Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mild Tribute

Cover albums can be successes that pay respect to a band’s influence or be a mildly amusing affair that have faithful renditions of songs, but nothing more. Take Overkill’s “Coverkill” for example. The thrashers took their style of music and integrated it into some classic tracks and it made for a fun listen. With Iced Earth, their mix of power and thrash metal could translate well with some songs, especially with superb vocalist Matt Barlow in tow. Seeing Jon Schaffer dip into the well of his influences and some of his favorite bands is very intriguing, but we are left with something more fit for a jester, rather than the gods.

There is nothing offensively bad on here, it’s just there is nothing interesting added or spiced up to make the songs “feel” like Iced Earth. I suppose that makes sense for the Iron Maiden covers because Schaffer’s vision was derived much from them. “The Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” are a couple of the most iconic songs not just for Maiden, but for heavy metal. One or two listens are nice, but in the end they are not even close to being superior to Bruce Dickinson’s wailing vocals and the dual guitar treat of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. It also doesn’t help that Richard Christy’s mantic drumming has been reduced to keeping the beat and nothing more.

However, I was expecting some interesting developments in the AC/DC tunes and the Blue Oyster Cult tracks. The AC/DC songs totally miss the mark and it is odd hearing Iced Earth doing straight-up, hard rock songs. The BOC ones are more forgiving and I like the delicate vocal performance by Barlow and the nice guitar solo laid down by Larry Tarnowski. The thick guitar tone on “Cities on Flame” brings an extra edge to the chorus and provides an enjoyable listen.

The best cover is the Alice Cooper song “Dead Babies.” The creepy atmosphere is captured perfectly and the brooding bass by James MacDonough is capable of making the hair stand on the back of your neck. Driving guitars and Barlow’s range are spot on and is worthy of a five-star stamp. Schaffer dons the head microphone for “God of Thunder.” The KISS classic is made into the metal song it always wanted to be. Schaffer’s raspy vocals work well and the main riff slaughters just as it’s supposed to. This version is a little bit scarier than the original.

The metal forefathers make an appearance in the presence of the songs that bears their namesake “Black Sabbath.” The song “Black Sabbath” is known for its creepy atmospheres and shivering tones. Unfortunately, Iced Earth fails to replicate what the song goes for and simply does not do justice to the original. However, I do enjoy the amped up guitar kick at the climax of the song.

In the end, these covers are a disappointment. With a couple exceptions, they did not add to the songs that came before them. Instead of making these songs “theirs”, they simply did faithful versions. I wished they went outside the box and experimented more with their interpretations of some metal classics. With that said, the KISS covers and the Alice Cooper cover are exceptional and definitely worth listens. If the covers were as good as these, then Schaffer and co. could take their place next to the gods, but unfortunately they will have stick to being mere mortals.

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