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Would it be unfair to call Iced Earth's self-titled debut their most divisive album? It has some of the best riffs and a few of the greatest songs they would ever write, and still there are fans who won't touch it. While poorly produced in comparison with their other albums, I don't think that would have been enough to dissuade people from an otherwise biting assortment of power-thrash. On a purely musical basis, Iced Earth is one of the band's best. No, if there's anything that has murked the debut's reputation, it's the vocals. It might be said that an Iced Earth without Matt Barlow is like an Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickenson (or, more appropriately, a Judas Priest without Halford) but I don't think anyone would retroactively condemn it just because the band's best-loved frontman isn't featured. No; people will love or hate the debut almost purely depending on what they think of Gene Adam's vocal performance. If it's any indicator, the reason he never returned to perform on Night of the Stormrider was because he refused Jon Schaffer's recommendation to take singing lessons. To be sure, Gene's thin, occasionally off-key wail accounts for the weakest vocal performance of Iced Earth's career, but I do think it works for the album's rawer sound, the same way Paul DiAnno's voice worked on the first Iron Maiden records. Your mileage may vary, but a single questionable link and unpolished execution aren't near enough to dismiss the most underrated chapter in the band's history.
Although most offerings from Iced Earth would lend enough reason for me to have dismissed the band as a particularly case of trad-heavy tripletcore, I'm proven wrong every time I pay due attention to one of their albums. Such is the case, at least, with their self-titled. Even this early on, Jon Schaffer had already discovered the triplet and fostered a not-inconsiderable love of using it in his riffs. Although I might have expected its repeated use to grow tiring, there are plenty of parts on Iced Earth where I'm pleasantly struck by how unpredictable the music becomes. Make no mistake; Iced Earth had already found their heavy-power-thrash niche and nestled in snugly by the time of their debut, but my first reaction of songs like "Iced Earth" and "Written on the Walls" was actually to think of classic progressive metal- early Queensryche and Fates Warning in particular. Although I tend to associate Iced Earth with conventional, melodic-based songwriting, some of the compositions here draw in multiple time signature changes. As per expectation; most of the riffs are still built from the same infamous chugging triplets, but the changes of pace are unexpected and abundant enough to keep the listener on their toes. "Written on the Walls" is easily the best cut from the album, with enough switch-ups to accommodate a progressive epic five-thirds its length, and it's not alone when it comes to memorable songwriting. "Colors", "Curse the Sky" and "The Funeral" also stand out as particularly well-penned tunes. Say what you will about Jon Schaffer; he knows how to write a damned fine riff when the mood suits him.
"Iced Earth" is one of the strongest openers Iced Earth have produced in their careers, and though the dull masses may condemn me for saying so, its brilliance is due in part to Gene Adam's vocal performance. I'm not going to defend him as a conventionally 'good' vocalist, but like more than a few better-acclaimed metal vocalists, he pushes his limited capability as far as it can go. His falsetto wails sound pleasantly uncomfortable and shrill, like a constipated goblin. Although it's no substitute for Barlow's ballsier versatility, Gene makes the most of the album's heavier sections. The more nuanced bits are more trouble for him, however; there's a retroactive expectation for Iced Earth vocals to bring versatility as well as bravado. In this respect, Gene is much less successful. His chest voice is noticeably uncharismatic, and while his wail benefits from being untrained and largely intuitive, I do wonder if it would have limited Iced Earth to have kept him around for longer. I'll reiterate this less-than-popular opinion of mine by saying Adam serves the same role here that DiAnno served for Iron Maiden. Being their most noticeable influence on the album, it's little wonder comparisons can be made between the two bands. And much like Iron Maiden, as strong as Iced Earth's earliest stuff was, it was for the best that they decided to move forward.
If there's anything I think is most unfavourable about Iced Earth, it's not Gene Adam, but the album's production. Although the drums pack a solid punch, and the situation's been improved somewhat by the its 2001 remix/remastering, there's still something off about the guitars. The quality sounds like something they might nowadays have done as a demo with their eyes closed. Regardless, I don't think the recording or even the thinness of the vocals are enough to take away from the best parts of Iced Earth's debut offering. Within the context of their career, I think they left themselves enough room to really amaze with Night of the Stormrider their second time around. Even so, they hit more than enough marks on the debut to make it a near-essential part of their discography; and, if nothing else, one of the most criminally underrated observations yet produced in the American power metal scene.
Like any debut, Iced Earth’s first album is quite a far cry from the fiery sound they have become well known for in the modern day. This album and its two follow-ups instead exhibit an interesting blend of thrash and power metal with a few progressive touches every now and then. This particular album is made memorable for being the only one to feature drummer Mike McGill and controversial original vocalist Gene Adam.
Before we talk about the rest of the band, let’s get one thing straight: Gene Adam is not Matt Barlow. Hell, he’s not even John Greely! I like to think of him as sounding like some kind of cross between Metal Church’s David Wayne and Brian Johnson of AC/DC with some elements of Attila Csihar here and there. His shrieks may be rather grating and out of place on a number of tracks (The title track and "Colors" immediately come to mind), but he does have a few moments where he doesn’t sound too bad. In fact, his more melodic crooning during the bridge of "Written on the Walls" is very well done for his skill level. I imagine he'd sound better on a more extreme project...
Thankfully, the rest of the band’s performance on this album cannot and must not be judged on the basis of vocals alone for the excellent guitars and drumming keep things at a high quality level. Rhythm guitarist/bandleader Jon Schaffer provides plenty of great gallops that would make Steve Harris envious (The one at the end of the title track is particularly amazing), lead guitarist Randall Shawver performs some excellent solos throughout, bassist Dave Abell provides great backing, and McGill keeps the double bass drumming at a constant. The numerous tempo changes of each track also help keep things interesting and they even included a few interesting instrumentals to compensate for their weakest link.
Aside from what many people have already stated, this album has very few flaws. While the guitar riffs and song structures do manage to stay interested, they may be a little too complex for some listeners and the album’s production doesn’t do it that much justice. Overall, they’re relatively minor qualms.
If you can’t tolerate the vocals on this album, then I would highly recommend checking out "Days of Purgatory." The compilation features several songs from Iced Earth’s first three albums with the lead vocals re-recorded by Matt Barlow to a much enjoyable effect.
1) Excellent guitars, bass, and drumming.
2) Interesting song structures and great tempo changes
3) The vocals do have a few decent moments
1) Most songs on here sound better on "Days of Purgatory"
2) The production is excessively raw
3) Complexity could turn off some listeners.
My Current Favorites:
Iced Earth, Written on the Walls, Colors, Solitude, and Funeral
Iced Earth has become quite a popular and famous band over the two decades of existence, displaying a major impact on the metal scene garnering a hardcore and unbelievably dedicated fanbase that outmatches many others. To say you're a diehard Iced Earth fan means something, it seems like you're either a hater or a lover and there's always those that have to choose between the differing vocalist eras etc. I must say already, I'm quite the Iced Earth fanboy, as you can tell from previous reviews and whatnot... they're quite plainly put my favorite band and I have enjoyed every single recorded material they have released, with their most recent third installment to the Something Wicked trilogy being a quite lackluster and somewhat disappointing performance, I've still managed to enjoy something from each album. So here it is in 1991, Jon Schaffer has managed to craft this work of amazing boundaries, that leads you through an distorted journey into a netherworld of evil and insanity.
You can find the evil atmosphere displayed in an utter journey through hell and witness the several plains of Dante's evil on Burnt Offerings, you can travel through Stygian and the utter chaos and the overwhelming feeling of evil on Night of the Stormrider, or you can wallow in a pile of sadness, hate, and depression with uncontrollable emotion found on The Dark Saga. But here, on their self-titled debut, Iced Earth manage to show you a nice balance between there more thrashy side with a godly riffing and an overall darker inception on the power metal spectrum. Iced Earth displays a certain amount of sad and melancholic atmosphere, mixed within the maniacal riff-fest that Schaffer releases. Songs like Written on the Walls, When the Night Falls and the Funeral all showcase the certain depth of melancholy and atmosphere that is found here. The thing I love the most about Iced Earth, is that somehow every single fucking song manages to maintain memorability and catchy, whether within Schaffer's otherworldly riffing like on Colors or the title track, or Randall Shawver's melodic and shredding leads or even the catchy vocals/backing vocals.
Yes, now first I must address Gene Adam because he certainly is an interesting figure in Iced Earth's history. Most people find it hard to get into his vocals, as they are somewhat grating from the insanely high pitched shrieks and wails he manages to burst out like a fucking phoenix from it's flamed body. Throughout the album, he will find his way to prove his vocal prowess somehow; some find this grating with this overall tone... but god dammit this guy has a powerful set of pipes. I love his voice and I can't imagine hearing anyone else replace him for this and having it sound as up to par; though if you wish to you can always hear the Matt Barlow remakes off Days of Purgatory. There are plenty of catchy sing along choruses that will forever remain lodged in your head that play over and over; be it the cool faced paced thrasher Colors, or the melancholic and ominous Curse the Sky that has a fucking chorus that catches the ears of the gods themselves. When the Night Falls manages to create the epic atmosphere they would later use on the next two following albums, as also shown on Life and Death; creating a balance between despair and shattering riffage.
Iced Earth is an album brewing with hatred, sadness, melancholy and utter contempt that creates an uncontrollable atmosphere that you isn't quite as powerful or noticeable on later Iced Earth albums; some might say this is where their production is at a highest, where Schaffer plays those fucking riffs like the god he is, ripping out memorable riffs that dominate your head and neck, while Shawver shows he's easily Iced Earth's best guitarist bringing in the melody like they're known for. God dammit, if the title track isn't one of the coolest fucking songs ever written then I don't know what is, everything about this sums up this album perfectly, the outro riff is one of my favorites ever penned. Musicianship is at a highest here, where the unknown Mike McGill and Dave Abell hold a heavy rhythm section, double bass and solid bass lines guide the songs along, where Iced Earth was at their thrashiest. Solitude is a nice little instrumental song thrown in, for good measure of helping along the overall 'atmosphere' of the album, as a lot of bands do; clean guitars slowly pick their way into another powerful song that manages to showcase Schaffer's riffing the best off this album. The main riff that opens up the majority of the song at about 1 minute in totally slays every fucking poser that has a gauge in his ear, pussy this is a real riff!
If you are a fan of Iced Earth, this will no doubt enter your collection at highest praise. If you've heard Iced Earth before, you definitely know their biggest influences Iron Maiden and the like, so this is where they perform their best and show their true "colors". This is their most atmospheric release in my eyes, as well as the thrashiest. Even if you can't get into Gene Adam's vocals I find myself baffled when someone doesn't enjoy the instrumental prowess on this album, this is pure heavy metal. Iced Earth have created a fucking masterpiece on their first fucking album! How often is this seen? It happens, but especially lately it's a lot more rare and hard to come across; if you are a fan of metal in general I will endlessly praise and recommend this album. This is their debut and introduction into the world of metal and with all this fanboy raving that is to be found here this still isn't their best album! Fucking amazing, if you can get past Gene Adam's vocals I have a hard time believing most fans of heavy metal not getting into this.
Iced Earth has quite the illustrious career, but how did it all start? Well, their self-titled release in 1991 was quite the humble beginning. Gene Adam is the vocalist; it’s an understatement to say his vocals are awful. This is some of the worst singing I’ve ever heard. Why he was in the band at all is beyond me. Luckily, the musicianship makes up for it. Jon Schaffer is a master at the rhythm guitar, plus he basically writes all the material. Dave Abell is one great bass player, who you can actually hear on this record. Mike McGill, who’s basically unknown to just about anyone, does his job here. Randall Shawver is one of Iced Earth’s best guitarists who were loved most by the fans. He’s quite underrated; he can pull off all the solos with precisian and flare. The line-up here is great.
The production is surprising. For a debut album it’s quite good. You can hear everything clearly and it makes Gene Adams horrible vocals a little more bearable. The album opens with the bands staple, “Iced Earth.” Which is of course of their best tracks. It shows the listener what their all about. “Written on the Walls” has a cool piano intro, great guitar playing, and interesting lyrics. “Colors” is also quite interesting. The chorus here is very catchy even though the vocal performance lacks. All the songs here are worth listening to, “The Funeral” is basically in instrumental except for the short chant in the middle. “When the Night Falls” is the epic here, it begins with a sound effect intro which goes straight into the music itself, which isn’t bad. The song is quite enjoyable, although in not a fan of the vocal melodies in the chorus.
The songs I mentioned that have problems aren’t from the musicians themselves; it’s the damn vocals. Yes, I understand I’ve mentioned this many times, but it’s the only real thing wrong with the album. Overall this is a great thrash/power mix, check it out if you’re looking to get into Iced Earth. Any fan of the band should get it, but beware of Gene Adam…
Holy shit. It seems I have the dubious distinction of being the only Gene Adam fan on the planet. That’s right, I actually prefer his obnoxiously metal wailing and pseudo-singing above all the Iced Earth vocalists to come, especially Matt Barlow. His vocals, along with the rest of this album, represent a different era of Iced Earth, before their lyrics became watered down in overly emotional bullshit, their sound evolved from solid to overproduced, their riffs became weaker and repetitive, and their albums were swamped in mediocre power ballads and overt progressivism. Their debut is almost purist fucking thrash metal, only slowing down for the occasional clean interlude or bridge and I don’t think they’ll ever release a better album than this.
First off, the sound on this album is immense. From the first crushing chords of the title track to fading solo of the last song, the album maintains an almost epic degree of heaviness. The production is perfect, absolutely perfect. The guitar tone is killer, all the instruments are easily heard, no flaws in tracking or volume. The songwriting is amazing here as well. The riffs are heavy and unique, the song tempos are dynamic, and the occasional clean riffs are cool as well. The only real problem here is the cohesion between riffs. The songs constantly shift focus, with most songs having several bridge sections that sometimes never return to the earlier riffs. This is delightfully progressive at times and moderately irritating at others. This is my only real complaint with the songs here and it’s hardly a major one.
As mentioned before, the riffing is awesome. Even better are the guitar solos. Almost every solo on the album is a memorable one, technically and melodically. Notable ones include the lead at the beginning of “Written on the Walls” and also in “Curse the Sky.”
The lyrics on the album are among the band’s best. Way darker than most of the stuff on their later albums and a hell of a lot less gay. Gene Adam’s hellish falsetto and wicked growling are perfect accompaniments to the lyrics, despite the general dislike of him. Matt Barlow’s versions of these songs on Days of Purgatory and Alive in Athens just don’t measure up to the originals. Adam’s voice is unbelievably evil at times, almost as if he was possessed, which absolutely works for this album. It’s probably better that Iced Earth got rid of him, as I can’t imagine Stormrider or Burnt Offerings sung any other way, but on this album, there’s no substitution.
Besides the cohesiveness issue, there’s really nothing else I can hold against this album. It’s fast and heavy most of the way through, with the occasional acoustic/clean riffs to add a nice progressive edge to the mayhem. Don’t let the vocalist detract from the music, he’s not as bad as he’s notorious for. He actually gives the album a step-up from the rest of the band’s work and I consider Iced Earth’s self-titled not only their best, but one of the most original metal albums I’ve ever heard.
Best tracks: Iced Earth
Written on the Walls
Curse the Sky
When I first listened to Iced Earth’s self titled album, I was already used to the Barlow era Iced Earth, and I was eager to experience the album that started Iced Earth’s quest in the metal world. When I first heard the album, I nearly turned it off, because I couldn’t stand Gene Adams’ horrible singing. A few months later, I popped it back into my CD player and listened to the CD all the way through. Needless to say, it’s a good album, but there is still something I can’t get over...which is Gene Adams’ voice. He’s not awful, but he isn’t exactly Bruce Dickinson either.
Adams’ vocals tend to vary from “shut the Hell up with that God awful high-pitched wail” to “Meh; he’s not that bad”. When he sings he tends to go into this high pitched wailing and draws it out a little too much. When he’s not handling the more heavy vocal parts, he sounds decent on the softer parts (Written On The Walls is a good example where the song breaks into a slow melody fest). Even when he’s doing the slower parts I can’t get over his whiney gritty voice. If he would have taken some singing lessons he might not be bad, but merely okay.
Musically, this album is a goldmine. The rhythm guitar goes into some seriously fast palm muting, quickly come out to reveal some melody, then falls back into it’s tight formation with lead guitar. This really backs up the fact that Jon Schaffer has some incredible agility and stamina with his hands to be able to shred power-thrash like this. When the rhythm isn’t completely mowing you down with speed, the lead takes control and fills the atmosphere with melody that takes you to the icy plains to freeze your ass off. Now that we’re having fun, can we get rid of Gene Adams and make this album “very good,” instead of just “okay“?
I enjoy the music very much because it varies in speed and melody, as well as songwriting. It’s an excellent first album for a metal band, but I’m guessing either Jon Schaffer was desperate and settled for Adams or he let him sing out of loyalty to their friendship. I love everything about this album except Adams’ vocals. Jon and Randy being the riff masters that they are made this album more of a pleasurable listen. I’ve always loved Schaffer’s riff style, even if it sometimes seems simple or reused.
The bad production kind of irks me with it‘s hollow sound, but it’s still a pleasure to listen to from time to time. All in all, the album is worth buying if you can learn to at least somewhat adapt to mediocre vocals. I’m just glad that Schaffer got rid of him when he wrote Stormrider
This could've been such a balls-out album, except three things hinder it terribly.
1) very bad production
2) the lead singer
3) brain-dead songwriting lapses
First, the production. When your demo sounds better than this, then you've got a problem! The guitar tone is flat and weak, and the reverb is misused, giving a muffled effect. Seriously, Enter the Realm repeatedly kicks this thing in whatever shriveled nuts it may have...
Speaking of shriveled nuts, we've got Gene Adam, who sounds like Quorthon attempting to do Rob Halford - a pseudo-evil screech... yeah, that's it. The Saved by the Bell dork. I can totally see Gene Adam taping his glasses back together after his lunch money was stolen. There's a good reason he was replaced... he is really mediocre.
Now, the MAIN major flaw. I can look past necroness and other distractions, but when the songwriting suffers, then the album suffers. What is making it suffer? Stupid slow moments that just make no sense. We all know Schaffer has that shit in him - he craps out ballads by the buttful, obviously, because they clog up the later Iced Earth albums. Here, they appear as dorktacular little interludes. See "Iced Earth". See the triplets. Hear the triplets. Obey the triplets. Bang, bang, bang, and then there's that idiotic "earth and fire, water and air" section, with Gene Adam being the most prominent thing in the mix - and then the guitars do this "Maiden on Valium" thing for a while, and oh it just doesn't make sense.
Written on the Walls... same thing. Man, somewhere in here is 22 minutes of riffological goodness. Colors has the most of it - again, it's nowhere near as good as the demo version, but it's still competent, and the idiot parade section is kept mercifully short. Curse the Stupid Intro, Snooze and Death, Solinterlude, Dork Funeral, etc. They all rage with the power of a thousand bulldozers, and then they all come to a screeching halt as a line of ducklings is permitted to gently cross the street.
ARGH!!! I WANNA MOTHERFUCKING RIP KITTENS IN HALF AND YOU'RE NOT LETTING ME.
Schizophrenia. Paranoia. Bring me Cool Edit, I must do some surgery.
I'm going to review the remastered version of this album because obviously everything has been improved without making ammendments to the songs themselves.
Iced Earth is a brilliant opener, very energetic with some great riffs. Very fast and sets the blistering pace for the rest of the album. Obviously Gene Adams isn't perfect as a vocalist, but in some sections the vocals do sound good. Colors has a superb riff that really sticks in the memory over anything else in the song, and is a good ride. Curse the sky and Life and Death are two great melodic/fast tracks that are looked over quite often, but there is great atmosphere in both.
Funeral is a superb Instrumental, it flows really well and the riffs are again, biting. The intro into When the night falls sets the atmosphere for the rest of the song, and I prefer this version over the DOP and AIA version, even with Gene Adams on vocals.
A great debut album from a truly great metal band, a solid basis for a great collection of albums, although they will improve over time.
This review is for the remastered version I received with Dark Genesis.
This album doesn't get much playing time in my CD player, mainly because of Gene Adam's vocals...he sucks. But when I do listen to this album, I enjoy it. I don't know how much the remastered album has improved from the original release, but it sounds pretty good sound quality-wise. The guitars have a good crunch to them, but the drums are kind of weak.
The songs on this album are good...they could have been better, but Gene Adam sucks. Think of King Diamond on helium with a raspier voice and a cucumber shoved up his ass - that's what Gene sounds like. Sometimes he sounds ok, but then out of nowhere he tries to hit a high note and it's like a banshee on crack.
Leaving Gene out of the picture, the songs are good. They have fast tempos and sound upbeat in a way. The riffing department is strong, and the solos are pretty good but sparing. My favorite song on the album is "To Curse the Skies", which many people think could have been on Metallica's Ride the Lighting album.
Simply put, this album is fun to listen to. But I warn you, if you're not an Iced Earth fan, or you want to get into them for the first time....DO NOT get this album. If you really want it, I would recommend getting the Dark Genesis box set with the remastered version...or you should wait until it is available as a single album...but try to listen to their other albums first.