Sunday, January 20, 2008

Iced Earth

Post #13
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)
-The Reckoning

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)
-Framing Armageddon
-When Stars Collide (Born is He)

Check out Iced Earth's website:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Led Zeppelin

Post #12 (Poll Winner: Favorite 70's Band)
"Lords of Rock, Led Zeppelin! Grace us with your Mighty Love!"

You may recall the above quote from Jack Black's "Pitch to Led Zeppelin" begging for permission to use "The Immigrant Song" in the movie School of Rock. (You can find it in the extras on the DVD!) This statement really puts Zeppelin in an appropriate perspective: they are Legend, they are Icons, they have no equal, they are One of a Kind. I know I claim that KISS is my all time favorite, but few bands command the level of respect that Led Zeppelin do.

A great many musical artists have paid this respect through recording their own interpretations of their music. Some examples include: Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, Kashmir: The Symphonic Led Zeppelin, Great White-Great Zeppelin, Dread Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin inna reggae style!), and Stairways to Heaven to name a few.

Their music practically defined the 70's. You cannot converse about the influences of modern hard rock music without mentioning them. Without them, without their music, the world would be a different place. Can you imagine if you had never heard of the song Stairway to Heaven?

With a Led Zeppelin reunion currently in the works, the legend they already have can only grow. I'll probably miss out on a chance to see them live because of how limited this opportunity may be and how astronomical the cost of their shows are sure to be, but I'll be 1st in line to buy a new album from them should they pursue this reunion that far.

I have had the opportunity to see a world-renown Zeppelin tribute band: Zoso (check out their website: The show they did was incredible. They look like Led Zeppelin, they sound like Led Zeppelin, they even played Stairway! I'm glad to have seen their tribute show, and would see them again if I get another chance.

For now I'll leave you with a list of some of my personal favorites from Zeppelin. These songs are mostly from their 1st 4 albums, which I regard as their "Golden Era". They are also the same as my own "Best of Led Zeppelin" mix CD!
-Black Dog
-Good Times, Bad Times
-Rock & Roll
-Immigrant Song
-Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
-Going to California
-Misty Mountain Hop
-That's the Way
-Whole Lotta Love
-When the Levee Breaks
-D'yer Mak'er
-Gallows Pole
-Stairway to Heaven

Some websites of interest:

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Brief Note on "70's Rock Band" Poll

Post #11.5
First, my thanks to all those who voted. The votes were spread pretty evenly, and the narrow winner is Led Zeppelin. Before I get to my full review of Zeppelin, I just want to say a few things.

First is that if I could do this poll over again I probably would not include Judas Priest or the Scorpions. After I'd already posted the poll it occured to me that these bands didn't really hit big until the 80's. In their place I would have included a couple bands like Rush, AC/DC, or ZZ Top.

Second, I could porbably ramble for half an hour just listing more great bands from the 70's, so no matter how long the list would get I couldn't include everyone. Anyone who voted for "other" please don't take it personally that your favorite wasn't on the list.

Now I'm off to compose my thoughts on the legendary Led Zeppelin....
Be back soon!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Music Mix Mania!

Post #11
The age of the i-Pod & other portable digital music players is upon us & in full swing. With the ability to carry hundreds (or even thousands!) of songs in a tiny device you can slip into your pocket, its easier than ever to quickly give a listen to a great song of you choice at a moments notice. One sad fact of this high-tech convenience is that the art of recording a music mix onto a tape or CD has nearly become a lost art already! Okay, cassette tapes have been ancient for years already, but I'm still jazzed that I can make music mixes on a computer with a CD burner! Is there anyone out there who agrees with me? Isn't there still a great feeling to assemble 60-80 minutes of great music in the perfect sequence and making a permanent recording of it? If you agree, then this post is dedicated to you. This post will be a look at one random mix tape form my personal archives-a blast from the past so to say.

Here I go, pull out the old cassette travel-case I once kept in my car during my college days, blow the dust off, crack it open and... BAM! Instant nostalgia! A whole dozen mix tapes to choose from. For me, this is like opening a time capsule. I was never one to make a mix of the same 18 songs you would hear any given day on the rock radio station, either. So these tapes are chocked full of some obscure gems out of left field.

My choice of mixes to cover today: “You Name It!” The following mix tape is probably one of the most eclectic mixes I’ve ever assembled. Thrash, Alternative, Classic Rock, Acid-Rock, Grunge, Prog-Rock, Dance, 80’s Pop-Rock, Reggae, Latin Blues, and even (don’t shoot me, I’ll explain myself) Country: this mix pretty much has it all. A couple underlying themes to this mix; 1-there are a lot of KISS songs, but they’re mostly covers from various KISS-tribute CDs. The lone KISS song, “Then She Kissed Me”, is actually a cover itself. 2-Many of the songs are a-typical versions; either live, unplugged, or a remix. This tape is kicked off with a Dance-remix/cover of Kiss’ classic disco-era hit, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”. I heard someone in my dorm listening to it one day and it inspired me to make the following mix-tape. I asked to borrow the CD, then returned it after I’d made the tape.

However, my favorite part of this listening experience has to be when the soft, smooth, bluesy melody of “Forever Night Shade Mary” by Latin Playboys comes to a close, only to be instantly succeeded by Sepultura’s “Murder” , which assaults your eardrums like a barrage of serrated sledgehammers. What an awesome feeling!

Here’s an annotated breakdown of this music mix…

“You Name It!”
Mix Tape (circa ’96-’97) review: 110min TDK CDpower Cassette
Side A
-I Was Made for Lovin’ You (Dance Mix) I never listen to dance music, unless I happen to be at a club or something, which for me is once in a blue moon. It’s only because it’s a Kiss cover that I put it on this tape.
-Space-Dye Vest (Dream Theater) This is one of the best songs Dream Theater ever recorded. I love the seamless blend of piano and slow, heavy guitar riffs this song showcases.
-Suicide Note Pts I & II (Pantera) A 2-part song by Pantera, that in itself represents the 2 extremes of their own unique sound in metal.
-Tomorrow (J Walsh) An obscure mellow tune by Joe Walsh about procrastination, I included it here to avoid stringing too many metal songs together, however I was in college, so maybe I identified with the lyrics too.
-Bleeding Me (Metallica) One of my personal favorites from Metallica’s Load album.
-Deuce (Hellmenn) A fast, punky cover of the Kiss classic.
-The Heart of the Matter (D. Henley) Just felt like a bit of 80’s pop…
-Turbo Lover (Judas Priest) The heavy metal titan’s least ‘metal’ hit (lots of synth on this song, thank the 80’s for that), but I still like it.
-Then She Kissed Me (Kiss) Kiss covering the classic 50’s hit.
-Last Exit (Pearl Jam) Needed a ‘grunge’-era song somewhere, I thought this number was a bit underrated from the Vitalogy album.
Side B
-Peace in Mississippi (Hendrix) An excellent instrumental from one of the most legendary guitarists of all time. Never heard of it? Do yourself a favor & listen to it NOW.
-Life in the Fast Lane (Eagles) This is a live version from the “Hell Freezes Over” album. Can’t beat the vibe of this band that had just reunited.
-Polly (Nirvana-unplugged) This unplugged version really rocks!
-Rip It Out (Haphazard) Another Kiss cover, this one comes from “Dressed to Kill: An Independent Tribute to Kiss”
-Silent Scream (Slayer) When Slayer tackle issues in their music, they’re brutal about it. This one’s no different. Be warned, it deals with abortion.
-Long Day (Matchbox 20) Back when MB20 actually rocked!
-Forever Night Shade Mary (Latin Playboys) This song comes from the Desperado Soundtrack. Robert Rodriguez’ selection of songs & how he works them into this film is simply fantastic. I bought the soundtrack because of how well it enhanced the film.
-Murder (Sepultura) This is probably the heaviest song on this mix. From the “Arise” album, it thrashes as fast as any song from the mid-80’s
-Down In a Hole (Alice In Chains-unplugged) Another live, acoustic grunge song. Again, there’s something special about live performances, and the acoustic arrangement on this song makes it all the better.
-Stir it Up (Cool Runnings Soundtrack) Diana King covers the Bob Marley classic.
-Love Gun (Flipp) This is a very different arrangement of a Kiss classic. Slowed down to about half the tempo of the original and played on acoustic guitar, its practically a different song.
-More Human Than Human (White Zombie-Remix) Taken from “Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds: The Astro-Creep Remixes.” As far as remixes go, I find this one really cool.
-Train to Nowhere (Great White) From Great White’s live album, “Stage”, this bluesy rock song has a great groove.
-Strong Enough (Sheryl Crow) Straight forward Sheryl Crow. Another acoustic number.
-Hard Luck Woman (Garth Brooks) One last Kiss cover to close this music mix. Although Garth is to Country what Kiss is to Rock N’ Roll, he does a great job covering this song.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Black Tide Rising...

Post #10
It's not every day where I have a chance to review a band prior to the release of their debut album. With Black Tide I have that chance & I'm taking it! Slated for release next month on February 5th, their debut album, "Light From Above", is already on my radar of CDs to collect soon. In addition to picking up their promo/single at Hot Topic, I've also had the opportunity to see these guys live at Ozzfest this past summer. They really rock (especially their singer/guitarist/songwriter who's only 17)!
They instantly caught my ear at Ozzfest because I arrived while they were covering Metallica's "Hit the Lights". They sounded great live, and their 2-song single is equally impressive. They have a classic-metal feel: Great guitar solos, catchy riffs, good mid-range vocals. Overall Black Tide remind me of bands like Avenged Sevenfold & Trivium (both of which I plan to blog about in the future!) So if you want to jump on the bandwagon of a young & promising new heavy metal band, give Black Tide a listen.
I can easily recommend the 2 songs on their single:
-Warriors of Time

Check out their website: