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“Overture of the Wicked” is quite the tough release to review. Only one new track is evident here, “Ten Thousand Strong,” and the Something Wicked trilogy is here, re-mastered with new vocals. “Ten Thousand Strong” is a nice fact paced track with great vocals from Tim Owens. The riff here is catchy with good-layered vocals. This is a solid track that represents the future of Iced Earth.
The Something Wicked trilogy is something Jon Schaffer has been in love with since its creation, and it’s no surprise that their on here. The real surprise is how it’s all produced. Everything here is very clear which makes it easy to listen to. Unfortunately, its not what many would call, “heavy.” The drumming sounds weak compared to all the other material they’ve released. Tim Owens does a good job on the vocals, although the songs themselves don’t really go with his voice. It just doesn’t seem to fit. At some points he actually sound uncomfortable. “Prophecy” is a great example of that. Overall the song just doesn’t sound very good, vocally and production wise. “Birth of the Wicked” is a step-up, but it still feels like something’s missing. The sound itself just doesn’t sound heavy, and it lacks excitement at many points. At lest “The Coming Curse” works here. This is a song where Tim shines at the vocal helm; the layered vocals work well here.
Are the re-makes better than the originals? No, but this is still and ok release, it should’ve been better.
It’s tough for me to talk about my expectations regarding this Iced Earth release because I basically didn’t have any. I haven’t really been in love with Iced Earth since after “Burnt Offerings” and I definitely wasn’t expecting something of that caliber here. I was, in particular, lukewarm to the idea of re-recording material from the Matt Barlow era because I wasn’t really keen on his vocal approach. Surprisingly, this release turned out to be well worth the purchase, mostly because of the re-recordings.
Iced Earth has been hailed in many quarters as being the saviors of American metal, which I think is quite a stretch. John Schaeffer’s riffs are highly reminiscent of the 80s power/thrash style that separated American power metal from their more melodically consonant brethren in Europe, but aside from the pre-1995 material, there wasn’t anything that merited a label of the like of heroism or savior status. What was ultimately missing in the 90s material was a voice that could truly transcend the upper stratosphere appropriate to the style, and that is where Ripper’s presence has made the difference.
Although I prefer the heavily reverb injected drum sound of the 90s material, the overall arrangement of all 3 of the re-recordings are much tighter. Tim Mills’ interpretation of the solos is superior to Larry Tarnowski’s somewhat mellow toned leads. But the real deal maker is Tim Owens’ re-arrangement of the vocal lines, which succeed in turning something that listened a little like Blaze Bailey era Iron Maiden into a sonic attack on par with some of Judas Priest’s work on Painkiller. The atmospheric sections of “The Coming Curse” and “Prophecy” are not quite as dense, but work well against the thrashing sections.
The featured track “Ten Thousand Strong” is something of a step up from the better tracks featured on “The Glorious Burden”. It’s a bit on the cliché side of the power metal coin, the chorus is extremely predictable, and the riff work is a little bit flat. Owens’ vocals are mostly what carry this song through without it lagging; almost in a similar fashion to the way Dio’s voice would carry along most of the extremely simplistic riffs Vivian Campbell put forth on Holy Diver. It’s not bad for a single, but if it is any indication of the entirety of “Framing Armageddon” then there is still some work to be done.
Not really the greatest single to come in 2007, but definitely essential listening if you’re a fan of Iced Earth’s mid to late 90s material and Judas Priest. People like me who harbor any hope of a return to the famed “Night of the Stormrider” sound are not going to be overly impressed with this, but it is a solid representation of the fledgling rebirth of the old US power metal scene. Hopefully the LP that follows this will have more of a tilt towards the old power/thrash days of the early 90s, before everything started to either be groove or sludge.
Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 11, 2008.
Though my faith in Iced Earth has always remained strong, I found myself doubting the band's writing ability after "The Glorious Burden." I was baffled by several of the album's inconsistencies, but mainly because John Schaffer and Tim Owens were behind the mess. As time prevailed, the second stage of Owens' saga in Iced Earth returned in the form of "Overture Of The Wicked," which is the first sample of new Iced Earth material since 2004. I wasn't expecting much from this CD, but Iced Earth proved my original expectations wrong with their fresh attitude and redefined anatomy.
The sweetest scent emitting from "Overture Of The Wicked" is the world's first snippet of new Iced Earth substance since "The Glorious Burden" in 2004. The presented track is titled "Ten Thousand Strong," and it proudly resurrects Iced Earth from their last slump of poor material. The legendary Jon Schaffer delivers a set of heavy riffs that nestles between a healthy medium of thrash and traditional metal. The chops are quickly executed with great expertise, yet Schaffer's shredding episode manages to appear simultaneously epic and natural, which is a core element "The Glorious Burden" lacked.
Each member of Iced Earth properly contributes a great show of instrumental brilliance that displays the group's stellar musicianship. The bass and drums continually thump throughout the song without loosing any momentum or significance to the track's foundation. After devouring the chorus, a pleasant taste begins to swish around in your mouth and causes mass salivation, which is mainly done by Tim Owens and his amazing vocal lines. The singing arrangement in "Ten Thousand Strong" is perfectly placed, meaning it really couldn't have been a better fit for the song. Owens erupts into the chorus with the right amount of passion in his voice, but he also nails an unparalleled barrage of notes worth hearing again and again. What an excellent song!
The updated version of the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" trilogy is an unexpected gem due to its risky recording, but it still greatly compliments "Ten Thousand Strong." There are few differences in terms of the actual music, length, and production, but replacing Matt Barlow with Tim Owens is certainly an interesting transition. It's neat to compare Barlow and Ownes in terms of their performance, pitch, and overall singing ability on these three tracks, but to say one is better than the other is simply impossible to decide. It's a great addition to this disc nonetheless.
This little CD only has four tunes, but it packs a wallop of Iced Earth at their best. Any Iced Earth fan should buy "Overture Of The Wicked" for all the great stuff here, but I also suggest this to new Iced Earth fans. Consider this: you'll get introduced to one of the most legendary metal acts of all time, and it won't cost much either.
I was really looking forward to this single for a while, and I guess it’s kind of a disappointment. What I found most disappointing about this album is Tim Owens; he just doesn’t give a fuck about Iced Earth anymore. I really praised him in “The Glorious Burden” because he did a great fucking job, but ever since he started Beyond Fear he just doesn’t care about this band anymore. I got a chance to listen to the Beyond Fear album and he sounds like a fucking god. When listening to this, he sounds like he is really bored with most of it (mainly because he puts no emotion into his vocals), and he messes most of the vocals up. Other than that, this single is actually pretty good and worth buying.
This single consists of 4 songs; the rerecording of the “Something Wicked” trilogy preceded by an edited song (“Ten Thousand Strong”) that will be put on Iced Earth’s upcoming album, “Framing Armageddon”.
The first song is called “Ten Thousand Strong”, and I beg, DO NOT LET THIS BE THE BEST SONG ON “FRAMING ARMAGGEDDON!” It’s not a bad song, but it is kind of mediocre and it’s not very memorable. If you want to hear some good news; Jon Schaffer finally found the perfect guitar tone suited for Owens’s voice. The guitars sound very clean, they have a crisp sound and they are very sharp. This is what “The Glorious Burden” should have sounded like, but I guess they were in such in hurry to release the album that they didn’t care about tuning the guitar to fit Tim’s voice. Anyways, the song starts off with nice long scream and the guitar tone is killer. That riff is pretty nice, but it gets kind of annoying when they use that same riff throughout the whole fucking song. The chorus is decent, but forgettable. This is no brilliant song, but it ain’t shit either. It could be spiced up a little, but maybe Jon Schaffer wanted to put one of the crappiest songs of the upcoming album in here (though a single usually puts the best song of an upcoming album in it).
And now finally we get to the trilogy!
“Prophecy” starts off the trilogy (Duh!) and there is a great new atmosphere to the song. The new atmosphere, in my opinion, has a better sound and is more epic than the original version. Up until 2:42, this song is perfect. The guitar tone is perfect, the riffs are awesome, Tim does a great performance (yeah, he actually has emotion in this song unlike the others!) and I like those awesome drums at about 1:10. Everything is epic and perfect, but when the bass comes in at 2:42, it all goes to hell. The bass sounds cheesy, and it messes up the riffs! The drums actually start hurting my fucking ears. At this point, the song is passable and a little repetitive. However, the ending is pretty good. This song is also like the previous, neither good nor bad.
What makes this single great is “Birth of The Wicked”. This song is so much better than the original (mainly because of the new atmosphere). I always found this song to be the weakest of the trilogy, but now it’s on the same level as “Prophecy”, or even “The Coming Curse”. The guitars have a darker sound on this song, and the riffs sound awesome because of it. The riffs are indeed the best thing this song has. They have this clean epic sound, and it doesn’t have the annoying little background guitar that the original version had. I’m starting to see that this is where Tim becomes unemotional, but it’s barely noticeable. The reason I say this is because when hearing the original version of this song, Matt’s vocals are more emotional (as always), and Tim’s vocals had more emotion in the previous two songs. Other than that, this is definitely a great re-recording, a hella lot better than the original and definitely not the pansy of the trilogy anymore.
“The Coming Curse” is the biggest disappointment of this album. Before even listening to the song I could already tell that sweet little piano intro was taken out of the song because the song was shortened from 9½ minutes to only 8 minutes. The piano intro was the second most favorite part of the song, but now it’s gone! The drumming sounds kinda strange on this song (it’s too loud and it has a weird sound), and then there is Tim! It just pisses me on how he did a shitty job on this song. There is no emotion in his vocals, he sounds really boring; he just doesn’t give a crap about Iced Earth anymore! The chorus is where Matt Barlow made his voice really loud and emotional, and Tim uses the same fucking pitch throughout the whole song and sounds really fucken boring. I was also hoping Jon Schaffer would take those stupid, pointless, and annoying operatic voices (4:20) out of the song, but NO! There are actually two things I like about this song; the first is that scream Tim makes at 2:47, and the ending of the song is pretty sweet also (unlike the ending in the original version which ends with those annoying voices in your ears for half a minute).
This actually wasn’t and this was what I expected of this single. I love the new sound and everything, but Tim’s performance shocked me BADLY (as well as the last song). So really, I can’t classify this as good or bad, you either like it or you don’t. I was originally going to give this album a 65 or as low as a 50, but then I felt like I was underrating “Ten Thousand Strong” and “Prophecy”, (yes, they are actually good and really enjoyable) so I just gave it an 85 (I felt too lazy to rewrite those two paragraphs, so instead I just wrote this sentence). I would have given this single at least a 90 or a 95 if they made some corrections to “The Coming Curse” and if Tim would try harder. I’m just worried on how “Framing Armageddon” will turn out (because I’m a HUGE fan of this band), and whatever it is, lets all pray Tim Owens doesn’t mess it up!
Great, yet disappointing.
Before hearing this, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect (especially from the brand new song), but since its Iced Earth, it's not really that hard to imagine. So where does the uncertainty come in, given the band's consistency? Well, the way Jon worded his idea of the album, he made it sound like everything was going to be very epic, atmospheric and all that jazz...which left me wondering if every song was going to be crafted as such? Well, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the new song, Ten Thousand Strong. It almost feels like a new energy has been brought to the band, even though it is still the traditional Iced Earth sound.
The vocal melodies delivered by Tim Owens are extremely catchy and full of flare, as are the lyrics. To me, it feels like Tim is much more comfortable with the band's style and has been able to evolve a bit from the last record. The second the song starts and you hear the blaring shriek of the former Judas Priest front man, you know it’s going to be a good, firm kick in the ass. Some people have complained that Owens tries too hard to imitate Rob Halford and grates nerves because it’s different from Matt Barlow, but I find myself thoroughly engrossed with Tim’s style. “And though our hearts are broken…we have to wipe the tears away…erase the human memory.” Oh yeah, this is going to rule.
The riffing is…well…its Jon Schaffer, what do you expect? Anyone who is familiar with Iced Earth knows that Schaffer has a style and he’s always going to stick with it. Don’t come into the post-Burnt Offerings material expecting to hear something completely revolutionary, because it’s not going to happen. That’s part of what I love about his playing – not being concerned about playing something ‘different’, but just finding different ways to make good heavy metal. Indeed, he does deliver good heavy metal with Ten Thousand Strong.
The song thrashes while not completely annihilating everything…no, because that would spoil the true annihilation that is to come when the full lengths comes out. This works just fine as a single – it doesn’t try to be flashy, but manages to just be a good melodic heavy metal song. It starts off heavy and then leads into harmonized parts, which really help make this a powerful and memorable song. Overall, I was very pleased.
I imagine most people would be worried about the Something Wicked remake, which is kind of understandable, given its classic status. Well, there are some significant changes present in the trilogy – there is a much thicker atmosphere in some songs, such as Prophecy. Some of the riffs are altered a bit, there is more emphasis is put on certain lead parts and the solos are much more bombastic. I’m glad that they did not just copy the whole song, as it kind of just makes it a cover song, rather than giving it a whole new identity. I’d say a major flaw of the remake is that it uses singular note stuttering just a little too much in comparison to the original, but it’s easy to overlook, because its not meant to sound identical to the original.
In conclusion – if you limit yourself strictly to the first three albums, don’t expect something along the same route; you’ll only end up disappointed. If you’re an extreme Iced Earth lover like me, this will more than satisfy you.
As a huge Iced Earth fan I was like many other very excited when the news spread that IE was going to make a sequal to the praised Something Wicked album. The time now has come and the single has been released. but many ask themselves "is it worth it?"
If you are a big IE fan and dig everything they bring out, you can buy this single blindly. if you are more for the older IE music with Barlow and even Greely. you may not like this. Yet I am one of those who thought "The Glorious Burden" was a huge waste of time, and even when I heard of the "something wicked" return. I was kinda frustrated.. how would this sound?
to answer that question: it's a BIG suprise. The first track on this single is unfortunately the only new one. when comparing it to their last album I was suprised how different this sounds. less annoying and more schredding, with kind of an epic chorus and some nice melody in it. "Ten thousand strong" easily beats any track from the Glorious Burden album. not an overall superb track. but very nice anyway.
Then we will hear the original Something wicked trilogy re-recorded. like the first track these are also pretty surprising! though most are familiar with these tracks, IE did their best to make it sound different, and they succeeded.
Nice overall guitar work and the egyptian style chants give "The coming curse" that extra flavor!
but there are downpoints here, and with that I mainly mean the vocals. on the original tracks we have Barlow, who sings very melancholic. something Owens CAN'T do. Owens is a great singer, and even though he does a pretty good job on these songs, his voice does not fit the lyrics and the overall feeling of this trilogy. other down points in this remake are small things like the absence of the piano at the beginning of "The Coming Curse" and the fact that production doesn't really sound superb.
in the end I would say this eingle certainly makes me crave for more new tracks and hopefully they'll be as good as Ten Thousand Strong. Good job Iced Earth!
Originally written for the Riff Repository (http://riffrepository.awardspace.com/).
Overture of the Wicked is the first single of the highly anticipated new concept album from Iced Earth, Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part I). Overture serves as both a teaser for upcoming material and a reminder of the story arc that is occuring both through the new album and the one to follow it. As the sub-title of its parent album would imply, the lyrical themes contained on Overture are a continuation from 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes, chronicling the story of the character Set Abominae. In fact, Overture of the Wicked contains the entire "Something Wicked" trilogy - the last three songs from the album of the same name - completely redone and rerecorded.
Similar to what Jon Schaffer did with the earlier Iced Earth recordings on Days of Purgatory, having Matt Barlow re-record the vocals from songs off of the first two albums, Tim Owens does on Overture of the Wicked. I'd usually be one of the first to say that Matt Barlow was completely unique and irreplaceable and that Tim Owen's voice is not very well-suited, if too generic, for Schaffer's material. The Glorious Burden was, in my opinion, a very mediocre effort for an Iced Earth album, and could've possibly been much better had Barlow provided the vocals.
It seems as though on Overture however, Schaffer and co. have had a return to form of sorts. Maybe it's that the lyrical content is once again of the more fanatasy-oriented variety. Maybe it's because three songs are ones I'm very familiar with and have been creatively reimagined. Maybe it's because Owens has become more accustomed to singing in a style better suited for the music. Whatever the case is, I can say that "The Ripper's" voice actually does not bother me and, dare I say it, is enjoyable. Matt Barlow he is not, but Tim Owens puts on a great performance on the songs contained in Overture's four tracks, eschewing his usual falsetto pitch for the occasional mid-range shout more reminiscent of his predecessor. Some might consider the redoing of such songs with Owens as somewhat blasphemous to Barlow's legacy, but I feel he does the songs justice. The only thing I will say is that there is a lot more effects and self-harmonizing going on in the vocal tracks, something that Barlow did not employ much, begging the question: can Owens' voice stand on its own?
Musically, the album is chock full of riffs and other artistic touches. While the only new song is 'Ten Thousand Strong', which reminds of me of a kind of hybrid of Jugulator-era Priest with a Glorious Burden-esque chorus, the true masterwork is done on the redux of Something Wicked's trilogy. The first thing that stuck out to me was the clarity of the sound. The production going on here is superb. Fidelity aside, the music itself has never sounded better. Schaffer has always been a machine on rhythm guitar, and continues to have a dexterous right hand, but is now complimented by Brent Smedley's syncopated drumming; his bass drums actually match Schaffer note for note!
It's hard to give creativity points for rehashing old material, but the songs are chock-full of extras. It's difficult to say whether or not they are 'better' than their original counterparts; the word I would use is 'different', though the sound quality is undoubtedly better (it's been ten years since the original). However, there's a lot of little atmospheric effects going on here and there, such as a sitar and bongo section to give 'Prophecy' a more eastern feel at times. To that end, some guitar solos and leads are also notably different and better executed (see 2:20-2:40ish, 'Birth of the Wicked'). My only complaint about the music is that Schaffer seems to be....slowing down. While there are still plenty of sixteenth-note triplets, it seems that Schaffer has gone to using more simple held-out chords in some sections. Perhaps this was a conscious effort to give the passage a different flavor.
The band is in top form and has never sounded cleaner, more articulate, or more creative than this. If this is any indication of the quality of Framing Armageddon, my expectations have been raised.
So…the promo of the new Iced Earth EP has inevitably leaked. And, of course, the turds of the world have been tearing it to shreds. (Typical of the Blabbermouth generation.) So let me set things straight. People are slamming the production, saying it's terrible. Let's put it this way, the production is very good as it is, on a leaked version no less. It can only get better with an official release, but is fine as is. I realize the promo has been released, and leaked versions have likely been ripped from the promo, but one should never judge a final product on something that simply is not that. However, I do have the promo, and it is safe to say that these recordings lack that certain "punch," that bottom end, as we first heard on The Glorious Burden. Most importantly, though, the production is still very good on this EP.
"Ten Thousand Strong" is a great opener. It’s a simple song—and I believe this version is an edited version of the one that’ll appear on Framing Armageddon—that gets straight to the point, goes right for the throat. It's a heavy song with great riffs, a great chorus, and great vocals from Owens. But while “Ten Thousand Strong” is a great appetizer for things to come, it’s safe to say that the spotlight will be shined brightest upon the re-recorded Something Wicked trilogy (originally on Something Wicked This Way Comes with Matt Barlow on vocals). This new version of the trilogy is excellent, but only after the initial shock of hearing all the changes—and changes are exactly what Jon should have made when re-recording these songs! If you’re expecting something like the original versions, go listen to the original versions. Now, as good as I think these new versions are, they’re very different, and I'm sure people—as you can already read here—will hate on them simply because they aren’t comparable to the originals. The changes are mostly of the subtle variety, but they still make a big difference. And again, without changing things these re-recordings would have been pointless.
The approach of this new version of the trilogy is like that on the Gettysburg trilogy from The Glorious Burden. It's very atmospheric, far more symphonic and orchestral—which is exactly what Jon promised, by the way. “Birth Of The Wicked” remains largely the same as the original, but “Prophecy” is where the immediate changes are noticed. The opening is much more atmospheric, and different in structure; the build-up in the beginning is more subtle, and when it finally kicks in the riffs don’t hit nearly as hard as one would expect (unless they’ve not heard the original); the solo has been changed a bit, and the ending is slightly different. After a few spins, though, everything seems very natural. The problem is trying to not compare it to the original. “The Coming Curse” is without the original piano intro here, which is unfortunate because that intro sets the song up very well. This new version just kicks right in without any build-up. Again, the main portion of the song is very similar to the original, with only slight changes. The mid-section and ending is where the most changes occur. Where the original had Gregorian-like chanting, this new version adds a prominent female voice to that mix. It changes the emotive aspects of the song drastically, but luckily not for the worse.
It is very important that one acknowledges that the original trilogy and this new version are both different enough to stand on their own merits. People will compare, and people will hate, but, like I said, once you get over the initial shock it gets better and better with each spin. These new versions lack a little a bit of that good old “oomph!” when it comes to guitar tone, even when compared to “Ten Thousand Strong,” but the re-recordings are very respectable. And they offer enough change to musically and vocally to appease those that felt Jon was crazy for re-recording them, or that Owens could never match Barlow’s great vocal performance on the originals. The fact is, Owens made these new versions his own, and Jon took the song to a new plateau. Whether better or worse is up to the listener, but if you look forward and not back you should find great satisfaction in the re-recordings. And in using the excellent “Ten Thousand Strong” as a measuring stick, one can expect great things from Framing Armageddon (scheduled for release later in the year).
Iced Earth finally returns to the metal scene with the much anticipated (and feared) EP, Overture of the Wicked. This time with one brand new track (Ten Thousand Strong) and 3 re-recorded tracks (The Something Wicked Trilogy). Iced Earth has been a staple of my metal listening experience throughout my metal career and I consider them to be one of my favorite bands of all time.
With that said, Overture of the Wicked is almost exactly what I expected from this EP. Reading other reviews, it seems that fans of Iced Earth have been tearing this EP down to the bone. I'm not sure what these fans were expecting on this release but I found exactly what I was looking for. Note: This review is going to vary from my normal format but since it's an EP with only one new song - work with me here.
The guitar work present on the EP is pretty standard Iced Earth material. Ten Thousand strong has a killer riff in it (although a little repetitive). There is still a quite a bit of Iron Maiden influence in the guitar and bass work. Great galloping lines are present. Granted the solo leaves something to be desired. It happens to be more or less a lot of long notes without a lot of emotion behind it (this is something I can forgive due to the guitarist problems Iced Earth has encountered in the last year). Ten Thousand Strong has some amazing lyrical work in it and Tim Owens gives exactly what I thought he would. Plenty of falsettos with an amazing scream to start off the song. Ten Thousand Strong seems to be a very average Iced Earth track and one can definitely tell its due to be a single. It may not be the best Iced Earth track ever but it definitely sparks more of an interest towards the full album coming in the end of the year.
The most controversial part of the EP is the re-recorded versions of the Something Wicked Trilogy from the Iced Earth album, Something Wicked This Way Comes. Understanding that this is supposed to be a REWORKING of the songs lends one to not be too harsh with these versions. I expected these new versions to be different I guess. If I thought they were going to be exactly the same with Tim Owens trying to do a Matt Barlow impression then I wouldn't have bothered as much. No one can really match Matt Barlow when it comes to material he helped write.
I found the new Something Wicked Trilogy to be more aggressive and less epic. Much of the orchestration has been toned down (if not taken out) and maybe it's just me but the music seems to have been picked up in speed a tad bit. The guitar work is still tight as ever (Jon Schaffer is a killer rhythm guitar player). Tim Owens seems to still be the biggest element that people bicker over and quite frankly his new more aggressive version of the lyrics seems to fit the more aggressive and less epic songs well. I never expected him to try and be Matt Barlow and I love Tim's previous work with other bands and with Iced Earth. This seems to be a very good fit for both Tim and Jon's new vision of the Trilogy.
I have a feeling that this isn't supposed to be a release that stands on its own. The re-recorded Trilogy is just a taste of what the next two albums are to bring. Instead of the epic releases everyone is going to be expecting, the next two albums are going to be aggressive and dark. I think this release is just to prepare all of the Iced Earth fans for what's next...and quite frankly this EP has got me really excited.
When I first heard this yesterday, I was very confused and my opinion changed. Now that I've sat straight through no less than 20-30 listens, my opinion has settled and thus, a review is in place.
I know song-by-songs are frowned upon, but it's a single goddamnit.
My biggest problem with it is it sounds like Ripper hardly even tries. He doesn't sound bad... it's just... you know it would sound so much better with Barlow. I know he can sound a hell of a lot better than this and on TGB, but he doesn't. Secondly, he puts no feeling into it. Maybe because it's not "his" music. 'Cause man, you hear his performances with Iced Earth and then listen to Beyond Fear, it's a completely different singer. He sounds like he gives a damn about Beyond Fear. Hell, I've heard his live performances with Iced Earth and he sounded pretty fucking psyched about that! There was plenty of emotion and quality, and this was on a bootleg mind you. So the vocals have been cleared up: They sure as hell aren't Barlow, and they aren't even close to Ripper's full potential. They aren't anywhere near Barlow's quality on any part of this disc. They are emotionless. There is no need to further mention the vocals. Just keep what I said in mind and if you find yourself wondering, "How are the vocals?" then just scroll up and read again.
Ten Thousand Strong: Hmm... It's just filler. It's got a so-so riff, uninspiring vocals, no solo, unmemorable chorus. A good shriek at the beginning and the end is it's best quality. That, and it's not too long. The song is by no means bad, it's just not the kind of thing to be expected of a single. Though, I suppose most people will want this for the Trilogy anyway. 1 thumb up, 1 thumb down.
The Prophecy: Oooh... I like the intro! I really like the new atmostphere this one has. It's still familiar, but different enough for me to thoroughly enjoy. I might even go as far as saying it's better. At 2:42 comes that nifty little bass solo aaaaaanndd... the... riffs? AWWW SHIT, SCHAFFER FINALLY FUCKED UP. Downtuned? Sure, sweet. Same riff? Yeeeaa... Same rythm? Yes... so, what's the problem? Staccato/muting. The riffs sound totally hollow because they aren't full and drawn out like before. Rather than dum buh-duh-bum, they go do bo-do-bo. Very disappointing. Oh well... that's over... The solo section was pretty sweet. The end, like the intro, is pretty cool and new. Well... A great start and a great finish--with some unsettling material in between. 1 1/2 thumbs up.
The Birth of the Wicked: This one is pretty much the same as the original. The biggest difference is its downtuned a tiny bit, and something (though I have no idea what) just feels better about this one to me. I was never a big fan of the original version (t'was my least favorite of the trilogy--vocals, lyrics, and music), but I really like this one a lot. Once again, the solo I enjoy more than the original. This song is a winner for me. Kudos to Schaffer. 2 thumbs up.
The Coming Curse: Remember that awesome, creepy, atmostpheric piano intro from the original? It's gone. Yeah, bullshit, I know. Remember that horrible riffing technique that Schaffer decided to add to the mix during the gallop section of The Prophecy? That bastard is back and it really gay'd this song to hell. What was once one of the most ballcrushing riffs ever to be written by Schaffer and gang is now a shadow of it's former self. Now, had I never heard the original trilogy, I'd probably think this riff was pretty badass, but I have, and it sucks now. Same rythm, same notes (albeit downtuned), but also the same bullshit. Weak. Oh here comes another redone über-badass solo. At least that's one part where Schaffer really nailed this single--solos. I like all of them more than the originals. Now... The slower crushing part before the chants and the most epic line, "I AM YOUR ANTIIIII CHRIIIIIIIST!!!" this is pretty much the same: Nothing wrong here. Now the "Forged in the sacred flames..." part: More atmospheric. Eastern instruments used, sounds pretty sweet. The chants just arrived: Much more prominent. Now the climactic "I am your anti-christ...": TOO LOW IN THE MIX. Wow... Ripper just isn't trying. I sing along to this song a lot, and I can honestly say that I do a much better job than THAT. Pathetic. 2 1/2 - 3 thumbs down.
So... that's it. Final verdict: Somewhat promising. One song is filler, and filler tells us nothing except that Schaffer is still writing music--nothing else. The trilogy: Some of it stomps ass over the old stuff, some of it eats the shit of the old stuff, some of it isn't any better or worse. One song is 2/3 better, 1/3 worse. One song is better. One song is 4/5 worse, 1/5 the same. Solos are all better IMO. Vocals are pretty much never better.
So if there was so much bad, why not a lower score and why do I keep listening to it? Well... I dunno. I guess I like the new stuff more than I give credit for.
[Score reduced to 70 following re-evaluation of rating system.]
Iced Earth's new EP, Overture Of The Wicked, contains re-recordings (Or re-envisionings) of the band's legendary Something Wicked trilogy as something of a prelude to the upcoming Something Wicked concept albums, as well as one new song from the upcoming first installment, Framing Armageddon; ergo, it's important to judge this disk in relation to the old versions of the SW trilogy as well as on its own merits.
To begin, we have the new number Ten Thousand Strong. The opening eleven-second shriek courtesy of Owens is a pleasant opening and the song maintains a driving, heavy force that never lets up, although the lack of riff variation might get repetitive. While the manic verses seemed disjointed on the first listen, they've since grown on me and the chorus (An important factor, since the song is very chorus-driven here) is smooth and fairly catchy, but there's little about this song that would ever elevate it to the level of Iced Earth classics like Travel In Stygian or Burnt Offerings. It's quick and it's over quickly. Lyrically, this follows the course set by the overture trilogy, which brings us to...
The re-recordings. I, for one, do not think that Owens is a bad singer at all; he can sing, he can shriek and he can do semi-low vocals in short bursts, and he can blow many vocalists out of the water; he had the misfortune this time of filling the shoes of a vocalist who could sing very low, very high, and in-between all with emotion and subtlety. So yes, Owens' vocals are a step down from the originals here, and there are a few times when he seems to be unsure of himself, although those moments don't last long. The song most affected in a positive way by the re-recordings is Prophecy - there are many new elements, such as added heaviness and riffs where there were none before, and as many have said, a more Eastern sound to the whole package. Whereas the original gave off a feeling of foreboding and regret, this new version carries a distinctly ominous and more desperate mood than the original.
Birth Of The Wicked is changed the least, other than Owens' vocals which beef up the sustainment of the chorus lines somewhat (A good thing). The real blame here goes to The Coming Curse. First of all, the piano intro is nowhere in sight. Schaffer wanted to make these versions more atmospheric, so I can't for the life of me figure out why such an obvious opportunity for an atmospheric intro was passed up; as a remake of the original this is puzzling, but as a standalone song it is forgivable. Owens' unsure vocals aside, the main problem here is the guitar tone.
...What the hell happened?
The main riff of the song - that driving, crushing riff that perfectly connected through the song - is watered down to the point where it might as well be just any generic gallop, which is the same problem that Prophecy's latter half suffers from. The mystical chanting before the legendary "I am your anti-Christ..." verse is more up-front than the original and the soft section seems more atmospheric, but those are the only things I give this watered-down remake.
So the Iced Earth fan in me is hoping with Ten Thousand Strong that Schaffer's not letting the best of the Something Wicked albums get out, only the less memorable of the lot; it's still a song that will be seeing quite a bit of listening from me, too, so it's not bad at all. The remakes are very hit or miss; when they hit, they hit about as hard as the originals, and when they miss, they miss catastrophically. The best advice I can give to the IE fans out there and in here is to at least give it a shot.