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I was awaiting this album with thrilling curiosity and also real anxiety. Iced Earth is one of my favourite bands and after very weak 'Glorious Burden' I hoped that its successor could be only better. I have heard already song 'Ten Thousend Strong' which promotes that album and I hoped for the best, but something deep in me was continually telling me that I am terribly naive. Unfortunately it occurs to be truth.
Certainly 'Framing Armageddon' is better than 'Glorious Burden'. Nevertheless I can't say anything good about this release.
I was bored stiff listening to this garbage. Schaffer shouldn't make a music album if he wanted to write sci-fi novel. Idea with this story about men and setians is quaint and good but the execution fails completely. Lyrics are bland, guitars are lacking spirit, strange choirs, everything here is poor and unfortunately boring as hell! This is not Iced Earth! This is not even average metal band! Iced Earth failed again! Almost everything here is irritating (except album artwork) even Ripper's vocals. Tim Owens is a magnificent vocalist, but he also is always in wrong band in wrong time. He doesn't match here as well he didn't match in Judas Priest. Returning to topic: Framing Armageddon has nineteen tracks and most of them are poor as hell! Only one that keeps pretty good is 'Ten Thousend Strong' - the only good song on this album. There are a few tracks that got potential and good ideas and could be also good songs but they are only barely average (I mean here 'Retribution Through the Ages', 'Motivation of Man', parts from 'Something Wicked (Part 1)' and 'The Domino Decree'). Everything else... is just awful. I know that many tracks there are intros but this is not excuse for their poor sound.
This album had loads of potential to be ambitious and epic. It has failed to achieve that. Repetitive senseless chanting, idiotic interludes, boredom, boredom, boredom and even more glorified boredom. Bland, uninteresting riffs doesn't help either.
This is a distinct impossibility to high rate this album. Seriously. I tried very hard to get accustomed with this LP. Sadly, I can't still treat this album nothing more than a very poor and "half-baked" creation. Of course, Iced Earth fans should listen to this album, but you will never return to this album later. It is just weak.
I quite honestly do enjoy Iced Earth. most of their albums have songs that I listen to almost everyday. Who can forget the awesome twosome that put them on the map: Night of the Stormrider and Burnt Offerings? I'm sorry, but this doesn't seem like the IE that put out those two show-stoppers. And no, I'm not talking about the lack of long-time frontman Barlow, as Tim Owens is not the problem here. I like the story, art, and a few of the songs off this album, but I simply can't escape a strange feeling that comes over me every time I listen to more than the album's highlight songs. A feeling similar to taking too much Nyquil after a long day of fever. I'm of course talking about falling asleep.
Something that many people instantly point out about the album is the tracklist. And I agree with them. 19 tracks is indeed TOO FREAKING LONG! Especially when several of them are medium-length instrumentals, that surprisingly, lack instruments for the most part. Most of the songs that aren't instrumentals simply plod along, not even with a never-ending chugga-chugga riff to keep you company. A Charge to Keep, Order of the Rose (although it ends on a great solo), The Clouding, Retribution Through the Ages, Something Wicked Part 2, When Stars Collide; the list goes on and on. There's very few songs that will actually make you think, "oh, yeah, this is Iced Earth."
I should probably go into more detail on the non-instrumental songs, though. Have any of you Iced Earth fans (or detractors) ever heard an Iced Earth ballad? Of course you have! Everyone knows that they essentially follow the same formula of soft acoustic diddle, followed by a pretty heavy riff, with other instruments and vocals changing to fit. Well, aside from the few typical Iced Earth songs, most of the actual songs simply sound like the soft part of a ballad played for five entire minutes! At least I Died For You was barely four! The Clouding seems to be the biggest offender in this department. It obviously attempts to be epic and crushing, but simply falls flat on it's face by trying to just be slow and pretty much all acoustic. Owens barely even pushes himself, and the song is the longest on the album, at nearly TEN MINUTES LONG! I'm sorry, but I've only listened to this song once all the way through waiting for a musical climax that never happened. Most of the regular songs are like that. They simply plod along, trying to evoke feelings of sadness and loss, but the angry highlights of the album do a better job of that!
The instrumentals aren't really anything to brag about, but once you take away Jon's gallop riffs, is there anything really? When Jon takes them away from himself and replaces them with the acoustic passages from every ballad and song off of Dark Saga, you get pretty uninteresting stuff. Even at quiet parts, the bass is nearly non-existent, and the drums, like almost every other instrument, simply plod along, providing nothing new or interesting. I'm still not exactly sure why Richard Christy left (or was fired) before this release, but I think with another usually-fast instrumentalist contradicting Jon's ideas, that this album would have been much more well-balanced. Not even DragonForce's tried-and-true method of injecting solos into crap songs can work, with probably the best example being Order of the Rose. The riff is unimpressive and plodding (plodding must be my word of the day :)), and even though the solo at the end is one of the best moments on the album, you have to sit through nearly six minutes of snoozeville to get to it. A problem easily remedied by skipping, but I think this song can and should have been faster.
That one thing seems like it could be the remedy tot he entire slump of an album. Trim away at the excess and fat, and you can find some real gems, but it's simply buried under Jon Schaffer's desire to write ill-directed epic songs.
Fortunately, this album had a few saving graces. All of these traits belong to the good tracks. It proves that when Jon Schaffer is actually trying, he can still write a track that slays. Ten Thousand Strong, Infiltrate and Assimilate, The Domino Decree, and Framing Armageddon are easily the best songs on this album, in fact Framing Armageddon is one of my favorite IE songs. One of the biggest things about these tracks is that they let Ripper actually live up to his name. He tears through these songs with fervor and emotion, as well as enough inhuman screams to give Halford a run for his money. Expanding on that, Tim's singing is another thing bad about most of the slow tracks, but it's because of the nature of the songs: he sings slowly, and is overlayered by a massive chorus, that also sings slowly. Ripper's not meant to sing slow or controlled, he's meant to scream his lungs out! Jon drills away at those angry triplets like there's no tomorrow, Brent Smedley comes close to Christy's ability behind the kit, and I'm sure that if I could hear the bass, even it simply mimicking the guitar riff would probably be enough to floor me.
The last thing of controversy on this album is the story. I personally think the story across both the album's is pretty darn cool, ad it's extremely easy to follow, especially with the booklet. The bad thing about the story is that most of the songs seem to simply be there to drive the point home, and after the Something Wicked Trilogy off SWTWC, the lyrics lose a lot of impact. They seem to simply describe the same situation over and over, without really adding anything new. Funnily enough, the lyrical premise of Framing Armageddon is set up and described at least eight times in the album alone. As other reviewers have stated, the story has been gone over enough in the Something Wicked Trilogy. I personally think Schaffer should have just authorized the comic version of the story and spent the time he used on these albums to make albums more of the NOTS and BO caliber.
Highlights: Ten Thousand Strong, Infiltrate and Assimilate, The Domino Decree, Framing Armageddon
Ok so ten years before this album came out Schaffer decided to release the album Something Wicked This Way Comes, and on that album the last three songs made up the "Something Wicked" trilogy. Now what these two albums (Framing Armageddon/The Crucible of Man) do is that they (try to) explain the trilogy of those three songs. And the overall results for these two albums are…crap.
I don’t know what the hell Schaffer was thinking when he decided to make this album. What exactly is the point of this album? To explain just three songs you wrote ten years ago? And why did he have to make it a two part concept? It takes two albums; both are which fairly lengthy to explain only three songs. It’s not that hard of a story to explain, really it isn’t. To sum it up quickly the songs are about some ghost or something that takes over the world and kills everyone. Doesn’t really seem to be that confusing to me, but apparently to Jon it was and he needed to create two albums to explain that to everyone else. The concept of this album is pretty stupid and not really explained well. I mean this is only part one of a two part concept that explains a few songs.
Well at least the album has good vocals. Tim Owens is one of the very few highlights on this album, and even his part manages to get screwed up. His vocals are good alone, yet they constantly get layered on many of the songs and the over done booming choruses also ruin the songs. Are all of these annoying choruses supposed to make the songs epic? All they do is make the songs annoying and tiresome. I don’t want to hear Schaffer’s backing vocals in every song, I want to hear Owens because that his job to SING.
Now this album has nineteen tracks on it. And a lot of the tracks work as intros/outros or weird one minute atmosphere moments (also known as the filler track). There are about ten or so filler tracks on this album also, so really the concept is only nine songs on part one of the two part concept. The remaining nine tracks maybe four of them are good or worth getting and only four tracks out nineteen does not make a good album at all.
So there are only two reasons as to why I would recommend this album to anyone. First one would be that you are a massive Iced Earth fan who buys everything Iced Earth releases (all eight of you out there, including Schaffer). Or you just cannot get enough of that same repetitive gallop riff that is played over, and over, and over in this album (and their next album, or their previous for that matter). Either way, this is one of the dumbest, and pointless concept albums out there, and isn’t worth anyone’s time or money.
Once again with Iced Earth comes a controversial album. Some praise it for it’s epic feel and fantastic vocals, while others disclaim it for it’s annoying interludes and hard to follow storyline. Well, both in a sense our right. Tracks like “Invasion” and “Execution” are pointless and do not need to be on here and are down right worthless. People do compare this Blind Guardian’s “Nightfall in Middle Earth” because it had the same exact problem. However, it’s not as severe here and is much more tolerable. In 1998 and album title “Something Wicked This Way Comes” was released and at the end was a trilogy known as “The Something Wicked” story, which involved an anti-Christ like being destroying mankind. Those songs were unique and very good. Why not just leave it at that? Instead, Jon Schaffer has decided to create an entire album about this story in detail. Yes, it is difficult to follow. The music itself is uncharacteristically simple and at some points boring. “Order of the Rose” suffers from this, as well as “The Clouding.” Simple isn’t always bad, as with “Ten Thousand Strong” and “A Charge to Keep.” This is defiantly a hit and miss album. Maybe it’s because of the countless line-up changes before this album was release. It credits Schaffer for playing the bass and rhythm guitars, and he does a good job. However, Dennis Hayes is also credited for playing some bass here as well. Tim Mills, Jim Morris, Troy Steele, and Jon Schaffer are all claimed to play the lead guitar here. That’s four different people. I have a feeling during the recording of “Framing Armageddon,” it was hectic most of the time. Brent Smedly makes a return here, and does a great job as always. I have a strong feeling this helped the album falter somewhat, having all these line-up changes must’ve been rough.
The music itself begins with “Overture,” and intro that many will complain about considering it’s one of the unimportant interludes. “Something Wicked Part 1” opens with Schaffer riffing away, however none of it’s truly complex. Which will ultimately lead to some boring songwriting. This track doesn’t really have anything going on. I’ve never seen filler begin an album, but this might be my first one. “Setian Massacre” is a step-up, and Tim Owens does a smooth job vocally here, which isn’t much of a surprise. “A Charge to Keep” is extremely simplistic but it’s successful. The emotion played throughout this song is apparent. The solo is nothing really to rave about. “Ten Thousand Strong” is the best song here, and the single for the record. By now you’ll notice the unbelievable amount of layered vocals on the album, and they are tiresome. Owens has a great voice, but when you layer it so much it ruins the feel. This will no doubt piss many people off. “The Clouding” is just boring, there are really no redeeming qualities associated with it. It also hurts due to it’s length, eleven minutes. Yeah, it’s a skip track folks. The title track, “Framing Armageddon” is fantastic. The vocals and drum work shine here, and the ending verse will give you some chills.
The production, while it may be clean, does have some problems. If you turn it up, the drums will have a funny static sound. Schaffer himself has said that this was a problem he should’ve fixed, but overall it really isn’t that annoying. If you’re looking for bass, you won’t really find it here. Schaffer’s riffs overdrive everything else going on besides the vocals.
This is still a positive record. There are gems like “Ten Thousand Strong,” Framing Armageddon,” and “A Charge to Keep.” While on the other hand, really boring songs like “The Clouding” and “When Stars Collide.” Iced Earth die-hards will like it, some casual fans will find it enjoyable, while the Iced Earth fans from the past will despise it.
Iced Earth's Framing Armaggedon is the first part of the Something Wicked story and the second album this american act recorded together with Tim “Ripper” Owens, the singer chosen to replace the universally adored Matt Barlow. Being a concept album, this piece is full of interludes and little intros and, as the result, the album contains 19 tracks and a total playing time of almost one hour and ten minutes.
Now, the most important question regarding the interludes: do they work well? Well, I have no problems with an album filled with lots of interludes, I rated Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle-Earth with 90 points and I've got to say that I love a well crafted intro/outro, but eh, Framing Armaggedon could have been better without some of them, mainly because they transform the whole listening experience into a nightmare, the album is too damn LONG thanks to them. That's one of the most important characteristics of this album; if you don't like long albums, better don't listen to this, you won't appreciate.
So, that said, let's move on to the performances of the musicians and to the songwriting. Well, we all know that after the release of Burnt Offerings, Jon Schaffer, the brain of the band, embraced a new musical style, throwing away all those thrash influences that made records like the self-titled debut what they were, adopting a new power metal-ish sound. This album is probably one of the most power metal albums they've already released and there are songs here that absolutely scream Blind Guardian influence. Unfortunately, Schaffer is no André Olbrich: the melodic riffs and fantastic solos of the latter fit the symphonic sound of his band amazingly well, but the riffs of the first don't fit the whole epic sound of this album at all. His riffs aren't as epic as André's, they are more aggressive than actually melodic and you can't use constantly vocal layers and choirs in your songs if the riffs played behind them don't fit. You can't play the main riff of “Hit the Lights” accompanied by a big choir, singing epic, anthemic choruses and vocal lines. It sounds odd, awkard, forced. This is how the majority of the tunes of this piece sound like.
Ah, and about the vocal layers... It's a shame they are so used on this record: Owens is an awesome singer, there are no need for the constant use of choirs and layers here. Please, let him just sing. SING. We don't need one thousand (strong?) of voices backing him. It's a shame. Still, his performance is just terrific, his shrieks are just admirable and he can sing very melodically at times too (check out “Reflections” or “A Charge to Keep”). As for the songwriting, it ranges from pretty great to average. Unfortunately, the majority of the tunes fall on the latter category, containing simple, traditional structures and uninspired instrumental work. There are some very memorable riffs here though, like the main one on “Ten Thousand Strong” (the single) and “Something Wicked pt.1”, but majority of them are average and a bit on the boring side. Solos? Well, we all know Schaffer can't (or doesn't want to) solo, so there are not many solos present there. I miss them on some songs though, after all metal wouldn't be metal without guitar solos, isn't it?
So, individually there are a few stand-outs, indeed. “Something Wicked pt.1”, for example, with its catchy main riff. “10,000 Strong” is awesome too, one of the best songs of the whole record, it's just damn EPIC, this is the closest Iced Earth ever got to mimmick Blind Guardian's over-the-top sound. “Order of the Rose” is worser than the before-mentioned songs, but still a highlight, and “The Clouding” is probably the most ambitious tune here, clocking in at around nine minutes. A great song all around. The title track closes the list of stand-outs, with its powerful last section. As for the rest, there are no real stinkers here, the other tunes are painfully boring though. Really, I don't recommend them to you. They are all pretty bland and uninspired.
So, five good songs on an album containing nineteen tunes... Bah, I can't rate this thing that high. If you like pretentious, ultra-pompous concept albums, get this one. Otherwise, I recommend you to get Night of the Stormrider instead of this piece... Now THAT'S a concept album!
A last note about the concept of Something Wicked: I recently got into the story, and it is a damn good one to write an album about, it's just a shame Hansi Kurch didn't come up with the concept first, Blind Guardian would have made a much better album than this one, I tell you. But then again, Blind Guardian are godly and Iced Earth aren't.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the first seconds of “Something Wicked pt.1”
-the choruses of the title track and “10,000 Strong”.
The target for shit hurling this time is Iced Earth. Schaffer stopped writing anything worthwhile around 1995 when Burnt Offerings was released, and even that record had the incredibly needlessly self indulgent turd that was Dante's Inferno.
I'd like to get this out of the way early, Tim Owens is a magnificent vocalist, he just has a knack for being in the wrong band at the wrong time. He got famous for trying to replace Rob Halford in Judas Priest right after they released their masterpiece, Painkiller. What happened is usually considered Priest's worst album, Jugulator. After Halford got his shit together and returned, Owens was out on his ass again. Eventually, he was snatched up by Iced Earth after their longtime vocalist, Matt Barlow, quit. Once again, they released the worst album of their career with The Glorious Burden. Owens was able to squeeze out another shit burger with this one, Framing Armageddon, before Barlow decided to rejoin, once again leaving Owens out on his ass.
So, let's not blame Owens for the shitty record, this one is all Schaffer's fault. Most all of the riffs are bland and uninteresting, the drumming is solid, but nothing special, the bass is absent, and Owens' vocals rip. I really do think Ripper could really be considered one of the better vocalists in the genre if he would stop joining well established bands way past their prime and subsequently getting replaced when the original guy comes back. Jon Schaffer suffers from delusions of grandeur that make people like Peter Popoff look humble. He is also beyond obsessed with his Set Abominae character. Alright, he made a cool album cover on Something Wicked This Way Comes, but for the love of god let him go. Making a concept album based on a fucking album cover is about as stupid as one can get. Not to mention he said something about wanting to write a graphic novel about him (side note: the term "graphic novel" really twists my tits. Quit lying to yourself you fucking nerds, it's a comic book).
This record suffers the same problems that Blind Guardian's trainwreck, Nightfall in Middle-Earth, has. First off, it's a shitty concept album. I cannot follow this "story" for the life of me, even with the booklet in front of me. There are a bazillion random interludes that add nothing but headache and carry the story about as well as a rat can carry an elephant. And again, there are actually some genuinely great songs on here. Ten Thousand Strong is wonderful, Infiltrate and Assimilate is great, and Framing Armageddon is catchy and almost reminiscent of when IE was actually good.
But the songs that suck... really, REALLY suck. There are maybe three or four good songs on a 19 track album. Nine-shitting-teen. Nightfall was worse with 22, but unless you have 19 amazing songs and you cannot consciously cut some of them, there is no excuse for having that many goddamn tracks on an album. And hell, if that was the case, release a double album or something. I'd rather inject my dick with Blazin' Buffalo Hot Sauce and let a warthog gnaw it down to a microscopic stub then ever listen to A Charge to Keep again. The same can be said for pretty much any song that I didn't list earlier, which means there are about 15 different horrid types of torture I'm willing to inflict upon myself than ever hear this self indulgent pile of ejaculate ever again. Honestly, what came over these guys when they wrote plodding garbage like When Stars Collide or Order of the Rose? Did they not think that those riffs were repetitive and boring. Most of the time, Owens is restrained and unable to really let his voice rip like it should. The opening scream to Ten Thousand Strong is pretty much his only shining moment on this whole thing.
This also fails really hard in the "epic" category. Adding oodles of superfluous musical interludes does not make you look ambitious, it makes you look pretentious and pompous. The Clouding is also a really shitty track that attempts to be epic, and falls flat on its face. Being overly long does not an epic song make.
So when Schaffer isn't blowing his load all over this piece of ass, it actually isn't half bad. Setian Massacre, Ten Thousand Strong, Infiltrate and Assimilate, and Framing Armageddon are the only good tracks on this whole album, and that's still not saying very much. Iced Earth needs to just roll over and die, they're done, they've tapped the well of musical integrity dry after Burnt Offerings. If you must hear something from this album, check out the four songs I mentioned earlier in the paragraph, but don't let them trick you into thinking the rest of the album is anywhere near as good. Otherwise, just stick with Night of the Stormrider. Overhyped record that gave me one of the strongest cases of buyer's remorse I've ever had, avoid at all costs.
Whether you’re a fan of Iced Earth or not, you can probably concur on one obvious statement: “The Glorious Burden” was way too average for John Schaffer’s usual genius, especially after acquiring Tim “Ripper” Owens into the realm when longtime vocalist Matt Barlow left in 2003. Furthermore, the pessimistic aftermath of the not-so-glorious burden shadowed this new era in their timeless legacy, even when Schaffer manufactured a monumental feature entitled “Something Wicked,” which was divided into two separate parts; however, each section had a different vocalist as Ripper took control of the first part (“Framing Armageddon”) while Barlow returned thereafter on the second chapter. Barlow fanboys have had a wild time slinging mud at “Framing Armageddon,” and why? In my studies, I’ve concluded the reasoning: they are all stupid as shit. Unfortunately for those pompous goons, Iced Earth’s ninth full-length outperforms, maximizes, and reinvents everything America’s legendary kin has ever represented.
Now it's rather funny how "Framing Armageddon" is viewed by the Iced Earth fanbase – which might possibly be the most narrow-minded flock in all of metal – simply because it doesn’t have Matt Barlow handling microphone duties, which defines stupidity by definition. Sure “The Glorious Burden” was a huge downfall from previous observations, but it only took that one error before Iced Earth fixed the loose screws and mastered a new beast once again. You've probably been told to ignore the fanboys before, and doing so is your best choice, because it will lead you to this gem so many have shoved away for the dumbest reasons; a collaboration presenting the mystical minds and electric talents of metal's finest elites framing downright bliss from start to finish.
As this is an Iced Earth full-length, there is only one thing to expect: lacerating power/thrash metal that pulverizes your cochlea like a politician having lunch with an assassin’s grenade. The production is great; however, it does many superb numbers unknown at primitive sessions, like making Schaffer’s guitar tone heavier than ever while hammering snare blasts and flattening bass rhythms cruise unstoppably. Several chronicles (most noticeably the title track) dive way back in time with those bloodthirsty gallops that clearly shriek of 1991, yet this time around, these crucifying riffs are more commanding and technical than ever before; it’s not just a return to form, but a valid tune-up as well. Basically, “Framing Armageddon” isn’t some slothful aberration aiming for mediocrity like “The Glorious Burden,” but instead manifests tougher virtues while upgrading fragile elements needing purification, and that’s absolutely what Iced Earth needed to rebound from desperation.
Yet when refreshing such traditional fronts, Schaffer also pulls a few new tricks out of his hat, and it’s no doubt these atypical experiments act beneficial to Iced Earth’s origins. Choirs sprout up quite frequently in assorted intervals, and its effect sets much more atmospheric power ablaze simply because you’re suddenly shrouded in angelic ports so swiftly. You’ll certainly notice two titles are full-blown tribal instrumentals instead of rocketing power metal slabs, but don’t fear for redundant backfires, because our little interludes provide top-notch results from the mystifying ambiences they emit. Oh yea, the organs on “The Domino Decree” are totally awesome. What are you doing here, John Lord?
The main target critics of “Framing Armageddon” typically attack is actually its finest quality: Tim Owens’ howls. Listeners familiar with a few Judas Priest records know exactly what to anticipate; everyone else should brace themselves for slithering incantations, hair-raising singing, and screams that can actually slug God in the face. Emotional tinges gush liberally into these rigorous tracks as our powerful shouter engages in harmonizing musical climate by adding in fantastic techniques like quasi-narration or holding notes just for extra haymakers. “The Clouding,” for instance, displays killer voice control in its beginning stages before Owens totally explodes into a screaming machine, and it’s important to see this expertise used during nineteen opuses while forgetting the flaw. Placing a microphone up to Ripper’s ass while he’s shitting would probably sound better than Barlow on a good night; there really isn’t a comparison between the two vocalists.
But how could Ripper sound so improved here than on his previous effort with Schaffer? Simple answer: this time, the music was written to compliment his vocals. In order to make “Framing Armageddon” work, there needed to be a mutual entwinement between vocals and music, which is exactly what we’re dealing with here: Tim can finally shout freely without running into poorly-timed bridges; the choruses properly balance Ripper’s voice in correlation to whichever design shows itself; backing vocals are now applied in stunning intervals between transitions; and Owens can manipulate his surroundings with stellar pitch containment and melodic alterations while dodging potential problems. The former Judas Priest singer is consistently perfect unquestionably, but digging into his legendary voice while Iced Earth forces in a surging hurricane is the key to this record’s everlasting enjoyment and eternal wickedness.
Lyrically, “Framing Armageddon” expands Schaffer’s three-song tale of apocalyptic retribution that originally appeared on Iced Earth’s fifth full-length into an epic saga of unearthly perimeters. The story essentially involves a group of beings (Setians) revolting against the human race after facing many well-executed genocide attempts, yet Iced Earth pulls something with this fable that defines the very essence of concept albums: they make it feel like a story. When emotional events occur lyrically, you can experience the feeling firsthand, and such power can felt regardless of atmosphere; it’s simply an unreal trip through the realms of might and divinity. If that doesn’t summon the true spirit of conceptual offerings, then I’m not sure what will.
Transcending between galactic shifts and incredible instrumentation, “Framing Armageddon” brings forth the finest result of Tim Owens’ atomic pipes conjoining to genius musicianship in one tough-as-titanium record that proudly stands as an achievement in power metal’s overall legacy. Ripper’s ejection from Iced Earth ended an era in which the group could vent into new biospheres without losing those menacing edges they’ve used since 1985, and this album easily marked a climax in everything from Tim’s voice to Schaffer’s multiple musical involvements. There’s just one question left after all is scribed: will this kind of dominance ever be spotted again in any Iced Earth release from either past or future timeframes? Maybe if the stars can collide once again.
Iced Earth has been sort of a hit or miss band after the release of “Burnt Offerings”, which many agree was their last thrash oriented release before coming something of a quasi-progressive Iron Maiden-like power metal outfit. After the musically ambitious yet incoherent patriotic release “The Glorious Burden” with newly recruited shriek maestro Tim Owens, there was some serious doubt in my mind over whether this band would be viable again, let alone capture the sheer majesty of “Night of the Stormrider”.
“Framing Armageddon” doesn’t quite match up to the band’s first two releases during their thrash days in the early 90s, but it does equally match the musical strength of “Burnt Offerings”, and actually surpasses it in the vocal delivery. Owens has the most power in the upper range department of any vocalist that Schaeffer has ever worked with, be it shouting itself beyond the exosphere of planet earth on “Ten Thousand Strong” and the title track, or blending into a 4 or 5 choral harmonies on ballads like “Charge to Keep” and “Order of the Rose”.
There is a pretty strong mix of Painkiller influences and Progressive influences that do tilt the album towards the later 90s material, but surprisingly enough Schaeffer manages to get a good deal more emphasis on riffs than the mishmash of acoustic and vocal affects that began dominating their sound on “The Dark Saga”. The album starts and ends with brief interludes, but both of which are immediately followed and preceded by two of the fastest, most brutal riff monsters the band has pumped out since 1992. The closer and title track “Framing Armageddon” gallops almost as furiously as “The Path I Choose”, while “Something Wicked” sort of settled into a dense atmosphere of harmonized gallops that almost sound mellow, despite being extremely fast.
Although more of a conventional power metal album than the last few, there are a few interesting musical twists on here. Probably the most overt are the female guest vocal slots on several of the interludes, as well as the eastern music influences, almost drawing some similarities with Kamelot’s earlier works with Kahn as vocalist. “The Domino Decree” has a strong Deep Purple tinge to it, particularly due to the near overpowering rock organ part. The whole structure of the album itself lends pretty heavily to the model that Blind Guardian used on their break through concept work “Nightfall on Middle Earth”, and is similarly paced.
The biggest flaw on this album, which has been the case since the departure of Randall Shawver, is the lack of excellent soloing. One of the staples of both the power and thrash styles are the lead breaks and one here they are literally nowhere to be found. You have an occasional solo here or there lasting 10 or 15 seconds but absolutely nothing that sticks in the memory. Iced Earth has always been better known for its gallop riffs and its Maiden-oriented melodic influences, but when they began they were not as devoid of soloing excellence as they became in the late 90s.
Fans of “Burnt Offerings” and Tim Owens’ work with his many previous and current projects are encouraged to get this. Fans of the first two Iced Earth albums who don’t mind even more acoustic work, a little less thrash, and a heavier dose of Halford worship than what John Greely put forward will like this as well. It is a solid release from a band that has been swimming in the waters of mediocrity for the better part of 12 years.
I used to like Iced Earth. I really did. I thought Matt Barlow was a good vocalist, albeit one with limited range and a penchant for being overly melodramatic. Nevertheless, when Barlow was on, he was on, and Schaffer seemed able to compliment him decently well. Schaffer's riffs quite frequently led to headbanging, and the epics of earlier albums were stunning, with "A Question Of Heaven" still being one of my favorite songs to this day. I thoroughly enjoyed even "The Dark Saga" and "Days of Purgatory," and thought "Burnt Offerings" was great. Iced Earth without Barlow just isn't the same for me; even the original version of "Night of the Stormrider" just sounds weird. Iced Earth and Matt Barlow always went hand in hand for me, which I suppose is my own fault.
When Barlow left, I was worried, and even moreso when I found out who his replacement was. Tim "Ripper" Owens is nothing like Barlow, and, quite frankly, does not fit Iced Earth at all. I do not see what anyone hears in this guy at all. His vocals are horrible, and his falsetto shrieks are laughably bad.
Nevertheless, I did not find "The Glorious Burden" to be too offensive. It was still the same Iced Earth riffs, just with an inferior vocalist. But enough about my gripes about Iced Earth's vocalist choices in general, on to this album.
Man, does it suck.
The name of the "Something Wicked" story has been forever soiled by this tripe. It's difficult to put into words how amazingly bad this is. Iced Earth are legendary for the quality of their concept albums (okay, maybe not "The Dark Saga," but I thought it was an amazing album). However, much of what made Iced Earth so good is lost on this record. It appears Schaffer has been too busy patting himself on the back and being an asshole in general to his bandmates to actually put the effort into writing a good album. I get that IE were going for epic on this album, and it just doesn't work. Dissecting tracks is a total waste, and so the easiest way to do this is to just put my many gripes down in the order I can think of them.
First off, the interludes are universally pointless, and universally terrible. What was Schaffer thinking? They add nothing to the overall feel of the album, nor do they advance the story in any way, or even make me want to care. The interludes are randomly thrown in all over the damn place. What purpose do they serve? All I can think of is that they added length to the album, which brings me to.....
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, "epic" and "long" are NOT the same thing. This album is way too fucking long, and repeats the same damn ideas way too much to make me even remotely care. The story seems haphazard at best, which compounds the monstrous length of the album. At least if the story was, y'know, coherent, I could at least enjoy myself with the lyric sheet at my side and be amused. Then again, Schaffer clearly demonstates that he is no Michael Moorcock or Frank Herbert on this album. I'd also complain about how such a long album begs for filler, but to be quite honest, every song on here is filler. Which leads to my next point....
Write something interesting. Please. Not a single riff stuck with me throughout the entire chore of listening to this album several times. I hoped it was one of those albums that slowly unfurled its full glory over time (who was I kidding? This is Iced Earth), but it doesn't. Everything is boring. Even the trademark Iced Earth Chug doesn't do anything for me. It might be the tone, or it might be that Schaffer is lazy as all hell. I can't tell. This is the only Iced Earth album where I couldn't remember one damn riff. I expect some filler tracks from Iced Earth - they've been a constant problem since the band's inception for me - but an entire album of filler is painful.
Fourthly, as I said before, vocals are horrible. Thank God Barlow came back after this album, although if this is a sign of things to come, I'll probably just give up on Iced Earth anyway. Owens lacks any sense of emotion whatsoever. He is the perfect cliche of a metal vocalist, and the fact that so many people adore his vocals makes me question their sanity. Are we listening to the same guy? The only good thing Owens does is shut his mouth every once in awhile. At least then I can be bored by the guitars instead of trying to plug my ears.
Finally, while trying to come across as epic, this album only manages to sound pompous and full of itself. The story isn't particularly well-written (what the hell is it even about? I can barely decipher it) to begin with, and the style this album presents it in makes me even less interested. Every track is so amazingly self-indulgent it's sickening. Schaffer's ego has finally taken musical form, and that form is "Framing Armageddon."
Avoid at all costs.
I eagerly anticipated this release from Iced Earth. My preferred vocalist, Matt Barlow, isn’t in the band anymore, but I had hoped for some enjoyable riffs, if nothing else. Unfortunately, Framing Armageddon lacks most elements that made past Iced Earth releases worthwhile. On the whole, the album fails to convey its intended story, while it provides no memorable tracks due to cluttered, drawn out arrangements.
Unsurprisingly, Framing Armageddon is another concept album from Iced Earth. Whereas other Iced Earth concept albums hammer the story home, I still can’t understand Framing Armageddon’s overall concept, even after a few listens. I would look up the story online, but the music should narrate effectively. That telling the story, the very goal of the album, fails, suggests the myriad of wrong on this disc. The inept story might be fine if quality songs filled the album, but individual tracks fail as well.
A weird track comprised mostly of drum beats begins the album. The beats are not like any other track, and the song isn’t metal. There are several such tracks which aren’t exactly songs. They add nothing musically or to the narrative; they waste the listener’s time.
In the musical content, no guitar works stands out on Framing Armageddon. I enjoy the chugging, heavy sound of most Iced Earth. Conversely, the tone here isn’t compelling. Of the 19 songs on Framing Armageddon, I can’t remember even one riff. Other Iced Earth albums, or *any* good albums for that matter, have riffs that stick. You can rock out to their songs in the library with no music playing. Framing Armageddon doesn’t have that permanence.
It seems that the band tries to create memorable choruses through vocals. In many occasions, several vocal layers compound Ripper’s voice. In the past, Iced Earth has succeeded with operatic singing, chanting, and the like; however, Framing Armageddon’s added vocals detract from the guitar riffs. And, since the riffs aren’t good to begin with, there isn’t much positive.
In fact, vocals generally don’t work on this album. Tim Owens delivers the high-pitched metal scream several times. Each time he does it, it affects me less. It’s not a word, and it’s not emotional. There are some female vocals on one track, and they don’t fit in either. Lyrics are neither well-written nor memorable. They talk about things which may exist; I honestly couldn’t tell you.
Clearly, Schaeffer changed his musical approach for Framing Armageddon. For instance, “Infiltrate and Assimilate” begins with a progressive-sounding riff. The riff isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t sound like Iced Earth. When bands try new things, they can achieve great results. On the contrary, the keyboards, sound effects, and extra musical elements of Framing Armageddon cannot hide poor riffs. This album’s wanking unsuccessfully mimics European progressive metal, a style which Iced Earth has never played. In short, Iced Earth lacks the necessary talent and creativity for progressive metal.
It got the points that it did for a few measures of rocking out. "Framing Armageddon" has a good opening riff. The box art is nice. I appreciate the distribution of SPV which has made this available at my local books and music store. Those positive elements notwithstanding, I can't stand listening to the album any more. I don't plan to pull it out anytime soon.
All in all, this album does not compare to other Iced Earth releases, and, it isn’t a good metal album in its own right. Framing Armageddon does nothing to be remembered, and there are few fun moments. I listen to Iced Earth albums to rock, and this album doesn’t. Don’t buy it.
Iced Earth are one of the very few bands that carry on the spirit of the proper power metal and don't forget that the roots of this genre actually lie in thrash, or at least one could say that they were that way up until The Glorious Burden which was hardly a good album, because the band lost much of its aggression and their best vocalist - Matt Barlow - and replaced him with Tim "Ripper" Owens.
But the point of this review is not The Glorious Burden, but IE's new album - Framing Armageddon, a follow-up to Something Wicked This Way Comes. Is it a return to form from the years past or is it even worse? I'd say that neither, however it is a damn good piece of power metal.
The most noticable change is Owens. His vocals have changed a lot since TGB, he stopped being a Rob Halford wannabe and developed his own style of singing. Even though his "normal" vocals aren't that much outstanding (but they're also not bad), his shrieks sure are and the best example of that would be the end of the song "Framing Armageddon" and I can honestly say that he is a very good substitute for Barlow.
As for the music - Framing Armageddon will probably be bashed a lot by people who say that "Iced Earth = Night of the Stormrider", because technically, this CD is nothing too marvelous, the riffs are rather simple and there arent' too many soloes, however as I like to say "Who cares how it's done as long as it's good", I couldn't care less about the lack of guitar wankery, because nearly all the songs are pretty much high quality, and the POWER that The Glorious Burden was severely lacking is BACK and you can clearly hear that in Ten Thousand Strong, Infiltrate and Assimilate or the title track. In some tracks (mainly the short interludes) there are also included some middle-eastern themes that sound pretty neat and add to the atmosphere. It is also worth to mention that the whole CD is very epic, and as I am a hog for epicness this adds up to the positive aspects.
However, this is not an absolutely flawless piece of music and there are some negative things that need to be said.
First of all: the short interludes. OK, I can understand throwing in like 2 or 3 of them as like 1 intro, 1 before something ass-kicking and 1 outro, but HERE you have like SEVEN such short tracks while like 3 of them could be easily merged with the upcoming songs. Maybe not something very bad but it is somehow irritating. I mean what's the bloody point?
Second: there are filler tracks on the CD, and when I look at the songlist I'm often like "uhm... I don't remember this one" (songs like "Retribution through the ages" or "A Charge to Keep")
Third: Ten Thousand Strong reminds me too much of "Declaration Day" but I may be just schizophrenic
And fourth: There are songs that are a tiny bit irritating and for me are a "skip" material, songs such as The Clouding (interesting, one of the worst songs is also the longest) with a very whiny chorus or Order of the Rose.
As for a summary: This is not "Night of the Stormrider", this is not "Horror Show" but it is also not "The Glorious Burden" but as sure as hell it is Iced Earth, it's good, it's some very good non-gay power metal and it's one of the best albums of the year (but mainly because 2007 is rather poor in terms of metal).
Highlights: Ten Thousand Strong, Infiltrate and Assimilate, When Stars Collide, Something Wicked part 1
Iced Earth is my favorite band by far, so if this review seems somewhat biased then that's why. I have yet to be disappointed by this band, yes I even loved The Glorious Burden very much, and with another installment to their long catalogue Framing Armageddon continues the legacy. Yes I recognize that we will never get another Night of the Stormrider or even another Horror Show, but instead we have a new reformed Iced Earth spearheaded by the amazingly talented shrieker Tim Owens. Axeman and owner of Iced Earth, Jon Schaffer continues to do whatever he wants and fuck the trends and all that nonsense - he does what makes him happy and what he thinks is right for the music - and for that I truly respect him.
Framing Armageddon is definitly not a horrible album but also not a great album. It is probably their weakest offering to date not quite on par with the rest of their work. This is somewhat of a concept album I'm sure everyone knows the story of the Something Wicked storyline etc, so I won't go into huge detail but I have thoroughly enjoyed Something Wicked This Way Comes history and lyrics involved so a continuation is quite a pleasure.
The guitar tone that is set on this album is the same found on The Glorious Burden and with Master Schaffer handling all the guitar work other than solos, it's done with an expertise crafted and honed over many years of playing. It's quite a pleasure to hear all the fast and speedy riffs on here despite not being that abundant. Riffs found on songs like Something Wicked Part 1, Infiltrate and Assimilate, Setian Massacre, Ten Thousand Strong, and the title song is exactly what I like to hear nowadays from Master Schaffer. All the upbeat songs on here are the highlights, all excel with flying colors even some being some of the best work Master Schaffer has pulled off in many years. But also there are some lacking efforts, found in the midtempo rockers. While I enjoy those songs like A Charge To Keep with its driving main riff interlaced with Ripper's semi-melancholic howling combined with that even more sad chorus, it seems that the album has TOO many slower songs, something people complained about with Something Wicked This Way Comes.
While I personally think most of the time the songs are crafted with grace, some like When Stars Collide (Born Is He) seems to do well for the most part but stray off and start to get boring. The highlights, when they hit, hit with a big impact. The furious riffing and drumming that beholds itself in Infiltrate and Assimilate will surely have you headbanging and singing along like you should be with a catchy chorus like that. While on catchy choruses, Ten Thousand Strong wins the title of catchiest on this album. Everyone remembers it from the Overture of the Wicked EP and now we can relive it while fully put in the atmosphere of Framing Armageddon and it's a definite win. The title track is another song that roughs up your neck at breakneck speeds, especially the very ending when Ripper lives up to his reputation and fucking banshee yells your ears to bleeding point at the highest point he's done on this album. If you don't headbang to this, you don't deserve to have your neck, USE IT!
Other complaints I've found with on this album is with length, it doesn't use up most of the time with all full length songs. Many interlude type songs plague this album, mostly completly unnecessary, only one has an impact that I enjoyed; Something Wicked Part II. The whole Egyptian apocolyptic feel that it gives me sends shivers down my spine with those drums and acoustic strumming. It seems with Framing Armageddon, Master Schaffer tried to create an 'epic masterpiece' that doesn't really live up to that whole concept. It surely has it's epic moments that fill in the mood of the whole album but as a masterpiece, it falls short. But there is a depressive melancholic feel that is derived from listening to many songs, especially the interludes like The Awakening with it's female chanting, or Motivation of Man with the semi war chant type feel and Ripper once again gloomily wailing about events out of our hands and humanity's fight against evil.
To sum up, Framing Armageddon is a worthy album to my collection, it falls short of expectations most fans had, but while I think Iced Earth can do no wrong they certainly can do better. I find the highpoints to outweigh the lower points, with a higher amount of the actual songs being very entertaining with the lower moments such as the sometimes semi-tired riffs, lack of solos and annoying interludes to be more of nitpicking than real concerns. Framing Armageddon creates an almost visual atmosphere when listened to as a whole, the aura that is captured is almost chilling with an 'end of the world' type resullt feeling. I can see this getting a lot of flack but for the most part it isn't deserved it's a decent album in it's own right. Horns to Master Schaffer!
I don't get it. Iced Earth, as usual, are getting a lot of praise and hoohah over this one, but this isn't anything special. It's just Iced Earth, despite the absurdly pretentious pomp they've taken to adorning this album with. Framing Armageddon is a concept album about something I don't really care about, but apparently involves the band's so-called "mascot," who is really just Iron Maiden's Eddie wearing a lot of battle armor, and it's the first part in a two part story, the next of which is set for release in early 2008. I didn't actually think this would be as bad as the band's horribly misbegotten nightmare The Glorious Burden from 2004, and it isn't, but you'd have to have pretty fucking low standards to praise this album just because it's a step above that one.
First, the good: The guitar tone is a little better than on the previous album. "Infiltrate and Assimilate" smokes, and the title track is absolutely the best song they've done in years, worth more by itself than The Glorious Burden was as a whole. "The Clouding" is an excellent song, albeit going on a bit too long. "Order of the Rose" and "When Stars Collide" are both pretty good, with the former having some great soloing going on, and the latter with a powerful Blind Guardian-esque chorus. This album also has some very cool "middle eastern" ambiance in its slower parts that could be turned into something engaging and powerful, if Schaffer was a talented songwriter at all. Unfortunately, as expected, he reigned in those influences for just a very small part of the album, and left the lion's share to the same old midpaced, chugging, boring riffs that we've grown to know and loathe over the past 10 years of the band's history.
I mentioned that this album was really pompous, and it is. Schaffer has really blown his load here more than ever, and churned out a 19 track album. I don't think any band needs 19 tracks on one album, let alone Iced Earth. This album is 70 minutes long, and while some bands have enough variety to pull that off, this band is definitely not one of them. Hey Schaffer, next time you want to make an album this drawn out and elaborate, try incorporating more varied musical elements to the actual SONGS, instead of just throwing them into those inane little interludes in an attempt to be "epic." You're not. Oh, and while I'm at it, stop writing the same song over and over and calling it an album. You're not fooling anyone. Framing Armageddon is musically lifeless; over an hour of an overrated band going through the motions, galloping riffs and gang choruses galore, same as the last one. There are good ideas splashed about, but it's all too often that those good ideas are stretched out to the point where you just don't care anymore.
Tim Owens sounds pretty good as usual, but for some reason a lot of the choruses here are piled with tons upon tons of vocal layers. Is the band trying to be Blind Guardian? Let the man fucking sing. We all know he can, as is evident on the title track especially, so why the vocal layers? The choruses here are a real low point; dragging, inept, and dull as hell. The band really, really needs to let Owens start banshee howling his way through their albums, because they won't be very interesting otherwise.
The worst thing about this album is that it's ALMOST good, it's ALMOST as cool as it wants to be. But no, Schaffer can't make a good album! He's like a cruel child dangling food over a cat's head and not letting him have it. So close, yet so far away; that kind of thing. It's horrendously frustrating when the band pulls out some ripping, screaming solos like on "Order of the Rose," or the total Painkiller worship of the last minute or so of the title track, and then fills the rest of the album with tepid, droning bullshit like the awful "Something Wicked part 1" and countless other tracks I can't even be assed to remember. There are indeed very good moments here, but this album is just too long to ever digest it all. The bad songs are really bad, and they go absolutely nowhere, like a retard in a giant hamster wheel, and there are way too many of them, all of which could've been cut to make a very good 45 minute album instead of a tepid 70 minute one.
This will forever remain one of those albums where you pick out some select songs as singles, and then trash the rest of it forever. Not recommended, unless you're one of those people who jizz all over everything Schaffer releases.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
Finally it’s here, the new Iced Earth album. 9 years after the really praised “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, and 3 years after the least praised IE-album, “The Glorious Burden”. Everyone will make comparisons between this album and those two. The first one because it was the start of this story that Jon Schaffer’s created and all these stuff around “Something Wicked”, and the second because it was the first with Tim Owens on vocals...and here we are with his second. Me myself, rank this as one of the best Iced Earth album’s created, at least since “The Dark Saga”, and compared to “TGB”, this is a huge step forward.
Iced Earth; we know what it’s about, heavy riff oriented music with dark/fantasy lyrics. This is what Schaffer should write, not about old wars and historical stuff and tune down on the aggression, but with this album, I’d say Schaffer is “home” again. And the man behind the mic does a above phenomenal performance, but we all know he always does that. Of course i’m talking about Tim “Ripper” Owens. When listening to this CD I really realise, I do not miss Matt Barlow for one second. He is a great singer and have an own voice, but when hearing the scream monster Tim Owens really adding his soul to his work like this, it just can’t be wrong. But it’s not just his screams that are excellent, it seems like he can sing whatever Schaffer has in mind. Emotional calm passages, heavy almost growling passages, Tim fixes it with ease and i’m really happy that this man is in Iced Earth. Schaffer surely chose the right guy to replace Barlow.
Many concept albums often have at least 15 songs, and this is no exception. 19 songs, and ticks over an hour, and to be honest, the album’s great almost the whole way through. There are a lot short intro-like stuff to bring the story into life a bit, so to say. And these are great if you sit with the booklet in your hand, and listens to the album from track 1 to 19. It gets more epic, and i’m sure this is Schaffer’s intention with these short tracks. Exactly everything with the album isn’t great though. There are two clear fillers on here, concerning the ‘real’ songs. “A Charge To Keep”, a mellow slow song which doesn’t give anything really. Slow and with a sing-along chorus clearly created for live shows. Doesn’t work on CD, though. The other one being “Order Of The Rose”, a heavy classical Iced Earth atmosphere over the song, and the verses are great, but just the same as A Charge To Keep, the chorus doesn’t work at all. And the solo is really uncreative. Except these two downfall’s, there’s only good and great songs left. Another weaker thing with the album, as often with IE, is the solos. I know Schaffer doesn’t care much about solos, but if they sould be put on there (like they mostly are) why can’t they be done more interesing and better? It feels like they just lie there because “it’s needed in metal” or something. I really hope they will shape up some better solos to the Part 2 album, and that the new guy Troy Seele comes up with them.
Among the songs, there’s some awesome tracks on here which are some of the best Schaffer’s written for many years. One of them is the long one, “The Clouding”. Ballad for the first half of the songs (and really awesome!) and the second half being a bit heavier. I like the both “parts” of the songs equally and there are some really awesome melodies to be found in this song. Tim’s singing in the line “They failed to evolve in mother nature’s plan” gives you goosebumps ‘cause it’s so awesome. Other member’s performances are for sure worth mentioning. Brent’s drumming is top notch and brings us back to the drumming on “Alive In Athens”, Schaffer’s guitarriffing is as always tight heavy and great, some say it’s generic, I say it’s awesome. And there’s a lot of guest musicians and many unusual instruments, but they all work fine and are nicely played, makes the album more experimental.
To sum it all up, it isn’t much to complain about regarding this CD, the things I mentioned are things almost all Iced Earth album has (except their 3 first albums) and on the big whole, it’s things that they really can fix to the next record. It feels like Iced Earth are back stronger, and with a newborn energy in the band. It’s heavier and more aggressive again, not even half as many ballads as on 1998’s “SWTWC”, and it’s just as we want it. A highly recommended album, and so far one of the best of they year 2007. Something Wicked feeds.
Best songs: Something Wicked Part 1, Ten Thousand Strong, The Clouding, The Domino Decree, Framing Armageddon
As one of the biggest forthcoming releases of the year, Iced Earth has really built quite the hype concerning their first of two new albums, "Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt. 1)". Continuing with a concept established on their critically acclaimed album "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Iced Earth had a lot riding on this release. Fans had been disappointed with their previous album and were eager and hungry for some heavy hitting Thrash influenced Power Metal. Unfortunately, "Framing Armageddon" isnâ€™t exactly what we were expecting.
Instead of a comeback album, this latest release is even more experimental than before. Jon Schaffer, guitar player and songwriter, decided to play around more with atmosphere and concept building rather than straightforward songs. Whether or not this is a good thing is really up to the listener. The songs are well varied in their performance and range from atmospheric interludes to heavy riffed, call to arms anthems (example: â€œTen Thousand Strongâ€) to everything in-between. There is plenty of variety to be sampled on "Framing Armageddon".
It takes a while for the album to kick into gear as it takes its sweet time building the story and music towards an explosive point towards the end of the album. The guitar work isn't the usual Jon Schaffer material but more focused on building the atmosphere rather than being technical. He does some very technical guitar work on the album but only when the story and feel of the song calls for it. His musical writing has been pushed further this time around because of the massive concept he is trying to push across for the audience. It feels a little forced at time (especially some of the slower songs drag out a bit long) but he does get the point across. So don't expect an album full of fast and blast songs.
Tim Owens (as some know him, Ripper Owens) returns for his second Iced Earth album and he delivers some of the songs of his lifetime. His high pitched shrieks and soaring notes help give this album the epic feel that it needs but I felt that "Framing Armageddon" didn't give him a chance to show us all that he has. He never really gets a chance to show his darker and harsher vocals that I enjoy so much although "The Domino Decree" does come close and the latter half of the album does allow him to range himself. He does give some stellar performances and even though his vocals are layered quite often on "Framing Armageddon" (I assume this is to give it that epic feel) he nails it note for note.
This is still Iced Earth in the end. There are going to be emotional guitar leads and solos with galloping rhythms and all around amazing performances from every band member. This album does have a tendency to force the epic storytelling down the listener's throat instead of letting the story evolve. The last half of the album is the best, which is rare in the music industry, but it takes a few listens to appreciate the concept that Iced Earth were striving for.
Songs to check out: "Ten Thousand Strong", "The Domino Decree", "Framing Armageddon".
Let me just say this has to be the best Iced Earth album I've ever heard. Some may say the classic Iced Earth sound is lost... NOT TRUE. It's EVOLVED.
Ripper truly outdoes himself on this album- moreso than anything he has ever done in the past. You may think of him as Halford's clone, you may call him Barlow's crappy replacement, but it's bullshit... he truly deserves the Ripper name on this album. He literally tears apart every good vocal moment Matt Barlow has had; he proves what Matt did Ripper can do better. Matt could NEVER have pulled this one off.
Besides all that, Jon Schaffer's rhythm guitar stands out as per usual, his tone seems to have matured a bit and seems a bit cleaner. The classic Maiden-esque riffage, as godly as it was, is being traded for a more diverse sound; you tend to hear more variety in the playing. The bass work and leads are great as well, and Brent Smedley does a great job as a drummer on this record. The incorporation of world instruments gave the music a bit of diversity from the previous efforts, and really makes it stand out. The instrumental pieces are great... whoever the hell did them also deserves credit.
The story this album follows is so brutal, I don't think I've ever thought of a more metal, more ingenious concept than this, and to think this was a story spawned by the band's leader. Let's face it people, what can be more metal about the destruction of mankind? I thought it was neat to see all these parts in human history being brought about by Setian manipulation, whether it be the rise and fall of kingdoms, the creation of martyrs and gods, etc. The songwriting is great and tells the story perfectly.
When it comes to the music I could not recommend any songs, because they all stand out. They are all perfect. The music is intricate as it is flawless, innovative as it is original. Yeah it's different, yeah it isn't as thrashy as it used to be, but was Iced Earth ever a band that stuck to a particular label? Absolutely not. And they prove that case with this new album. Seriously buy this album, it's amazing. If not the hell hounds will come get you.
Having given the album a full month to settle in, I think it's time I voiced my opinion on the new Iced Earth effort. And god damn it, I think it might be their finest hour. (Depending on how Revelation Abomination turns out, of course)
It certainly wasn't their best effort the first time I listened to it - in fact, it took a fair few listens to really fall in love with it. Framing Armageddon still has the Iced Earth feel to it, but there have been changes. It seems as though Jon has really embraced the more 'classic' approach he's been hinting towards more and more for the last decade or so, for on display here are almost none of the trademark stuttering riffs, or the breakneck speed. About half of the tracks on FA are slow to mid-paced, built more on chugging, menacing riffs. This works to their advantage especially on tracks like 'A Charge To Keep' and 'When Stars Collide (Born Is He)'. And surprisingly, I found myself not missing their 'classic' sound at all. They haven't exactly sold out, after all - if anything, they may have even stepped away from the opportunity to gain publicity from the supposed 'thrash revival' of late.
Another notable aspect of the album is the lack of any traditional Iced Earth ballads like 'Watching Over Me'. Instead, we have two tracks that bear some resemblances, those being the aforementioned 'A Charge to Keep' with it's brooding, sorrowful feel and exceptional performance by Owens, and the other being 'The Clouding' - a nine minute epic spanning sounds Iced Earth have never attempted before, with Pink Floyd-esque clean guitars and more modern influences all making appearances. It's safe to say that Owens totally outdoes himself on this album, giving one of my favourite vocal performances ever. Barlow certainly could not have pulled this off, and I'm finally convinced of exactly what Schaffer had in mind when he employed Ripper to the vocal slot, and it certainly wasn't to be a Halford clone. Owens is in his own league now, and more than worthy of replacing Barlow in Iced Earth.
The album is a rather surprising nineteen tracks in length, which, coupled with the fact it is only the first half of the Something Wicked epic, would suggest Jon has been adding fillers into the album in order to elaborate the plot. However, there are certainly no stand-out dull tracks on the album. The closest it comes is 'Retribution Through The Ages', which is still a good song in it's own right, but not quite on the same level as the others. It would also suggest there are a number of 'interludes', short tracks to meld one track to the next - and yes, there are - about five in fact, although all but one are essentially build-ups to the track ahead or Eastern-influenced tracks with a lot of more 'earthy' sounds, and certainly do not detract from the overall experience. 'Execution' flows so well into 'Order of the Rose', it gives me chills every time I listen to it. There is no desire to skip any tracks on this album, certainly none that I've felt.
The only down-point of this album is that Schaffer's riffwork can be somewhat generic at times, and rather unexciting. There aren't enough leads present, but Iced Earth have rarely had any more leads than present here, anyway. It doesn't affect me so much, though - the album seems to get by fine without them, though they would likely improve the listening experience in they were more frequent.
The album comes to an incredible conclusion, from the incredible screams of Owens on the title track (note: the repeated line 'Framing Armageddon' at the end of the song really does crush 'I am your anti-Christ' from the Coming Curse), through the choir-like vocals and gigantic sound of 'When Stars Collide (Born is He)', and exiting through the looming 'The Awakening', with its strong Eastern influences and female vocals, leaving you starving for even a taste of Revelation Abomination.
Definitely takes Iced Earth to 'the next level', Mr. Schaffer. Bravo.
It's been almost 10 years now since Iced Earth mainman Jon Schaffer introduced the 'Something wicked' concept and its anti-hero Set Abominae, and the time has finally come for him to tell the full epic story over 2 CDs, the first of which is 'Framing armageddon'.
Things have changed considerably in the Iced Earth camp since the story was first presented on 1998's 'Something wicked this way comes' CD, the most notable probably being the absence of Matthew Barlow, whose place at the microphone has been occupied by Tim Owens since 2003. Owens received a lot of criticism from fans and critics for his performance on the previous 'The glorious burden', but while he lacks his predecessor's range there is no doubt that he is a real talent, and his performance here is a possible career-best.
Since the original trilogy of songs that paved the way for the full concept, Iced Earth's days as a full-throttle band have ended up well and truly behind them, and the music here is much more in line with their more recent output than the power/thrash of their early work. The band have been going in a less aggressive direction since around the time of the original 'Something wicked...' CD anyway though, and those expecting 'Framing armageddon' to be an exception to this rule are in for a disappointment. Not that the CD is without its heavy moments, but on the whole, the entire focus of the songwriting is geared much more towards the epic and atmospheric. This provides many of the CDs strengths, but unfortunately also detracts from its overall strength from time to time.
As with many concept CDs, the lyrics, and how they are worked into the songs, definitely seem to have been Schaffer's main priority with 'Framing armageddon', and the music inevitably suffers as a result. Often a song will ride along on the same riff for far too long in order to fit the lyrics, and there is an overall lack of intricate lead guitar and solos. The only real show of guitar trickery comes towards the end of the piece on "The domino decree', with the rest of the CD mostly based on a more straightforward musical approach only punctuated by little flurries of double-bass drumming and faster chord sequences.
Similarly to this reduced focus on musicianship, the pacing of the CD can drag when the more reflective of tragic parts of the story take over and it takes a degree of patience to fully appreciate it. Most of the more mid-paced and slower songs are real winners, though, with the ballad "Charge to keep" a real standout in the vein of "Hollow man" from the preceding CD. On the other hand, the lead single 'Ten thousand strong' is a contender for best song on the CD – one of the fastest and most aggressive, but also with a sorrowful chorus that showcases the versatility in Owens' display as he varies piercing shrieks with a more mournful overall touch.
Another concept staple Schaffer has saw fit to include is the use of several interludes scattered between the actual songs, as well as the obligatory intro and outro tracks. Their usefulness is probably most comparable to the use of segues on Blind Guardian's 'Nightfall in middle earth' opus, in that they are mostly unessential to the enjoyment of the CD, but never really feel as though they are cluttering things up; nowhere near as seamless and effective as those on Kamelot's 'Epica' and 'The black halo' CDs, but also a far cry from what they are probably already referring to as 'Gods of war' syndrome.
'Framing armageddon' is definitely not versatile enough a CD for all moods – the brooding atmosphere is too prevalent over a near 70-minute running time for that, with the more direct moments scattered too few and far between. But on the whole, what is done here is done very well, and while it won't appeal to all tastes, the first half of Jon Schaffer's attempt at his magnum opus has been an admirable one.
Listeners who like to immerse themselves in the story behind a concept CD will be able to lose themselves in the ambience, while those who demand something a little more direct are going to find themselves turned off by its patient, meandering nature. But for those who end up fans of 'Framing armageddon', Part 2 is certainly to be looked forward to.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Talk about shattering expectations.
Iced Earth has been my favorite band for several years now and I enjoy (at the very least) every album they've put out. However, we all know that some musicians eventually lose their flare and creative juices after awhile. Schaffer is no different. We’ve all heard the (overall) lack of quality content on his latest album, The Glorious Burden. The album has a few pretty good songs and the rest is filler and shit.
Most wonder how it was possible for the same guy who gave us the ballcrushing NotS and Burnt Offerings to give us the USA wankfest known as the Glorious Burden. After this, it seemed all hope was lost. The band’s singer (unquestionably one of the best known to heavy metal and my personal favorite) had quit and his replacement was a less than exhilirating Halford rip-off. On top of that, the music wasn’t tailored to his style. It was written with the previous singer in mind and it showed. Couple “the wrong singer”—he isn’t bad, just wrong for the album—with generally boring music and you’re in for quite the suckfest.
After that, who would expect a good album?
Well… I did. I figured, Ripper has his bearings in place now, Schaffer wrote the music for his voice, there should be some improvement right? Wrong. “Some improvement” doesn’t encompass the amount of rock on this album. After hearing Beyond Fear, I knew Owens could FUCKING ROCK!!!, unlike his previous work with IE. Sure enough, he managed to carry this quality over to the new album. Do I prefer him to Barlow? Of course not, but I can honestly say now that I believe Tim Owens is a great heavy metal singer. Plain and simple. The vocals are infinitely more intense and well performed than TGB.
This album has a very different feel from their previous works. I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it sounds nothing like the other albums. Interludes and intros abound, this album is easily more epic than all the others. Don’t get me wrong, NotS is better and in some ways more epic, but this one just flowed better I suppose. NotS songs can standalone, this album is one that should be experienced as a whole, though plenty of them rock without the rest as well.
About half of the songs here are fast and the other half are slow. Don’t worry though, it’s not as bipolar as SWTWC. Furthermore, there aren’t any real ballady type songs. I’m neutral towards that, but just thought I’d point it out. From what I can gather around and under Schaffer’s bothersome input (such is the price of stealing advance albums), the lyrics/story are pretty good. However, I’ve never been great at deciphering lyrics (words, not meaning) so I could be wrong. Then again, I’ve always been a fan of his lyrics, even for boring songs, so I don’t see why this would be any different.
Aside from NotS, this may be the only IE album that doesn’t have a single song I don’t like. Not that they’re all amazing, but they’ve all managed to not be skipped after at least 10 full run-throughs.
One thing that stood out about this album is that nearly every chorus demands audience participation. Truly, this album is meant for singing along. The choruses are über-catchy and demand it.
Also, the majority of these songs aren’t nearly as intense/heavy as their older stuff. Nonetheless, really well-written.
Some of these songs are downright godly. Something Wicked Pt. 1 is a pretty good one. Taking lyrics and riffs from trilogy at points, this one takes you back and then launches you forward to something totally new. Good shit.
You’ve already heard Ten Thousand Strong. This song really grew on me and now I think it one of the better songs on the album, but nowhere near the best…
Infiltrate and Assimilate is pretty badass. Awesome riff in the beginning and intensity builds.
The Clouding. The longest and possibly slowest track on the album. I love this song. Atmoshere is relentless on this one and pretty melancholic. It constantly progresses and builds until the end is something completely different from what you’d expect. Completely different from any other IE song and a brilliant one.
Execution is just an intro, but what an intro! Possibly the most atmospheric part of the album for 1:15 then it EXPLODES into this great riff and Ripper screaming then saying, “KILL THEM ALL!! DIIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!!” Fuck… That was br00tal. After that, I expected the most intense song Schaffer ever made, but that was yet to come…
The Domino Decree really threw me off. I was surprised that I actually enjoyed the input of the organ. Normally, organs annoy me, but this one did a good job. Finally, we get to…
Framing Armageddon—The title track. I didn’t know what to expect from this one. It starts off by delivering a headbutt to your ovaries then pummels you with a the fastest, trashiest riff on the album. Unlike the other tracks, this one doesn’t quit. The others go fast, then a friendly chorus, then riffs. Not this one. This one grabs you by the throat, says “SHUTUP AND SITDOWN!,” then proceeds to make you it’s prison bitch for the next 3 mins. But wait? The song is 3:40. Yes… but the last 40 seconds are so earth-shattering, they can hardly be considered one in the same.
At 2:55, this song beats the fuck out of you. If you can’t find it in you to headbang and sing along, get your shit examined. This part blows me away every time. The riff is faster, heavier, and relentless, the drums turn your shit into dust, and you hear how Owens earned his nickname. The sheer intensity of this portion is mindblowing. I’ve heard this song all the way through about 30 times, but I’ve heard the last 40 secs about 100 times. The first time I heard it, I literally quit masturbating and started rocking the fuck out. Owens repeatedly screaming “FRAAAAAAMIIING ARMAAAGEEDDDOOOOOOOOOOOONNN!!!!” is… destructive. It’s best to keep this one away from small children. They will get hurt. Normally, I’m a pretty reasonable guy in terms of the volume of my music, but at 2:55, there is nothing but this song. It goes up to at least 65 decibels, I stop whatever I’m doing, ignore my sleeping/crying baby nephew, and just fucking rock. The closest notion I can provide of the magnitude of insanity that comes in here is this: Remember “The Coming Curse”? “I AM YOUR ANTI-CHRIST!!!” Yeah? FUCK THAT. This part blows that weak ass shit away. It makes THAT sound like fucking Fury of the Storm. Owens just made Barlow his bitch. This is by far the greatest thing this album has to offer and among the best songs Schaffer has ever written. Schaffer has never written anything this brutal and probably never will. This is what the “Lucifer” portion of Dante’s Inferno should have been...
Finally, the final track, The Awakening. This one is entirely chanted, heavy on the atmosphere, beautiful and constantly providing a “looming” feeling… Awesome. One thing I found particularly interesting about this one is that it feels like a closer and an intro simultaneously, and I believe Schaffer meant for it to feel that way. After all, there’s one more on the way.
This album isn’t perfect, but nothing is seriously wrong with it. Just that some of the songs could have been better, faster, heavier, whatever. The only complaint I have is that the solos could have been more memorable. After hearing the album as many times as I have, I don’t remember a single solo. They’re there, they just don’t stand out in my mind, but I still need to hear them a few more times before I can say they bore me. Even still, it doesn’t need them. I don’t remember a single shredder, and this still blows the past 7 years of IE out of the water.
So was this album worth the wait? Fuck yeah it was. Is it a return to the old days? Hell no. Schaffer has proven that he can still write good music, it’s just not the same as he use to write it. Barlow is no longer the voice of Iced Earth and Schaffer doesn’t have to riff the shit out of you to rock your socks off.
Armageddon is here and it’s only half over…
Iced Earth has returned.
Highlights: Something Wicked Pt. 1, Ten Thousand Strong, The Clouding, Infiltrate and Assimilate, The Domino Decree, and of course... FRAMING ARMAGEDDON.
[Score reduced to 80 following re-evaluation of rating system.]