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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…
Often upstaged by the concept album follow-up “Night of the Stormrider”, Iced Earth’s self-titled debut offers the closest thing to a pure thrash album from the Jon Schaeffer arsenal. It still contains plenty of interludes with echoes of Iron Maiden and some off-the-cuff keyboard sounds that give it a slight prog edge (owing perhaps to some small influences from MegaDeth and Testament), but it is mostly a straight forward barrage of gallop riffs and fist pounding aggression.
Gene Adam’s vocals, unlike his replacement John Greely, are closer to the untrained shrill approach to thrash vocals characteristic of Tom Araya and Miland Pretrozza with some undeniable Rob Halford moments thrown in. Although I prefer Greely, I could understand why many might take a liking to Adam more as his presence is the primary thing that tilts this album more towards a pure thrash sound rather than the power/thrash more characteristic of later material. I can’t say for certain if I like him better than Tim Owens as a singer, although this album is definitely better than Iced Earth’s latest efforts, but he definitely is far better than Matt Barlow.
As far as riffs and general ideas go, there are a lot of similarities to “Stormrider”, and I would recommend this as the second album to purchase if you already have that album. There is a slight tinny edge to the guitar production that gives the overall listen a less heavy feel (I have the original version, not the 2002 re-master, which may have fixed this), but the overall energy of the fast sections of all the full length songs on here is quite similar. Randall’s leads are a bit more simplistic and Maiden-like at times, particularly the melodic stuff in the first 3 minutes of “Funeral”, which scream Dave Murray.
The band’s self-titled song kicks the album off with a nice little set of evil harmonized trills, before settling into a nice up tempo groove with Gene shrieking out evil verses. It has all those quirky slow sections with either spoken or low range narratives that are standard to the band’s sound, almost yanking the listener out of any sense of coherence, and then pounding out a wicked gallop riff right at the 3 minute mark. This format is actually something of an arch-type for the whole album, as similarly dramatic changes in feel can be found in everything clocking over 4 minutes.
“Written on the Walls” actually sounds a lot like something that could have been on Overkill’s 1st album. The main theme sounds like the Overkill title song theme but with more variation, while the galloping verses scream “Hammerhead” with apocalyptic verses. The acoustic section at the 3 minute mark is probably the folksiest thing I’ve heard out of Iced Earth; perhaps an early influence on the likes of Agalloch on the slower atmospheric side, or even Ensiferum when they do a slower part of a number. “Colors” also has some similarities with Overkill, although more towards the later “The Years of Decay” sound, in fact Schaeffer’s guitar tone reminds me a lot of Gustafson’s on this album.
“Curse the Sky” is closer to the Testament model, putting a slow section at the beginning with mellow vocals and then ratcheting things up after about a minute and a half, although in comparison to the other stuff on here is the most mid-tempo of the mix. “Life and Death” is in a similar format, but the intro succeeds the best in the serenity department, even despite Gene’s untrained voice. Just before the 2 minute mark, things really take off as a lone synthesized voice drone fades in and out and the distant sound of a church bell accompanies some solid thrash galloping. With the exception of “Angel’s Holocaust” and “Desert Rain” off the Stormrider release, this is the greatest thrash epic the band has put out and takes my pick for the standout track on here.
“Solitude” is basically the first in a long line of acoustic interludes by this outfit, it’s pleasing to the ears and accomplishes it role to segue to the next song well, but it’s basically there and then gone. “Funeral” drops the Testament intro approach and instead starts off with the electric guitars banging out a slower intro and then gradually building up in intensity until yet another brilliant galloping explosion at 1:15. The album’s closer “When the Night Falls” sees the return of the serene atmospheric approach and essentially takes longer to do a slightly less apt job as the album’s standout track “Life and Death”. They went all out on the Iron Maiden influences on this one in the beginning, and then thrash it up almost 2 minutes into the song, unfortunately they throw so much in that it becomes difficult to follow and you end up with the Maiden and Manowar influences beating up against the Overkill and Testament influences for dominance and almost completely escaping the attention spans of their target audience. It’s a solid epic, but definitely out of place on an album like this.
Despite a few minor flaws in production, this trumps everything ever put out with Barlow or Owens at the helm and is highly reminiscent of several Bay Area thrash outfits. If you like a little bit of Maiden to go with your Testament and MegaDeth, you’ll definitely be able to appreciate most of what’s found on here. Ultimately the downfall of Iced Earth’s star in the eyes of the core-metal fan base that often disowns them is that they got in the game about 2 or 3 years later than all the acts that had done this stuff before them and succeeded in outliving a lot of them.
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 album is actually very underrated in my opinion, it's definitely one of the better debut albums I've ever heard.
Already on the debut, Jon Schaffer delivers some fucking intense thrash riffing, he has put his trademark riffs all over the album, creating this a killer thrash album, with a fair amount of riffs on each damn song.
Even the guitar soloing is fairly well executed, something that usually is Iced Earth's weakest part. The drumming on the other hand is quite flat, and pretty much just plods along.
Then we have the vocalist Gene Adam, who appears to be hated by pretty much every metal fan on this planet. Personally, I think he is quite bad, but not all that terrible as some might say he is.
He has to ability to turn almost all his lines into a high-pitched scream (see: title track), fortunately he doesn't constantly use this ability, as this would get somewhat annoying. His clean vocals are fairly poor, but not terrible.
But this album is not only an insane riff-fest. In fact, it's not very insane at all, the pace on most songs is just slightly above midpaced. And the album is given a more interesting side with the great sense of melody added into the mix, creating some eerie atmospheres and adding alot to the songs.
The album never gets boring either, since there are quite many tempo changes and long riff sections keeping the listener constantly interested.
Most of the album is lyrically and musically very dark and evil (though not as dark as Night of the Stormrider or Burnt Offerings). This shows best in the closing track When The Night Falls, and Colors, which has pretty much the same lyrical subject as Iron Maiden's Killers, people who get killed in the subway, only the Iced Earth song is much more evil.
This album contains many classic Iced Earth songs. We have When The Night Falls, a dark, riff-packed song with an epic pre-chorus and chorus.
Then there is Written On The Walls, which also has a quite epic feeling to it, with it's heavy riffing, dark verses, the slow bridge and the great acoustic passage. Not to forget The Funeral, a most excellent instrumental, and of course the title track: Iced Earth, one of my favourite tracks ever by this band.
The riffing of this song is absolutely insane, especially the opening riff is a personal favourite of mine.
Other interesting songs is the slower Curse The Sky, and Life And Death which begins as a great ballad and turns into a riff monster.
Overall, this is no Night Of The Stormrider, but it definitely is a truly strong release, which deserves far more attention than it gets. The riffing on the album is better than on any of the later three Iced Earth albums, and most of it can definitely be compared to Night of the Stormrider and Burnt Offerings.
So, if you can stand Gene Adam's vocals, this is definitely recommended. Actually, if you can't stand Gene, get this anyway if you like thrash metal in any way. This fucking rocks!
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.