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I think it is a bit difficult to write a review and rate a release of this kind. Not unless you have decided under which terms you judge it. If you think of it as a filler between two albums, then it may seem quite unnecessary because both time and money are very precious even if you are a die-hard of the band. Personally, I prefer to see it as a kind of best-off, slightly different than usual compilations.
What you get with this double CD, is two previously unreleased songs while the majority is made up from songs you have heard on their first three albums and none from the Dark Saga LP. These songs have been remixed and they feature Matt Barlow on the vocals.
The two “new” tracks are Winter Nights and Nightmares. Since I hadn’t heard them before, I can not tell the differences between the past of Iced Earth and their fresh, modern sound. All I can say is that they are typical Iced Earth songs, from their first years that is, possessing all the well-known elements they introduced us. They have razor-sharp guitars in the familiar style of Jon Schaffer, pounding drums and aggressive, harsh vocals that I think are suitable for Barlow’s singing abilities. They will definitely please you and get you into motion.
But the interesting part is found in the rest of the songs. As I mentioned earlier, it would be easier to consider this release as a best-off album. If you do, you will be satisfied with the track-listing, since most of their best moments are found in here. Letting aside the two instrumental tracks, Enter the Realm and Solitude, as well as the intros Reaching the End and Before the Vision, there are six songs from their self-titled debut, five from Night of the Stormrider and four from Burnt Offerings. Well-balanced selection I can say.
So, do you remember Angel’s Holocaust and Desert Rain with the furious, aggressive riffs? Or Colours and Iced Earth with the storming guitars and galloping paces? Well, here Iced Earth, with a modern sound, much better production and yet heavier guitars, give lessons of how pure heavy metal should be played. If you liked their first three albums, then Days of Purgatory will take you to a new level of pleasure and enjoyment. The biggest difference though, is to be found in the vocals. To be honest, I disliked Gene Adam’s vocals; still they were raging enough to excite me. John Greely was surely better than him but still he lacked something. Now, Matt Barlow comes to fill in the blanks. His harsh, growling way of singing puts atop the list of the band’s vocalists and his tones give a new dimension and color to the compositions. Owens that succeeded him was good but no match for Barlow. Some may argue with me on this but I truly believe so.
As far as it concerns the structure of the songs, there are no big differences apart from the drums which sound even better played by Smedley, and the vocals of course. Those of you with a more experienced ear will notice a slight change in the intro of Burnt Offerings. I didn’t at first.
Now comes the part where I have to rate this release. Let me think for a minute. Excellent song selection, better production, heavier sound, well-improved vocals and two unreleased tracks… okay, I have decided. An 84% should do the job.
P.S. Why is Diary not in here?