Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Back on Track
"torn asunder our destiny is in sight/this is the anthem to celebrate your life." From the Gospel of Iced Earth, Book Dystopia, sec. Anthem
Iced Earth has never been a band that could claim of having a stable lineup. After the release of their newest album “Dystopia”; I hope main man Jon Schaffer has found a group that will stick around for awhile. With a revolving door of members, it’s hard to imagine that happening, but anything is possible. However, new vocalist Stu Block brings an energy and fierceness to the band and brings the best of both worlds from previous vocalists Matt Barlow and Tim Owens. Lead guitar player Troy Seele utilizes some impressive lead work missing since the days of Randall Shawver.
While “Dystopia” is not a concept album, it has an underlying theme to it of resisting dominating government and to fight back against the injustices of the world. It is nowhere near the direct harsh criticisms towards the United States government in Schaffer’s side project Sons of Liberty, but this album instead uses movies such as “V for Vendetta” and “Dark City” to elaborate its point. All in all, it makes for a kick-ass heavy metal record.
Gone are the choirs, layered vocals, and the orchestral compositions that were featured on the Something Wicked saga. Iced Earth is back to sounding like Iced Earth and not Blind Guardian. Stu Block’s presence leaves a sneering imprint with his growls and piercing screams. He is also a great impressionist sounding like Barlow at times and with his deafening scream, he sounds like Owens. Its as if both morphed into one person. In fact, on the softer songs like “Anguish of Youth”, he has some Glenn Hughes come out of him in the verses.
Schaffer has been accused at times of ripping himself off and while the galloping riffs are still present; it sounds fresh and does not sound like a direct rip-off to anything he has done. “Dark City” is the best song on here because of the elongated solo section at the end courtesy of Seele and the aggression it has is remarkable. The last song “Tragedy and Triumph” is an awesome epic that has a very inspirational atmosphere to fight against the man and to stand up for what is right. It is a great closer and brings “Dystopia” to a proper end. The guitar solo parts are again really strong. It is refreshing to have good solos on an Iced Earth record again because they have been missing for awhile.
Ironically, it the fastest and thrashier songs that are the weakest. Both “Days of Rage” and “Boiling Point” are both short, to the point songs, but are given little time to develop. They are amongst the least memorable songs on here. It is also the only time where Block sounds too much like a tough guy and it is very off-putting. I can forgive that though because they are not even close to the worst found on the previous couple albums.
This is easily the best since “Horror Show” with its quality and having a running theme with the songs like on HS is awesome. I highly recommend buying the deluxe edition with the three bonus songs because “Soylent Green” and “Iron Will” are good tracks. However the string mix of “Anthem” is unnecessary and barely sounds different. The packaging is also stellar with artwork that fit’s the different songs and the poster of the cover art and the sticker are solid extras that come with the deluxe edition. If you did not enjoy the Something Wicked saga and were yearning for Iced Earth to get back to basics, then you will be happy with this record. Tracks like “Dark City”, “Dystopia”, and “Tragedy and Triumph” show that the band still have what it takes to bring some quality metal.