It's January. It's 14 degrees outside. The little snow that fell today was too cold to stick to anything. It's a great time to write about Iced Earth!!!!!!!
Iced Earth are a newer thrash band (by that I mean newer than the original thrash bands of the 80's) I heard about from a college friend. I was conversing about heavy metal with this friend and mentioned how disappointed I was in the current music scene (this was back in '98-'99). All of my long-time favorite metal bands seemed to be experimenting with Alternative (Metallica), or putting out mediocre albums (Anthrax, Megadeth,). My friend asked if I had ever heard of Iced Earth. I said no...
Iced Earth came to my ears like a savior. I was blown away by how heavy they were. I hadn't discovered a band this heavy since I first heard Pantera back in '94. They really won me over with the blend of clean guitar peppered sparingly amongst their speedy thrash riffs. I couldn't have had a better recommendation & I owe a great deal of thanks to that friend. I've been collecting their albums slowly ever since.
Iced Earth is the brain child of Jon Schaffer (the band's primary songwriter & guitarist). Over the years the other band members have changed numerous times. For the most part, the lead singer has been Matt Barlow. In 2004 he was replaced by Tim "Ripper" Owens (previously of Judas Priest-he filled the lead singer spot vacated by the legendary Rob Halford). Owens sang on the Iced Earth albums: The Glorious Burden, and Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Ptart 1. Recently, Schaffer hired Barlow back, and has let Owens go, citing the wishes of long time fans as the reason. Matt Barlow will be the featured vocalist on the up-coming Something Wicked Part 2 album.
For the Iced Earth era leading up to The Glorious Burden, I'll simply recommend any song from the compilation: The Blessed and the Damned. This is a 2-disc collection that provides a balanced sampling of their best music from this time period. In particular I really love the song "Melancholy (Holy Martyr)".
Not included on The Blessed & the Damned is Iced Earth's collection of cover songs: Tribute to the Gods. So that you're not missing out, I recommend the following songs from this album:
-Burning for You (Blue Oyster Cult)
-Dead Babies (Alice Cooper), Iced Earth give this song a darker & more haunting vibe than the original.
-Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden)
-Creatures of the Night (Kiss), of course I have to recommend a Kiss cover!
As for the short-lived Tim Owens era, let me first mention that I will miss Ripper's vocals. I'm also a fan of Barlow's voice in this band, so I'll still enjoy their new music. However, I'll be sure to keep an ear out for Tim Owens wherever he goes from here. The best Iced Earth songs that Tim gave voice to follow...
The Glorious Burden
This is a concept album that deals with war through the ages. The highlight is the 3-part epic: Gettysburg (1863). The CD's booklet provides an in-depth synopsis of the Civil War's history behind the music, and reveals Schaffer's skill at story-telling. The symphonic accompaniment throughout, as well as battle-march style drums, really make Gettysburg an emotionally weighted listening experience. Other good songs from The Glorious Burden:
-Star Spangled Banner (This is a straight-forward interpretation, played very heavy, and leads straight into the next song...)
-Declaration Day (About the US's battle for independence from Britain)
Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1
Again, this is a concept album, or rather the 1st half of a concept album. It's also a continuation of a trilogy of songs that close the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" album. The scope of the concept is quite vast, and there are elements of science fiction present. It seems to be about the history of mankind's conquest of the earth, as well as a futuristic vision of the same trend: mankind's conquest throughout the universe. Unlike the Gettysburg epic from the previous album, this album lacks any interpretive synopsis beyond the lyrics. As a result the story is more difficult to assemble & follow. Maybe Part 2 will clear things up once it comes out. That being said, this album is still a great head-banging experience for any thrash-metal fan. Some of my favorite songs from Framing Armageddon:
-Ten Thousand Strong
-The Clouding (This song is a masterpiece in & of itself. For the 1st 5:27 its a slow dark melodic piece, but the remaining 4 minutes get heavy again)
-When Stars Collide (Born is He)
Check out Iced Earth's website: