It’s tough for me to talk about my expectations regarding this ICED EARTH release because I basically didn’t have any. I haven’t really been in love with the band since after “Burnt Offerings” and I definitely wasn’t expecting something of that caliber here. I was, in particular, lukewarm to the idea of re-recording material from the Matt Barlow era because I wasn’t really keen on his vocal approach. Surprisingly, this release turned out to be well worth the purchase, mostly because of the re-recordings.
ICED EARTH has been hailed in many quarters as being the saviors of American Metal, which I think is quite a stretch. John Schaeffer’s riffs are highly reminiscent of the 80s Power/Thrash style that separated American Power Metal from their more melodically consonant brethren in Europe, but aside from the pre-1995 material, there wasn’t anything that merited a label of the like of heroism or savior status. What was ultimately missing in the 90s material was a voice that could truly transcend the upper stratosphere appropriate to the style, and that is where Ripper’s presence has made the difference.
Although I prefer the heavily reverb injected drum sound of the 90s material, the overall arrangement of all 3 of the re-recordings are much tighter. Tim Mills’ interpretation of the solos is superior to Larry Tarnowski’s somewhat mellow toned leads. But the real deal maker is Tim Owens’ re-arrangement of the vocal lines, which succeed in turning something that listened a little like Blaze Bailey era IRON MAIDEN into a sonic attack on par with some of JUDAS PRIEST’s work on “Painkiller”. The atmospheric sections of “The Coming Curse” and “Prophecy” are not quite as dense, but work well against the thrashing sections.
The featured track “Ten Thousand Strong” is something of a step up from the better tracks featured on “The Glorious Burden”. It’s a bit on the cliché side of the Power Metal coin, the chorus is extremely predictable, and the riff work is a little bit flat. Owens’ vocals are mostly what carry this song through without it lagging; almost in a similar fashion to the way DIO’s voice would carry along most of the extremely simplistic riffs Vivian Campbell put forth on “Holy Diver”. It’s not bad for a single, but if it is any indication of the entirety of “Framing Armageddon” then there is still some work to be done.
Not really the greatest single to come in 2007, but definitely essential listening if you’re a fan of ICED EARTH’s mid to late 90s material and JUDAS PRIEST. People like me who harbor any hope of a return to the famed “Night Of The Stormrider” sound are not going to be overly impressed with this, but it is a solid representation of the fledgling rebirth of the old US Power Metal scene. Hopefully the LP that follows this will have more of a tilt towards the old Power/Thrash days of the early 90s, before everything started to either be Groove or Sludge.
(Online September 26, 2008)