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Iced Earth are back! - 79%

Nightcrawler, October 30th, 2003

They sure are. The Reckoning is classic late Iced Earth, following the same style as they have from The Dark Saga and forward. This obviously bears the most resemblance to their latest studio effort, Horror Show, mostly in guitar tone and production, but all the promises that Jon Schaffer has made about this new one seem to be true. The songs are very powerful and deal with historical and patriotic lyrics yet they are quite personal, which is done very well.
The songwriting isn't anything new and original, but for what it is, it's excellent, just like we've come to expect from the band. Now, the question on everyone's minds is probably how Tim Owens, formerly of Judas Priest, handles the vocal duties in Iced Earth. I am glad to say that he, just as I had always expected, fits perfectly in with the late musical style of Iced Earth, and easily fills the shoes of Matt Barlow (who actually does some backing vocals on here!).
And just like Jon promised, he has brought out a vocal range within Tim we didn't think existed. On the title track, he pulls off some completely insane and truly sinister high-pitched work throughout the entire song, which literally had me shouting "holy fucking shit!" at first listen.

The Reckoning (Don't Tread On Me) is by far the best song on here, and is the song most reminiscent of Horror Show, with the semi-operatic backing vocals on the chorus and also the style on the riffwork, which is totally in the vein of Wolf or Jack (both style and quality wise). And to boot, we have Ripper's menacing vocal performance, which totally makes the song.

The second track is an acoustic ballad called When The Eagle Cries (unplugged- so apparently the studio version is not acoustic). This is the second greatest song on the album, mostly thanks some mesmerizing work on acoustics and also very nicely done piano parts, and most of all a very powerful chorus. Tim Owens again really makes the song what it is; it's obvious that he's the right man for this band.
The actual song is a pretty traditional Iced Earth ballad, but thanks to some great vocal lines it is totally made a standout.

Valley Forge is also pretty damn solid. The acoustics under the verses provide a cool atmosphere, and the transition into the heavy chorus is done very well. Ralph Santolla also pulls of a magnificent leadwork on this one.

Finally, we have Hollow Man, which is the only downer on here. The vocals seem to drag on at times, and the backing choir parts that appear a few times during the verses are extremely cheesy. Actually, the song isn't bad, you kinda get used to it eventually, it just isn't nearly as interesting as the others, despite a great chorus.
Also, the acoustics are getting rather old by now. And that is one of my biggest concerns for The Glorious Burden; that maybe they tried too hard to make it emotional and powerful, and thus overused atmosphere-enhancing elements like acoustics and maybe did too many ballads. We'll just have to wait and see, hopefully this is not the case.
I'm really looking forward to the release of The Glorious Burden, and judging from the material on this single, it is probably going to rule. Let's just hope they use the acoustics more sparingly and bring out some more heavy shit like The Reckoning.