I’ve prefaced this before, but just in case we’ll go around again. A one Randall Mull, a man whose office I visit often throughout the day when trying to avoid doing work of my own, happens to have dual hobbies of metal and writing. One day we were joking about my site, as it is so often a punchline among my oh-so-honest friends, and starting a network of Not Deads, the second being MetalsNotDead.com.
If you’d rather not read about metal on a horror site, well, tough titties, no turning back now. It will have its own domain soon enough, in the mean time do enjoy the guest writing.
Right now, you’re probably wondering what the hell is a review for a metal album doing on a horror movie web site? Let’s face it; true heavy metal is the musical equivalent of horror movies, the scary artwork, lyrics about killing, being killed, dying, wars, plague, the end of the world, the undead etc., etc. Still not feeling the connection? Something you may, or may not know, the pioneers of metal, Black Sabbath, got their name after watching the movie of the same name starring Boris Karloff. Until then they were called Earth, and would have been another worthless hippie band of the 60s. So there you go…horror movies directly influenced the invention of heavy metal. That’s enough symmetry for me.
As far as why you should listen to anything I say regarding metal, I’ve been a fan of metal pretty much my entire life. My first semi-metal concert was in 1985 at the Greer Pavilion watching Keel and the mighty Quiet Riot (R.I.P. Kevin DuBrow). See at this point you’re probably like who the fuck is Keel? Exactly, I know who they are, therefore I’m the master of all that is metal. Hell, even my very first concert at six years-old was Kenny Rogers and he’s the Gambler. He knows when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. It doesn’t get more metal than that.
Now after that long windedness, the review. Iced Earth’s latest release The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2 sees primary songwriter and founding member Jon Schaffer finally finishing his Sci-Fi Magnum Opus of Set Abominae and his race overthrowing the humans that invaded earth and took over some 10,000 years before. This album also sees the return of former lead singer Matt Barlow and the departure of Tim Owens who was on board for the last two Iced Earth ventures. Though Owens had the proper pipes for the job and is a talented metal singer, he just didn’t quite fit what the music needed as was much the case with his time in Judas Priest when he took over for the legendary Rob Halford.
This is the second part of a two album concept story, the first one Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 being released last September. It is my belief that Schaffer originally got the idea from the movie Stargate, but that is pure speculation on my part. I would give a detailed synopsis of the story, but this link sums it up pretty well. Please read this link before continuing as I will be referencing some of it throughout. Also, as a side note, a comic book for the story has been repeatedly mentioned by Schaffer, but I’ve seen nothing concrete in the works.
I have to admit, after listening to this album pretty consistently for the last week, this was a very hard album to review. It is neither good nor bad. It is just kind of there which is a huge disappointment after how much I’ve been looking forward to it. The album starts with an atmospheric chorale piece to set the scene for the birth of the Setian messiah Set Abominae. Although I love me some chorale passages as it can add a real epic feel in metal songs, this has already been done by Iced Earth on several albums before and is used to the extent of exhaustive repetitiveness within this album. Where the first album covered a much longer span of time and told a grander story, this album focuses mainly on the character of Set Abominae and not much else, and lyrically this is a huge shortcoming. It chronicles his life and upbringing and abandons much of the focus of the eventual destruction of man. Also missing are the between song passages which were filled with dialogue or sound effects to further the narrative of the story. It seems the album was rushed to an extent and these details were forgone to get the album out in time. This is quite a shame because it would have made this album all the more receptive to the dedicated IE listener who has been looking forward to hearing the end of this tale.
Matt Barlow makes a triumphant return in the vocal department and proves how much he is an integral part to this band, but Jon Schaffer has almost squashed his vocal power by having it doubled, constantly trying to replicate the vocal effects that are often found on a Blind Guardian album. This seems pointless to me as you vocally could not come close to replicating this in a live situation and thus the songs would sound drastically different in that setting. The album continues to meander along in “heard this somewhere before” IE riffing until the 9th song on the album.
Finally, the album picks up the pace a bit with the song Harbinger of Fate and there seems to be something more to sink one’s teeth in to musically. By this point the listener becomes almost exhausted trying to find something you want to like. Thank God it is finally here because most causal listeners would have turned the album off or regulated it to background noise while they did something more meaningful with their day. Though the song is a semi-ballad piece there is enough going on in the song that it holds your attention with a very memorable chorus. The album musically ends strongly on the remaining songs with the brief use of an orchestra in Come What May and Divide and Devour seeing the band kicking it in to high gear with some pummeling guitar work but it is too little too late. The storyline here takes a downward spiral that almost makes me give two shits about this album but not quite. Though not a horrible effort on Mr. Schaffer’s part, there are things that could have been done to really elevate this album and give it the treatment it deserved, including a much better ending to this otherwise gripping story.
Other IE albums to check out:
I want to thank Peter for allowing me to review this album on his movie site. Hopefully by the end of September we’ll have metalsnotdead.com (part of the “notdead” network) site up and running.