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Iced Earth has always been an excruciatingly inconsistent band; in fact, they are even less consistent than Manowar, for whom my distaste is well-known (read my Manowar reviews). But surely such a band must have at least one album which is at least decent overall? Manowar has Hail to England, and Iced Earth, others would have you believe, has Night of the Stormrider. Do not be fooled, though - not only is Night of the Stormrider not a decent album overall, it's also far from the best Iced Earth, as mediocre a band as they are, have to offer. Both the predecessor and the successor of this album, as well as 2001's Horror Show, are significantly better than this (and bear in mind, Burnt Offerings, my favorite album of theirs, has precisely two tracks that I like). This is more or less on par with the band's average release; I'm not that it's Iced Earth worst - the Tim "Ripper" Owens albums and The Crucible of Man do exist, unfortunately, but this is pretty fucking lame. No matter how many times I listen to it, all I can summon afterwards is a big fat "meh." John Schaffer has never been very good at writing riffs, and these are far from his best at that; the near unanimous praise for this album is utterly baffling to me, as even within the band's own discography, without venturing more than one album away, one can find music which is much better than this.
Of course, Burnt Offerings had the excellent Matt Barlow to help it along (though I'd still say the songwriting overall is much better there), so perhaps one-timer John Greely is to blame here? This might be a reasonable hypothesis if I hadn't mentioned that I also prefer the previous album - the band's first full-length, simply called Iced Earth - over this one. The vocalist on that album, if you aren't familiar with it, was Gene Adam, who sounds like a gremlin that's just ingested a bit too much helium and is in the process of taking a very difficult shit. I certainly wouldn't say he's better than Greely, nor would I say that I even like him - what I'm saying is, Iced Earth actually manages to be better than Night of the Stormrider IN SPITE of Adam. The songwriting has variation, it has some degree of adventure, it has more than two riffs. With a better production and a better singer, it might be my favorite Iced Earth album, but that's a bit beside the point. The point is, Greely is definitely not the problem I have with Night of the Stormrider - or rather, I should say, far from the ONLY problem I have with it.
So, what does the album really sound like? The production is decent - a bit thin, but better than it was on the previous album, and hardly much of a complaint. Greely is okay - not great, but not nearly as bad as shitting gremlin Adam. Most of the time he uses a gruff, semimelodic delivery that is something like a cross between a bark and the sort of gritty singing one might expect for power/thrash. He does occasionally use a clean tone, which is pretty good, but the scream-thing he does for most of the album is merely decent. Not bad, not great, just decent. Of course, the underlying problem, as it is with every single Iced Earth album that has ever been released, is Jon fucking Schaffer. The riffs are just repetitive as all hell. At 46 minutes or so, the album's run time isn't really all that long, but if you factor out the two interludes, you have 7 tracks over about 43 minutes - that averages around 6 minutes a track. For some bands, this might not be a bad thing, necessarily; hell, it might work better with some bands that like to write more complex, ambitious pieces. But for Schaffer, it spells doom. He has a tendency to use approximately one riff per song, maybe two if we're feeling lucky, and not only that, but a lot of the riffs in entirely different tracks are incredibly similar. If they were great riffs, I might excuse this as decent or at least somewhat more impressive mediocrity, but they're not. Oh, I'm not saying the entire album is shit all the way through - there are some cool parts, especially among the earlier tracks, but never for more than a minute or so, and they're mired within utter mediocrity and lifelessness over the other 5 minutes of the track. Later tracks, like "Desert Rain," are about 95% plodding, pointless shit that has the same riff for 6 minutes with Greely's take-it-or-leave-it bark over it, with almost no variation. Sticking with "Desert Rain" for a moment - we see yet another problem - there's a decently cool solo towards the middle of the song, but it sounds so similar to at least one solo, if not more than one, from earlier in the album, that the redemption it could have provided the track is lost. Fuck's sake, Schaffer, "reduce, reuse, recycle" applies to the environment, not to fucking thrash metal!
I've heard complaints over the repetition in the album closer of Burnt Offerings and one of the band's more famous songs, the 16+ minute "Dante's Inferno." Those complaints do have some validity, but not from those who praise this album. First off, given the relative lengths between this album and that song, I think it actually has more variation overall, and certainly not any less. It also has better riffs overall (yeah, that main aggressive riff is actually pretty close to some that are used in Stormrider, but it's used in much better context on "Dante's Inferno") and we have the added benefit of cool synths, cool lyrics, and Matt Barlow, not to mention more unique solos than Stormrider has throughout its entire duration. Additionally, that song builds up, telling the story of the descent through the nine planes of hell, whereas Stormrider, regardless of whether it was meant to be a concept album (I'm not entirely sure) has no sense of progression or buildup whatsoever, not only throughout the album but not within individual songs, either. The better songs feel like random parts scrapped together, as though Schaffer had Generic Section A, Generic Section B, Generic Section C, and Generic Section D in a pile and just ordered them at random to produce the songs. The worse songs sound like Generic Section A droning on and on until you want to chuck your iPod into the nearest river (or whatever device you happen to be listening to the album upon).
Let's go back to that mention of "Dante's Inferno." Stormrider does have an "album epic" in "Travel in Stygian," and, being Schaffer, the opening acoustic melody is almost identical to that in "Dante's Inferno" (though again I'd say the latter provides a better context for it). We then get a really lame riff that sounds almost like four other riffs we've heard already over the course of the album, followed by another one that could be described in exactly the same way. Greely seems to be in pretty good form here, at least - either that or his vocals just work very well with these vocal lines, but he briefly rises above "decent" and becomes "pretty good," but that doesn't change the fact that feels like maybe the worst track. I don't think it's objectively the worst track - I did say "feels like" - but we've heard every riff, melody, chord, bark, and shriek so many times at this point that I just want to bang my head against the wall at hearing it, assuming I've listened to the rest of the album beforehand. In fact it's really "Dante's Inferno" v. 1.0, but it's worse, it's in a worse album, and it has a worse singer. I just can't get excited about any part of it at all (well okay, that fast solo in the middle is cool, but it's way too short), which is a fair way to sum up the album. This album sucks. I'm going to go do something more enjoyable, like lick paint off the wall, and I advise all of you to do the same, I will never understand why so many give it praise when it is ultimately one of Schaffer's worse albums and one that showcases the fundamental problems in his songwriting perfectly.
Iced Earth like their heroes grey and tragic. It's fine and dandy to sing about righteous heroes (see: European power metal) or malevolent forces (see: thrash, heavy, doom, black, death etc. etc.) but there's added dramatic weight to be found in a character that draws aspects of both. After all-- is anyone in this world of ours purely good, or purely evil?
Such is the curse of the Stormrider; he is evil enough to have fallen from grace in the first place, but retains enough good in him to ultimately lament his descent. While it wouldn't be the last time Iced Earth told the story of a man caught between heaven and hell, Night of the Stormrider was their first attempt at bringing a conceptual angle to their chugging power-thrash. Depending on who you ask, it's also their first 'classic'. Having done away with the paper-thin vocals of Gene Adam and replaced him with the considerably more capable John Greely, Night of the Stormrider feels like a more professional, well-rounded product than its self-titled predecessor. Even so; their slicker execution feels less impressive in light of the album lacking the strong riffs and songwriting of the debut.
Though it's virtually undeniable that Night of the Stormrider marked a long step forward on the surface, I can't help but feel that Iced Earth's second album was a less musically ambitious than the criminally underrated Iced Earth debut from the year before. Granted; criticism of Gene Adam's vocal performance on that album isn't unfounded, but the album was jam-packed with interesting riffs and unpredictable song structures, the likes of which I don't think have been approximated on an Iced Earth record since. Where the debut ran the gamut from prog-thrash to eerie ballads and heavy metal anthemry, Night of the Stormrider sounds like it was penned with a single mindset and approach in mind.
Fortunately for us, that 'approach' is plenty worthwhile. Arguably closer to the aggressive edge of thrash than any power metal incarnation, Night of the Stormrider is fast and rhythmic. Though the moderate success they'd had with their acoustic interludes circa Iced Earth have been carried over to this one in part, the vast majority of the album can be summed up with the assault of their rhythm section. I don't think I've ever been able to bring up Jon Schaffer in conversation without cracking some line about his undying love for triplets (I'd fathom he loves triplets even more than he loves America!) and while his particular focus on the 'chugga-chug-chugga-chug-chugga' riffs here run the risk of blurring together, Iced Earth are undeniably sharp operators when it comes to carving out rhythms. I get the impression that, on the debut, Schaffer discovered how potentially useful these fast chugs could be; songs like "Angel's Holocaust" and "Stormrider" are full proof of this, but it's a shame that he otherwise wore out its welcome.
Although Schaffer's particular inclinations have had the strongest influence on this and other Iced Earth creations, I'm actually more impressed with the leads of Randy Shawver here. Although there's not nearly as much emphasis on proper solos as there would be in traditional thrash, Night of the Stormrider throws the occasional spotlight Randy's way, and he makes the absolute best of it. More often than not, his leads are more eerie than they are technical, and it perfectly suits the album's concept and atmosphere.
There is less to be said about John Greely's vocals than there were about Gene Adam's performance on the debut, if only because his vocals lack the same dubious quality. Greely essentially strikes me as a less versatile mirror of their future frontman Matt Barlow. His confident wails are a powerful contrast from the somewhat effective Adam, although with such an emphasis on the thrash-standard, tough guy semi-shout, Greely's vocals would be much more easily lost in the crowd than Adam. Say what you will about Iced Earth's first vocalist; he left an impression that was all his own. John Greely was a more potentially capable frontman, but no one would be complaining when Matt Barlow came to take his place with Burnt Offerings.
Night of the Stormrider is powerful in what it does, but it does do is rather limited in scope. "Angel's Holocaust", "Travel in Stygian", and the Judas Priest-reminiscent title track all stand out, but the album tends to leave less of an impression on me than a lot of Iced Earth's other classics. Night of the Stormrider does see the band's rhythm section coming full force, and the however temporary change of lineup was propitious, but the album isn't quite as impressive as its predecessor or follow-up.
Many people tend to talk about the Night of the Stormrider as a masterpiece, a unique classic in Iced Earth's discography. Well, when you listen to songs like Travel in Stygian or Angel's Holocaust, you definitely believe that the rest of this album has to be as awesome, dramatic and entirely METAL as these two.
After reading some of the reviews here and buying the album, I expected not only a good, but a great album. Sadly, I was disappointed heavily. Yes, the mentioned songs, accompanied by the galloping madness of Stormrider and the diversity of The Path I Choose, are outstanding pieces of music. Schaffer's playing ranges between fast and slow, dissonant, evil riffing and beautiful melodies. You can really feel the dark and apocalyptic atmosphere the Stormrider travels through. You can feel his pain, his anger, his desperation. And Travel in Stygian, one of the mightiest and most evil songs ever, really paints the picture of a lonely pilgrim that travels into the otherworldly, burning lands behind the river Styx. John Greely's vocals are also pretty good and even reminds me of Stu Block in a way. He pulls off some very wicked high screams and his mid-range is astonishingly profound in some verses. If the album consisted of only these songs, it would deserve a rating of at least 95%. What I did not expect were the many fillers on The Night of the Stormrider.
Mystical End is just forgettable waves of sound. Don't get me wrong, it's not that this song is all too calm. In fact, I like ballads if they are good, but Mystical End is giving me nothing but melodies that I can't remember and if I do, they are really annoying. There is no good riffing at all, the vocals are strange and the whole song seems to consist of parts that do not fit together.
Desert Rain could have been so much more. The intro is one of my favourite parts of this album: solemn, beautiful, and deeply melancholic, but after Schaffer pulls of a great variation of the intro, the quality just drops. The verses consist of weird riffing and boring vocals. Only the chorus saves the song from being a huge disappointment. While not being exceedingly great, it is at least decent.
Pure Evil is also wasted amount of time for most of its length. Schaffer even manages to rip off his own songs on one single album - the verses of Pure Evil sound as if Schaffer decided to take a superb riff from Travel in Stygian and just made the vocals worse in order to not to let it sound like a total clone. The chorus, while featuring some girly screams of John Greely, has underlying dissonant, dark, and devastating riffing. That's the best thing to say about Pure Evil.
Nevertheless, the Night of the Stormrider is a good addition to anyone's discography. Don't expect a masterpiece, that is something Schaffer can't afford. Every album of his has got its fillers and boring parts. That's my personal problem with him: while I really LOVE single songs by him, I cannot truely love his albums. But if you like moody, dark, and complex metal with some surprisingly good lyrics, go buy this album since the half of the album is very great.
Jon Schaffer, you talentless bastard. What a way to start off a review, but he is, there's no denying that. Iced Earth could have been a fantastic band if Schaffer would get his head out of his ass and make some competent riffs and better songwriting(nothing to do with his personality people, I'm all for AMERICA FUCK YEAH). I could forgive him for "The Glorious Burden" solely for the fact that Tim Owens sang, but other than that, the last 3 albums have been mediocre. It's a good thing their newest album "Dystopia" brought them to their former glor.....no, actually, it didn't, it was a step up from the shitfest I call "The Crucible Of Man." Ahem, I do enjoy Iced Earth. Their s/t album was fantastic, I loved Gene Adam's vocals(yes, I am telling the truth), and of course, Matt Barlow is one of my favorite vocalists. So what of the "Night Of The Stormrider?" Well, it can cause anal bleeding that's for sure. The good kind.
For this album, we have Jon Greely, who was fired for stealing cash from the bassist, and apparently, for insulting a Jewish man praying during a concert. Why, in all of God's shining glory, would you pray during a metal concert? Who knows, but Greely's voice is 2x better than Adam's. He's able to pull of banshee shrieks and low growls that send shivers down my spine. He does this extremely well in "The Path I Choose," a song that rips with Schaffers trademark CHUG CHUG CHUG, and then out of nowhere, "During the last rays of....THE SACRED MAAAWWN" That's how he pronounces moon apparently. Randy Shawver is a very talented guitarist, hitting the solos beautifully, especially on "Mystical End," where he and Schaffer are able to spit out some Maiden style riffs and with a touch of the Middle East. Dave Abell get's the job done on bass, and Secchiari is a competent drummer, infusing the double bass during the masterpiece that is "Travel In Stygian."
We also have some other exceptional tracks, my favorite being "Pure Evil." I cannot tell you how many years that opening riff has been in my head, and when they played this song live during the House Of Blues concert, gdgsfgfgs, orgasm. This could've been a higher score, but I felt "Angels Holocaust" was much better with Matt Barlow on the mic. So basically, this, Burnt Offerings, Horror Show, the S/T album, and the Dark Saga are the only albums worth getting. Sure, get Something Wicked This Way Comes, it's a fun album I guess, but stick to the classics, unless you like hearing recycled riffs being used over and OVER again. Schaffer. Stop it.
Iced Earth has always been a band that's done their own thing, from the time of the self-titled release to now. They started as a progressive heavy/power/thrash metal band with their first 3 albums and then went into a more simplified, yet very crushing direction. This particular album was released in 1991, in a time where thrash metal was slowly disappearing and death metal was on the rise. Iced Earth has done something on Night of the Stormrider that contradicted everything that was going on at this time in history. This album still stands as a unique release in heavy metal and nothing has ever come before or after it that resembles it.
Let me first explain what makes Night of the Stormrider what it is. It is a concept album and is there second album. It contains 9 tracks that all flow into one big dark story line filled with sorrow, death, and destruction! The vibe of this album is perfect in the terms of it's production and song arrangement! This album also has "epic" written all over it with apocalyptic-sounding choirs and mystical acoustic passages that are close to the 1 minute mark. There are riffs upon riffs upon riffs on this album, an obvious indication where Jon Schaffer had received his title as "Riff Lord". Coming from a guitarist like myself, Jon's riffs are certainly some of the tightest and most difficult in the genre! Between the vast amounts of galloping at VERY FAST speeds is enough to feel the burn in anyone's wrist, and it never seems to let up! Listen to songs like Stormrider, Pure Evil, and Travel in Stygian and you'll see what I mean! The riffs are by far the most dominant quality of the album. The vocals are very Rob Halford-like and a major step up from the previous singer Gene Adams. The singer on this album is John Greely and like Adams, only appeared on one album. He has more variety in his style than Adams but not quite as much as Matt Barlow who began singing on their next album, Burnt Offerings. Another standout quality about this album is the lead guitarist Randy Shawver who I think is incredibly underrated! He has a style of his own and always has the perfect way to tell the albums story through his dark melodies! He, with the genius ideas of Jon Schaffer, is one of the reasons that made early Iced Earth as magical as it was!
Now I must first explain something else to everyone. Some people are under the impression that this is suppose to be a "thrash" metal album... Well don't look for something that sounds like Exodus or Forbidden, because you'll be vastly disappointed! Though the picking is very fast, usually in a galloping fashion, their really aren't mass amounts of speed picking or "thrashy" drum beats. Not that there aren't any at all, but they are very spread out through the album. This album isn't written to be brutal or fast, it has a story to convey and the parts are only written to fit it! It is almost impossible to compare this to anything else that's out there, there is no definite way to classify it. it is what it is, and it's Iced Earth at it's best!
It's time to talk about the songs. There are, and I REPEAT, are no weak points to this album! Every song maintains a certain quality that never tends to fall short of the bar Jon has set for it. You can hear how well each composition was thought out carefully with every lyric and riff constructed perfectly to move the album forward. You can feel the Stormrider's rage from the beginning Angels Holocaust all the way to Pure Evil, and then you feel the horror he feels as he regretfully accepts his fate in Hell on Travel in Stygian. You even get to hear as the demons speak to him as they claim his soul for all of eternity, and then closes with a beautiful piano piece.
My final word is that this album is without a doubt a true American metal classic! it doesn't flow with the times or with anything for that matter. Iced Earth sounds like Iced Earth and you'd be doing yourself a great favor by adding it to your collection! I highly recommend though that you purchase the ORIGINAL print of this album. I feel the remastered version has too many unnecessary changes like sucking out the reverb and cutting out little pieces from the mix. After all, I personally think the original cover art is better anyway! All in all, this is Iced Earth's best work and every song being a highlight!
After quite a weak debut in the music industry one could not keep high expectations for this release. But the fact that there were line-up changes in the band (both the vocalist and drummer were changed for this album) did actually give some hope for the continuously fading fan base of this band. So, how does the band answer its critics and fans? They simply come up with what in my eyes is the ultimate concept album to date in the power metal genre.
“Night Of The Stormrider” is Iced Earth’s second full-length studio album and now in 2008, even after 18 more years and 8 more releases, this in my opinion the band’s magnum opus. The main reason behind this is the inclusion of new singer John Greely’s whose amazing range and Halford like operatic vocals took the band to a whole new level. Which track describes which part of the story I will mention later.
This release is a concept album, which consists of 9 tracks with the track length varying between just over a minute to almost ten minutes, but such variation is expected in almost every concept album. The story portrayed in this album is a sad yet horrific one, which describes a man who is filled with rage after being betrayed by religion. The evil in the world use him as the medium to spread destruction and chaos through out the world and is commanded by them to travel through a desert where he sees such visions that he actually becomes the “Stormrider”.
The first and foremost track on this album is “Angel’s Holocaust” depict an image of the protagonist of this tale where he has just been betrayed and the forces of evil beckon to him. The next track (Stormrider) describes the fact that he is traveling through the desert on the command of the forces he now believes in. Tracks like, “The Path That I Chose” and “Mystical End” just send the message to the listener that the protagonist here is simply losing his feeling and feels no remorse for what he is doing. 3 tracks here (Desert Rain, Pure Evil and Reaching The End) are the climax of this epic tale. These tracks depict an image, which shows the listener that the man has now lost all his feelings and is literally possessed by the evil forces. So unfeeling he has become that he calmly accepts the fact that he has been sent to hell and is on the way to River Styx, and this is the interpretation of the lyrics of the track (Travel In Stygian) that ends this heart-rending saga, that ends this album.
Owing to the popularity of thrash back in the 80’s and early 90’s this album, which was released in 1991, unsurprisingly had a very thrashy sound just like it’s previous self-titled release. Owing to the influences of speed metal and the fantasy and mythological themes the band even slightly tilted towards power metal. This album along with these power and thrash style of music combine elements of the NWOBHM, heavy metal and of course operatic metal. Moreover this album has the aggressive and straightforward feel to it mainly because of Schaffer’s signature galloping riffing, which he uses prominently through out this album.
What is really amazing about this album is that there are no tracks, which are even remotely weak. Yes, there are moments on this album, which are better than the others but each and every track ahs a few moments of brilliance that makes it impossible for an individual to ignore even a single track completely. Here let me give you some examples of tracks, which I picked just randomly: -
Angel’s Holocaust – The orchestration-drum-guitar intro, backed by operatic vocals, makes for an extremely heavy intro and is just another example of Jon Schaffer’s creative genius. It is one of metal’s greatest intros to a track and till date remains one of my favorite intro’s to a particular track.
Pure Evil – Every single time Greely goes “Puuuuuuuuuuuuure Eeeeeeeevil” is just spine chilling and amazing to say the least. This is a perfect example of making most of operatic vocals.
Overall this album has an amazing concept with even better song writing and wonderful use of backing vocals and instruments like the piano which complete what is in my opinion the ultimate concept album of all times. I, even hours of thought could not think of anyway to better this album because the vocals and guitar playing seem to be tailor made for this sort of an album. A brilliant album to start of with if you is new to this band. Extremely highly recommended, as this album deserves nothing less than a perfect score.
US power metal isn't exactly a well-known genre, even among certain types of metalheads. Sitting on the fence between heavy metal and thrash metal, the scene never quite gained the respect it deserved from either of the two scenes it spawned from, not as accessible as heavy nor as straightforwardly punishing as thrash, and the by the early '90s, US power metal was besieged on all sides by the movement of thrash away from melody towards death, groove, and (later, at least in the US) black metal; the rise of European power metal, linked to the US subgenre in name only; and the grunge holocaust. What a strange time, then, for the Floridian band Iced Earth, to release a traditional USPM album like Night of the Stormrider, and what a surprise for it to be one of the genre's greatest classics.
While many of their contemporaries were stripping their sound back, trying to sound more "honest" (minimalistic) in the wake of alternative's backlash against anything that could possibly be seen as pretentious, Iced Earth took the opposite path, infusing Night of the Stormrider with that elusive sense of grandeur and overwhelming hugeness, that when properly executed, can only be described as "epic". The beginning of opener "Angels' Holocaust" is the most obvious example, with choirs and brass stacked atop a monster riff in one of the most distinctive (not to mention bombastic) introductions to an album in metal history.
Night of the Stormrider is a concept album, with a story about some man who is betrayed by religion and turned by dark forces into something called a "Stormrider" to destroy the world, but the lyrics are pretty forgettable and the music stands alone whether you know them or not. Except for two very brief acoustic interludes, there are no passages that do nothing but "tell the story", nor are there any intrusive fluff bits like spoken word samples or sound effects. Each song has its own identity and is strong in its own right, even when separated from the others. This album is first and foremost about the music, not window dressing.
The production (at least on my remastered copy), is just about perfect. The guitar tone is strong and gritty, but sharp and agile, with quick attack and decay, and a pleasing, thrashy scooped-midrange sound (remember kids, more distortion is not always better!). The drums are well-controlled and well-recorded. The snare hits hard, the cymbals ring out, and the bass drum sounds like a bass drum, not a plastic bucket or a loud clicking noise. Keyboards are used only when needed, and not in excess, as befits a guitar-driven album. The bass is often missing in action, but Dave Abell is not a very interesting bassist anyway.
The real highlight of this album are the riffs. Unlike Iced Earth's recent offerings, Night of the Stormrider is filled to bursting with catchy, thrashy, timeless riffs courtesy of Jon Schaffer, ranging from majestic midpaced gallopers to furious skull-splitters (the main riff of "Stormrider" is absolutely ruthless), and all of them are good. Lead guitarist Randall Shawver is adequate but not exceptional, while drummer Brent Smedley does an excellent job behind the kit. The weak link in this lineup is John Greely, who wants to be a Halford clone but can't really hack it. His mid-ranged vocals are often awkward with some strange enunciation and obnoxiously prominent terminal Rs (most American singers drop terminal Rs for a reason--they sound really dumb when sung), and his falsetto shrieks are thin and weak. Sometimes his renditions of songs are preferable to performances by his successor Matt Barlow by virtue of lacking Barlow's over-emoting (Barlow is quite possibly the biggest ham in metal), but he's just barely adequate.
Opener "Angels' Holocaust" deserves its classic status in the Iced Earth catalog, with an unforgettable symphonic opening dovetailing into an acoustic section that builds up to lead into a riff massacre. Jon Schaffer is on fire, pumping out beastly thrash riffs that thunder out of the speakers and go right for your throat, Smedley keeping pace, deftly and seamlessly switching between normal beats and double bass to suit the rhythm of the riffs. John Greely actually gets the Halford scream right a couple of times, and the occasional interjection of keyboards gives it that epic flair.
After that warmup, you're treated to the relentless, monumental RIFF MONSTER known as "Stormrider".The intro is kind of bleh, with tinkling acoustic guitars and Greely at his dorkiest. Suddenly a jarring power chord and double bass roll roar like thunder, as if to announce that Iced Earth are about to go into Heavy Fucking Metal Take No Prisoners mode, and the riff to end all riffs rips forth. It descends like a storm of sawblades, harsh and jagged, so malevolent as to be downright brutal, pure malice tranformed into music. Schaffer himself takes the mic, and his grunts are threatening enough to work and kept back in the mix to not overhsadow the guitars, and there's a nice yell-along chorus of "Grab on! Ride on! Stormrider! Stormrider!" that must be a highlight at live shows. The following riffs are equally boot-to-ass, running over you like an out-of-control train and pounding your brain into paste, and the sick, mocking parody of an Iron Maiden guitar harmony is delightfully evil sounding. This is power metal with POWER--Helloween and Stratovarius are cowering in the corner somewhere, wetting their leather pants and praying to the unicorn fairy queen that they may be one day be this bad-ass.
"Desert Rain" is nominally the "accessible" track (a video was made for it, but no single), although it doesn't sound like it was stolen from the rejects pile of a hair band like Toxik's "Pain and Misery". The riffs are catchier and more Metallica-like than usual, although not repetitive, and Greely and Schaffer do a bit of call-and-response, but their voices aren't different enough for this to work as well as it did in the Barlow era (compare to "Burnt Offerings"). The song has a sort of Middle-Eastern feel, with an odd mode being used for the massive, catchy, almost Euro-power fanfare chorus (thankfully with a decent riff and without Euro-power double pedal masturbation). Dave Abell wakes up for the quiet bit in the bridge, playing a few nice licks before disappearing beneath the riffs again. The chorus is repeated some more in the fadeout if it didn't stick the first time.
The final highlight is "Travel in Stygian" (because no album with epic pretensions can go without a really long closer), which lasts over nine minutes and doesn't waste a moment. Schaffer goes riff crazy, blasting riffs one after the other (fifteen unique riffs in total), and your head will bang, or your foot will tap, but you will somehow move in concert to these colossal, pummeling barrages of chords--they're just unstoppable. Here the aggression of thrash, the melodiousness of traditional metal, and a dash of prog combine in perfect synchronicity, as the song snakes through numerous changes in tempo and intensity, The guitar playing is not only aggressive but extremely complex, Schaffer blazing through runs of several chords like notes in a guitar solo and playing convoluted triplet-based rhythms at almost inhuman speed. The drumming is spot-on, never too intense or too slack for any given moment. Several minutes of instrumental acrobatics feel like only one or two, as most of it is spent on exploring crazy rhythms and tempo changes rather than noodly solos. Keyboards chime in for the chorus with a tasteful ambience that frames the riffs rather than overpowering them, until a piano takes over with a sorrowful passage that concludes the song and the album. Sprawling, awe-inspiring, and virtually flawless, "Travel in Stygian" is definitely one of the best metal songs ever written.
There are a couple of lesser cuts, like "Mystical End", whose upbeat, almost joyous feel is out of character for the album, and where John Greely sounds like a teenage boy, singing through his nose, dragging out those Rs, and yelling "EVERYONE'S IN GRAVE DANGER" in such a ridiculous manner as to invite giggling. It's not bad, just not as good as the rest, much like "The Path I Choose", which is almost 6 minutes of generic triplet doldrums of the kind which Jon Schaffer would become infamous for in the second half of the '90s and beyond. "Pure Evil" would have been great if not for "Travel in Stygian", because it basically sounds like "Travel in Stygian Lite", with many riffs that are suspiciously similar to riffs from its bigger brother. The acoustic segues "Before the Vision" and "Reaching the End" are extremely short and pretty much disposable.
Being both epic and viciously heavy can be a careful balancing act, and Iced Earth walk the tightrope perfectly. Every progressive, power, or traditional metal band should listen to this album, for a reminder of how to kick ass and take names, and every thrash revivalist band should also take note, to avoid the one-trick pony "fast riff and another fast riif and another fast riff" school of songwriting that seems to be dooming the genre to just regurgitate old Slayer riffs until everyone loses interest. Despite all the things Iced Earth has done wrong in later years (and there are many), this album stands as a true classic--powerful, grandiose, versatile, and focused.
I would recommend Night of the Stormrider to just about any metal fan. It has the right combination of all the things that make good metal, and very little filler. All meat, no gristle. Buy it right now.
Night of the Stormrider is Iced Earth’s second full-length album. Night of the Stormrider is the only album featuring lead singer John Greely (who was later fired) and drummer Rick Secchiari. This album is the band’s magnum opus in my opinion. Why? Allow me to explain.
” Iced Earth’s second effort is a concept album with a mystical, horrific story line. It traces the path of a man who is betrayed by religion and turns away from it in anger. The dark forces of nature reach out to this enraged man and use him as their vessel to bring death and destruction to Earth. Through it all, he feels no remorse for his deeds, and upon reaching the end, numbly accepts his fate of eternity in Hell. Musically, the band picked up a new singer and drummer for this album. The singing is a definite improvement from the debut, ranging from a powerful growl to a Halford-like scream. Such skill is necessary to portray the wide range of feeling on this album. There’s quite a bit of background keys on this disc, some choral moaning, and a memorable piano outro, which all add to the dark mood. There are also several excellent acoustic passages seamlessly interwoven with the driving guitar riffs. The music meshes perfectly with the story, magnifying the hatred, manic joy, confusion, and sadness present in the lyrics. After listening to this musical masterpiece, one cannot help but to feel some of the sadness and guilt that the Stormrider was unable to feel for himself. ” This bit is taken from the Iced Earth site, well, that’s interesting, this thing pretty much sums up my thoughts about this album, but I won’t be lazy, and review this album.
The album starts with a instant Iced Earth classic ( hell, each song on this album is a classic ). The holy choirs and Schaffer’s guitar form the beginning of this epic album. This song sets a dark theme and it’s kept up throughout the entire album. After 1 minute, everything slows down, and it’s just an acoustic guitar playing. Then, we are introduced to vocalist John Greely. After 30+/- seconds a agressive Schaffer riff enters the scene and the song speeds up, only to slow down afterwards. This song is pretty catchy and we get a fantastic guitar solo after the ” Only time will tell my true destiny. ” part.
Next we have another classic track, Stormrider. This song starts with a acoustic section and after 54 seconds, the mood of the song changes drasticly and the song gets really thrashy, while Jon Schaffer enters the scene singing. From this point on, the entire song is sung by Schaffer, and he does a damn good job. His vocals are agressive and are perfect for this thrashy song. This song is filled with awesome riffing and another fantastic guitar solo. Woa, we get some insane riffing with the next song, The Path I Choose. As mentioned, the song starts with some fast riffing by Schaffer. This song has a melodic section later on and then powers off again with some very cool riffs and a guitar solo. The vocals and riffing really stand out in this song ( Matt’s performance of this song at Alive In Athens is even better though ) and this is one of the heaviest songs of the album and ends with a nice scream.
Next we have Before the Vision, this song is a short 1:20 acoustic song. This melodic interlude is perfect after those three thrashy songs prior to this. Mystical End follows this acoustic track and starts very fast. Greely has some great vocal lines here, it has a killer bass section as well, and the guitars are amazing in this track. It’s a real shame they never play this live ( I read in a interview that they played every Stormrider track back in the day, except for this one, which is a real shame ) because I really like it. A cool melodic opening introduces Desert Rain and then we get riff upon riff. Schaffer sings the verses along with Greely in a call-and-answer style, which is very nice. Desert Rain has an irresistible chorus, it’s extremely tempting to sing along, making this song very catchy. This song isn’t that much of a thrasher when compared to Stormrider or The Path I Choose, but still very good, mainly because of that amazing chorus ( and that great Shawver solo ).
Pure Evil, the next track, is one of the absolute classics of Iced Earth’s catalogue. This song is one of Iced Earth’s most brutal, and as mentioned earlier, one of their best songs. The song starts with a cool intro, but the agressive riff kicks in at 0.28, and it will kick you right in your face. Greely sings very agressive in this song and the chorus is awesome ( Puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure Evil!!! ). Greely showcases his vocal range in this track with some high melodic singing. This song delivers rapid fire thrash riffs and a lot of time changes. This song is a solid thrasher and has another incredible guitar solo by Shawver. This song will keep you headbanging untill the end.
Reaching The End follows this brutal thrasher and is similar to Before The Vision. You will feel something bad ( which is obviously good for the listener ) is bound to happen when this song ends. Travel in Stygian is the final song of this album, and is the longest song of the album, and the best. This song starts very thrashy ( surprising eh? ) and Greely starts singing after a minute and he sounds plain demonic. Greely delivers his best vocal performace in this song, and so does Schaffer with evil background vocals and galloping riffs. The drums make a superb marching-like tune at around 5.30 and we get a fantastic Greely scream afterwards ( Once again, Matt’s scream is superiour to this one, listen to it on Alive in Athens ). After the scream the riffing continues and the song gets even more agressive and faster. Greely delivers more amazing lines ( The River Styx has called for MEEEEEEEEE!! ) and another ripping passage starts before the last chorus. An enchanting, beautiful piano passage starts after the final chorus, ending this song, and the album in a beautiful and perfect way.
Conclusion - Like I said in the very beginning of this review, Night Of The Stormrider is the best damn album Iced Earth every delivered ( they will never top this album, they came close with Burnt Offerings though ). The only Iced Earth record that comes close to this epic album js Burnt Offerings, all the other Iced Earth albums are average at best when compared to this ( except for Burnt Offerings ). This is must own for Iced Earth fans and metal fans in general. The riffs will rip you to shreds and the vocals and solos will leave you amazed.
Rating – 94/100
Review written by me for my metal site, Metal Mania Online
Metal and the concept album format have shared a rather interesting history, delving into a wide variety of subjects from the supernatural, the political, and the science fictional. Probably the oldest and most utilized theme in the metal concept arsenal is the darkness versus light, good against evil, God against Satan story. This form of storytelling goes all the way back to the age old battle between Horace and Set (after the latter had been demonized by Lower Egypt into an evil deity due to political turmoil) and further still likely into pre-history as tribal man took note of the seeming conflict between the night and day in the heavens.
Iced Earth’s magnum opus “Night of the Stormrider” brings about such scholarly thought of various historical myths on a lyrical level because it avoids the cliché of merely focusing on Christianity against Paganism and instead provides a general struggle between 2 forces that are both natural and mystical. You could insert a struggle between Zoroastrian polytheists and Muhammad’s armies or an unknown alliance of nomadic Mexican Indian tribes against the Aztec Empire and the lyrics would still fit perfectly. The story’s principle character tells of his encounters with the dark forces through a unique hybrid of a 1st person and omniscient perspective, further perpetuating the mystical side of the tale.
The style of the music that accompanies this epic tale is a very unique blend of riff driven thrash metal, classic Iron Maiden melodies, orchestral textures, and acoustic passages loosely resembling Blind Guardian’s handiwork circa 1986. Jon Schaeffer showcases a barrage of mad-paced gallop riffs that makes Metallica’s “Motorbreath” sound like classic rock and occasionally shows the same ingenuity and intricacy of MegaDeth’s mid-80s material. Randall Shawver is an apt lead player, equally as capable as most thrash soloists, yet knowing the value of playing a melody once in a while rather than shredding up the pentatonic scale for the entire duration like Kirk Hammet often did when he actually played.
The vocal work put forth by John Greely is undeniably 80s power metal in its approach, conjuring up similarities to Rob Halford, James Rivera, and occasionally Eric Adams. His versatility as a singer is notable as most thrash singers are prone to bark a near monotone melody during the verses with the occasional high wail while not being able to really pull off an actual sung melody very well. Notable sections where Greely accomplishes some really catchy melodic hooks include the chorus of “Desert Rain” and at several points in the album’s lengthy closer “Travel to Stygian”.
There really isn’t any way to pick a favorite out of these songs as they all serve the perfect flow of the whole album while shinning in their own unique way. “Angels Holocaust” and “Desert Rain” are probably the easiest to recall after first listen due to heavy emphasis on a chief melodic idea. “Stormrider”, “The Path I Choose” and “Pure Evil” are loaded with rapid fire thrash riffs and aggression, which will sit well with traditional thrash fans that unfortunately had to see their favorite metal genre systematically raped by many of its own champions the same year this came out.
This is a work that genuinely defies conventional labels and successfully walks a line between being stylistically eclectic and musically consistent. Any fan of any sub-genre of metal should be able to appreciate the quality of the music on here. This is a different Iced Earth than the one that most came to know when their star rose in the later 1990s. It carries all the greatness of the old guard in the US power/thrash scene and, unlike what many people say about the band’s material of toady, is an album that makes you think.
This is the first Iced Earth album I’d ever heard, and it certainly aims to please. Whether it’s a full-blown, high-speed riff assault, one of the melodic, acoustic breaks, or some area in between, this album shows no signs of weakness, not even repetitiveness.
The lyrics on this album are one of its highlights. Every song is linked together to tell a story, essential classifying Night of the Stormrider as a concept album. The tale itself is a dark journey, with a ton of memorable lines, well delivered by new vocalist John Greely. His range is a lot broader than his successor Matt Barlow and he isn’t afraid to let loose with a hellish scream every now and then. I still prefer Gene Adam as an Iced Earth vocalist, but Greely does an excellent job here.
The other primary selling point for this album is the superb riffing from beginning to end. Expanding upon the riff ideas from their debut, NotS features complex and epic guitar work. The rhythm guitar is fresh and driving, while the leads are unique and very fitting. Everything is a lot darker and more menacing on this album. Clean riffs are more frequent and the transitions between the heavy and clean riffs are smooth and natural. The band has not only gotten better at songwriting and technique, but they’ve become more progressive in organization. Some of the album’s best moments are in its unexpected tempo changes, due in part to some cool drumming. Unfortunately the drums are also the album’s weakest aspect. The drumming is good no doubt, but the way they were recorded makes a lot of the thrashier sections of songs sound somewhat empty, like the drumming isn’t complex enough in those sections. It’s the only problem I’ve found and it’s a minor complaint on an otherwise exceptional release.
Also notable is the album’s piano outro after the highlight track “Travel in Stygian.” It’s another great example of the band’s increasing progressiveness as well as their skill in maintaining the mood of the album.
This is undoubtedly one of Iced Earth’s best releases, right up with their follow-up to this, Burnt Offerings, and their debut. It’s powerful, thrashy, epic, dark, and sometimes delightfully melodic and it’s a difficult album to find fault in.
Highlight Songs: all of them
Night of the Stormrider is a good album from beginning to end, starting out slow and melodic, then going to a more thrash type style, then ending out with what I consider Iced Earth's second best song, not far behind my first, Dante's Inferno.
The first two songs start you out in the mood...you can tell it's going to be an epic album. The opera-like beginning in Angel's Holocaust sets a dark theme, and it's kept up throughout the entire album. The lyrics really set you up for what's to come, very dark and after the intro, very heavy. Then there's Night of the Stormrider. While not quite as heavy as the others, it's still important to the storyline, and the lyrics are the beginning of the story, so very important.
The first two, though heavy, are mild compared to The Path That I Choose. Following up two more melodic songs by a dark, fast song I feel was a very good choice. The Path That I Choose is a kick in the face when you listen to it first, and a very strong kick at that. Again, it continues the storyline of the Stormrider, talking about how all that he did was his choice. Nice, fast riff to go along with the dark theme.
Before the Vision, Mystical End, and Desert Rain create a more melodic tune in between the two very brutal songs on this CD, The Path That I Choose and Pure Evil. Greely pulls out some nice, high melodic vocals for these, especially in Mystical End. Mystical End even gives the story line from a different point of view, talking about the doomsday falling upon the land. Then Desert Rain begins to get more brutal, and the lyrics are especially well-written in this one.
Pure Evil. The song of when the Apocalypse finally comes. When I first heard this, I had to check outside to make sure if the Apocalypse actually WASN'T going on. I love this song, one of Iced Earth's most brutal, something that can almost compete with death metal lyrics. Epic and extremely dark, we have almost reached the end, though it's not quite here...
Reaching the End, and finally, we get to Travel in Stygian. One of my favorite songs of all time, excellent lyrics with excellent guitar, especially the solo. He doesn't regret a thing he did, and for that, we salute him. He tells his tragic tale so vividly, you feel as if you were there. Like the song Dante's Inferno for Burnt Offerings, this song caps the entire album off, ending it with a finality that is almost frightening to think about.
From the Storm to Hell, Night of the Stormrider keeps you listening and active, giving you an orgy for the ears. I definitely suggest you getting it. Whether or not you've listened to Iced Earth before, I guarantee if you like pure metal, you'll at least enjoy this album.
Night of the Stormrider, Iced Earth's second album is a more technical riffery display due to a few things. First off they got a better drummer who actually plays double bass, and is much more competent in his playing abilities and placement. Second Jon S decided it was time to delve more into the things that people loved about their self titled debut. Third is that Iced Earth had progressed and matured as a whole in their writing and musicianship. Jon S knew what "the people" wanted, as he and his crew busted out some thrashy numbers that are almost anthems in some sort (look too Angel's Holocaust and The Stormrider).
John Greenly is actually a pretty good singer, regardless of what some people think, and he is defintaly better than Gene Adam from "Iced Earth". He has plenty of depth to his voice and his pronounciation is much clearer than Gene's. Also he has quite a vocal range. Many consider NOTS Iced Earth's finest work, and I can understand why, but i opt more towards the Barlow days. I've been a huge IC fan ever since i heard Burnt Offerings, and Night of the Stormrider is easily one of the greatest thrash albums of all time. Defintaly a Landmark for thrash and a definition of Iced Earth's classic sound. Easily NOTS is their thrashiest, most agressive, no holds barred disc to date. The Production is not to bad for 1992 but nowhere near the quality of their next few albums that would come. (I'm holding the original album in my hands not the Remaster) Jon and Randall S both spew some tight, riffs that seem to infect your mind. I'd suggest this album to any IE fan or to any thrash fan in general. If all you want is ballads this in not the one for you.
Every song on here is fucking classic, and most are all fan faves for their concert setlist. I could go into every song individualy but i think enough people have reviewed this album and the songs displayed so it seems pointless. Songs such as Angel's Holocaust, The Stormrider, The Path I Choose, Desert Rain, Pure Evil, Travel In Stygian, leave you fufilled and satisfied at the end of your journey. That's the best attribute about this album is that is it "A Journey" in and of itself. Not many albums have that Mystical side with a great storyline to back it up such as this one holds.
You feel you are going off into the night riding a horse with your sword never knowing what lurks in the dark. NOTS really makes people think and want to listen, and that is why i believe it gets all the attention it so surely deserves.
In Conclution if you like any sort of metal weather it be Prog, Thrash, Classic, Death etc or any TRUE form of metal atleast you will enjoy this album.
Best Tracks: The whole Journey
Fuck yes. Iced Earth before their geigh overemotional power metal days (Yeah, I'd say that "The Dark Saga" and forward, they are pretty much power metal, though Schaffer does try to write thrash riffs occasionally by recycling some riffs from their first three albums) and before they went poser on us. I want the "Night of the Stormrider" shirt saying "FUCK POSERS" on the back. This album definitely joins the poserslaying ranks of "Bonded By Blood", "Kill 'Em All" and "Taking Over", although not quite as good as either of these, except possibly the Metallica debut.
Jon Schaffer here delivers his by far best performance, and out of Iced Earth's so far 4 singers, John Greely is by miles the greatest one - well, Ripper is pretty fucking good too, but he doesn't have Greely's range, as he goes from angered growls and demonic roars to manic Halford meets Eric Adams meets Satan-screams. Greely's voice is also perfect for this album, packed with 7 songs (the remaining two, "Before The Vision" and "Reaching The End" being two short acoustic interludes tying together the concept of the album) of almost relentless thrash riffage, only to stop for further melodic interludes within the song, but that only adds power to the monstrous attack force that is Jon Schaffer's superior riffing (too sad he ran out of ideas so quickly) and Greely's insane vocals (too bad he was a fucked up Nazi so they had to kick him out of the band).
On this album, we have amazing raging thrashers such as opening track "Angel's Holocaust", beginning with a huge operatic intro coupled with forceful snare drums kicking our way into the madness. "The Path I Choose" features some fucking mad vocals and riffwork, and is one of the heaviest songs on here. "Desert Rain" with it's melodic build-up intro and the awesome solo section, and the crazy riff bombardment of "Pure Evil" also stand as highlights. The more melodic and catchy "Mystical End" should also be noted - but higher of them all rises "Travel In Stygian", Iced Earth's best song by far and a Thrash Metal classic.
"Reaching The End" takes us through a dark, melancholic and acoustic interlude, soon fading out to make way for... yes, the best riffs on the album, pummeling across with ferocity unseen before on here, and the lyrics tell a dark, demonic tale of a journey through hell, and the amazing guitarwork coupled with Greely's still amazing vocals visualize this perfectly. The image is enhanced by the two melodic but oh-so-evil middle sections. Then there's the breakdown where everything slows down and gets heavy as FUCK. The henchman awaits you, fucker, and it's time to die!
This song is completely amazing all through. So fucking amazing, definitely one of those songs you can't get enough of, and while you may hate Iced Earth's late material, this stuff will fucking rip out your heart and make you watch it as you die. "THE HOT WINDS OF HELL BREATHE YOUR NAME!"
So in conclusion, this is an amazing thrash album with one awesome-as-bloody-ass-hell-Satan-shit-holy fuck song, but one must not overlook the moments of epic power metal that lies obvious through most of the songs, with the rather epic and unusual structures, and this just underlines the ferocity of Schaffer's riffwork at this time. It's hard to believe how the man who wrote that monster riff kicking "Travel In Stygian" into full speed now writes boring, dreary crap like "Declaration Day". Get this- and get the original, cause for some reason, the remaster from "Dark Genesis" for some unexplained reason is missing one riff from "Travel In Stygian", and while it may be an unimportant part of the song, I don't wanna miss out on anything from that baby.
Yeah, so Iced Earth is for metal n00bs and isn't tr00 thrash. I don't care, this album fucking rocks.
Oh fuck yeah - this is where Schaffer's riffs sound fresh and interesting and do not degenerate into silly triplets for the sake of silly triplets. This right here is pure thrash metal, reminiscent of bands like Death Angel (the first album) and Meliah Rage (the second album) at times. Epic power metal moments are thrown in, but they never sacrifice the riff onslaught, merely add to them. Then, throw in Greely's awesome shrieky vocals, and we have ourselves a winner.
We start with Angels' Holocaust, with a little Carmina Burana intro and then some acoustic parts, before a hideous shriek brings us into the main riff. The song gets faster and heavier until the middle break features more of Carmina Burana over some monster thrash riffs, and then just even more thrash riffs. About 28 riffs in this song - fuck yeah!!! Definitely the best song on here.
The rest is no slouch either. Stormrider is more straightforward with some nice bludgeoning riffs, and Path that I Choose has some of the best vocals by Greely here. Before the Vision is a little interlude, leading into Mystical End, which is more thrash metal. Desert Rain is just a bit slower in the chorus and the verses, but then picks up around the middle, tossing some very nice riffs in.
Pure Evil is the other highlight of the album. Absolutely the best shrieks that Greely has done, and some killer riffs as well. A few little acoustic moments provide constrast, and then before you know it, the riffs are back for more.
Reaching the End - I tend to think of that as the intro to Travel in Stygian, making for 11 minutes of epic thrash. This is far better than Dante's Inferno, in that they don't try to throw the kitchen sink in, sticking with riff after riff after riff. Fast, midpaced, it's all in here - very much like Death Angel "The Ultraviolence" (the title track to that album).
So what happened here is that Iced Earth managed to completely NAIL this one - awesome thrash riffs, and Greely sounding very much like Halford at times. They never came close to this again, so enjoy this one!!