In 1998 ICED EARTH released an album called “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, which, in many ways, marked their arrival on the world stage. Still heralded by many as one of the best US Power Metal releases, the title track trilogy has now spawned a pair of albums, the latter to be released next year. "Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1)" sees Tim “Ripper” Owens’s sophomore album with the band after making an impressive debut with “The Glorious Burden”. I think I will say from the off that one of the reasons I’m not giving this album top marks is, unfortunately, Ripper himself. He once again delivers a solid performance, not a problem there. My problem is that with the original “Something Wicked..” album, there was just so much more dark, darkness to be found. I believe that for me that is what Matt Barlow brought to the band and that is what I am missing on this release; his voice brought forth a sense of dark power, which suited the mood of the album very well. In my opinion, the original “Something Wicked” will kick this “Something Wicked’s” ass.
So, dark power and ass kicking aside, let’s take a real look at this album. From the start, Jon Schaffer said that this was going to be an album related in style to the "Gettysburg" trilogy from “The Glorious Burden”, which means loads of orchestra, sound effects, grace, and grandeur. Unfortunately, on this album, it also means overtures, interludes and instrumentals, and while these play an important part in a concept album, in this case, it slightly undermines the overall feel of the music and the concept. The album starts with “Overture” and shortly thereafter, we come across “Something Wicked Pt. 1”, which shares some DNA with “Prophecy” from the first SWTWC. It instantly creates a connection between the two albums and with that unfortunately also an expectation. Three tracks on is where we find the next “full” track, “Setian Massacre”, some good melodies and riffing are to be found, but overall Ripper’s voice gets lost a bit in the production and vocal layering. We also find a few very mellow, melodic passages scattered through the album and examples of this can be found in “A Charge To Keep” and “Reflections”. This does not quite match up with Ripper’s voice and in my opinion; Ripper is not Ripper when he is not ripping. Thankfully, though he is back doing what he does best on “Ten Thousand Strong” which was released on the single; this perhaps my favourite track on this album, fast and furious and more in tune to what we are used to hearing. This is perhaps ICED EARTH’s most variable album in terms of style and if the name PINK FLOYD means anything to you, “The Clouding” will be a nice little surprise, the floating guitar wanders slowly down its path until about the fifth minute where it picks up more speed and turns into one of the strongest tracks off the album.
As the album starts winding down, it becomes clear that “Framing Armageddon” will not live up to my expectations. The title track is one of the finer tracks on the album, trademark ICED EARTH riffing, powerful vocals and an overall dark feel brings forth a bit more of what I was expecting/craving. I’ve listened to this album more than a dozen times and it hasn’t yet convinced me that this is worthy of standing next to the earlier ICED EARTH work. However, I do strongly recommend this to any ICED EARTH fan and I for one am looking forward to hearing Part 2 next year. “Revelation Abomination” will, I hope, put it all in perspective - maybe the puzzle will not make sense to me until I can put both pieces together. This is a very good album, but I feel that at times there was too much story and concept for the music to keep up. Instead of being part of the story and feeling part of the action, I find myself in a lecture hall, thoughts wondering off and my imagination imagining what might have been. Recommended, but not endorsed.
(Online December 30, 2007)