Reviewed: February 2019
Released: 2018, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
So, a quick intro for those who might require it: Purgatory was what Iced Earth was called before it was Iced Earth, in effect a prototype of the band (similar to Burn the Priest for Lamb of God). Jon Schaffer has pulled Gene Adam, Bill Owen, Mark Prator, Jim Morris and Ruben Drake to re-record some of the proto-Iced Earth songs.
While fans of Iced Earth will recognise several of the song titles, this is where the similarities end, for the most part. “Jack” has the same lyrical topic as the Horror Show song of course, but takes a less serious tone overall. Also known from Horror Show is Dracula, which is an interesting one: it’s still a very different song overall, but certain parts are recognisable, such as the opening and the soft break in the middle. But lyrically it’s completely different, opting for a more standard song about a vampiric monster than the quasi-romantic tale of Dracula’s lost love and subsequent war on God’s children.
“Burning Oasis” is purely a re-used title for a different song, and “In Jason’s Mind” and “In Your Dreams” are “new” songs about Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, respectively. While they do fit with the horror theme, it’s understandable why they weren’t re-worked for Horror Show as “Dracula” and “Jack” were, as that album shifted focus more towards classic monsters rather than modern slasher ones.
In terms of general sound, it’s pretty much as you’d expect for what was then prototypical Iced Earth. Like their debut album, it’s a more forceful take on US power metal, taking the theatricality of Iron Maiden or Blind Guardian but imbuing it with a darker, more aggressive edge. It’s not yet quite as grandiose as the band would become further down the line, but it manages to keep an old-school charm without sounding (for its time) overly derivative.
The Purgatory EP is a tricky one to assess though: on the one hand, any review should aim to be (at least partly) impartial and to fairly judge it in its own right. On the other hand, this is a revisit of a well-known band’s early demo work. It’s consciously drawing attention to its heritage; indeed, that is its very reason for being. If I were going back and reviewing their actual original demos, it wouldn’t really be fair to compare them to more modern works. But this is a 2018 Purgatory/Iced Earth release. On the other OTHER hand, these will be “new” songs to most people, for the most part familiar in name alone.
As I try to factor all this in, the process of reviewing this just becomes more complex, and maybe it’s better to strip it all back and just ask: how good is this? Never mind who it’s by or what it represents, how enjoyable is the music here? And the answer (from me anyway) is a firm “it’s okay”. None of these tracks are going down as lost Iced Earth classics. It’s interesting to check out for long-time fans of the band, but that’s also really the only demographic I’d recommend this to. For those who aren’t so interested in the band’s history, this is just a set of decent if unremarkable metal songs.
1.) In Your Dreams
3.) In Jason’s Mind
5.) Burning Oasis
Jon Schaffer – Guitar
Gene Adam – Vocals
Mark Prator – Drums
Bill Owen – Bass
Jim Morris – Guitar
Ruben Drake – Bass