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Something Wicked This Way Comes
Released: 1998, Century Media Records
In the six years since I bought Night of the Stormrider, I never really thought much about Iced Earth. Don't get me wrong, I liked it, but there was usually something else that would wind up capturing my attention (and money). So what made me take notice of them again? I saw the cover art for Something Wicked... in a magazine and all I could think was "Wow!". It looked like Todd McFarlane's interpretation of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" poster. (In case you're not into comics, Todd McFarlane is the creator of Spawn.) It took me back to the time when you could almost always judge the quality of an album by the cover art. Sadly, those days are gone. Or are they?
In addition to a very "metal" looking album cover, I also got a CD that is 100% HEAVY METAL!!! The disc kicks off with "Burning Times", a heavy, mid-paced, groove laden track, which ought to make bands like Metallica hang their heads in shame. "Disciples of the Lie" is a traditional Iced Earth song with Jon Schaffer's trademark "high speed gallop" guitar rhythm. (If you're a fan you'll know what I'm talking about.) There's also some beautiful (yet dark sounding) acoustic work on tracks like "Melancholy (Holy Martyr)" and "Consequences". There's even a flute played on the instrumental "1776" which fits surprisingly well.
And as an added bonus to the standard ten songs, there's the "Something Wicked" trilogy. Three songs conceptually linked by a fantasy story about the destruction of mankind. These last three tunes are where the Iron Maiden influence really shines through, especially on "Prophecy" and "The Coming Curse". (If Steve Harris wants to pull Maiden's career out of the toilet, then he should definitely listen to this CD. This is the direction Maiden should have taken after Seventh Son...)
New vocalist Matt Barlow is quite good as well. He sort of sounds like a cross between Phil Rind of Sacred Reich and Kiss' Paul Stanley. (Actually, this is how Paul Stanley would have sounded if his testosterone hadn't been used to grow chest hair.)
This CD has its flaws, but luckily they're only minor. The ballad "Blessed Are You" which is dedicated to Iced Earth fans from the band, while not that bad a song, is rather sappy in its sentiment. I'd rather have a band show me their appreciation by writing top-notch material and putting off good live performances. And my second complaint is the guitar tone on the solos. It sounds like it needs a little more gain and a slight EQ adjustment. (Being a guitarist myself I just had to point that out.)
With all that said, this is a great CD. Great tunes, great musicianship, cool cover art,... What more could a metal fan ask for? I guess I'll have to try and hunt down The Dark Saga and Burnt Offerings now, but that's got to wait until after the holidays... I don't think my credit card can take anymore abuse this month.
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