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The only obvious way to review this is in two parts.
The first part of the review clearly has to be on new song “I Walk Alone”. This is a bouncy mid-tempo number that is sure to get the mosh pits going. It’s unbelievably catchy in the chorus, and the verses are heavy with a galloping B-flat power chord being the central basis of the riff, and there is a bombastic bridge after the second chorus. What about Matt Barlow’s vocals? They are truly fantastic. Matt Barlow is more than ready to claim his place as one of the world’s great rock vocalists. He is howling in a way that only he can.
The second part of this review is the comparison between Matt Barlow and the recently-departed Tim “Ripper” Owens. Of course, we all know the songs are fantastic; otherwise they wouldn’t have rerecorded them.
Let me first start out by commending Owens. He has been put in a couple of impossible spots in replacing Rob Halford and then Matt Barlow. He’s done a commendable job over the years, and he is a fine vocalist. The songs that Iced Earth recorded with Owens at the helm sound fantastic. After all, not just anybody could come in and take the place of a singer like Matt Barlow.
Now for the real part of the review: the comparison. The way I listened to this was to first listen to the Owens version of a given song from “Framing Armageddon”, and then follow it up with the Barlow re-recording from this EP. That seems to me to be the only fair way to review the re-recordings.
With that established, it becomes very clear very quickly that, while Tim Owens is a capable vocalist, he is no Matt Barlow. Matt Barlow has an emotion, passion, and bombast in his voice that Owens just cannot, for whatever reason, replicate within the confines of Iced Earth. As I said before, Matt Barlow is one of the best rock voices in the world, and this sort of comparison makes it all the more clear.
The only reason that my score for this wasn’t higher was because of the content. There is only one new song that would later appear on “The Crucible of Man” and three re-recordings. There is really nothing noteworthy about that, other than a bit of a minor cash grab to capitalize on the return of Barlow. For this, I would have rather the re-recordings be included as bonuses on “The Crucible of Man” album.