Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iced Earth

Well this band holds a special place in my heart and always will...why? Iced Earth was the first real band I got into after Metallica& Megadeth ran their course for me. I remembered hearing about Iced Earth on tour with Megadeth. The Megadeth boards were on fire about how good this band was so I decided to check them out. Now the first thing I noticed about the band is the high quality artwork they have for their albums. Check them out.

Now let's talk about the music. Iced Earth plays a sort of NWOBHM/thrash metal mix. Imagine Iron Maiden on steroids. Instead of Steve Harris' galloping bass line you get a heavy head banging guitar riff. My first Iced Earth album was Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is good because the sequel to that album comes out later this year. Something Wicked is a solid album from start to finish, but you quickly notice the fast song then slow song pattern for the entire album. You can't get into a rhythm to either bang your head or get out your lighter. The shining moment on the album, and this is what hooked me on Iced Earth, is the Something Wicked Trilogy. 3 songs linked together clocking in at about 25 minutes. I had never heard anything like this before. In a nut shell, the trilogy talks about this character who is destined to destroy all of mankind...oh yeah I guess I should note the fact the lyrics aren't happy, if you need more proof let's look at their 2nd album.

Night of the Stormrider is a concept album about a soldier who loses his faith in religion and decides to take it out on mankind. The really evil thing about this is that he doesn't have any regrets and would do it again. Musically, NotS is probably my favorite IE album. The riffs and time/tempo changes through out the entire album are really great. The intro riff to Stormrider is probably one of my all time favorites.

One last thing about Iced Earth...the line up changes. Until the 2 part album is released, no album has had the same line up from one album to the next...is this a problem? Not really, starting with Burnt Offerings, Matt Barlow took over the vocal duties. Now the previous 2 vocalists were good, in fact I heard the only reason the guy from NotS was dropped was because of his cocky attitude. But Matt Barlow quickly became the voice of Iced Earth. The next 4 albums and one live album are all solid albums, especially the live album. If you can find the 3 disc live album, Alive in Athens, or the 2 disc Days of Purgatory get them. They give a great overview of Iced Earth minus Horror Show and The Glorious Burden. After HS, Matt Barlow left the band due to his reaction to 9/11, enter Tim Owens of Judas Priest. Now Tim Owens is a good vocalist, but for me he is too much like Rob Halford. If I want Rob Halford I will listen to Judas Priest or Halford. TGB was a solid album, but it was missing a lot. The riffs didn't seem to be their the whole time and the vocals were always high.

So now we sit back and wait for 2 Iced Earth albums this year. I have heard the EP, Overture of the Wicked, and I am not super happy, but I am not giving up on them. This is Jon's baby, he has been waiting to finish the Something Wicked Trilogy for 2 albums now. I don't think he can mess it up.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Soulfly...more tribal metal

So I left off last year with Sepultura's Against and Nation. I said I would talk about Soulfly, but never really did...huh. Anyway, a quick breakdown of Soulfly. After Max left Sepultura for a variety of reasons, he started a new band Soulfly. You can read all about Soulfly here.

So as for the band's music, it is classic tribal metal, with a hint of nu-metal. With a crap load of guest musicians on all of his albums the music never really flowed well together from album to album. But people agree on 2 things, first their debut Soulfly is basically Roots 2, seriously if you like Roots you will love Soulfly. And secondly, Dark Ages is a definite return to a classic Sepultura thrash sound. If this were a perfect world, Dark Ages would have come after Chaos A.D. and before Roots. It is more of a thrash album, than nu-metal. Some have even called it death metal, which I can see.

So onto the album. Of course it opens up with an instrumetal 40 second intro...when we look back at music at this time everyone is gonna ask...why so many intros? Even more so in this case, because adding the intro to Babylon would have worked perfectly...oh well. Babylon gives the listeners of what to expect throughout the album. Some killer guitar riffs, excellent drumming, and some soft interludes. The lead guitar plays a sort of middle eastern sounding riff throughout the song...very nice. The song for me that captures the whole aspect of tribal metal is I and I, keeping in pace with the blistering riffs of Babylon, I and I is a straight up thrash metal song with a head banging chorus if I ever heard one. The great thing about this song is the tribal breakdown, simply breath-taking, then after about 1 minute a classic guitar solo...I'm talking late 80's early 90's solo here. There seems to be a nod to Arise, with the song Arise Again, which seems to bash critics of Soulfly. It doesn't live up to the Sepultura song, but it is a welcomed surprise. Riotstarter and Frontline are solid songs as well, with Frontline using the f-word every 5 seconds it seems.

The one drawback to this album is that it is over an hour long and that might be a struggle for some. I found this album to be my favorite Soulfly album.

Next up...Iced Earth.