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Dystopia - 86%

TgTheEngineer, November 3rd, 2011

On March 3rd 2011, Matt Barlow resigned from Iced Earth. This wasn’t the first time the main singer for Iced Earth retired from music, but this time he assured that it would be final. Shortly after this news was released, John Schaffer (rhythm guitarist and founder of Iced Earth) stated that Matt Barlow’s replacement would be Stu Block (lead singer for Into Eternity). This news put a lot of fans on edge since Into Eternity is a melodic death metal band and Iced Earth has been a long time thrash band that dabbled in power metal.

Well, after the long awaited release of Iced Earth’s new album, we get to see how well Stu Block measured up to the legacy left behind by Matt Barlow & Tim Owens (Matt’s initial replacement before returning to Iced Earth).

The album starts off amazingly strong with the title track, Dystopia. In my opinion, this is the best song on the album. It hearkens back to traditional Iced Earth thrash. This song alone gave me hope that they had stopped dabbling in power metal and had returned to what they did best. The main wow factor for this track is Stu Block’s range. Stu is not only a good cover for Barlow’s med-low growls, but also to Tim Owen’s ear-splitting shrieks, all of which are great, but his mid-range is where I define who he is. It stands out as his sound compared to the other singers.

The tracks that follow also are fairly strong, good songs. The structure of the album is very similar to that of Something Wicked Comes This Way, alternating between heavy songs and more ballad-style songs. The best softer song would be “Anguish of Youth”, a song that is very close to fan favorites “I Died for You”, “Melancholy”, and “Watching over Me”.

The only negative thing about this album to me is the production. It isn’t bad by any means, so don’t think Death Magnetic production style, but it’s very overproduced. It sounds super polished, which would be good except there is a loss of crunch and bite that other Iced Earth albums have.

Overall, I would rate this album an 86%. There are some filler songs that slow down the album, but it’s definitely a great album. I expect a great tour to come with this album as promised by Schaffer (with “Dante’s Inferno” being on the set list).

Strongest songs from the album: “Dystopia”, “Anthem”, “Anguish of Youth”, “Days of Rage”, & “Iron Will”*.

*Only on the special edition of the album.