Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Who Decides: Top 5 Iced Earth studio albums

So I was looking at my Last.Fm profile last week and realized that I have listened to Iced Earth about 300+ times in the past two weeks. I can't explain the increase, but I will say Iced Earth is a great band. Earlier Iced Earth was classic thrash metal, minus the blistering solos. Horror Show saw some new elements sneak in like power metal and even a little sludge/doom.

Now I remember hearing about Iced Earth through the Megadeth forums. They went on tour with Megadeth one year and everyone on the boards kept talking about how good they were. Most fans suggested Something Wicked This Way Comes (SWTWC). I remember deciding between SWTWC and The Dark Saga, which had Spawn on the cover (and I was a huge Spawn fan at the time), but I went with the fan favorite and wasn't disappointed. The album is a classic. The guitars were reminiscent of Metallica/Megadeth and the vocals were clean singing...and reminded me of Paul Stanley. So from there I picked up Alive in Athens, Days of Purgatory, and then Horror Show. Which everyone said was bad, but it wasn't...it is a solid album in it's own right. Iced Earth plays epic type metal. Concept albums, trilogies, whatever you can think of that's Iced Earth.

Iced Earth lost some steam, but the albums up to The Glorious Burden are great. Anyone of them is a great listen. So onto the list.

One last thing, these are their studio albums only. If it was any album then it would be Alive in Athens. AiA is the best live album I have ever heard. The 3 disc album is worth every penny. All the classics are played here to perfection. This one album is the greatest hits up to Horror Show. If you are a fan or considering it...buy this first! Now onto the list;

5. Horror Show: I talked about it enough up there. So what is it like? It is their most diverse album musically. Definitely some power metal in there with Dracula. Phantom of the Opera Ghost is a first as they had a female vocalist sing with Matt Barlow. The album itself is about classic horror film villains. I stayed away from this album for a long time because of the complaints about it. It wasn't until I heard Jack on Century Media's Identity sampler that I realized how great this album could be. It is slower at times than most albums, but there are some great tracks.
Favorite Tracks: Jack, Phantom of the Opera Ghost, Dracula, Wolf.

4. The Dark Saga: this was the last Matt Barlow album I picked up. I was used to hearing all the songs on AiA. The studio versions are good, but something about the live version is what puts those versions over the top. Honestly, there isn't one bad song on the album. People complain about the length of the songs or the speed, but the songs are catchy as you know what. The last 3 songs make up the Suffering Trilogy. It's not as good as the SWTWC trilogy or Gettysburg trilogy, but it is what it is. It showed what was to come on SW. Every song is a winner, which can't be said of #3.
Favorite Tracks: I Died for You, The Last Laugh, Vengeance is Mine, A Question of Heaven.

3. Something Wicked This Way Comes: As I said, my first Iced Earth album. There are some filler tracks on here, Consequences & The Reaping Stone are just blah. Other than that it is a win. This jumps ahead of The Dark Saga because of one thing, the Something Wicked Trilogy. This is the trilogy that introduced us to Set Abominae, who despite Jon's best efforts, became their mascot. It was my first time listening to a song that was 20 minutes in length. It doesn't slow down or lose anything. The music is amazing. Iced Earth is great for your classic air guitar headbanging music and the trilogy doesn't disappoint. Throw in some piano interludes and you have a winner. Why isn't it higher? It took me awhile to realize that the track listing goes thrash to slow tempo back to fast, etc. It doesn't have a good flow. Plus the two fillers...
Favorite Tracks: Something Wicked Trilogy, Stand Alone, My Own Savior, Melancholy, Watching Over Me.

2. Night of the Stormrider: Let me be honest, if they redid this album with Matt Barlow on vocals it is easily #1. Musically it is a masterpiece. The speed of the title track is mindboggling. When I bought AiA, it had most of this album live, but when they remastered it I decided to buy the original. The vocalist, John Greely, isn't Matt Barlow and is kind of flat but he isn't horrible. Jon Schaffer's guitar makes up for any second rate singing. This is also a concept album which is a pretty dark story about a soldier who loses his faith and ends up killing a bunch of people. Then in the end...no remorse, whoa! I can still remember hearing the opening riff of Night of the Stormrider and just being blown away by it. I can't describe it so I will post it here as a video. It's the only song I will do this for.

The rest of the album is great as well. Pure Evil has that epic feel of changing tempos and sounding like a different song at certain points. Travel in Stygian has that great sing along chorus. From start to finish Night of the Stormrider is a winner. This albums has the most thrash influence on it. Solos are present and actually pretty good. This would go away with later albums, but here it works.
Favorite Tracks: Night of the Stormrider, Pure Evil, Travel in Stygian, Angels Holocaust.

1. Burnt Offerings: This wasn't my favorite album for awhile. It wasn't until I picked up the remaster version that I realized how good it was. Jon doesn't like it because he says it is "too dark" because it was written when he was upset at their label. This is the first album with Matt Barlow on vocals. The first song is the title track and it's over 7 minutes long. Last December is all about Matt's vocals. He carries this song. The riffs are great, but his vocals make it perfect. By the time you finish Diary, you realize this is a special album. The track starts off slow, then kicks into some serious thrash. Creator Failure might be a filler, but it gets a pass because of the albums true highlight, Dante's Inferno. This track is 16 minutes long based on the book of the same name. I can't describe it...it's just something that needs to be heard. This album is their highlight. It's not their peak, but definitely all the stars were in the right place for this one.

One last thought, how about that artwork? I know I have talked about it before, but Iced Earth easily has the best album artwork time and time again. I only picked up some of their albums based on artwork, remember this is before iTunes/Myspace when music was more readily available for sampling/streaming. It's kind of sad that cd's are going away because the artwork and linear notes/lyrics were always fun to read/look through.

6 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Awesome blog. Love the sentiment u put into making this list. Its not just a top five. Ive never listend to iced earth before but with ure sugestions of songs im picking up something wicked hopefully tonorrow. Thanks man

NavyMetalMan said...

I just got my hands on Burnt Offerings, and even before reading this blog, I came to the same conclusion. Best Iced Earth album hands down. I also have SWtWC and Night of the Stormrider. I can't speak for the quality of Horror Show or The Dark Saga, but Burnt Offerings is definitely my favorite of the ones I do have.

Nice list. I am definitely looking forward to acquiring the two on the list that I don't have, and I will be looking for AiA.