Iced Earth
The Crucible of Man


1.5
very poor

Review

by Mike Stagno EMERITUS
September 7th, 2008 | 64 replies | 22,452 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Even with the return of Matt Barlow, Iced Earth still manages to release their worst album yet. Somewhere out there, Tim Owens is laughing.

Framing Armageddon was a bit of a mess, there's no doubt about that. Though not exactly awful, the record was a dull representation of Iced Earth's (read – Jon Schaffer's) talents. The song writing was pedestrian, the concept was extremely silly, and for the most part, it sounded like nothing more than an attempt to recapture the epic-ness of The Glorious Burden and various 80s Iron Maiden songs. Despite the mediocrity, Tim Owens' Halford-esque vocal talents managed to make songs like "Ten Thousand Strong", "Setian Massacre", and "Something Wicked Pt. 1" at least listenable. That said, the album was largely seen as a colossal disappointment, so in effort to save face, Schaffer fired Owens. His replacement was none other than Matt Barlow, who if you remember correctly, left five years ago because his heart was no longer in the band. Predictably, Iced Earth was back in the good books of a lot of people, with some even going as far as praising the move as a return to the "true Iced Earth sound".

Even more predictably, it isn't.

But then again, most everything is predictable about The Crucible of Man. Barlow merely replaces Owens behind the mic as the album's sole bright spot. His versatile style has hardly changed since he left the band; Barlow can hit high notes fairly well (though he'll never beat Owens in this department), and in "Divide and Devour" he utilizes a thrashy bark, but his real strength lies in his low ranged singing. "Gift or Curse" highlights Barlow's talents in this field (though Schaffer does contribute vocal harmonies), taking the listener on an introspective journey through the protagonist's conscience. He isn't perfect of course, and at times the vocal lines are obviously geared towards Owens' talents (ironically, Tim faced the same issues on The Glorious Burden, which was written with Barlow's style in mind), but Matt does well with what he's given.

But as good as Barlow is, Schaffer is the primary songwriter in Iced Earth. And his writing is certainly not up to snuff. The Crucible of Man is a carbon copy of the two albums which preceded it, only this time there is no "Ten Thousand Strong", "Attila", or "The Devil to Pay" to even things out. The aforementioned ballad, "Gift or Curse", is as close to a highlight as The Crucible of Man gets. Unfortunately, it is startlingly similar to "Ghost of Freedom" from Horror Show, which really detracts from the power it exudes. Schaffer's riffing borders on thrash metal in "Something Wicked (Part 3) but aside from this, as well as lead parts in "Gift or Curse", and an absolutely blistering solo in "Crown of the Fallen", much of the guitar work revolves around slow, galloping rhythms that almost completely drown out lead guitarist Troy Seele. The lack of guitar solos has hardly been an issue in previous Iced Earth compositions, but given the monotonous, recycled song structures in The Crucible of Man, some lead work would likely have at least breathed a little life into the album.

Even with the return of Matt Barlow, Iced Earth still manages to release their worst album yet. The same problems which plagued Framing Armageddon and, to a lesser extent, The Glorious Burden continue to make a nuisance of themselves on The Crucible of Man. Though the LP does get interesting on occasion, such occurrences are more of a rarity than ever before on an Iced Earth album. The rest is simply bloated, uninvigorating, and lacks focus. And though most of the pointless interludes have been removed from the tracklist, the album's flow is still lacking. It's essentially an hour of D-grade power metal, which is a shame considering the material Schaffer used to pen.

Somewhere out there, Tim Owens is laughing.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Mikesn
Emeritus
September 7th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

lyrucs are really bad too but at least they aren't as bad as in when the eagle cries!This Message Edited On 09.07.08

Altmer
September 7th 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

You're a fucknut, but a good review.

I like this record more than the past two and Matt really carries some of the songs (Divide Devour is the highlight of this record.

I will review this too.

Thor
September 7th 2008



10178 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

fuck, I was scared that this would happen.

I still haven't listened to the album but I'll get around to it soon enough.

bastard
September 7th 2008



3435 Comments


excellent work mike, i knew this would suck.

Altmer
September 7th 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

thor wait till I put my review up this honestly isn't that bad

Mikesn
Emeritus
September 7th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

You're a ****nut, but a good review.
sorry

Matt really carries some of the songs (Divide Devour is the highlight of this record.
Yeah, he's really awesome. Divide and Devour is one of the better songs, but I really can't stand the chorus.

Also the spoken section in The Dimension Gauntlet is hilarious.

Altmer
September 7th 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

well I do agree this is a weaker IE record, and I've been on a huge binge since this was released (it's out tomorrow officially but my store had a copy early so I bought it).

but it has Matt Barlow on it. and though I like Ripper and all, Barlow is just what I associate with the real Iced Earth: Iced Earth distinguished themselves by not having these falsetto balls in a vice vocals, and some really aggressive borderline thrashy riffs, and those powerful baritone vocals Matt brings. Burnt Offerings, The Dark Saga, Something Wicked, even Night of the Stormrider (although Barlow isn't on that but the live versions and remakes with him are amazing), those are some of my alltime favourite records, and definitely in the top 5 of this genre for me.

Then Schaffer's songwriting went to fucking hell. The Glorious Burden is atrociously long and boring (I like Declaration Day though), and the first part was too much interludes too little songs. This is better (though the epilogue is still fucking stupid) but I like this more overall. It's no Burnt Offerings, but they at least have more songs here that are on par with the mediocre songs or some of the better ones on say, Something Wicked or Horror Show.

I doubt Schaffer will ever pen a Pure Evil or a Vengeance Is Mine again, though.

Thor
September 7th 2008



10178 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Well Mike's thoughts on the previous IE album were pretty similar to mine, so I'm getting a bit scared here.

Plus you don't like Colors Altmer so I don't know what to think of you. :thumb:

south_of_heaven 11
September 7th 2008



5433 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

lol album is so bad

Poet
September 7th 2008



5920 Comments


Iced Earth is pretty bad in general. Poopy Power/Prog metal.

BallsToTheWall
September 7th 2008



44164 Comments


Poet, you kind of set yourself up for this but no fucking chance, these guys rule pretty hard.

Poet
September 7th 2008



5920 Comments


Also, the album cover is hilariously bad. The thing on it looks like the child of Lord Zedd from Power Rangers and Eddie from Iron Maiden

Jom
Staff Reviewer
September 7th 2008



2634 Comments


While I'm glad Barlow's back - I also agree that Iced Earth isn't really Iced Earth without him - this record is still underwhelming. It's not an awful record by any stretch of the imagination, but it loses its longevity/listenability after awhile.
Great review, though.

Altmer
September 7th 2008



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the album cover is kinda semicool

Water
September 7th 2008



23 Comments


Always like your negative reviews Mike. Album looks terrible.

south_of_heaven 11
September 7th 2008



5433 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Album cover is cool.

That's about it.

sonic2
September 7th 2008



32 Comments


I wanted to see these guys.
But my dad's like "I'm not driving for thirty minutes just so you can see some band I don't give two shits about".

Erratic
September 7th 2008



1120 Comments


I liked Framing Armageddon a little more than most people, so hopefully that happens with this one too.

Steerpike
September 7th 2008



1859 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

I would just like to point out that this is what I expected. As much as I like Barlow, Iced Earth when you get right down to it is the Jon Schaffer Project. And it doesn't really matter who's performing the material if it sucks. Jean Renau and Tom Hanks were in DiVinci Code and they couldn't save that cockroach of a movie.

Yazz_Flute
September 7th 2008



18764 Comments


I wanted to see these guys.

But my dad's like "I'm not driving for thirty minutes just so you can see some band I don't give two shits about".


wow dude that sucks. I asked my dad to bring to be to progressive nation (at a venue about an hour from my house) and he did, even though he's not huge on the music.

Digging: Cormorant - Dwellings



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