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Not Quite Back To Form - 60%

metal_bryan, October 25th, 2011

It's time for yet another new Iced Earth album, featuring another mostly new lineup. The only member change that really matters though other than at live shows is Stu Block on vocals. While fans of the old Matt Barlow are sure to enjoy his near perfect impersonation, Stu's real shining moments are when he is more himself and goes into the upper registers. Unlike a lot of people, I'm not a big fan of Ripper Owens. I did not like much of what he did with Iced Earth, but I thought he was a good choice to liven up the tired-sounding riffs that Jon started putting out over time. Much in the same way, Stu's versatility and excellent use of range really liven up a lot of songs on this new album that I would have otherwise disliked with the aging Matt Barlow. The only faults I can find in Stu's vocals lie in certain segments where gang/shout vocals were used and it simply sounded way too "tough guy" and bordering on Metalcore. Otherwise, he's a welcome addition to the band.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the music itself. Jon has crafted some better tunes this time around than on the previous album, though it is not without its moments of downright annoyance. Days Of Rage in particular is like an assault on my intelligence as a music listener and metal fan. Some of the lyrics, like those in Anguish Of Youth or End Of Innocence, are also rather inane and off-putting. It baffles me that this is the same band who only 10 years ago gave us Horror Show, one of the best American metal releases of all time. In general, this is a better album than Iced Earth have done since probably The Glorious Burden, but it's still not a huge improvement. There are only a couple songs which really caught my ear and made me go back and listen again, but other than those two, I will probably not even bother in the future either. There is a glimmer of hope here that the next album may show even more improvement, but at this time the band is still in a funk. Iced Earth fans should check this one out of course, but otherwise I wouldn't recommend it. Go listen to their better older material.

Highlights: Dark City, Equilibrium