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Successful revamp - 90%

kluseba, January 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2018, CD, Century Media Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

If you're reading this review, you probably know that Purgatory was the band that preceded heavy metal icons Iced Earth. Thirty years after Iced Earth came to life, the original members of Purgatory got back together and recorded five songs from the band's early demos that would also influence several Iced Earth tracks. The trio of Jon Schaffer on lead and rhythm guitars as well as backing vocals, Bill Owen on lead guitars and Gene Adam on vocals was supported by other former Iced Earth collaborators with Jim Morris on additional lead guitars, Ruben Drake on bass guitar and Mark Prator on drums. This extended play was recorded without any commercial ambitions and made for fun. One can sense the liberating energy of performing without any expectations on this release even though some of the grit of the early years is gone.

The five songs are performed with all the skills the involved musicians possess and the guitar work varying between melodic mid-tempo passages and fierce up-tempo riffs is quite charismatic. The performance that needs to be pointed out though is Gene Adam's energetic vocals. He is often overlooked in Iced Earth's career and his vocals were indeed fairly limited in the early years but he sounds really potent on this record. He hits high notes reminding me of King Diamond, powerful lower registers in the key of Judas Priest and even includes atmospheric whispers here and there. He should really be singing in a more regular band with such unexpected skills.

Speaking of atmospheric whispers, the greatest asset of this release is the gloomy, mysterious and ominous atmosphere of the different tracks about horror franchises and stories. The sinister yet detailed cover artwork represents the band's spirit perfectly. This is the perfect record to close your eyes, dream yourself far away and discover a most entertaining world of terror.

If you like traditional heavy metal with horror film atmosphere, you should definitely listen to Purgatory's extended play. Even though the songs are three decades old, the timeless song material has aged well, is performed skillfully and oozes with atmosphere. Despite the fact that the trio hasn't performed together for a very long time, the three musicians have better chemistry than ever before. The liberating passion while performing these five songs has replaced the energetic grit of the early years. The songs are the same but the attitude has changed appropriately and one might somehow prefer the more experienced approach to the material nowadays over the wild spirit of yore. This more mature attitude makes the song material sound even more diversified, fluid and precise than ever before. Purgatory's self-titled extended play is a very pleasant surprise and better than most Iced Earth material of recent memory. Let's hope the band revisits other forgotten pearls in the near future and continues to bring the eighties back to life in a timeless manner.

Entrancer, Romancer... - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, December 26th, 2018

Before there was Iced Earth, there was its forebear Purgatory. It’s easy to lump the two groups together due to their shared songwriting tropes and emphasis on Jon Schaffer’s signature rhythm guitar, but Purgatory stood out for its horror aesthetic and rather “street” approach to power metal. In a fascinating twist of fate, the group’s core members reunited in 2018 to record this EP. The five songs on here had previously only existed in mid-80s demo form, leading one to wonder how well the combination of Iron Maiden and slasher films will work over thirty years later.

For the most part, Purgatory’s material holds up surprisingly well in the modern age. There are some inevitable tweaks wrought by the passage of time and the grit of the band’s demo days has largely been washed away. Arrangements have been spruced up and a clean production job highlights an epic side that’s right in line with classic Iced Earth. This is somewhat at odds with the sleazy aspects of “Jack” and “In Jason’s Mind,” but “Dracula” and “Burning Oasis” fully realize the potential that was merely hinted at back in the day.

But the real shocker comes with vocalist Gene Adam. He possesses the shrill character of his early days but there’s much more control behind it, resulting in a legitimately good performance even if it doesn’t have that manic character. Whether he learned some proper techniques in his time away from metal or the years were just inordinarily kind to him, he’s come a long way from the infamously… niche vocals on Iced Earth’s debut.

The track order may be the only real nitpick I have with this EP. The Freddy Krueger-inspired “In Your Dreams” wasn’t a great choice for an opener. While it’s not a bad track, it’s easily the weakest of the lot with a mid-tempo structure that doesn’t hit as hard as it should. It probably would’ve worked better in the middle with “Dracula” or “In Jason’s Mind” serving as a more ominously climactic opener.

Overall, Purgatory’s EP probably won’t have much reach beyond hardcore Iced Earth fans but I don’t think they’re too worried about that. This is the product of old friends waxing nostalgia and updating songs that never got the chance to shine when they were first written. As somebody who’s listened to the old Purgatory demos, I can say that it does a good job of catching that old school metal spirit. Considering the catalog of songs that were written back then, it wouldn’t surprise me to see more releases like this in the future.

“In Jason’s Mind”
“Burning Oasis”

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