Continuing with my Halloween theme, today I'll be featuring Iced Earth who have been known for incorporating horror themes throughout their career, but now have an album as a tribute in itself to Halloween.
Iced Earth is a metal band that needs no introduction. At least in my opinion, but I've come to realize that there are a lot of great metal bands out there and some I've never even heard of, so with that.... Iced Earth is Florida based metal band who, despite early comparisons to Iron Maiden (but then who wasn't ...) forged their own sound and distinct brand of traditional metal. Not quite thrash, but not quite power metal either. What they are is a solid heavy metal band with a thick heavy sound.
First off I'd like to comment on 2 covers that Iced Earth have done. "The Ripper" which is about Jack the Ripper is a Judas Priest cover and is a pretty faithful version. Iced Earth's signature thick heavy sound is here and Matthew Barlow's operatic baritone wails fits nicely with their cover. The other is Iron Maiden's "Transylvania" which is featured on "Horror Show" is a blistering instrumental that musically transports you through the dark mysteries that surround this historical region of Romania. Maiden's tune is expert and Iced Earth do a faithful rendition with their brand of added thickness. Now on to the rest of "The Horror Show".
The album starts off with "Wolf" which is about ... you guessed it ... werewolves/wolfman and doesn't waste much time before hitting us with a wicked galloping riff and blasting drums. And here we are treated to Barlow's baritonic wail of vocals which go from smooth almost Bowie like, but deeper, baritone to your standard power metal wailing. He does have a good sense of timing and a diverse vocal range.
"Damien" is an epic song based on The Omen and is clearly the darkest most sinister song on the album and one of my favourites. It starts with dark operatic choral vocals and orchestration (much like Burnt Offerings "Dante's Inferno") which gets transitioned by a sinister acoustic bridge into a dark and killer guitar riff which ties this 9 min + epic together. Barlow shines here and the operatic/guitar mix outro is very nice.
"Jack" is the first Iced Earth song I heard. I got a sampler CD free with my purchase of either Tad Morose, or Onward, or maybe both, either way Iced Earth's "Jack" was the first song on there and I loved it. The song is about Jack The Ripper and is a sinisterly fast piece of pummalling guitars and drums. The dark bridge is a nice touch and Barlow shows some real passion and emotion on this song.
"The Ghost Of Freedom" is a power ballad which isn't too bad, but is kinda forgettable. I'm not sure of the story behind it either. It's my least favourite track. Don't get me wrong, though, it's not a bad song, but it feels a little out of place here.
Then we are treated with the ethnic flavoured "Im-Ho-Tep (The Pharoah's Curse)" which is ... yup, Mummy's and it show's Iced Earth's flare for capturing cultural styles while keeping their sound. It's a crunchy heavy song.
"Jeckyl And Hyde" is a fast song with acoustic intro, but has the distinction of Barlow doing a dual vocal attack of both signature baritone and metal wail each representing a personality. All this over some nice military style drum work. They create a very passionate song and some fine guitar work.
"Dragon's Child" is , I'm pretty sure, about the creature from the black lagoon, and is crunchy power metal song. It doesn't really stand out much, but it is a descent track.
We are then brought back to life with "Frankenstein" which has a killer riff and is dark and sinister. This is, I would say, my favourite song. It is catchy and memorable and heavy. Barlow sings in a narrative style vocal technique whilst interjecting his wail as needed and brings across a real sense of the self righteousness that surely Dr. Frankenstein felt while playing god. A real passionate tune.
"Dracula" is a sinisterly romantic metal song, but it ain't no ballad! It starts with a melodic acoustic intro and hypnotic vocalings. Then we get snapped out of our trance with some sweet shrieking metal wails and some fine fast riffing. It's a catchy song and features an almost operatic chorus.
The last track is another epic song about the Phantom of the Opera. Again it starts with an acoustic intro (a signature style of Iced Earth)but then becomes a theatrical power metal song with dual vocals of Matthew Barlow and Yunhui Percifield as Christine. "The Phantom Opera Ghost" is a majestic song full of passion and Barlow really shows his talents here. The bridge is nice and the solo is underscored with some earth shaking drum beats. A fine way to end this album.
Iced Earth is a great band and I should note Jon Schaffer (Key songwriter and only member who has stayed with the band throughout its run)has a great sense for riff structure and songwriting. But I'll admit the new vocalist Tim Owens is just not as good as Matthew Barlow (who left to do law enforcement administration?!? after this album) But Schaffer is the keeper of the strong unique Iced Earth sound. They have thrash-like intensity with the technical precision of power metal. This is my favourite Iced Earth album and is a real treat for any fan of horror or metal. Up next and just in time for Halloween. The self proclaimed Soundtrack for Halloween ... Van Helsing's Curse ...