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This album could have warned us about what was to come from Jon Schaffer- the mess of a solo project known as Sons of Liberty. On the other hand we can hope he continues to shovel his political and patriotic lyrics there and not awkwardly onto Iced Earth, which is what happened with this mess of an album. All IE albums have their own distinct personalities, and if it wasn’t for its patriotism and military history theme, it’d give Something Wicked a run for its money on inconsistency and confusion. We have an album that is clearly the successor to Horror Show and the Demons & Wizards s/t- the guitar tone and production are very similar, and it has some of the dense power metal atmosphere in its layered choruses and guitar harmonies (“The Star Spangled Banner” sounds like a wall of guitars, a well done one). On the other hand, there’s a quite a lot more thrash sound here in some songs. This isn’t a bad thing- “The Reckoning” “Red Baron” and “Greenface” are probably the most energetic songs on the album and break Schaffer out of his gallop groove to feature his most interesting riffs in some time. The hard-driving chuggers “The Reckoning” and “Greenface” could very well be west coast thrashers by Mustaine, and the choppy “Red Baron” could sound like Anthrax if wasn’t for its churning, vaguely galloping bass rhythm.
The thing is they stick out in a sea on bland power metal gallops and ballads. A bunch of the songs resort to having long sections of mid pace gallops (“Attila”, “Waterloo” “The Devil to Pay”) that do nothing, or slow ones (“Declaration Day”) that do little. “When the Eagle Cries” and “Hollow Man” are slow, over-dense ballads that both kind of sound like that bad parts of “Ghost of Freedom” lyrically and musically. Further, while Richard Christy was retained from Horror Show, the drumming here is relatively simple.
The sound is made a little more inconsistent with the debut of Ripper Owens’ vocals. He sounds a little out of place on some of the more ‘power metal’ songs, especially the ballads, and the band hadn’t yet adjusted the guitar tone to him like they would on the next album. However he sounds right at home on the thrash songs and overall does a damn good job given the circumstances (stepping in to finish a nearly done album after Barlow’s departure).
The problem is the lyrics he’s handed. This album’s patriotism and history themed lyrics have all the subtlety and accuracy of a third grade history project. “The Reckoning” “Greenface” and “Declaration Day” have some grimy touches of jingoism while remaining somewhat decent songs. “When the Eagle Cries” and “Valley Forge” are not. They’re unlistenable. The former gives 9/11 an awful schmaltzy, syrupy yet revenged fantasy tinged ballad treatment that’s hilarious in hindsight with Schaffer now into “9/11 Truth”. In the latter a Revolutionary War soldier spits Schaffer’s bile for him at a modern America gone soft or something; it’s just impossible to listen to and with the revenge fantasy jingoism elsewhere in the album it shows the ugly side of patriotism that can manifest as things like Sons of Liberty. It’s too bad, because it buries within itself and awesome solo by session guitarist Ralph Santola. The historical songs (including the Gettysburg series) suffer too when they sometimes sound like Owens is just reading off a list of trivia, in some cases wrong, and in some cases goofy (give “Red Baron” a listen, you’ll see).
Again, this album is inconsistent, so it’s not consistently bad. “Declaration Day” is a solid if slow power metal track with an excellent Santola solo and the thrash songs mentioned are fun on the strength of their riffs. The Gettysburg series that closes the album is also an amazing piece of symphonic power metal. It was literally recorded live with an orchestra behind it, giving it a dense, powerful punch especially in the choruses. “The Devil to Pay”, the section covering the first day of the battle suffers a bit from stretching its plodding gallop of a main riff out over too long (most of its 12 minutes) and sounds like a trivia list sometimes but breaks things up a bit with breaks into famous military songs. The second day’s “Hold at all Cost” is very straightforward- just a couple riffs, but it drives hard and has a powerful chorus conveying the desperation that was Joshua Chamberlain’s bayonet charge. A thundering, ominous drum roll and series of power chords opens the last day’s “High Water Mark”, where after some hushed and slightly goofy discussion between Owens and Schaffer (as Lee and Longstreet) it launches Picket’s charge with all the glory gallops, an orchestra and an epic rallying call chorus (“We’re almost there my boys! I’ve never served with finer!”) can give it.
It’s too bad Schaffer dumped so much poorly-put politics and patriotism and so many mediocre riffs on here. There are good ways to do patriotism and history in metal (say Iron Maiden or Running Wild), but for the most part this isn’t it. The good riffs and the stronger material like Gettysburg are very good- I’d give it a very high score, but it may not be worth it to slog (or skip) through the incredibly weak surroundings. As it stands this is as inconsistent as many IE albums, falling short of the glory of its title.
History is a topic that has always intrigued me, but rarely through music with the exception of the stories present in many lyrics dealing with paganism and other such ancient polytheisms. However, classroom style history can be a pretty good turnoff in taking something like a metal album seriously. The Glorious Burden is acceptable with the aforementioned in some ways, but fails miserably in others.
*The following review is written in two sections with two separate ratings based on how the CD came as a package, as the style and quality of the music is inherently different.*
The first part we will examine is the primary section of the album, consisting of nine songs of significantly less length. My copy of the album includes Greenface and the bonus track of the acoustic version of When the Eagle Cries, but the latter no one cares about. Let’s delve in now, shall we? It can’t be all that painful.
On the contrary, the album starts off with a torturous rendition of the national anthem of the USA, which is musically together and all right, but the theme of it causes but one reaction; the act of the face palm. These themes continue into Declaration Day which lyrically is much the same, followed by more of the same with When the Eagle Cries. We get a one track break before we are forced into more patriotic propaganda (Greenface), but the rest of the album is devoid of this presence, making it much more bearable.
The lyrics in this other section of the album are quite enjoyable compared to the simplistic and sloppy work on the first few. Valley Forge makes an interesting critique of today’s society, and Waterloo actually is a telling portrait of the game changing battle and the others are adequate depictions of events in world history.
The vocals on this album are pretty beastly, with the operatic and passionate presence of Tim Owens. To be honest, he contains more singing talent than Barlow, but he shows off on every song, like his resounding screams on Attila and vengeance filled singing on When the Eagle Cries. He puts his all into every song, but Barlow can at least take a back seat for letting a song focus on the guitars more rather than this mainstream approach. Definitely a high point.
The guitars here fail to impress me in a number of ways. From what else I’ve heard of Iced Earth, I expected a lot more than just boring old speed metal riffs like those on The Reckoning and Red Baron/Blue Max. A little thrash is ventured into with Greenface, and attempts are made at power metal on solos throughout, which manage to disappoint with their lack of quality songwriting. However, some of the speed riffs are good, like on Attila and Declaration Day. I’m into it at that point and am headbanging (not too difficult granted the slow speeds on drums). The acoustic work is fantastic for what little it appears, with the intro to Valley Forge being very memorable. However, when iced Earth hits it right here, they either use it too sparingly or in all the wrong places.
The drums on this background are simple at best. No attempt is made to thrill with insane double bass pedal work or interesting or challenging rhythms. Rather, they are just there. Within any song on this album, the drums fade in and out of prominence, most of the time unnoticed due to them being low in the mix and the fact that they are of devoid of interest. They are not terrible, but they are just boring, to the point of it being one of the major flaws on this section.
It is clear to see that the unity attempted with the group sung choruses did not rub off on me, because this disc is rather poor and unmemorable save for a few vocal hooks (Declaration Day and Valley Forge come to mind). The guitars show what this album could have been at times, with moments of pounding war metal glory with Waterloo and Attila. There is also a considerable lack of depth, as anything underlying is drawn out in a few listens due to the repetitiveness that also plagues the album. Songs to check out: Waterloo, Declaration Day, and Valley Forge. Stay as far away as possible from Don’t Tread on Me. I’ll also be generous here and rate this section a flat 70%.
Now take a deep breath; it only gets better from here on out. The second disc of the album is a 30 minute suite about Gettysburg. This part contains an overwhelming array of symphonic elements, but never too many at one time. Let’s not waste time then. After all, there is a devil to pay and he won’t wait long. But, really, don’t worry; the ride is all part of the fun.
The first song that graces your ears in this section is by far the best on the album, in addition to an awesome reference and song title with Devil to Pay. The vocals here shine center stage with the acoustic intro and the soaring operatic dramatic moments of the chorus. The guitars are spot on with interesting rhythmic riffing during the majority of the song, and they also take on some nice melodies.
The middle part of the song contains a good deal of depth with a variety of symphonic instruments and chugging riffs. In fact, most of the song is one awesome chugging riff that has your head moving in forceful motions to the beat of the song (headbanging euphemisms!). Although the song goes on for quite some time, the vivid lyrics keep the song moving and the vocals switch things up and overall the song is a success.
Another acoustic section introduces the next song, which is predominantly speed metal; with very few power and symphonic metal elements seen elsewhere. Those elements do add a lot elsewhere, but it is good that Iced Earth kept the music from blending together and creating distinct sections. The songwriting as a whole on this disc is very well done, as it is not predictable but it is very deep and far from boring.
The vocals are incredibly passionate on these last two songs; Tim Owens does a fantastic job at conveying the emotions of the characters, something that is not easy to do on a topic that is so far removed from today’s society. Hold At All Costs also gives you the one solid listen to a BASS in the entire album, and it is quite a bass line indeed and it really drives the song. However, despite these positives, the gang sung vocals on this disc do not carry the same quality that the rest of the vocals do.
Melody is key when writing a symphonic album, and Iced Earth do this without missing a beat. All of the songs contain long sections devoid of steel, nylon, or spoken word. These parts really show of the musicianship of Iced Earth, and feature cool sound effects like musket fire, flutes, and snare drum parts that add to the sense of the battlefield. Thundering drums and guitars also set the mood for the final track.
High Water Mark is quite the song. It contains many levels of brute force, yet it still reserves itself melodies along the way. The beginning has you set for battle, but quick and sudden changes in tempo and volume along the way add a great deal of depth to a song that could only too easily fail as so many finale songs manage to do.
Owens is still on top of his game, and numerous other vocals appearances create a very charged atmosphere, and the song represents very well the horrors of war that took place that day. Aside from that, there is not much to say about this song. It is everything that the previous two songs were just with different notes and such; the styles are very much the same and there is nothing new and groundbreaking.
This disc is a fantastic example of symphonic metal, from a band that I was not expecting that from. If you skip over the first part of the album, be sure to check out this part. The music is original, engaging, and just an epic depiction of war through metal. Best songs: Devil to Pay, Hold At All Costs, and High Water Mark. Rating: 90%.
Overall, the first disc of this album is skippable. The second part is not to be missed though, especially for fans of symphonic power metal. Iced Earth tries to fulfill a mix of symphonic, power, and speed metal on most of this album, and to be honest, it is pretty bad. Only when the songs lean heavily towards one genre in particular does the music succeed, which is quite unfortunate, as it gives you a glimpse of what this album could have been. Inevitably, this album is just soundtrack music. Although it ranges from phenomenal (High Water Mark), to horrific (Red Baron/Blue Max), this album is better suited for the background than the forefront. Best songs: Declaration Day, Valley Forge, Waterloo, and Devil to Pay. Final rating: 80%.
Iced Earth is an intriguing band, to say the least. Formed in the 80’s by the subject of many metalhead’s attempted fellatio, rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, and not doing anything worthy until 1989 demo Enter the Realm, Iced Earth clearly had the talents to make it big. And when I say big, I do mean big. Yes, almost to a Megadeth/Blind Guardian popularity level. And rather unfortunately, Iced Earth DID make it big, and they have hell to pay now. After pumping out three utter classics of dark, morbid thrash with a power metal vibe (written and released during a time when such music was unpopular), Jon and his “band” massively simplified their style, and I can’t describe this shift in both musical effort and quality without that classic phrase: “selling out.” And however much it pains me to say it, The Glorious Burden is a culmination of the dumbing down of Iced Earth’s worth as a viable music force, and this downward trend shows no sign of slowing. And no, the uber-patriotic American history theme of the album hardly helps matters at all, and only makes the album come off as stale and a rather late-attempt to make money off of the surge in American support following 9/11. Yes, Jon Schaffer loves America, but Christ, couldn’t you write a GOOD album that glorifies your country?
I won’t bother to hide that I love Iced Earth, for the most part. It has become somewhat of a trend (at least on the Internet) to bash the band, both for their bland later output and their heavier, more aggressive albums as well from the early 90’s as well. And while I can see why metalheads would dislike even their first several efforts, those first three albums hold a special place in my heart. Iced Earth, Night of the Stormrider and Burnt Offerings are all integral to the development of my music tastes. And though this album was just as important as the others, if not even more so, I cannot hide the fact that The Glorious Burden cannot be considered an actively “good” release in any meaning of the word. Jon Schaffer’s riffage was once fast, intense, creative, intriguing and heavily triplet-based, while usually managing to avoid repetition and boredom. Now, Jon Schaffer’s riffage is heavily triplet-based. Schaffer once wrote unbelievably awesome songs, with thrashy riffs all over the place, whilst longtime companion Randall Shawver wove excellent power metal melodies into the songs, creating a memorable metal experience. Now, the man writes slow, boring, plodding songs with as minimal effort necessary (seriously, this album reeks of disinterest and a lack of effort on the musician’s part, despite however much work and passion Schaffer claims to have put into making it), and Randall Shawver isn’t even around anymore. Iced Earth used to have awesome singers, from the nasally and fun Gene Adams, to the shrieky, powerful and jizz-worthy John Greely, to the dark and melancholic Matt Barlow. Now, Iced Earth has Tim Owens, and although the man is just as good as a singer as all the previous ones (if not better), he just isn’t singing anything good or worthy of listening to. Every single element of this album congeals into a massive, dense vortex of suckage. Nothing that matters is done right.
I will start with the good, and yes, despite however hard I’ve been on this album, there is still some good in here. It mostly lies in the little four song streak, beginning with “The Reckoning (Don’t Tread on Me)” and ending with “Red Baron, Blue Max.” “The Reckoning” is pretty damn awesome for the most part, despite how tired and uncreative it is. It’s fast, and because Iced Earth always sucks when playing slow, playing fast is the first step in the right direction. It has that awesome thrashy verse riff, followed by a speedy, generic flowcore riff, and the two manage to rule somewhat effectively, forming a decent tribute to Painkiller. However, during the chorus there is hardly a riff at all! Just your generic Standard Issue Iced Earth Triplet Riff™, getting nothing done put providing an annoying rhythm that hardly moves the song along. The band attempts Blind Guardian-esque choral arrangements, which aren’t used to a particularly great effect. And, somebody well-versed with the bullshit Schaffer has been churning out for about fourteen years will recognize what follows next: a generic Standard Issue Iced Earth Melodic Interlude™. Yes, Iced Earth has been releasing albums since 1990, and they still cram quiet, melodic parts into the songs, for better or for worse. Tim Owens mutters and screams some nonsense before the song explodes again, and after we are annoyed by the chorus a few more times, the song ends.
Now, notice the words I used to describe “The Reckoning.” Tired, uncreative, generic, decent, annoying, and bullshit. Yeah, that was pretty much the best song on the album. Things aren’t looking good. “Greenface” is pretty much the same, but without the silly interlude. An awesome thrash riff in the beginning, interrupted by aggravating triplet garbage, and a goofy and unconvincing chorus. “WAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! Greenface!” I don’t know why Schaffer would want Owens to imitate a crying infant during a song about American soldiers, but he does regardless. Still, “Greenface” is pretty good: “I’ll be where the metal meets the meat!!” “Attila” is another goodish song, with another nifty, interesting riff in the beginning. It almost manages to sound epic during certain parts, and the attempts to use harsh vocals to represent the Huns are intriguing, albeit rather poorly executed. “Red Baron, Blue Max” was one of my personal favorites, both then and now; with another awesome, unique riff in the beginning (notice the pattern that the few good riffs are used up at the beginnings of songs?) and some great vocals. There’s even a fast part in the middle that actually manages to, surprisingly, raise tension, which is released when the great intro riff returns. If all of the songs sounded like these four, you would have, well, a slightly above-average Iced Earth album.
But hey, this is post 1996-Iced Earth, so it’s about high time they start writing songs that are bland and unmemorable all the way through, instead of merely throwing in bland and unmemorable segments into otherwise decent songs. The album opens up with, rather expectedly, a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which sounds exactly what you would expect it to: good by the mere fact that it was already a good song, but nothing is particularly notable or praise-worthy. What follows is probably one of the most ludicrous excuses for metal I’ve heard, “Declaration Day.” There are hardly any riffs in this song, and although I may come off as some sort of riff-hungry maniac that demands heavy-metal-mayhem at all times, I have every right to expect to be disemboweled by speed metal fury when I listen to any album of a thrash, speed or power metal nature. And “Declaration Day” has none of this: it is slow, boring and carried solely by Tim Owens’ vocals. Owens releases some awesome screams near the end, but no amount of shrieking about demanding liberty and/or death makes up for the fact this is a sorry excuse for a song. This was one of the first Iced Earth songs I discovered, and it pains me to remember the day when I thought this song was incredibly awesome. “Waterloo,” the only other straightforward metal song that isn’t quite up to par with the album’s peak, is much better in comparison, utilizing somewhat interesting melodies courtesy of Ralph Santolla, a man capable of much better than this album. There are some good riffs as well, but it’s unlikely that any metalhead worth his salt has stuck around long enough to hear them.
“Hollow Man,” “Valley Forge” and “When the Eagle Cries” are all wholeheartedly unnecessary. The latter is constantly derided, and it’s pretty easy to see why: it’s a disgusting, sappy and vapid tribute to 9/11. The verses are boring, the riffs are nonexistent, and the lyrics cringe-worthy. I don’t mean to come off as insensitive, but this song is simply gay. Eagles crying? Give me a break. Oh, and if you have the limited edition of the album, you get to hear the song AGAIN, at the end of disc one. An all-acoustic take of the same god-awful song. Yes, maybe your god does want you to get cancer after all. “Hollow Man” is your usual stupid, uninteresting Iced Earth ballad with lyrics that hardly apply to America at all. T.S. Eliot, you are not. “Valley Forge” is right after it, and is pretty much ANOTHER ballad, with weak riffs interspersed between the acoustic verses. Why are you listening to this album, instead of Night of the Stormrider? These past five songs I’ve mentioned all move at about the same pace as well, a technique Jon Schaffer has well developed, in an attempt to turn your brains into mush and have them leak out of your ears.
All that is left to be examined is the “Gettysburg Trilogy:” a triumvirate of three lengthy songs, each focusing on a specific day in the Battle of Gettysburg, more or less the turning point of the American Civil War in the Union’s favor. I am pleased to announce that these songs, surprisingly, are very catchy and enjoyable, albeit in a non-traditional sense. Yes, these songs are “metal,” but they really shouldn’t be, because these songs are mostly supported by the orchestral effects and (surprise surprise) Tim Owen’s vocals. Yeah, there are some riffs, but the best parts of the album are the quiet acoustic parts! Who expected that? Take the intros of “Hold at all Costs” and “High Water Mark” as an example, which feature Tim Owens cheesily narrating fiction dialogue between the generals and soldiers of the battle. Yes, it is goofy and overly-serious, but I can’t help but always sing along to “The last time we were together/I grabbed his hand and I pledged/If I ever draw my sword on you/May the good Lord strike me dead!” “The Devil to Pay” begins the trilogy in great fashion, and despite opening with “The Star Spangled Banner” (again?), it has a nice-ish riff, and somehow manages to not get boring after twelve minutes. The excerpts of the Union and Confederate anthems (“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “Dixie”, respectively) greatly add to the atmosphere of the music, much more than the random battle sounds and gunshots, at least. Hell, now that I think about it, screw “The Reckoning;” “High Water Mark” is the true highlight of The Glorious Burden. Yeah, it’s about as half as fast and twice as long, but Christ on a stick, listen to the last four minutes of the thing. The part where General Lewis Armistead screams “We’re almost there my boys/I’ve never served with finer/We must push forward boys/And bayonet the Yankee tyrants!” sends shivers down my spine, as well as General Lee’s little monologue at the end. “IT’S ALL MY FAULT! THE BLOOD IS ON MY HANDS!!” In the end, the trilogy is over thirty minutes long, which is a bit of a stretch. Cutting it down by 10 minutes or so and ceasing to pretend that these songs were meant to be heavy metal music would’ve raised my opinion on the entire album as a whole.
I remember when I first discovered heavy metal and began listening to this album, I eagerly ordered a shirt donning the Iced Earth logo and the artwork of The Glorious Burden. However, it arrived one size too large, and I sent it back and for some reason never ordered a proper shirt. Looking back, I can appreciate just how lucky I was to be the proud non-owner of merchandise associated with this musical failure. I suppose this album isn’t inherently as bad as I make it out to be, but the main fact of the matter is that it could’ve been a trillion times better than it actually was. Ralph Santolla would go on to join death metal masters Deicide, and later Obituary, and would demonstrate his mastery of guitar, making it all the more bizarre that this Iced Earth album features no fretboard wizardry whatsoever. Having a legitimately interesting lead section of the band would’ve greatly improved this effort, but I wouldn’t be all to surprised if Schaffer objected to the idea simply because he’s a pompous attention whore. Drummer Richard Christy is obvious talented, having played on the uber-technical The Sound of Perseverance by Death, but there are no interesting, jazzy drumbeats, or any indicants of a notable performance at all. Simply stereotypical flowercore double bass blasting until your eardrums rupture. And yes, one of the main reasons I loved this album as a child is that I fooled myself into thinking that Tim Ownage made up for the lacking music. It’s just much too hard to imagine the idea of Owens joining Iced Earth without immediately assuming the album would sound like “Night of the Stormrider, Part II.” Really, this album had all of the elements to be their best effort since Burnt Offerings, and possibly a classic of modern heavy metal, considering the new members. But unfortunately, The Glorious Burden ends up just as bad as the previous three Iced Earth albums, probably even worse. For every good riff and interesting vocal line or lyric, there are 3 bland riffs and -2 solos. Richard Geib, my AP US History teacher, has made learning about American history far more metal than this album ever will. Something tells me that Iced Earth would head in a better direction if he fronted the band, rather than Jon Schaffer.
Making shitty music since the end of "Horror Show"! With a whole new line-up comprised of talented musicians and cringe worthy lyrics about the greatness of the USA and its people, Iced Earth's newest album is nothing but worthless crap! Surely it is not their newest album, but for marketing sake, let's pretend it is! After all, new stuff sells more than old stuff, and seeing how "The Glorious Burden" is a shameless cash grab, it must be treated as something brand new! Of course, even if it was still 2004 and this album had been released yesterday, the unoriginal and clichéd songs herein contained would sound dated nevertheless, but who cares, originality doesn’t sell, only derivative stuff does, and it hardly gets more banal than this! As previously mentioned, the musicians are talented, but not even an outstanding drummer like Richard Christy or a capable bassist like James Macdonough can save the dull compositions by Jon Schaffer, our hero. Dull indeed, because music hardly gets more tedious than “The Reckoning” or monotonous than “When the Eagle Cries”. But who cares, there are many ballads and flowery choruses on this album, and that sells! And if it sells, quality must be ignored!
Schaffer’s trademark triplets are to be found here, there and everywhere, polluting all of the scarce positive moments with a distinct lack of creativity! Let’s take a look at the basis for all his riffs on this album: “tr-tr-tr—tr-tr-tr—trt-tr-tr—tr-tr-tr”. Occasionally our great master Schaffer varies by doing something in the lines of “tr-tr—tr-tr-tr—tr-tr—tr-tr-tr-tr”. On some rare circumstances he tries a different riff, and by different, I mean the not-a-triplet-but-still-uninspired kind of riff. All the solos are simple, short and easy to digest, which is a good thing, since that way it sells more! Everything here is catchy and memorable, perhaps too memorable. It is one thing to be “captivating” and it is a different thing to be simply “catchy”. The earlier manages to be both enjoyable and respectable, whereas the latter is forgettable and appealing only for one or two listens. And that is what “The Glorious Burden” is: pleasing music that rapidly wears off. But hey, that is good! That way, this album can sell a truckload of copies and be quickly forgotten, so another insipid album can quickly replace it and sell more copies! The formula of success, it seems, and apparently Schaffer noticed that, since the two albums that followed this are even blander. Good for him, it sells more copies. Good for the masses too. But is it good for fans of this once great band? Hell no, but who cares about them? They are nothing but some fat elitists incapable of appreciating anything more than the fierce riff-o-rama of “Night of the Stormrider” or the dark, crushing atmosphere of “Burnt Offerings”. Fuck them! They are in the way of progress! After all, that is what progress is all about: selling more copies! Or at least Jon Schaffer seems to think that way, as his dislike for “Burnt Offering” and love for this pretentious crap indicates. Indeed, his true nature has finally been revealed. Riff monster? No, more like ball less wimp. Not many things scream “Sell-out!” more than flowery choruses repeated ad-nauseam. It was the case with Metallica; it is the case with Iced Earth. But hey, Metallica sold many copies, why can’t Iced Earth? “Because they are a better band” would be the normal answer, but since Jon Schaffer has clearly lost his mind, I truly cannot tell. Well, as long as sales go, things worked out pretty well, since this is the IE album that sold the most. And that is a good thing, right? Ok, not really, but so what? Schaffer is happy with this shit, and so are many people.
Not all is crap, though. The production is pristine, and every single instrument can be heard. There is no real strength or power, just an annoyingly inoffensive guitar tone, but again, it sells more copies. None of the songs is offensively horrible, or anything like that, but everything is so innocuous and safe, it becomes irritating. The vocals, by Tim “Ripper” Owens, are not bad. In fact, he is a ridiculously talented singer, yet he too fails to do anything worthwhile. His high-pitched screams would be awesome anywhere else, but not here, sounding irritating. His mid-range singing is somewhat mediocre, and overused throughout the album. The excessive use of overdubbed vocals is probably the main fault with his singing. It fails to be epic; instead, it is ridiculous. Also, his aggressive style definitively does [b]not[/b] suit the sugary melodies he is supposed to sing. Still, I will not lie: “Declaration Day” is a rocking tune. It is as unoriginal as possible, but I like it. Nevertheless, the silly lyrics almost ruin it. Oh, I forgot to mention that! The lyrics here are filled with rhymes that could have been written by a ten year old, dealing with historical subjects in an erroneous way. I’m thankful I don’t go to the same school Schaffer did. If his lyrics had to be approved by the MA mods, they would be rejected for “factual inaccuracies”. And as if the weak rhymes and historical mistakes aren’t enough, the exaggerated “patriotic” bullshit on most of the songs, namely the overlong and pretentious “Gettysburg Trilogy”, are utterly annoying to anyone that wasn’t born on the USA, and even to some americans, I suppose. But who cares about the rest of the world? When one live on such a perfect country like the USA, caring for other countries is unnecessary, even preposterous. Why care about those “spoiled european pussies”, to quote Iced Earth’s mastermind? And I guess that is a good thing, since it sells more copies – on the USA, at least. And last but not least, I must stress yet again how simple this is. Iced Earth never really had progressive or technical tendencies, but even then the level of simplicity reached by this album is astonishing. I think I once heard a Britney Spears song that wasn’t as predictable as this album, and no, I’m not joking. The most astounding aspect of this album is that the musicians are all talented. However, their talent actually decreases from the overall quality. For example, Christy is busy doing what he can do best – drum. And his slightly complex drumming simply does not fit with the extremely simplistic compositions. In the end, nothing fits together here. Talk about incoherence taken to the next level.
That is how this album can be described: an incoherent cash grab. Overlong and filled with boring songs, containing pretentious lyrics and a total lack of creativity, since only rewashed riffs are to be found here. The album is called “The Glorious Burden”, but ultimately, something this worthless could only have been crafted by some inglorious bastards. Underwhelming and forgettable, really. But hey, that is apparently a good thing! After all, it sells more copies!
[Note: Yes, I am aware that this review sucks.]
Ah, “The Glorious Burden.” This album is surrounded in controversy, mainly because long time vocalist Matt Barlow isn’t present. Instead, he is replaced by ex-Judas Priest front man Tim Owens. Also, the entire album is based on historic events. Which if you didn’t know, isn’t the norm for Schaffer and company. If you’ve read any reviews on any website on this album, no doubt you’ve seen negative ones. Is it really that bad?
The album begins with Iced Earth rendition of America’s national anthem, “Star Spangled Banner,” which is done very well. This leads to “Declaration Day,” a song about fighting for freedom. You’ll get a taste of Owens’s vocal style here. He can hit low notes, high notes, and everything in-between. I see some giving this album bad ratings because Barlow isn’t singing, which is idiotic, because Tim’s one of the highlights. “When the Eagle Cries” is based on the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. This is the typical Schaffer ballad, which isn’t a horrible thing. It’s a good song, although the unplugged version is much better. “The Reckoning” will make old-school Iced Earth fans happy due to its fast paced gallop. Owens’s shred this song and Richard Christy’s drumming is superb.
Now, the album gets rocky from here. Songs like, “Green Face” and “Valley Forge” aren’t really interesting and overall are just filler. I understand that Schaffer wrote “Green Face” for the troops overseas in Iraq, but that really doesn’t save it. To most fans delight, Matt Barlow does make an appearance on “Attila,” singing only on verse. Funny enough, the liner notes say Barlow does backing vocals on the entire album. Yet, I couldn’t hear him on any song excluding “Attila.” Maybe he’s here, but it must be little parts. “Hollow Man” is the worst Iced Earth song ever created. Nothing here is even remotely good, vocally it’s passable, but it’s so tiresome. However, “Red Baron/Blue Max” is great. It’s got the old school feel similar to “The Reckoning” earlier in the album. The catchiness of the riff is intense. “Waterloo” is also a good track. The bass by James MacDonough is the highlight here; actually the bass playing on the album is all around great.
Now, the behemoth arises. The Gettysburg trilogy, which is about the American Civil War. Any fan of American history should find this to be pretty accurate, not perfect but it tells the story in a great way. “Devil to Pay” is a fourteen-minute epic that has a booming chorus and great interludes. “Hold At All Cost” is also fantastic. It’s the most emotional of the trilogy; with it’s opening and chorus. However, “High Water Mark” takes the prize. The interchanging vocals from Owens and Schaffer in the begging help set the tone for the confederate downfall. The end “speech” as one might say, is very well played by Owens and it will send shivers down your spine.
In the end, this album is satisfactory. I understand that album has different track listings depending on what country you buy it in. Of course, having all the songs is a good thing, but at least every version has the trilogy at the end, which is amazing and defiantly helps the album salvage its wreck. Many do believe this entire album is filler besides the trilogy, and Schaffer writing an entire album was just an excuse to release the three songs. Either way, you will find a few great tracks on here, but you’ll also find blunders. I do understand that most of this album is about American history, but I promise you I’m not bias just because I’m an American. This isn’t as bad as people say. Traditional Iced Earth fans may dislike this album due to its content and front man change, while casual fans may believe the filler overrides the positive tracks. You will be disappointed, but at the same time feel satisfaction.
Some here whom are experts on Christianity, be it Christian or Atheist in persuasion, are probably aware of the parable from the Old Testament known as the “Tower of Babel”, which I have used for the title of the review of this album for the sake of making an analogy. But to those of you whom are not familiar with it, I’ll briefly sum it up for you. After the whole great flood that wiped out humanity except for Noe’s family (the modern Bible spells his name N-O-A-H, probably because modern linguistics has altered the implied sounds of letters since after the rise of non-Hebrew languages in Christendom), the descendants settled in an area in the Middle East and built a great tower that would reach to heaven, but before they could complete it God confounded their language so that they couldn’t understand each other and thus they were scattered across the earth.
Now, being one who leans towards Thomism, or a balance of reason and faith as being mutually symbiotic, I prefer to treat this parable as a metaphorical representation of how humanity was first dispersed from its place of origin, something which the theory of evolution also seeks to explain. However, whether you believe in this or not, the analogy is meant to draw a parallel between the great and monstrous structure that was the tower of Babel (great in the same sense that the pyramids and the Ancient Indian temples of the Indus Valley), and the great and towering musical and lyrical effort that is this album. And like the Tower of Babel, which was built by the toil of slaves under the tyrant Nimrod, this album is built upon the blood-painted history of people who have died in the name of what this album’s primary theme is, unquestioning loyalty to something beyond yourself. It is thus necessary to treat the music and vocal performance on this CD as a separate issue from that of the highly controversial theme that it carries, in the same way that one would treat the Tower of Babel as it’s own entity and separate it from the will of King Nimrod.
My copy of this CD is the full 2 CD digipack, which contains all of the songs that were recorded during the sessions for this album. Looking at the album cover itself, one can already tell that the CD was a massive undertaking, and this is further underscored by the large collection of artworks depicting the various subjects covered in the lyrics. And the music itself, from start to finish, puts forth the same aura of an artist toiling like crazy to craft something amazing, such as Michelangelo painting the inner dimensions of the Sistine Chapel. But as my philosophical and theological inspiration St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The test of the artist does not lie in the will with which he goes to work, but in the excellence of the work he produces.”
So the question to ask about the music is simple, is it as excellent as it is being made out to be, and in this respect I answer with a resounding “Yes”. Several reviews have pointed out that this album is too vocally driven, and I agree with this sentiment, and the reason for it is actually quite simple. Jon Schaffer is not quite Dave Mustaine, his strength is playing support with his instrument while someone else wows the listener with their skill. You listen to the older thrash stuff, John Greely and Randall Shawver were the impresarios, while Schaeffer simply provided the atmosphere. This album is dominated by Tim Owens’ expressive and versatile vocals, and most of the more technically impressive stuff is handled by the drums. Musically, this album is more power metal than thrash, though there are moments when we are reminded of the thrash sound that Iced Earth possessed on their earliest releases, most notably “Night of the Stormrider”.
The rendition of the National Anthem that kicks off this album is fairly well done, and does a decent job of mixing guitar and bass activity with the military drum lines that always accompany this composition. I would just like to take a moment to state that although I have some highly charged disagreements with the politics on display on this album, but one thing that really bothers me about this release is that Iced Earth and SPV records have the alleged guts to release something controversial, and then cave in to pressure to remove part of the album just to please part of their overseas audience. This is hypocrisy of the ninth degree, Manowar had no reservations about telling the European left-wing to go fuck themselves if they didn’t like the patriotic themes on “Warriors of the World Unite”, to speak nothing of how they make fun of leftist ideals on their other releases.
The next track on here is titled “Declaration Day”, and is obviously a lyrical homage to the beginnings of the American Revolution. Musically, this song is a straight-forward mid-tempo metal anthem that puts a large amount of emphasis on the chorus. The transition from the opening track to this song is quite smooth, although I was hoping for something a bit more up tempo. Tim Owens does a decent job on the vocals, although there are so many tracks of his voice, creating such a dense layer of vocal harmonies, that it’s tough to focus on the support instruments. This is something that pretty much applies to all the songs on this album, but it is not necessarily something that destroys the music, but it does challenge your peripheral hearing and will require several listens in order to fully comprehend.
The third song on here is the most memorable, and obviously the most radio friendly of all the songs on here, titled “When the Eagle Cries”. This is basically your cliché power ballad, containing a gloomy acoustic guitar line during the verses and a load and bombastic electric guitar drone during the chorus. Tim Owens mostly sticks to his middle range, though the backing tracks fill in the top ends of the arrangement. This song is probably my favorite on here, mostly because it reminds me of how I felt on the day that the Twin Towers were attacked. I have been to New York only a few times in my life, but 2 people very close to me were killed in the name of a God created by a 7th century despot, and that memory does give me a bias towards songs that remember the evil that had been done on that day. There is a fully acoustic version of this song that is basically interchangeable with the original, except that the chorus is not nearly as triumphant sounding without the electric guitars.
“The Reckoning” is definitely a homage to Painkiller era Judas Priest, I would say it’s fairly comparable to the faster songs heard out of Primal Fear nowadays. Some great thrash riffs on here, although once again Owens is dominating the fold. “Green Face” is a more thrash oriented song, loaded with heavy guitar riffs and a rather neurotic set of screams by Owens. “Attila” is one of the more epic tracks on here and reminds a good deal of the songs on Iced Earth’s previous album “Horror Show”, though with better vocals. The evil death sounding choir depicting the Huns and the more traditional male chorus depicting the Romans are a nice counterpoint in the arrangement.
“Red Baron” is another quasi-thrash track with some rather impressive vocal acrobatics, however, this is where the album starts to lag a bit. The riffs are a bit dry and vocals actually are a tiny bit over-the-top, even considering the subject matter of the song. “Hollow Man” is another ballad that is a bit similar to track 3, although not nearly as powerful. Not quite worthy of the skip button, but nothing really exciting going on here, especially considering that Tim Owens’ vocal performance up until now has been an unrelenting assault of banshee screeches. “Valley Forge” is basically a carbon copy of track 3, though slightly more powerful than it’s predecessor. In my experience putting 2 ballads back to back is not a good idea, and so far Axel Rudi Pell has been the only one to prove me wrong. We then close the first CD with the Iron Maiden-like anthem “Waterloo”, which doesn’t vary much musically, but has all the necessary hooks to make it memorable, and another solid performance by Owens.
Now, onto the second CD we go, to experience Jon Schaffer’s homage to the Civil War dubbed “Gettysburg”. It is basically an epic trilogy, telling the story from both sides both through singing and narrative lines. There is no super-fast section loaded with double bass madness on this one, but instead a series of rather nostalgic references to Iron Maiden’s sound, both acoustic and electric. There is a strong amount of orchestral presence on here, in addition to a series of military drum sounds, both the modern snare line and older tom driven tribal beats. It is a good thing that Schaffer elected to separate this into 3 parts, because truth be told, it is difficult to find time to listen to something this long.
All in all, I do agree with the sentiment that this album is cheesy, it is loaded with all the musical clichés that defined the 80s traditional and thrash scenes. For the most part, Iced Earth has never really been about innovation, they’ve been about doing the same thing that Hammerfall and Kamelot do, keep the older sound going in this new age of advanced digital recording technology. I don’t share the urge to see huge leaps and bounds in the metal scene that some hope to see, what I seek is the credibility and musicality of it to survive all of the fly by night trends in popular culture, and musically this album succeeds in that respect.
Now, to address the political controversy that the alleged patriotic themes of this album possesses, as they have no doubt stirred up questions amongst the people questioning whether or not to purchase this release. I don’t know if the German release of this CD contains the explanation Schaffer gave on the album I have, but if it does, I recommend that everyone who owns the CD read it because it offers some very revealing facts as to how Schaffer views American history, and thus how this album came out the way it did, particularly in terms of lyrics.
I will not quote Schaffer’s entire explanation, but instead sum up and paraphrase his sentiments. His thoughts are essentially that of history divorced from logical criticism, which is the pedestrian approach to history that most people tend to take. I take Schaffer at his word that he has been diligent in his study of history, however, I question what books he has been reading as it appears that they are the status quo variety that gloss over some of the specifics of certain historical figures.
Basically, the kind of patriotism at work here is not the kind that I practice, it is not a rational love for your country because you have benefited from the liberties it allows you and the rights that you enjoy because of it’s government’s practice of protecting them. The kind of patriotism on display on this album, unlike what was on Manowar’s 2002 release, is that of loyalty without question, of doing things that contradict your own principles because of some sick, altruistic love of country divorced from your own interests and the people you care about. That is essentially what started in 1861 in America, when men of honor and the dearest of friends were propagandized so thoroughly that they would end up slashing each other to pieces on the battlefields, absent from their minds the question of "What kind of Union is worth preserving if it asks us to do such things?".
This album is a magnum opus in terms of it’s musicality and structure, much as the Tower of Babel was probably a magnificent site to behold. But be wary of the message it carries, and question everything that it passes off as fact in terms of politics and philosophy. For those of you whom are still in school being fed a mixture of half-truths about the history of our country, apply this same form of intellectual scrutiny and curiosity to what your teachers tell you, don’t take anything at face value. I can recommend this album to fans of power metal, and to fans of thrash who don’t mind having the vocals highlighted and there being an orchestra supporting it. It is mostly a good album, despite having some rather large skeletons in it’s conceptual closet.
Remember those cheap hunks of plastic that the cashiers handed to you with every McDonalds Happy Meal that somehow passed off as toys? That's what this album is like. A cheap, boring novelty item that serves as entertainment for a few moments, before the initial shock wears off, and the owner chucks it into the garbage bin, or perhaps forgets it underneath the table or inside those putrid cesspools that the company called play-pens. It was a funny joke while it lasted, but of course you'd rather have the deluxe Transformers model that came out last month, since it'll last so much longer, which is akin to how there are many other albums that will entertain you for far longer than this piece of bland drollery could ever dream to.
I have had this album for over a year now, and I've deleted and re-added it to my iTunes playlist about three times since I first received it, desperately hoping it might get better or suddenly grow on me, as other albums have. But no, The Glorious Burden just gets more and more infuriating and dull every single time, confirming my suspicions that Iced Earth is one of the most bloated, massively overrated metal bands on this entire green Earth. This was their first album with newly recruited shrieker Tim Owens, who is actually an excellent vocalist, but he can do little with the tepid, droning material found on Iced Earth's The Glorious Burden. That's this album's worst flaw - it's just boring as fuck. I guess a large proportion of this dullness is due to the production. Iced Earth went all-out and got a production job that is technically good and clear, but it sounds like a slab of cardboard more than a slab of metal. The guitar tone is nice and safe, perfectly sterile and vanilla, no crunch or edge or it all. Everything here is technically good, but nothing here is exciting, stimulating, or fun in the least.
That wouldn't be terrible if the songs here were ass-stomping metallic slabs of ownage, but they're really not. The songs on this album are all exercises in staying awake, and at best, they'll fade into slushy, boring background music while you forget you're even listening to anything. I've had this problem with other albums, but never to the magnitude I experienced with this album. It's actually a pretty monumental accomplishment if you think about it - I mean hell, some bands create good music without trying, and some bands end up making appallingly bad albums...but never have I seen a band apparently put THIS MUCH WORK into such an unbelievably boring album. It's like they were intentionally trying to create a faceless, bland piece of plastic background music, and putting strenuous labor into making it as sleep-inducing as possible, because this album really is a complete black hole, devoid of any semblances of originality, creativity, passion or energy. Not one spark of emotion or feeling is evoked throughout the 70+ minutes of this album. Not even one. This is not helped at all by the fact that the band has completely run out of ideas musically, and mostly every song here features the same galloping riff triplets over and over again, indistinguishable aside from the tired, weak gang choruses that the band had been doing on the last few albums before this. Astonishingly yawn-inducing, but what did you really expect at this point? They ran out of ideas about 10 years before this album was released.
The lyrics here are a real sticky point. Not because they're poorly written, because these are pretty standard for Iced Earth overall. And while it might be a detractor for some people, the fact that the lyrics are overtly and shamelessly patriotic isn't the reason I dislike them either. Iced Earth's lyrics for this album are really, really artificial and fake sounding. They may be patriotic, but they're patriotic in the same way a middle schooler is when he's grudgingly writing a 500 word essay for his 8th grade U.S. History class. Being that he doesn't want to do it, his paper comes off rather forced and contrived, not really feeling 'patriotic' at all. Iced Earth are a tad bit different, as they (or at least Schaffer does) do care about their heroic, patriotic ideals, and they do care about their country a whole hell of a lot, but the lyrics here still sound as fake as Pamela Anderson's breasts. There's no feeling to it, at all. As if the band just wrote these patriotic lyrics for the sake of being patriotic. Just like the middle schooler. The lyrics here are either fake, plastic summer-blockbuster patriotic drivel ("When the Eagle Cries", "Declaration Day"), or neutral, by-the-numbers statistics and factoids that serve no real purpose whatsoever (the trilogy at the end, "Waterloo", "Atilla", "Red Baron/Blue Max", etc). Disgraceful.
Don't waste your time with this crap; just go listen to better bands instead. I'll never get the hype around Iced Earth, anyway. Sure, their early stuff was ball-crushing good, but it was nothing revolutionary - just more good US power/thrash metal in the vein of what came before. Why do people flock to this band, when they could be headbanging to some Liege Lord or Heathen or Helstar, the best albums of whom easily destroy anything Iced Earth has ever done? What's the appeal? But hell, either way, Iced Earth reached an all-time low with this one, and I cannot recommend it to anyone. I am just about sick of this pretentious, mundane crap, and I'll be deleting it for good this time. Good fucking riddance.
I learned something a while ago: to get the best possible results out of using the Metal Archives, one must at all times remain alert and know what to do. The lesson was provided by a chunk of industrial-grade Cheddar they call The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth, and I still don't know whether to be grateful or pissed off for learning things the hard way. To shed light on the hard and painful but possibly useful experience, we must go back in time.
Our story began on a sunny spring day about five months ago. I found the Glorious Burden at a bargain price, and rushed to check the band on the MA. Genre: Power/thrash. Ratings: well over 80% on the average. Conclusion: thrashy and worth buying with the 8€ price tag. Yes, I trust the archive, and a bunch of select reviewers that much, thank you. I went back and picked up a copy. And damn, I did the wrong thing. In the right supermarket those 8 euros could have provided me with up to 16 bottles of beer, or a twelwe-pack, a beef heart to eat and a nice evening with a movie. But no, I had to waste money, time, and a perfect evening of beer and cow innards to purchase this stillborn piece of melodramatic and pseudo-patriotic art of cashing in. To explain the festering blob of frustration inside me, I guess I must describe the album and the feelings it awoke deep in my mind. Sigh.
The CD I have doesn't have either the Star-Spangled Banner or the Green Face, so probabaly it is a european version. Which is good, there's less of it. In the additional notes of the album's entry in the MA it says: "Because of the album's super-patriot theme, some tracks weren't added to versions released in certain countries." Now, that gives a hint on one of the problems I have while listening to The Glorious Burden, the excessive infusion of supposedly patriotic crap. Musically that would be a minor detail, if we were talking about Nile or Iron Maiden, but we are not. If the album was by Nile, it would not matter, because it's possible to sing about anything in Nile's style, and the audience doesn't give a crap, since they don't understand a word without being handed the lyrics in writing. Iron Maiden, on the other hand, has the required skill to execute this kind of theme properly; they would not turn the patriotic stories into emotionally unreal, pathetic crap. No, Iron Maiden would pack some serious heavy metal into it, and make it into another Trooper or Aces High, and not sound like they were trying to act a crying scene in a school play. Iced Earth has used the patriotic theme to turn the album into a plastic copy of emotion in the very same way that has become the classic reason for people to claim that America's culture is shallow and valueless. But more of the theme and lyrics later; let's take a look at the music and see what the other problems are.
The album's first track, Declaration Day, already killed my high expectations with its overacted sentimentality, and left me wondering the value of my purchase. All right, if the album is a theme work on patriotic things, such as the Civil War, one song packed with pathetic attempt at defiant emotion and bleeding-heart patriotic feeling must be allowed. I would rather have had a metal song, but sometimes the first track is just an extended intro. Move on, move on, there's nothing of value to hear here.
The second track, When the Eagle Cries, comes next. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the biggest, most useless piece of cheesy crap anything with the word "metal" in it has ever created. This song should be performed by some super-star... say... Barry Manilow. He would sing it in a let's-remember-the-dead-and-pretend-we-care gala evening, televised and with a $2800 dinner price tag. Someone would first give a touching speech, trying to seem sombre and emotional, but looking throughout like a beaten basset hound with drooping eyes and a hanging face. Then Barry would appear in the single spotlight, wearing a white tuxedo and playing the first weeping notes on a 47-foot ivory grand piano with seven hundred candles on the top of it. Soon the spotlight would grow larger, and reveal first an assisting barber-shop quartet, then a string quintet. Along with the progess of the magnificient show, the increasing lights would reveal an angel choir of three hundred African-American ladies averaging 380 pounds in gross tonnage, dressed in red, white and blue and set up to look like the Star-Spangled Banner from afar. There could possibly be a very disturbing amateur ballet interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg, with an obviously sexually twisted sextet of men perfoming a touching re-enactment of the generals' anxieties with erect bayonets on their plastic muskets. The tempo and the spectacularity of the show would intensify with the battalion-sized marching band with a bag-piper company attached, and finally a kiloton's worth of fireworks and an overflight by the Blue Angels would bring in the grand finale and Saddam would be executed live... Holy shit, can someone actually listen to this with a straight face? If any of my relatives had died in the WTC, I would possibly sue the band; this is either a display of very bad taste and childishness, or a ruthless attempt to cash in on the surge of patriotic emotions of the post-9/11 USA. As a band from the US, Iced Earth may have the right to artistically pee on the graves of the WTC victims, but on the whole this should count as blasphemy. This truly, truly sucks. Painful.
After When the Eagle Cries the band really has little chance of salvaging the album. They have wandered into the Twilight Zone warehouse with the WTC snow globes, posters of eagles shedding bitter tears and star-spangled fruitcakes. I have tried to listen to the rest of the album by skipping the two songs in the beginning, but the memory of the piece of cheese emerges too often from the general atmosphere of the album. The rest of the tracks are a little less annoying than The Cheddar, but a few general observations are necessary.
First of all, the quality of the lyrics as a whole is somewhere below D. There should be an International Treaty of Military Lyrics (ITML). The treaty, signed by everybody, except possibly by China and Peru, would prohibit writing martial metal lyrics without a licence. The licence could only be aquired by attending a rigorous training administered by Bruce Dickinson, and any unlicenced lyrics would be brought before an International Metal Inquisition with an itchy guillotine-finger. I mean, who the hell approved the lyrics of Red Baron/Blue Max and Valley Forge? Or even Waterloo, which by the way is the musical high point of the album, a pretty nicely driving song? This is minor league show-and-tell stuff. The Gettysburg trilogy in the end of the album is not much better; you cannot instill a feeling of fear, anxiety or elation in battle by clinically describing the events. Painful decisions are made, a stonewalling certainty and determination are voiced, but still the whole falls into a cesspool of fake sentimentality. Even worse, the lyrics contain dialogues between the persons in the battle, but are performed by the one and the same singer. Maybe King Diamond could pull it off (he's done it before, in his own eccentric style, on Abigail, for example), but it still would not be a good idea. Nope, this is not even close to Dickinson's quality. The sentence is swift decapitation, followed by blissful oblivion.
Second, the music itself is not anything to marvel at. I admit that as a thrash and death metal fan I'm not too familiar with Power Metal in general, and so far I haven't heard any power metal I'd rate above 90% ("Paradigma" by Tad Morose actually comes close), but this just does not work. If this is supposed to be power metal, where the hell are the power and the metal? There are riffs, but nothing to stick in the memory, except one brief part in the Trilogy. The vocals are overdone, Mr. Halford has already brought this style to its logical conclusion, and nobody really has a chance of ever surpassing him. The rest is just indifferent. Practically every song has a slow beginning or a slow part somewhere, and something faster, as a kind of a "glory ride" attempt. Possibly they've tried to create a contrast of metal and slower parts and use it as a tool for emphasising emotions, but the attempt does not deliver the expected results. Sometimes -at it's best- the album tries to sound like an Iron Maiden album, sometimes there are elements of Judas Priest. Quite often the music slips out of metal and simply becomes boring mid-tempo rock.
The trilogy is another low point on several counts. First of all, the combined death toll of the Gettysburg battle was something on the order of eight or nine thousand, not counting those who, as was the habit at those times, died of infections months later. There's no point in talking about 50000 bodies littering the ground. If we exclude civilians and WWII bombings, such numbers are reserved for the first day of Somme in WWI, Cannae (216 BC) and Borodino in 1812. The total CASUALTY toll was 51000, but a good portion of those walked/crawled/were carried away, still breathing. This is one of the things that Dickinson would not screw up. In military language "casualty" does not equal "dead".
While I strongly dislike the dialogues and the general stupidity of the chosen way to approach the subject, the music itself is another mountaintop of sentimental bullshit. The glory ride surfaces more than once, and the Hollywood-tinted heaviness of heart of the generals and troops desperately tries to find a way to manifest itself. I have a hypothesis about the birth of this painfully amusing half an hour: the band has been spending the evening in a way usual to a close circle of friends. As the drill goes, they bring pizza, snacks, two six-packs for everyone, and one of them has even brought a new girlfriend. Then they shove the rented movie in the DVD player, and start watching the Gettysburg movie; it had to be chosen because they couldn't agree on either National Treasure or the Blade III, and had to consider the new girlfriend whom they don't yet know well enough to rent Dawn of the Dead. And since someone has a new girlfriend and has to behave, and another dude is on antibiotics for an ingrown toenail, Mr. Schaffer ends up drinking 3½...4½ six-packs and most of the two rounds of tequila. He wakes up the next morning, extremely hung over and with a "good" idea about a magnificient musical masterpiece, equivivalent of the works of Wagner, and sets forth creating the symphonic Mount Rushmore to honor the dead heroes, both the fallen of 1863 and those killed in the WTC. And then he forces the idea and the compositions on the rest of the band in the classical "We MUST play the Jazz Odyssey!" way. The trilogy actually tries to recreate the atmosphere of the movie, which already in itself is a monumentally crappy big-budget Hollywood product. Yup, this is either a miserably bad interpretation of patriotism or an attempt to finally pay the rest of the mortgage on Schaeffer's new house.
The trilogy has a sound that makes it resemble a live recording. Listen to the lenghty instrumental parts with the symphony orchestra, close your eyes, and imagine a scene similar to S&M by you-know-who, and it's right there; the music somehow lags its feet behind, and there's a spark missing. It would be excellent for a live DVD, but just mediocre and uninspiried on a studio album. All the way throughout the album the guitar sound would need some serious weight. As it is, the guitar sounds nondescript and unnoticeable.
Now, let's go for the very specific part of this review that will finally guarantee that some of you will hate me afterwards: The theme of the album, patriotism. It is not a bad thematic choice in itself. Nope, I must stress it's the execution of the idea that sucks, not the theme itself. Overt sentimentality, and worship of those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good and ideals, are familiar to those of us who are older than 30 years. Yes, the Soviet Union had similar propaganda. If someone became a "hero" by falling in the line of duty, and died for the ideology, it was a glorious thing to do. Just remember the WWII propaganda shots of a bright-eyed young lieutenant with fair slavic features, already wounded in previous engagements, rising up from the trench with the pistol above his head, to lead a daring infantry assault against the Nazi tyranny, obviously knowing the danger the opposing pair of MG42s presents, but leading the way with the endless bravery of his self-sacrificing righteousness, supplied by both the hate for the injustices inflicted upon his motherland by the spiteful enemy and the burning idealism inside his young chest. That's the way to make young, iconic, and very much dead heroes. And unfortunately, Iced Earth has found the same aesthetic vision. No, Iced Earth are of course not communists, they just worship the idea of independence, and especially war for independence, with the same iconography. Valley Forge is is one of the focal points of this unquestioning, bright-eyed stupidity. There is some sort of exploitation going on here, and it might be a patriotic idealism, which would mean the album is just propaganda. Or it could be cashing in, since this, I believe, is the way to make money out of the fundamentally useless War on Terror. I think that in the long run, the latter would be the better choice for Iced Earth. If I was an artist of any kind, I would not want to be labelled as a supporter of a war that has resulted in my country killing many times the number of our dead in children alone. Bombing the crap out of Bagdad's suburbs is not the high road to take. No, that's a way to xerox terrorists. If an average American gets his whole family killed by a foreigner, does he sit down and think that he has lost and there's nothing he can do, and that the enemy is undefeatable? No, according to the Hollywood lore, he rides forth to avenge the dead. Who ever thought that an iraqi man who has lost his family in random bombings, and has nothing to lose any more, does not want to do the same? The US is shooting itself in the foot with the goofy war, and Iced Earth wants to become a mannequin for the whole process. Shit. I think the thematic formula, when done like this, is idiotic. If they really are this patriotic, why not enlist instead of spoiling the good name of metal? That would be doing something. They even promise that "if need be, we'll die free". I say feel free to do that, please... I'm sorry for this incoherent outburst of political ranting in a metal context, but Iced Earth started it, not me. With When The Eagle Cries, their patriotic work turns into politics, whether or not they intended it. I'll be waiting for a flood of hatemail now. PM me, please, I won't give you my email address.
So, then something completely different: To finally complete my lecture about the use of the Archive, take heed of the following advice: Find a few reviewers whose opinions you respect, i.e. reviewers who you agree with. When making the decision whether to buy an album or not, try to find the said persons' thoughts about it, if they are available. The average rating, even with a large number of reviews, can be misleading; people tend to review the stuff they like, and the dissenting voices drown in the worshipping white noise of the unquestioningly eager masses. Usually I've followed this procedure to the last letter, but this time I was in hurry, and looked at the average of all Iced Earth albums in the MA, not Glorious Burden alone. Had I read the few disagreeing reviews from certain people, I would have been warned, and the choice would have been an album by Death instead of this. And to be honest, I've based something in between 30 and 50 purchases on the MA reviews so far, The Glorious Burden being the first real mistake. So, the Archive actually works, at least for me. And no, don't think I'm offering myself as one of the trusted reviewers. No, I wouldn't trust myself in such a serious matter.
Usually, if and when dealing out ratings below 40%, I'd be inclined to getting rid of the album afterwards. But not this time: I'm going to keep this one for the special entertainment value it holds. A friend of mine has a David Hasselhof CD hidden somewhere among his other CDs. When a boozing evening has progressed beyond a certain amount of alcohol, someone (quite often me...) always manages to find it and shove it in the player, always just to annoy everybody else. If David Hasselhof's singing sounds good, you know it's time to stop drinking for the evening. The Glorious Burden will become my version of David Hasselhof, and provide some sarcastic fun for drunken people in the future. That's how bad it is.
At one point in time there was an era in which it was considered a good thing to love your country and to do what you can to ensure that it perseveres and grows. It used to be encouraged to support your country and to be proud of where you live. It seems as if those days are almost over, as people seem to condemn others for expressing pride that they hold for their nation; this happens so much regarding the U.S. that it isn‘t even funny. It seems one can’t be proud of their country anymore because maybe that country has a rocky past, or is even more rigid in the present. I have a feeling many people see patriotism as being egotistical and fat headed, and thus many people cry their eyes out because Iced Earth made an album with a slight patriotic edge and a historical theme.
You know what? Those people can go ahead and bleed their hearts out until they die, because despite people believing that patriotism is a bad thing, this isn’t a bad album. The Glorious Burden is far blown out of proportion when people say it‘s all about patriotism. This album deals more with historical figures and telling the story of occurrences throughout history rather than just the simple theme of national pride. Having maybe two or three tracks, which are even remotely patriotic, doesn’t qualify for mindless and arrogant patriotism. The only songs that are even remotely patriotic that I can think of are “The Reckoning“, “Star Spangled Banner”, and “When The Eagle Cries”.
This entire album is packed with one giant passionate performance, which surely makes this one of the best albums of 2004. The album is also fairly diverse; you’ve got your thrasher songs, heavy set, and the in between which shares both the thrash and heavy characteristics. Ripper‘s vocal implementation is pretty ardent, but I still think Barlow is, and forever will be, the real voice of Iced Earth. Ripper has a sound quite similar to Rob Halford, and you can hear some vocal melodies and tones similar to Judas Priest’s “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Painkiller“ albums (“Greenface” and “The Reckoning” are good examples of this). What I’m referring to for some songs are the high pitched singing style and the well placed shrieks that Owens dishes out, sounding very much like the middle-class man’s Rob Halford.
Yes, yes, we all know of Jon’s recursive riff style, but even though it’s not incredibly diverse it still sounds different. The way I look at it is, if you can tell the difference between all of the songs, then the composer has done a good job. That’s the thing - none of the songs sound exactly the same...and no matter how parallel the riffing style is to previous works, it won’t change the fact that the tempo and rhythm are different. One can argue that some of the songs may be simplistic, but even the most well-liked songs aren’t the most complex in construction - you have to hear the music for what it is, not see it as it’s contrived in order to fully appreciate it. Yet again, Jon demonstrates his hand agility and stamina on songs like the thrashing “The Reckoning,” which only induces the will to bang your head until your spine snaps in half.
This album certainly keeps the thrash elements which made Iced Earth one of the more well-known power metal bands, with songs that ride in on the heavy metal cavalry and completely sever your head with one swift swing of the melody axe. Songs such as “Red Baron/Blue Max” really let Richard Christy show off his incredible drumming skills with enough speed to punch you in the face, run away, and you’d never know what hit you. On songs like “Attila” and “Red Baron/Blue Max” the rhythm guitar goes into some seriously fast palm muting, quickly come out to reveal some melody, then falls back into it’s tight formation with lead guitar, over and over again to make them scream with blistering thrash power. There is only one song that doesn’t particularly spark my interest, which is “Hollow Man”. It’s not a bad heavy metal song (it‘s somewhat similar to “I Died For You), it’s got a blazing solo, but it just doesn’t click with me unless I happen to be in a melancholic mood.
Of course, Richard Christy proves himself to be one of the most coherent and best drummers in the metal world on songs such as “The Reckoning”, “Greenface”, and “Red Baron/Blue Max”. Whenever he has the opportunity to give some speed, he goes above and beyond. Some people say he went way overboard on this album on some songs, but I found nothing except joy at the fact that he got to show off a little bit. The album as a whole isn’t the best representation of Richard Christy’s skill on the kit, but in some songs (like the ones I just mentioned) give you a good sense of how good he is. Christy simply destroys with his burley drum sound and the speed that goes with it.
We’ve also got Jimmy back on bass, and as much as I like Steve DiGiorgio, I didn’t feel he was really THE bassist for Iced Earth. Yeah, he was talented and let the bass stand out more in Horror Show, but something just didn’t click when he was in the band for me. Jimmy does a fine job at giving the album the extra “UMPH!” it needs in order to crush the skulls of the naysayers and non-believers. The bass isn’t as “clickity” as it was on Horror Show; it’s much deeper and blends more with the guitars, but still manages to stand out.
The Gettysburg trilogy is nothing short of amazing. Most songs (with the exception of “High Water Mark“) start off fairly steady and build up into an extravaganza of overwhelming emotion, melody, and sky rocketing symphonic elements and an overall enchanting performance. The symphony in the song “High Water Mark” really adds to the feeling of desperation as Schaffer tells the story of the soldiers as they begin to charge into battle, after the nice little role-play between Tim and Jon. If you doubt Schaffer‘s talent as a songwriter, listen to the symphony playing in the songs; Schaffer WROTE the symphony parts. The trilogy as a whole almost feels like I’m at a symphony as well as a metal concert...pure greatness.
The end of “High Water Mark” shows the kind of sorrow General Lee must have felt, knowing he was responsible for sending over 10,000 soldiers to their deaths, with the melancholic line of “God forgive me...please forgive me. It’s all my fault..”. As I’ve said previously about Jon Schaffer; the man is without a doubt, one of the most empathetic lyric writers that I’ve ever known. It’s as if he can place himself into anyone’s shoes and tell their whole life story as if he was telling it from their perspective. I have been to Gettysburg myself, it is a breathtaking sight and I can understand how it could inspire someone to write about it; if you ever get the chance to visit Gettysburg go without thinking twice.
While listening to the trilogy, I’d recommend reading the lyrics and Jon’s comments along with the song. After listening to it and reading along I learned more about the battle at Gettysburg than I had previously known. I was slightly disappointed with the fact that there are no solos in the trilogy, but the performance and the deliverance of the performance more than make up for it. This is, without a doubt, one of the strongest albums Schaffer has written, and it shows by the trilogy alone. I believe the deliverance would have been much more overwhelming if Matt Barlow had been doing the vocals, but Tim Owens did a much better job than I had anticipated.
Overall, this is a rather stunning performance. I can’t really say that I was expecting much from this, but it completely took me by surprise. You can say all you want about Schaffer’s attitude, his riff construction, or his patriotism; but the fact stands that he can still make good, fervent, strenuous, and enthusiastic songs. Iced Earth has still got it and this is blatant evidence of that. If you decide to purchase it, try to get the two-disc version, it’s well worth your money.
Edit: i though i could make this review better, so i rewrote it:
Matt Barlow had become the voice of Iced Earth. But 9/11 changed things. Barlow realized how short life is and decided his life needed a new path, so he left the band to pursue a career in law enforcement administration. Barlow was replaced by "Ripper" Owens. Ripper has a higher voice, that combined with slightly less thrashy riffs, give Iced Earth more of a power metal type sound. Instead of thrash/power, i would now call Iced Earth power/thrash. 9/11 also had a great impact on Jon Schaffer, who has always been very patriotic, and it has inspired the lyrics to several songs. Some of the riffs on this album are recycled from earlier Iced Earth and even Demons & Wizards, but Schaffer recycling riffs is nothing new and shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying this album.
The first track is a guitar playing along to the "Star Spangled Banner." When you first hear this, you might think it is stupid to put the US national anthem on the cd, and you really might not want to listen to it. But if you pay attention, tracks 1 and 2 blend together, as if they were one song. The guitar on the national anthem leads right into "Declaration Day" and the transition is seamless. Listen closely and you will see that it was one song split into two tracks so that those who can't handle the greatness of America can skip the star spangled banner. These two songs combined make a very good intro for the cd.
The third track is the ballad "When the Eagles Cries." This is a very patriotic, and extremely cheesy song, that should not be on the album. I've only listened to it once, and I skip it every time i listen to the album. Don't listen to this song unless you want to torture your ears. The country sounding acoustic version is even worst, luckily that's not on the cd. But don't just not listen to the entire album because of one horrible song.
This is the end of the patriotic part of the album. Some might say that "Valley Forge" is also a patriotic song, but if you listen to the lyrics, it is more a negative commentary on Americans and tries to remind us of our roots and how we should not forget the sacrifices made for democracy. It goes along very well with the historical theme of the album. So basically if you don't like the patriotic stuff skip the first three tracks and you can still enjoy the rest of the album.
"The Reckoning" is a good trashy song with pretty catchy lyrics. Ripper does a great job on the high notes. "Green Face" is great example of Ripper's vocal range, and has a pretty cool solo in it too. After listening to "Green Face" I want to hear ripper perform some older Iced Earth songs, as this song shows how he can definitely pull off the older stuff. "Hollow Man" is the typical Iced Earth ballad, and is nothing special at all. If you've heard one ballad, you've heard them all. But don't worry, there's no more ballads on this album. "Attila" is a pretty good fast paced song and "Red Baron/Blue Max" is worth a listen.
Then starts the best part of the album. the 30 minute Gettysburg portion. It starts out with the star spangled banner (no guitar, just the actual song), but that song fits very well here since this is about the civil war, and a few civil war tunes are played throughout the 3 Gettysburg songs. I'm not going to say too much more about this part of the album, but you should listen to it. I thought it was amazing, especially if you have any interest in American history. But you even if you don't its still absolutely amazing and very epic sounding. This 30 minute 3 song section of the album is the main reason i bought this album, and i was very pleased.
Overall this is a good album, although not Iced Earth's best. If you like Iced Earth you should buy this album, it won't be your favorite but you will still enjoy it. Powermetal fans will probably also enjoy this as will anyone who liked Priest with Ripper. Barlow cant be replaced, but Ripper did an excellent job and sounds great. Also if you really don't like the whole patriotic theme, just skip the first three tracks and you can still enjoy the rest of the album. I think everyone should give this album a listen before just writing it off as crap. Its not like Schaffer sold out, he's just making the music he wants to make. A band doesnt always have to be flamed for doing something different. This still sounds very much like Iced Earth and isn't a waste of your time.
I had pretty low expectations on this from the start. Sure, The Reckoning single brought us some really nice thrashing with the title track and a solid rocking Valley Forge, but then also two mediocre ballads á classic late Iced Earth, an essential addition to any post-Burnt Offerings album. Also, with all the praise Jon gave to the album I just got even more doubtful, as everyone knows his head is further up his ass than Lars Ulrich's (although the drunken episode was pretty hilarious. "TIM WILL HAVE PRUNE JUICE!!!"). And I don't really trust a man who says something like Burnt Offerings is his worst work.
And with the patriotic (erm, excuse me, "historical") subject, this is pretty much bound to fail. It just doesn't feel like something you can build an entire album on and stay interesting and inspired. And I was correct.
The Glorious Burden has many major weaknesses that's been very evident on all Iced Earth albums of late, but here they shine in all their splendour and crappiness. First of all... the riffs. Sure, Jon has been recycling old riffs for god knows how long now, but this is downright depressing. The Reckoning was impressive at first, but when you hear songs like Attila and Waterloo, the lack of inventive riffs is truly astonishing. They all sound the same; same boring and faceless triplets with the chorus melodies played on top of them, on pretty much every last song. And those who don't follow this exact pattern (Red Baron/Blue Max comes to mind) still give a very familiar I've-heard-this-before feeling.
Damn you, Jon, retire while you still have some dignity in you! It's obvious you can't write an albums worth of good songs anymore. There's still some good stuff to be found here, but you get to sift through alot of boring and repetitive crap to get there.
The few good moments on here... The Reckoning (Don't Tread On Me) has some of the most intense riffs on here, though they're ridiculously uncreative. However, Tim makes this a good kick in the balls with his monstrous high pitched voice. Owens is just about the best part of the album, and the only band member who holds it together. Otherwise, we get lots of random unnecessary double bass drumming, unoriginal riffs and barely audible bass, and that just doesn't cut it. Oh right, I'm talking good parts. Right..
"AAAAAAAAAAAH! Greenface!" Yeah, this is good stuff. Tim shrieks like a madman on the chorus, and also owns you on the line right before said chorus; "I'll be where the metal meets the meat!" The song also features some really nice down-tuned thrashing riffs that are almost not pathetically uncreative. Almost.
Valley Forge alternates between acoustic and distorted, and is pretty decent as well.
Those are the only songs that are actually good, and then the rest has a few decent moments. Red Baron/Blue Max features some pretty awesome chorus shrieks again, and is fairly memorable overall, although the Maiden-wannabe lead section is laughable. Attila has the least inventive riffs on the album, but a very nice chorus and epic opening melody. Vastly boring for the most part, though, but not terrible.
Then there are some really BAD songs, too. The intro Star Spangled Banner is one of the most laughable moments in the history of music, we all know that. Let's not speak of it again, ever. It fades into Declaration Day, which plods along and doesn't get anywhere, and is just mindnumbingly boring throughout. When The Eagle Cries and Hollow Man... standard IE ballads, you know the drill. Nothing new here, but we're getting used to that with this band. Boring and mediocre, both of them. Then finally Waterloo, which just plain bores me like hell. Go eat yellow snow, Schaffer. Or even better, write me another Travel In Stygian, and none of this overdramatic boring crap. Hell, even another Damien would make me most pleased - at least that's overdramatic with style and coolness, something this album lacks completely.
And then the much acclaimed trilogy, Gettysburg 1863. Hey, this ain't bad at all! Though I have some complaints with these too: It's so fucking predictable! The way the long instrumental sections are placed in the songs just feels so incredibly forced. However, Jon does redeem himself considering the fact that these sections in themselves are pretty fucking good despite the lack of creativity in the way they're vowen into songs. All three sound pretty different and have their own defining qualities and great moments, but my favourite is the one on the first part of the trilogy; The Devil To Pay. The melancholic rendition of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is one of the most powerful moments in Iced Earth's career (at least among their later post-BO material). Though like I said, all 3 instrumental sections are really well done, and stand as the highlights of the album.
Otherwise, the songs are pretty standard stuff for this album, and don't really stand out much. Still, I'll say this trilogy easily owns just about anything else on the album. See, just about every song on the entire album is overly epic. But on a 30+ minute epic (if you take the trilogy as one whole song), the epic grandness just seems to fit.
The orchestrations on here stay in the background and add atmosphere instead of ever getting full focus, which I'll say works pretty well. Especially during the verses of the songs, they add some real power to the marching beats of the riffs.
All in all though, The Glorious Burden is (not surprisingly) quite bad. Predictable and unoriginal songwriting manages to stand out as the main weaknesses on here, but there's alot of details all over that could be complained about. However, there's also some good moments placed randomly all over, and frankly, I'm too lazy to point all this out. Figure it out yourself if you can be bothered. In conclusion, this is by all means not a really bad album, just pretty damn boring and predictable.
The Glorious Burden bares a grace that is rarly seen on the metal scene these days...this has fucking class man. Your all probably wondering...what does this give me that other Iced Earth albums in the past have not. Well there are a couple things in the formula that need to be brough to your attention. First off as you all most likly know that Tim "the ripper" Owens takes over in Mathew Barlows sted, which is a love or hate affair on it's own. Second there is a new lead guitarist which took over for Larry who wasn't all that good to begin with. Me personally, i believe that Barlow is one of the most well rounded vocalists to come out of the metal scene. Tim Owens also fits right in that catagory and he absoutally slaughters the rest of his efforts with priest on this one. He can do it all, scream like a banshee, rip your throat, and do some of the harshest vocals this side of Jeff Walker (perhaps not that harsh). Although at first i was quite skeptical over if Owens could meld with Iced Earth...then after a couple very close, intence listens you know in your heart this guy deserves a HUGE pat on the back with very Emotional vocals.
With continued listens this album really becomes something special and very different than what you originally thought. Sure Shaffer's riffs are practically the same since the start of their career with his constant Iron Maiden like tripplets moving nearly at the same tempo all the way through. The Glorious Burden is a much more Vocal "focused" album in the sence they really thought about where the vocals would fit. They must have planned the vocals out so they melded with the music flawlessly. Richard Christy being one of my biggest influences as a drummer really struts his shit all over here although we know hes capeable of much more. I believe that he is not going over his bounds at all, he just complements the music, and never goes out of control.
Holy rolling fuck, Gettysburg is a huge trip through the war, they did a superb job on the writing and recording of those 3 tracks that spanned nearly 35 minuites in length. The orchestra is out of this world. Tim pretty much saves this album, and thats why i named the title The swin or drown syndrome. It could have either exceeded or disipated. I disregard every fucking piss poor remark that is said about Mr Owens. This guy has pure talent and shows his intence emotion in each note he sings. I really feel for Tim, because not only was he the proceeder for two of the most acclaimed metal singers (had shoes to fill), but he also had no real way to have any of his own ideas let out on a recording.
Although i never did like the idea of a Patriotic album when i first purchased this, i really changed my mind when i heard what they had done with it. Their inspirations really showed all throughout the recording of this album. Mat Barlows background vocals were left in the mix for three of the songs which you will be able to pick out instantly when you hear the album. Almost letting us know of what may have come if he was to be the singer on here. Warning goes to the technical metal freaks...do not buy this album if you like 10000 riffs per song, the riffs are not plentiful, and each track usually contains 2-5 riffs (Mostly chords or triplets). I think Jon started running out of ideas guitar wise after Stormrider. He should really try to become a lead player, because all their lead guitarists since Randall left havn't been much to call home about. The bass is as always pretty low in the mix as far as Iced Earth albums go. The Production is real good again, and sounds pretty much like what Horror Show did with abit more of a Natural Dry feel to it which is quite nice if you ask me. As i mentioned earlier is that Tim Owens really fucking shines on this album, and the symphony is a real pleasure hearing. I never thought i would enjoy this album as much as i did.
In conclution if you want your classic Iced Earth added with alot more balls and typical few ballads your going to already have this. This is a love or hate album because of the singer change and constant use of the same guitar riff. Look beyond the Patriotic stuff and you will love it. Or totally adapt and open your mind to it and breathe it which i have now done. I am a much better person for giving this album a chance. I highly recommened this album to any metalhead, although it does get abit repetative but thats what makes the album so infectious. The low down is that this album is worth checking out but you should definatly read the lyrics while you hear it. You'll totally understand why Jon picked this topic among constant others. This is defintly going on my Top 5 for 2004 already.
p.s read the lyrics
Best Tracks: Declaration Day, The Reckoning (Don't Tread On Me), Attila, Red Baron/Blue Max, Valley Forge, The Entire Gettysburg Epic
I had actually been kinda looking forward to this album... while Schaffer's riffage tank has been depleted since 1995, there is the draw of the album having one of my favourite vocalists of all time on it. I may be the only person on the planet that likes Tim Owens, and thinks he did an awesome job in Priest, but hey, I'm entitled to my opinion, so suck my shit. And all the people that think Barlow is what defined the band... fuck no. It was Greely's job to lose, and I'm still pissed-ah off-ah that Barlow-ah got to spend 9 years in the band. Nazi punks fuck off, and self-righteous Schaffer too, because despite the lack of Matthew-ah, it's still the same old Iced Earth.
Indeed, IS it any good? Fuck no. Let's get that right the fuck out of the way right now. If you want another Stormrider, go to the store and pick up the Iced Earth LP called 'Night of the Stormrider', and then you'll have two copies, and that's the best you're gonna do. Sorry. This album is mediocre, uninspired, and filled with shitty ballads. In other words, it's an Iced Earth release. It just kinda happens to have Tim Owens on vocals, but in the end that is kinda incidental.
To start things off, we have the controversial Star Spangled Banner. Let me say, that if you want to suck Uncle Sam's cock, that is entirely your decision, and I am not so anarchist/leftist that I'll take points off for it. But I will take off points for the random drums and the uninspired guitar playing. Hendrix at Monterey, this not.
Then, there is the slow plodding riffage of Declaration Day. In fact, I count precisely one riff, other than the noodling melodic line that keeps swirling around. This is more You've Got Another Thing Coming than Painkiller, and I have no idea how Schaffer allowed his triplets to get so buried in the mix. Then there is the really cheesy chorus, with the weak background vocals. Tim Owens is of course on top of his game - he snarls and shrieks like the Ripper we've grown to love (tolerate, despise, fill in your appropriate adjective). But the song is far the fuck too long, and far too slow and attempted-epic without actually being epic.
We go on to When The Eagle Cries, which continues the proud tradition of completely worthless Schaffer ballads. Look, the kid fell off his motorcycle, get over it. He'd be happy if you honoured him by writing another Pure Evil or six (speaking of Pure Evil, is anyone else fucking stoked to hopefully have that be part of the live setlist... Owens screaming 'PUUUUREEEE!!! EEVIILLL!!!!' Oh man, if I were gay, I'd be sucking his cock now. Hell, I'm not even gay but I'll consider switching for that one night if the setlist contains a lot of classics). But yeah, enough of a tangent. THIS song is not classic. But it is gay. One out of two.
Next up, The Reckoning, which is the first song randomly released as a promo, so I've been rather familiar with it. It sounds a bit more like Painkiller, but it's about as Painkiller as Primal Fear, in that the whole thing is somewhat uninspired. Yes, Schaffer throws in some thrash riffing, but there is the over-echoed choral vocals which just reek of stupidity, and the extra-fast double-bass which overshadows the riffs. But man, the vocals... yeah it's not often that a vocalist is the highlight of a metal album, and that unfortunately is going to cost them MORE points. There's the randomly thrown in middle section which again serves to highlight Owens's vocals but does nothing to bring back memories of Colors or whatnot.
Greenface... now there's a real fucking thrash riff to start things off. As opposed to the usual triplet-styled riff pattern, there is actual headbangage to be found. Unfortunately, then the drum flurries come in, and Schaffer loses all creativity. Under the verses, you really cannot make out what is going on guitar-wise - it's all kind of a blob. Oh yes and the chorus is complete shit. It's like they took a book from Extra Shrieks by Anal Cunt's Seth Putnam (Pantera "Great Southern Trendkill") and went wackjob wild on the mixing board. Look, extra shrieks by Tim Owens. Hooray. You can do bad things with a good voice: just ask poor Ralf Scheepers. The rest of the song kinda plods along at the Usual Pace - is it just me or does Schaffer play triplets at precisely one speed?
Attila has a little melodic intro that sounds completely off-key, actually. It's a bit reminiscent of Virgin Steele's "Burning of Rome" except the notes are all fucking wrong and there are random vocal tracks where there should be no random vocal tracks. Then, when the song kicks in, it's MORE OF THE SAME. Oh bejeezus, isn't this what I was talking about before? Schaffer pretty much plays at one speed. I'm not sure who put Iced Earth on top of the trash-heap that is modern metal... maybe it was Greely and Schaffer when one was in the band and the other was full of ideas, but nowadays, Iced Earth are completely mediocre, and I have no idea why they are claimed as the kings. Then again, this is the industry that thinks Dimmu Borgir is a Good Idea, so what the fuck do they know? Oh yeah the drums are far the fuck too loud, and every once in a while the riffs are completely buried... but the song does feature the only random vocal track is kinda cool. It sounds like Helloween's "A Game We Shouldn't Play" more than anything else, and it is cute in its own way. Too bad Schaffer's idea of an awesome riff is to play the same note over and over again.
Then, we have Red Baron/Blue Max. This song was co-authored by Owens, apparently, and you know what, maybe two heads are better than one, but the fact that they ride that nifty intro riff into the ground, and mix Owens's vocals far too loud into the sound - oh yes, and come up with lyrical genius works like "his name bestowed by a Holy Ro-MAAANN" (way to look up the pronounciation in the dictionary, dork). Oh yes, and Richthofen could go up to a whole 103mph, so at least that historical bit is accurate, but if you're going to cite performance statistics, throw in something about that incredible climb rate of a triplane. Oh yes, and it is not proven whether it was Australian anti-aircraft gunners got him, or Roy Brown. Pretty much it was (as war tends to be) a complete fucking freeforall, and someone plugged the poor bastard. That's your historical lesson for today, kids.
Next, Hollow Man. Shitty ballad. Eat my balls, Schaffer. NEXT!
Valley Forge - for the first two minutes we get another shitty ballad, and then we get generic riffage that does hardly anything, at the Usual Prescribed Schaffer Speed - speed at night, this guy does not. This is where the album starts to get really really dragging, as though the first half was even all that tolerable.
Waterloo... this is apparently some sort of track that appears only in Europe, replaced by Greenface in the U.S. It's not like there isn't all that much of a difference. There's the general midpaced crunch riffing, the endless noodling of "melodic" guitars, and Owens's over-the-top vocal performance being wasted on a mediocre song. Oh yes, the production is really shitty as well - it's actually perfectly good technically, but it is the cream of the crop of 2004 styled production, meaning that the shrieking heavy fucking metal days of Painkiller and Ample Destruction and Stained Class and even Night of the Stormrider are just fucking gone, kids. We got about 20 years of classic shit, so I suppose our penance is seven times 20 years of this kind of insipid drivel, with only a few bands carrying the flag of classic fucking metal. And no, Iced Earth is not one of them. Try Metalucifer, who do not feel the need to employ a double-bass abusing asshole behind the kit, instead choosing to fill their soundscape with fucking riffs. I mean yes, Waterloo has that riff interlude (it kinda sucks when I have to specifically point that out) but it's just a generic Schaffer "look, I listened to the Number of the Beast more than once" gallop, followed by a vocals interlude, etc etc.
Okay then there's an acoustic Eagle. The intro this time sounds a bit like Pale Shelter (Heretic) but nowhere near as coherent and well-done, and then we go into the usual insipid dreck that we were forced to listen to on track three. "Mayor Quimby, elections next month." WHAT, AGAIN!!?!?
Then there is the 30 minute long song. First, we get YET ANOTHER rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Because Schaffer may be patriotic, but he sure isn't very creative. Though later he does change things up by pulling out Battle Hymn of the Republic. Overall, there are a lot of instrumental passages consisting of a lot of instruments, with some being far better than others. It just makes sense that some pieces of middle-1800s American music go better with heavy metal stylings, than do others. Every once in a while, there is a real winner of a passage, and even overall the song is decently enjoyable. In fact, the worst parts are the kinda pedestrial vocal moments, especially the fact that they felt the need to mix in an Owens shriek far too often, to go with the usual chorus vocals. Oh yeah, and I swear Schaffer sounds like Barlow at times. I have no idea why Owens didn't get all the vocal roles, because you can definitely hear the drop-off in quality. Sometimes the song is too epic and unwieldy for its own good, but the fact is, it's the best half-hour on the album. There are the quiet moments which tend to hardly ever work on an Iced Earth album, but there are also some decent riffs, and the fact is, the Standard Schaffer Pace works well as a military march. Best of all, the drummer employs standard patterns, as opposed to irritating-as-fuck flowercore double-bass disasters. But, it is a half a fucking hour long. Maybe if it were just 17 minutes it would be brilliant - this way it's merely okay.
So then, what the fuck, when all is said and done? Yet another fucking Iced Earth album, that's what. Here's a band that should just not be putting out album after album, because they clearly lack the ideas - especially Schaffer. If you like the modern Iced Earth shit, you'll probably like this one too. There aren't nearly as many stupid ballads as on, for example, Something Wicked, but they still are there. And the riffage has hit a new high in lows, with that damned drummer doing far the fuck too much for no apparent reason. So yeah, it sucks cock.