Iced Earth - The glorious burden 3.5/5

Reviewed: 11-26-04





Tracklist:

1. Star spangled banner
2. Declaration day
3. When the eagle cries
4. The reckoning (Don't tread on me)
5. Green face
6. Valley forge
7. Attila
8. Hollow man
9. Red baron/Blue max
Gettysburg (1863):
10. The devil to pay
11. Hold at all costs
12. High water mark


Iced Earth has come to be one of the standard bearers of US power metal. They are one of the bigger names and have been one of the more successful bands from the genre. I have always had a strong preference for the songwriting style of the first 2 CDs. 'Night of the stormrider' in particular, represents the band's best CD, by far, to these ears. After '...stormrider' band leader Jon Schaeffer recruited new singer Matt Barlow, who would become the band's most long term singer to this point, and be heralded as the band's best vocalist. The band's popularity also reached new heights with Barlow. As I mentioned, I prefer the earlier style of songwriting which seemed to show up in the band's epic, longer tracks on subsequent CDs, but I still liked all of the band's work to some degree. After the release of the somewhat ill-received 'Horror show', (go figure, I kind of liked it), Schaeffer made the shocking announcement that Barlow had opted to leave the band. Apparently, Barlow was so affected by the events of 9/11, he wanted to change careers and become a member of the justice department. The announcement was made that recently ousted Judas Priest front man Tim “Ripper” Owens would be Barlow's replacement. This was met with a mix of elation and despair depending on which Iced Earth fan you asked.

I for one, was elated. I always liked Barlow, but Owens' more Halfordesque vocals are more suited to my tastes, and for my money, more suited to Iced Earth. So this got me more excited for the new CD than I had been for a while. 'The glorious burden' ends up almost being 2 different CDs (and in fact it was even packaged as such in limited quantities). It consists of the CD 'The glorious burden' plus the 28 minute epic, 'Gettysburg'. I feel the need to split them up when talking about them, simply because the latter is on a wholly higher level of quality than the rest of the CD.

First off, lets talk about the rest of the CD. I find Owens to be a massive improvement vocally. He is, as I expected, much more suited to the Iced Earth sound than I found Barlow to be. The songs themselves, are nothing special. Oh, it's not a disappointment really, I just find them to be on par with the “normal” songs from the last several CDs. I have found the epics to be the most interesting songs on the recent CDs, and 'The glorious burden' is no exception. Still, tracks like "Declaration day" and "The reckoning" stand out to me. "The reckoning" in particular has that typical Iced Earth sound with the intense gallop reminiscent of Metallica's best days. However, the real highlight of the CD comes with the closing epic.

'Gettysburg' is divided into 3 tracks that tell some of the stories of this bloody battle in US history. In a twist, these songs don't really have that early sound that I usually treasure in Iced Earth's epics, but, these tracks are far from a disappointment. What is readily apparent, and what makes these songs so wonderful, is the complete passion Schaeffer clearly has for the subject. That passion rings throughout the powerful, emotional songs. An orchestra is used to great effect in the background, as are some terrific sound effects providing the cannonade and other battle sounds. 'Gettysburg' may be Schaeffer's crowning glory as a songwriter.

So in summary, your opinion of 'The glorious burden' will probably hinge on how you feel about new singer Owens, and 'Gettysburg'. I for one, am looking forward to hearing what the next CD will bring, as apparently Owens will be involved in the songwriting process.



JOHN




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