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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).