without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
It could be construed that picking up something out of a bargain bin, a few years after something has been released, skews the listening experience a bit in favor of enjoying what you’ve bought. But this is how I came to own this DVD, which is essentially a surround sound rendering of a 3 part epic Iced Earth song with a montage of still photos depicting various events around the time of the battle of Gettysburg. Being someone who doesn’t live too far away from the site, I’ve been there a few times and am familiar with the background, which probably further biases me away from how most would view this.
Basically this is fan-boy fodder, to the very last split second of video footage. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, but it definitely limits the audience to a narrow group of people who are anxious to see an interview with Jon Schaffer, because it’s the high point of the viewing experience. As someone who doesn’t follow Iced Earth heavily outside of their major studio releases, it is an educational interview that gives some good insights into how their songs are created, as well as the historic trials and tribulations of trying to keep a style of music going in America that has been ridiculed up until just a few years ago for most of one’s career. Jon definitely comes off as forthcoming and concise, and even gives a solid retort to those who accuse him of recycling guitar riffs. Being someone who has played many of them, I can testify that in addition to being murder on your picking wrist, there are noticeable nuances between every song, though obviously some of them come off as watered down in comparison to the early Thrash material on the first 3 albums.
The rest of the video material on here is somewhat par for the course. Despite my own personal issues with my country’s unquestioning sense of patriotism after the 9/11 attacks and all of the political nonsense that continues to plague this country, the video for “When The Eagle Cries” does work well as a sort of folk/pop rendering of a melodic metal ballad, being pushed along by Tim Owen’s unique and eccentric vocal style. “The Reckoning” gives a brief glimpse into Iced Earth’s power/thrash history, though with a vocalist that is naturally even closer to Rob Halford in sound and style than John Greely was. The content of the videos is pretty standard, though the imagery on “The Reckoning” looks like it was put together in a pretty short period of time and doesn’t really add much to the experience of seeing the song played live at a small venue, save perhaps all of the light bulbs hanging around.
The video montage found on “Gettysburg 1863” gets old pretty quickly, even if one approaches it with barely any knowledge of civil war history. You might as well just be listening to a surround sound version of the song with a public school history textbook in your hand, flipping pages every 7 or 8 seconds. The song itself, for anyone who hasn’t heard “The Glorious Burden” but is familiar with Iced Earth’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, this is basically a slightly more interesting version of that epic song cycle, with a much better vocal performance. Schaffer relies a bit more on orchestration than on slow acoustic alone passages, which keeps things a bit more interesting. The riff construction tends to be pretty formulaic, which has been the case for this band’s sound since “The Dark Saga”, and caters more towards a conceptual vocal narrative than the pulsating rhythmic attack that the band imported from the Bay Area thrash scene in the early 90s. It’s interesting to hear once in a while, but it wears thin and gets predictable after a few listens.
The ultimate impression that this DVD gives off is the same as what was put forth on “The Glorious Burden”, and that is Schaffer wishes to adapt a rather important part of American history to the metal medium. It may have had the unintended consequence of educating some people who were let down by America’s failure of an education system, but mostly it listens like a familiar story being retold in a different medium. Schaffer firmly believes that this event in history is not his to visit judgment over; something which I personally disagree with as I see it to be an essential step to avoiding any future mistakes by looking at history critically, but it is all laid out for one to disagree with. This is something that will be welcome in the collection of any strong fan of this band, but probably will have little appeal outside of their current audience. If you’re looking to take a risk on it, I paid about $7 for it, which is pretty close to its actual value.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 27, 2009.
Man, color me dissappointed. The whole thing is pretty much just a slowly spinning map of the battlefield with fading in and out pictures of Generals and other officers, along with some "explosions" that look like the beginning of a MacGyver episode. The special features include an informercial for Schaffer's store in Indiana, The Spirit of 1776, a battlefield tour of Gettysburg that is shot like a low-quality porno (at least according to Forest... I've never watched pornography... honest), and an "Orchestral" mix of the song that I can barely discern from the "Metal" mix. I was really expecting some kind of action to match the song, like a reenactment of parts of the battle or something... The only parts I felt fit at all were the part when "A rebel sharpshooter takes Reynold's life," and the cannon intro before "High Water Mark." This review is not intended to take anything away from the songs themselves, as they remain as superb and brilliant as ever. I just don't feel that the video matches the song that well at all. The 5.1 mix is better than the album version for sure, but I was expecting more from the whole package. Therefore, I can't give the DVD a failing grade, but I am dissappointed as hell. 65%