without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
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.