I’m not sure why I kinda dig Iced Earth so much.
First off, I’m not crazy about the name, but besides that, I’m not really sure what makes them stand out for me. It might be that I met their previous lead singer Matthew Barlow at a Mega-Con in Orlando back in ’96 or ’97. He was there because Iced Earth had a sort of tie in with comics since they have a CD called The Dark Saga, which is a concept album about Todd McFarlane’s popular character, Spawn. Anyway, through the year’s I’ve bought everything they’ve put out, and though I’m never blown away, I pretty much always dig it.
Following your fave bands has gotten easier and easier with the explosion of the internet, and so keeping tabs on ICED EARTH, I recently discovered that Matt Barlow wanted out of the band to pursue a career in Criminal Justice. Well, I always kinda liked his “Paul Stanley meets Dickinson while both are on steroids” voice, but I wished him well. Still, I was dismayed to discover that Iced Earth (mastermind and heart and soul of the band) guitarist – songwriter Jon Schaffer was shelving their next CD (The Glorious Burden) because he felt the outgoing’s Barlow’s vocals were lackluster. But then came the news that he had found a new singer to rerecord the entire album: Tim Owens, also known as Ripper Owens, the man that replaced his idol Rob Halford in Judas Priest. (A fictionalized, very Hollywoodized version of his story is the basis for ROCK STAR) Curiouser and curiouser…
I had heard Owen’s take on Priest songs, and really wasn’t blown away, but I thought it could be an interesting fit. And so, a few months later, Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden finally sees the light of day.
For the record, Barlows pipes still made the record, but as backing vocals.
Right off the bat, I have a complaint. See, I know that Jon Schaffer is a serious “Model American”…the man’s a patriot through and through. He even is affiliated with a store called SPIRITS OF '76 COLLECTIBLES , although I must admit I don't know exactly in what capacity. I think that’s really cool. But, while previous IE CDs have included a couple of patriotic songs that quite frankly didn’t fit the CDs they were on, this CD, an obvious labor of love which is ultimately a tribute to America and it’s people, includes a song about Attila the Hun and one about the Red Baron, and I don’t know why!
Still, I can’t help but admire Schaffer’s will, and especially his guitar playing and riffing. His lyrics are almost sweet in their reverence to American soldiers and his animosity towards the evil bastards that caused September 11 is quite evident.(The song When The Eagle Cries is a little too obvious to be poignant, but it still works for me). He can use a little help in overall songwriting skills, but I still give him a Standing O for effort. Particularly ambitious and grandiose is the epic three-parter entitled Gettysburg (1863), complete with symphony and all. Schaffer writes a nice personal assessment in the liner notes about how the whole concept came about. Very impressive, good stuff.
Overall I have to say I’m pleased with The Glorious Burden. It pretty much sounds like a lot of the previous Iced Earth material, but I know it symbolizes more for the band. It’s a stepping stone, and I hope things get even bigger and better for them!