"Live from Ancient Kourion" (Century Media; 2013)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Iced Earth first formed in 1985 and have been recording and performing killer music since then. Despite some line-up changes, the band is alive and well.

"Live from Ancient Kourion" is a treasure trove of live music from the band's long and storied metal career. This 2CD/1DVD  set is both a feast for the listening sense and also a brilliantly produced DVD.

This collection, which is 29 songs strong, reminded me just how awesome Iced Earth really is. The band sounds terrific, the sound quality is excellent, and this is one of the best live recordings I've heard in a long, long time.

"Live From Ancient Kourion"  is a double-edged sword for me. Now that I've listened to the CDs and watched the DVD, I'm going to have to go out and buy all the previous Iced Earth releases, just because I forgot how great this band really is.

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"The Crucible of Man" (SPV; 2008)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Iced Earth returns with "The Crucible of Man," the long-awaited follow-up to their 1998 landmark concept album "Something Wicked." Replacing the departing Ripper Owens with former frontman Matt Barlow, this troupe sounds reinvigorated when maintaining their patented power metal maneuvers on cuts like "I Walk Alone" and the rousing "Divide and Devour," yet this disc ultimately lends itself to a darker side of the spectrum, leaving behind the nuances which made this band such an underground sensation.

Lead guitarist and band leader Jon Schaffer alternates between writing crunchy guitar tunes and gripping ballads that ooze metal , though some may complain that there are many songs on this 15-track disc which not so discreetly draw from prior Iced Earth works. The band's sinister precision and ever-present soaring melodic flair appear in the mix but don't stick around for long, yielding for a more atmospheric feel on cuts like "Come What May" and "Crown of the Fallen."

But, with Barlow's raging baritone back in the fold, fitting like a glove, there's more classic Iced Earth moments to be had as opposed to the last few offerings, making this disc something longtime fans should check out even if some usual aspects are deficient .

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"Framing Armageddon" (SPV; 2007)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Jon Schaffer returns with some unfinished business of sorts on the latest disc from his vehicle, Iced Earth. Titled "Framing Armageddon," this 19-track epic picks up where the 1998 "Something Wicked This Way Comes" album left off, as Schaffer and crew use their traditional metal wares to flesh out this sc-fi fantasy. 

Thanks in part to a stunning vocal performance by Tim "Ripper" Owens, this disc blasts out of the gate with an epic metal swagger that showcases the band at its best, intertwining tumultuous emotional wranglings over an assault of constant metallic firepower on such rousing numbers as "Ten Thousand Strong" and the crunchy mid-tempo stomp "Retribution Through the Ages."

Able to retain their durable Maiden/Helloween musical template without foregoing a fair share of experimenting with instrumentation and composition on cuts like the moody "The Clouding," "Framing Armagddon" finds Iced Earth thrashing through their brand of progressive power metal with all guns blazing. 

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"Overture of the Wicked" (SPV; 2007)

Reviewed by Mike SOS

Heavy metal purists Iced Earth return with a four-song precursor to their soon-to-be-released epic double album with this four-track EP, "Overture of the Wicked." 

Containing a re-recorded version the fabled "Something Wicked" trilogy and the smoking new metal tune "Ten Thousand Strong" (which is worth the price of the disc alone thanks to Rippers Owens' sweet vocal shreddery), this four-track sojourn is a perfect holdover until the new album drops whether you're a huge fan or a newbie.

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"The Glorious Burden" (SPV / Hunter; 2004)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Iced Earth's first CD with former Judas Priest vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens at the microphone not only lives up to its pre-release hype but surpasses it, delivering a rich, explosive listening experience that not only transcends the metal genre but brings to it an entirely new level of excellence.

There's not much I can say about "The Glorious Burden" that I didn't say about the previously released EP, "The Reckoning" except to add that the full-length CD doesn't disappoint anywhere in its 12 tracks. There isn't anything that even comes close to a bad song on the disc, and every song is instantly likeable; unlike other CDs, nothing here has to grow on you with additional listens.

Of the songs that didn't appear on the previous EP, "Green Face," about Navy SEALS, and "Red Baron / Blue Max" are the stand-outs, as is a three song rock collection entitled "Gettysburg (1863)." Frankly, however, I liked the acoustic version of "When the Eagle Cries" that appeared on the EP better than the plugged-in version on the full-length. That being said, both versions are awesome.

There are those who will complain about Owens' vocal style versus Matt Barlow's (Owens' Halford-lunged screams are a far cry from Barlowe's Paul Stanley-on-steroids style), and there are those who will dislike the album's overall theme of American history. I disagree on both counts. Owens fits the new Iced Earth sound like a glove and the historic theme, although perhaps somewhat limiting on a global level, gives "The Glorious Burden" an undeniable heart that it may not otherwise have.

Do yourself a favor and buy this CD now. It'll be tough to find a better CD this year.

ICED EARTH: Jon Schaffer - rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals; Tim Owens - lead vocals; James MacDonough - bass; Richard Christy - drums. Guest musicians: Ralph Santolla - lead guitar; Jim Morris - lead guitar, backing vocals; Matt Barlow - backing vocals; Howard Helm - piano; Sam King - backing vocals; Jeff Day - backing vocals.

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"The Reckoning" (Steamhammer; 2003)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

One of the most disappointing pieces of news last year was that vocalist Matt Barlow was leaving Iced Earth. Fortunately, that news was followed by one of the most exciting pieces of news last year: Tim "Ripper" Owens, freshly unseated in Judas Priest by Rob Halford, had joined Iced Earth. 

The pairing of Owens and Iced Earth seemed a match made in heaven. But would that pairing prove to be as successful as it looked on paper? Judging from "The Reckoning," an EP released to whet the appetite of Iced Earth fans awaiting the January 13th, 2004 release of the full-length, "The Glorious Burden," the answer is a resounding "yes!"

"The Reckoning" contains four songs featuring Owens on vocals and Iced Earth in full musical force.  The first song, "The Reckoning (Don't Tread on Me)" has a classic Iced Earth sound with Ripper's vocals giving that sound a new vibrancy. "When the Eagle Cries" is up next, an unplugged number that will bring tears and empowerment to its listeners. "Valley Forge" is the next track, a song that tells its story with brilliant lyrics and sophisticated music as well as any movie can with pictures. The disc closes with the haunting "Hollow Man," which again showcases Owens' fantastic vocal stylings.

If you ask me, Owens was a little strangled in Priest. The band only recorded two studio albums in the seven years that Owens was with them and his writing credits on those CDs was virtually non-existent. Hopefully, Iced Earth will record more than two CDs with Owens at the mike and, although the songwriting department is handled quite ably in Iced Earth by Jon Schaffer, hopefully Owens will get his licks in there as well.

If "The Reckoning" is any indication, "The Glorious Burden" will be the start of a new and highly successful era for Iced Earth. In fact, the only reason "The Reckoning" didn't score a full four chainsaw guitars is that it's just an EP - we wanted to leave room for the full release.

ICED EARTH: Jon Schaffer - rhythm and lead guitars, backing vocals; Tim Owens - lead vocals; James MacDonough - bass; Richard Christy - drums. Guest musicians: Ralph Santolla - lead guitar; Jim Morris - lead guitar, backing vocals; Matt Barlow - backing vocals; Howard Helm - piano; Sam King - backing vocals; Jeff Day - backing vocals.

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"Tribute to the Gods" (Century Media; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

There are tribute albums and then there are tribute albums. Most are just a nod to the bands that the covering band considers influences. Others are a way for unknown bands to get noticed. Very few tribute albums are spectacular but some are. Iced Earth's "Tribute to the Gods" is one of those.

It's really the talent of the band members and the power of Iced Earth's sound that makes "Tribute to the Gods" so successful. Well, that and the selection of songs covered (a complete list is below). The beauty of this particular tribute CD is that Iced Earth's sound comes through so forcefully and yet the magic of the original tunes aren't lost either. The reason for that is that Iced Earth are really "gods" themselves. They may not have enjoyed the commercial success that bands like KISS, Iron Maiden or AC/DC have, but they are extremely well-known and well-respected in the heavy metal world and they've been around for a long time. Maybe it's time Iron Maiden or KISS did a tribute album for Iced Earth.

Interestingly, after speaking with several friends about this CD, it seems that the tracks you'll like best on "Tribute to the Gods" depends on who your favorite bands are being covered. Me, I really like the KISS covers, the Alice Cooper cover and the BOC covers. But others prefer the AC/DC or Iron Maidens. It doesn't really matter. All of these songs are classic metal tunes and Iced Earth covers them beautifully.

In addition, this CD was recently released in a single edition but you can also purchase it and four other Iced Earth CDs ("Iced Earth," "Night Of The Stormrider," "Burnt Offerings," "Enter The Realm" demo) in the special, highly recommended, "Dark Genesis" box set. (Click here for info on that set). 

Covered on "Tribute to the Gods" are:
KISS's "Creatures of the Night"
Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast"
AC/DC's "Highway to Hell"
Blue Oyster Cult's "Burnin' for You"
KISS's "God of Thunder"
Judas Priest's "Screaming for Vengeance"
Alice Cooper's "Dead Babies"
Blue Oyster Cult's "Cities on Flame"
AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top"
Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath"
Iron Maiden's "Hallowed by Thy Name"

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"Alive In Athens" (Century Media; 1999)

Reviewed by TBJ

Well, I started listening to Iced Earth about a year ago, when - just out of curiosity - I ordered the "Something Wicked … " album. I must say I was blown away, POWER METAL, in the late 90's, by an American Band??? After that I bought "Dark Saga," and now, "Alive in Athens."

I had heard old Iced Earth songs before and realized that they just sound so much better with Matt Barlow's heavenly (and also Hellish) voice. "Alive in Athens" is the best way for someone to get into this band. The Energy, the Passion, the POWER. I've heard live albums before and this one just ranks probably #2 in my top list of live albums. Why not #1? I'll explain in a little while.

On "Alive In Athens," Matt Barlow’s voice just shines throughout all the songs. He can be both very melodic and very sad ("Melancholy," "Watching Over Me"), demonic ("Dante’s Inferno") and everything in between. In my ears, this man can do no wrong.

The guitars are crystal clear, but the bass needed a little more volume. Jon is a master of rhythm guitar and, surprisingly, Larry can keep up with him (a feat rarely mastered by lead guitarists). The drums are perfect, and just the right amount of improvisation is applied to enhance songs (especially in "Stand Alone").

The crowd acts like these guys are the second coming of Christ (or maybe the Antichrist).

So why does "Alive In Athens" only rate #2? Well, although the CD surely sounds live, I guess Jim Morris and Jon wanted everything to sound clear and perfect and thus removed some crowd noise in parts of some songs. The audience seems to make noise only when convenient. For example, when a song like "Melancholy" is played, you hear the audience in the slow parts and at the end, but you can't hear them at all in the heavy, distorted parts. Which would have been nice.

On the other hand, they play those damn rhythms so dead on you simply can't believe it. All the time changes, riffing patterns, etcetera are just like you hear them in the original CD.

Pick up this CD if you're into well executed hard music. Iced Earth provide a mesh of different styles of metal thus fans of Iron Maiden, as well as Slayer, will enjoy this CD. If you’re into Korn and Limp Bizkit, too, as am I, have an open mind and enjoy Iced Earth because long-haired metal bands are here to stay.

"Something Wicked This Way Comes" (Century Media; 1998)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

I’ve owned this particular CD since 1998 and I’ve listened to it maybe ten times. When the band first hit the scene back in 1991, I wasn't really into them because so much other music was available. I picked up "Something Wicked This Way Comes" because I heard “Stand Alone” and enjoyed it. (A quick prize opportunity: The first reader to tell me which band the guitar at the end of "Stand Alone" mirrors will win a copy of this CD from me. Send your answers to

From the first growling riff you can hear the similarity to "The Dark Saga," which was released two years prior. “The Dark Saga” was a metal beast and a terrific concept album based on the comic book character Spawn. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” seems to be leftover cuts but yet not from the same concept. Still, the album is solid and won’t disappoint Iced Earth fans one bit.

If you listened to the right radio stations back in '98 you may have heard tracks like “Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” and “Stand Alone” played on the midnight metal shows. Those tunes were what led me to pick up the album -- plus the artwork was an attention getter like Iron Maiden's art was at the time. Iced Earth has all the elements of great metal: a soaring vocalist, solos that cause air guitar fits and drums that gallop along like a runaway stallion.

The songs are memorable because they are so well-written and Iced Earth seems to shine brighter on the longer songs, a progressive trait that binds most bands of the same genre. A few cuts rise above the rest like “Burning Times” and “My Own Savior.” This CD may have been a hiccup to the critics at the time but, if you’re a fan of Iced Earth, then slot this jewel case in between the others.

Iced Earth: Jon Schaffer – guitar, backing vocals; Matt Barlow – lead vocals; James MacDonough – bass guitar; Mark “The Creeper” Prator – drums.

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"Days of Purgatory" (Century Media; 1997)icedearthpurg.jpg (25070 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Remember the glory days of what is now called "power metal," led by the likes of Iron Maiden? Iced Earth is carrying power metal into the new millennium. The CD artwork by Jim Balent and Jason Jensen also gives one the visual impression of an Iron Maiden-like band. Although there are many elements of classic '80s metal, Iced Earth present a consistent and unique style. The music is strongest when it combines fast and slow rhythms, dark and bright sounds, smooth and choppy vocals alongside the ever-pressing music.

"Days Of Purgatory" is material from the band's early days (1986-1994) that are re-mixed, re-sung, and re-recorded to their high standards aided by new technology. Basically, most vocals, bass, and drum tracks were re-recorded to the rhythm and lead guitars. Since I haven't heard the original versions, it's hard to say whether or not this is an improvement over the originals, but I'd have to guess that it is - why go through the trouble of re-recording music if not to improve upon the original?

Jon Schaffer's liner notes suggest that he is very happy in getting the songs to be more like he had intended them in the first place. However, my only complaint (and it's not a big one) is that the vocals and lead guitars often tend to get muddled in the production.

Overall, the songs are a mixed bag, but there are quite a few gems to be found. "Desert Rain" is by far the best song on the disc. The echoes of the opening strains underneath the pounding power chords gives one the immediate sensation of the open space found in the desert. The tune moves through fast and mid-tempo rhythms which gives the song a sense of motion. The chorus is sung with melody and is a welcome contrast to the piercing vocals of the verses. The song speaks freely of the hate and malice in life directed toward the main character, yet he prevails because he knows he has to or his life will end.

The opening music to "Angels Holocaust" is almost like watching the opening scene of a Vincent Price movie with haunting sounds; the song ends with a strong arpeggio and crushing power chords that effectively adds drama at the right moment.

"Pure Evil" has a myriad of good things going for it including a wonderful part where the chugging guitars break suddenly for a dramatic part before blasting into the chugging guitars again with sharply sung vocal lines. The overall sound of this tune reminds me of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden melted into one strong alloy.

"The Funeral," an instrumental, has Metallica-like cadences and lead guitar reminiscent of Iron Maiden's harmony guitar lines before breaking out into very Kirk Hammett-styled solos. Much like the rest of the disc, the tunes avoid standard song structures and present many interesting twists and turns.

There are a variety of musicians on the disc; however, the main members are Jon Schaffer on rhythm guitar and vocals, Matthew Barlow on lead vocals, Brent Smedley on drums, James MacDonough on bass, and Randall Shawver on lead guitar. Keyboards round out the Iced Earth sound and Roger Huff, Kent Smith, and Howard Helm are given overall credit, but not to specific songs. Schaffer is the primary songwriter, but he gets some help from Shawver and Barlow on a few tracks as well as the entire band on one other track. 

Check out the band at their official website

"Burnt Offerings" (Century Media; 1995)

Reviewed by TBJ

"Burnt Offerings" marks the third release from Iced Earth and it also marks the first with Matt Barlow on vocals. Adding Matt to the line-up has given the band a sense of completion it didn't have before. Sure, the music always kicked ass, but the vocals left something to be desired. Jon Shaffer's riffs and lyrics have never been complemented enough before. But things have surely changed. 

Matt fully complements Jon's gruff voice and scorching riffs in wonderful ways. Take, for example, the title song: There you will find heavy segments - fast, aggressive segments and slow and moody segments. Jon's aggressive vocals intertwine with Matt's dramatic voice creating an atmosphere of anger and despair. 

Most of the songs on this CD follow this aggressive/moody path. The addition of keyboards and synths only complement the music that much more. You will also find an odd (but definitely not out of place) number - an acoustic song called "Pierced Spirit." This slow sad number works as an excellent intro to the album's highlight (and definitely Iced Earth's crowning achievement up to today), "Dante's Inferno." Any song that calls out to Lucifer so many times has to be good, right? Words alone definitely cannot describe this 15 + minute masterpiece. It takes you on a trip through the nine planes of hell: the suffering of the damned, the sad cries for help, the screams of horrific agony. As they say on the liner notes, Iced Earth had gone through a lot of bullshit and it really shows in the aggressiveness of the song. 

One day this album will be heralded as a cornerstone to which new breeds of metal will look upon. 

"And there they wept ... crucified ... damned for all time"

Iced Earth is: Jon Shaffer – Rhythm guitar and vocals; Randall Shawver – Lead Guitar; Matthew Barlow – Lead Vocals; Dave Abell – Bass guitar; Rodney Beasley – Drums.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright © 2013 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.