrumental "Something Wicked pt. 2" for instance seems to go on forever without ever going anywhere, yet it's really only three minutes long. However, there are some good songs mixed into all this. Frankly, however, I find myself getting bored with this CD. The good songs are intermixed with far too much story line. I particularly like the 70's influences in the title track. Unfortunately for me, the overall atmosphere of the CD just doesn't hold up well for a listen that is around 70 minutes long. I guess I've never been one who is more into the story line behind the music than the music itself. As good as the story may be, if the music isn't as interesting, or more so, I usually am uninterested. That seems to be the case here. Perhaps with more spins this CD will grow on me. I think this one is gonna be a grower. It certainly doesn't quite hit you between the eyes like "Night of the Stormriders", "Something Wicked" or "Dark Saga".
1. "In Sacred Flames"
"The Crucible of Man", part two of the "Something Wicked" series, features the return of vocalist Matt Barlow. As much as I think that Tim Owens is a great vocalist who really shined on "The Glorious Burden", there is no denying that the loss of Barlow was a big blow to Iced Earth's identity. Barlow had stepped down and switched careers to become a law officer several years ago, but had gotten back into music with Pyramaze, then again with Iced Earth. His voice is a welcome return. This alone helps "The Crucible of Man" to be a more interesting album that part one of the series. Frankly, I grew bored with "Framing Armageddon" rather quickly, which is a shame being that Iced Earth have long been one of my favorite bands. What I didn't like about that CD was that the songs tended to suffer to the storyline and all the little interludes in between each of the actual songs. That has been remedied with "Crucible". The orchestration has been toned down considerably. This is a step in the right direction, in my opinion. Within a few listens I found myself enjoying this album more than I have any Iced Earth album since the original "Something Wicked" CD. The heavy songs are quite good, a few of them even sporting some incredibly fast double work. After a short intro, the album opens with "Behold the Wicked Child" a heavy song that features layers of vocals and a good hook. Now this is the Iced Earth that I was hoping for. From there on out, the CD flows very well with plenty of peaks and valleys. In particular I found the ballad "A Gift or A Curse" to be an incredible song. Barlow delivers the vocals with such an intensity that I was immediately drawn into the song. I also quite liked the addition of the bongo drums for some added percussion in this song. As well, the speed metal of songs like "The Revealing" hearkens back to the power/thrash metal combination that band mixed so well in the past on songs like "Violate".
"The Crucible of Man" is suppose to be the conclusion of the story started on "Something Wicked" and "Framing Armageddon". Frankly, the storyline isn't as important as the music for me. I actually hope that "Crucible" does conclude this storyline so that Jon Schaffer can move on to something different.
It's great to have Matt Barlow back in the band. There seems to be a new energy to Iced Earth. Part of that energy is certainly due to Barlow's return. The songs feel more focused and the vocals are full of passion. "The Crucible of Man" may not top the Iced Earth catalog but it most certainly is a worthy addition to their catalog.
After a three year absence, Iced Earth returns with the much-anticipated "Dystopia". The band has always been the brainchild of founding member/guitarist Jon Schaffer who is the only element of continuity, with other band members coming and going more than Spinal Tap has gone through drummers. Longtime vocalist Matt Barlow exited the band for the second time. This really isn't a surprise to anyone who has followed the drama of Iced Earth over the years. Barlow couldn't commit to longterm touring, and thus it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately for artists like Iced Earth, their bread and butter is in touring as album sales alone can't support a band full-time. This time around, Into Eternity's Stu Block steps behind the mic for Iced Earth. Before hearing this album I wondered how well Stu's vocals would work with Iced Earth's power metal sound. Into Eternity is a very different band and Stu tended to use a lot of death metal growls. Surprisingly, Stu fits into the band's sound as well as Barlow or Tim "Ripper" Owens. As a matter of fact, Stu's voice falls somewhere between the two. When he's singing the lower register stuff, I hear some similarities to Barlow, sometimes the similarities are striking. However, his higher register and falsetto vocals have more in common with Ripper.