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America, Fuck Yeah! - 2%

linkavitch, October 15th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Steamhammer

In 2004, South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone released the movie Team America: World Police. They wrote a song for that movie titled “America, Fuck Yeah” which is a silly, over-the-top rock song where it comically lists all the reasons America is awesome, including McDonald’s, baseball, and Walmart just to name a few. Now the song is obviously done for humor to make the viewers chuckle while a scene unfolds. But what if you took that song and stretched it out for over an hour, and instead of being comical and done for laughs, it was played dead serious? That is The Glorious Burden.

Jon Schaffer has never been a good songwriter, and his issue has been stretching an idea far longer than it needs to be. Take a riff, chorus or a lyrical concept and make that the entire song or album, all while recycling the same Iron Maiden gallop he notoriously overuses. You know, that bumpa-bumpa-bumpa-bump rhythm Schaffer must incorporate in every song? Sometimes it’s mid-paced like on "Declaration Day” and other times its up-tempo and more aggressive like on “The Reckoning (Don't Tread on Me),” or even done acoustically like on “Valley Forge.” But it’s the same riffing style Schaffer milked dry in the 90s, and Schaffer has shown throughout Iced Earth’s career that if its broken, don’t fix it and continue doing it until its fixed. However, The Glorious Burden shows it’s still not fixed.

Schaffer’s done concept albums before this, one with comic book character Spawn (The Dark Saga) and another with horror films (Horror Show). Yet they’re not talked about much because those said albums were harmless and inoffensive. It’s hard to get worked up over the musical equivalent of white rice like those albums. But you can easily get worked up over The Glorious Burden, while it maintains the predictable and simplistic songwriting as those previous albums mentioned, this one scrapped the fantasy lyrics in favor of ones so terrible they would give Robb Flynn a run for his money. This suffers from in-your-face and unapologetic American patriotism which comes off as nothing more than sheer ignorance and racism. We’re talking never leaving America and believing it’s the greatest country ever with no flaw's ignorance, while being completely sheltered and isolated in a bubble. The same stupidity people who think Africa is a country or all Asian people know karate would show. Throw in classic vague conspiracy theory garbage like “true evil grows in you” and “you’re just a brainwashed fool” while you're at it, Jon. Look at that, the conspiracy theorist is calling the listener a sheep, so captivating.

Out with the old and in with the new as this album saw the departure of longtime vocalist Matt Barlow. Replacing him is Tim “I Got Fired by Email” Owens. Saying he does a good job here would be a lie. His voice is high and nasally, and he just loves to shriek his heart out without any rhyme or reason other than he can. There are moments where he tries to imitate Barlow to the best of his abilities. “When the Eagle Cries” is a good example with Owens sounding like he’s about to break down crying like Barlow would do on the Something Wicked This Way Comes album. Speaking of that album, “Hollow Man” is similar to a ballad found there, “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” in terms of song structure and reusing the same acoustic part. Schaffer needs to know, because he clearly doesn’t know, there is more to writing a ballad than just having an acoustic guitar and recycling the same riff. Back to Owens now, other than imitating Barlow to the best of his abilities, he doesn’t have any personality and sounds like a paid mercenary. This is rather fitting considering his hallmark later on in his career has been a hired gun.

It’s hard to be both boring and offensive, but The Glorious Burden is just that. It doesn’t stand out instrumentally or vocally from previous Iced Earth albums. It’s fast and has the infamous Schaffer gallop and a few recycled ballads scattered around. Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. But it stands out lyrically for getting in-your-face with this “my country is better than yours” attitude. There’s only so much “give me liberty or give me death” and “we fight for freedom” and “you’re just a brainwashed fool” dumb cliché lyrics one can take before it becomes a parody, and it becomes a parody once “The Star-Spangled Banner” starts being played on guitar. Jon Schaffer is an insecure xenophobe who thinks wearing an American flag as a bandana is showing patriotism. What else do you expect from a conspiracy theorist who probably thinks lizard people are real?