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Powerful - 90%

DawnoftheShred, November 4th, 2006

This is the first Iced Earth album I’d ever heard, and it certainly aims to please. Whether it’s a full-blown, high-speed riff assault, one of the melodic, acoustic breaks, or some area in between, this album shows no signs of weakness, not even repetitiveness.

The lyrics on this album are one of its highlights. Every song is linked together to tell a story, essential classifying Night of the Stormrider as a concept album. The tale itself is a dark journey, with a ton of memorable lines, well delivered by new vocalist John Greely. His range is a lot broader than his successor Matt Barlow and he isn’t afraid to let loose with a hellish scream every now and then. I still prefer Gene Adam as an Iced Earth vocalist, but Greely does an excellent job here.

The other primary selling point for this album is the superb riffing from beginning to end. Expanding upon the riff ideas from their debut, NotS features complex and epic guitar work. The rhythm guitar is fresh and driving, while the leads are unique and very fitting. Everything is a lot darker and more menacing on this album. Clean riffs are more frequent and the transitions between the heavy and clean riffs are smooth and natural. The band has not only gotten better at songwriting and technique, but they’ve become more progressive in organization. Some of the album’s best moments are in its unexpected tempo changes, due in part to some cool drumming. Unfortunately the drums are also the album’s weakest aspect. The drumming is good no doubt, but the way they were recorded makes a lot of the thrashier sections of songs sound somewhat empty, like the drumming isn’t complex enough in those sections. It’s the only problem I’ve found and it’s a minor complaint on an otherwise exceptional release.

Also notable is the album’s piano outro after the highlight track “Travel in Stygian.” It’s another great example of the band’s increasing progressiveness as well as their skill in maintaining the mood of the album.

This is undoubtedly one of Iced Earth’s best releases, right up with their follow-up to this, Burnt Offerings, and their debut. It’s powerful, thrashy, epic, dark, and sometimes delightfully melodic and it’s a difficult album to find fault in.

Highlight Songs: all of them