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The Ultimate Concept Album - 100%

Vaibhavjain, August 9th, 2008

After quite a weak debut in the music industry one could not keep high expectations for this release. But the fact that there were line-up changes in the band (both the vocalist and drummer were changed for this album) did actually give some hope for the continuously fading fan base of this band. So, how does the band answer its critics and fans? They simply come up with what in my eyes is the ultimate concept album to date in the power metal genre.

“Night Of The Stormrider” is Iced Earth’s second full-length studio album and now in 2008, even after 18 more years and 8 more releases, this in my opinion the band’s magnum opus. The main reason behind this is the inclusion of new singer John Greely’s whose amazing range and Halford like operatic vocals took the band to a whole new level. Which track describes which part of the story I will mention later.

This release is a concept album, which consists of 9 tracks with the track length varying between just over a minute to almost ten minutes, but such variation is expected in almost every concept album. The story portrayed in this album is a sad yet horrific one, which describes a man who is filled with rage after being betrayed by religion. The evil in the world use him as the medium to spread destruction and chaos through out the world and is commanded by them to travel through a desert where he sees such visions that he actually becomes the “Stormrider”.

The first and foremost track on this album is “Angel’s Holocaust” depict an image of the protagonist of this tale where he has just been betrayed and the forces of evil beckon to him. The next track (Stormrider) describes the fact that he is traveling through the desert on the command of the forces he now believes in. Tracks like, “The Path That I Chose” and “Mystical End” just send the message to the listener that the protagonist here is simply losing his feeling and feels no remorse for what he is doing. 3 tracks here (Desert Rain, Pure Evil and Reaching The End) are the climax of this epic tale. These tracks depict an image, which shows the listener that the man has now lost all his feelings and is literally possessed by the evil forces. So unfeeling he has become that he calmly accepts the fact that he has been sent to hell and is on the way to River Styx, and this is the interpretation of the lyrics of the track (Travel In Stygian) that ends this heart-rending saga, that ends this album.

Owing to the popularity of thrash back in the 80’s and early 90’s this album, which was released in 1991, unsurprisingly had a very thrashy sound just like it’s previous self-titled release. Owing to the influences of speed metal and the fantasy and mythological themes the band even slightly tilted towards power metal. This album along with these power and thrash style of music combine elements of the NWOBHM, heavy metal and of course operatic metal. Moreover this album has the aggressive and straightforward feel to it mainly because of Schaffer’s signature galloping riffing, which he uses prominently through out this album.

What is really amazing about this album is that there are no tracks, which are even remotely weak. Yes, there are moments on this album, which are better than the others but each and every track ahs a few moments of brilliance that makes it impossible for an individual to ignore even a single track completely. Here let me give you some examples of tracks, which I picked just randomly: -

Angel’s Holocaust – The orchestration-drum-guitar intro, backed by operatic vocals, makes for an extremely heavy intro and is just another example of Jon Schaffer’s creative genius. It is one of metal’s greatest intros to a track and till date remains one of my favorite intro’s to a particular track.

Pure Evil – Every single time Greely goes “Puuuuuuuuuuuuure Eeeeeeeevil” is just spine chilling and amazing to say the least. This is a perfect example of making most of operatic vocals.

Overall this album has an amazing concept with even better song writing and wonderful use of backing vocals and instruments like the piano which complete what is in my opinion the ultimate concept album of all times. I, even hours of thought could not think of anyway to better this album because the vocals and guitar playing seem to be tailor made for this sort of an album. A brilliant album to start of with if you is new to this band. Extremely highly recommended, as this album deserves nothing less than a perfect score.