Iced Earth is a name that metalheads should be familiar with. They're only one of the biggest players in American power metal after all. Based out of the Southern US, they've consistently released excellent material over their 22 year history. The band that brought Night of the Stormrider, Burnt Offerings, and Horror Show once again returned to the studio in 2004 to record its seventh album, The Glorious Burden. But things were different this time. Rather than recording with popular vocalist Matt Barlow, the band had Tim "Ripper" Owens, formerly of Judas Priest, taking on vocal duties. The primary reason for Barlow's departure was the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as Matt felt that he was obligated to serve his country (in homeland security), rather than living a "fake life" as a rock star. However, Iced Earth lost members regularly, and the band would not be stopped by this minor setback. With Ripper, who had just happened to part ways with Judas Priest, on board, the Iced Earth looked to dominate once again.
And they did just that with The Glorious Burden. Just two minutes short of being two hours long, the album consists of many elements that make Iced Earth so much fun to listen to. It possesses the varying vocal ranges that were a staple on past albums. Of course, there is superb rhythm work from main man Jon Schaffer. The galloping riffs reminiscent of Iron Maiden are still present. The lyrics are still cheesy and yet slightly interesting at the same time. Yep, pretty standard Iced Earth album. Only, this is a much better effort than previous albums. Much, much better. The thrash influenced power metal sound they employ is very memorable, especially in songs like Attila, Declaration Day, and Red Baron, Blue Max. The riffs are very strong, particularly in those two songs. Not especially heavy, but not very light either, they are a big selling point of the album. Other songs such as When the Eagle Cries and Valley Forge offer up a softer side of the album, and have many ballad-esque features, especially the former. The Glorious Burden is a very strong album, and it is obvious that there was a lot of effort put into it.
The events of 9/11 had a very big influence on Iced Earth. Not only did it cause Matt Barlow to leave the band as mentioned before, it was also inspired a new direction in song writing. Rather writing about dark fantasy, primary song writer turned to military history around the world while putting together material for the new album. As a result, every song, save for the opening Star Spangled Banner and Hollow Man, have some sort of historical subject. And it all isn't confined to American history. Iced Earth travels as far back as Attila the Hun's conquest of the Romans back in the 5th century (Attila) through the Napoleonic Wars (Waterloo) past World War I (Red Baron, Blue Max) and as late as the already mentioned 9/11 attacks (When the Eagle Cries). Similarly to Iron Maiden's war epics, the lyrics are very well written, and they are not over done at all.
However, the album's centerpiece is definitely the second CD. The disc is 33 minutes long, a run time split over three songs. However, each track segues into each other, and as result, could be considered one very long song. The Gettysburg disc is an epic of sorts, featuring orchestras, cannons, shouts, and gunfire. Schaffer also incorporated renditions of civil war era songs such as the Star Spangled Banner and When Johnny Comes Marching Home. The three tracks, Devil to Pay, Hold At All Costs, and High Water Mark are definitely among, if not THE best material that the band has ever put out. An epic if there ever was one, they contains long, melodic interludes; many heavy sections; well thought out lyrics; cool effects (again, cannons, gunfire, war cries, etc); and most importantly, an excellent, emotional vocal delivery from Ripper. Tim Owens is most definitely the highlight of the production, and shows why he was selected to sing for Judas Priest and Iced Earth. His versatile voice is perfect for the effort, as he can hit the high notes as well as anyone, but also sing in a lower tone as Barlow did before him. With the three tracks that make up the album's second disc, Iced Earth easily shatters anything they've done in the past. Oh yeah, did I mention that it's epic?
Iced Earth's 2004 effort, The Glorious Burden, is a strong, strong effort. Though it brings nothing new out of Jon Schaffer and co, it is still a very impressive effort, containing everything an Iced Earth fan could hope for. Tracks like Attila, High Water Mark, and Waterloo have the band at their best, mainly through memorable wails or melodic guitar lines. New vocalist Tim Owens performs admirably in his new band, even topping some of Matt Barlow's performances at times. Is this Iced Earth's best album? Possibly. I would easily recommend this to pretty much everyone, as it is Iced Earth at their best. Also, make sure to pick up the 2 CD edition, as The Glorious Burden was released in several different formats, and only the two disc version contains the full track list.
The whole Gettysburg disc
When the Eagle Cries
I really liked this album, but I think the delays and snags that occurred during the production prevented it from being as great as it could have been.
That said, it's not a bad album by any means. Ripper only had days to rehearse the material before he was set to go into the studio as the band was running out of time and budget money. Imagine if he had more time to practice and could have really opened up on those lyrics.
I'm very hopefully that the next album will be much better as Schaffer and Ripper have more time to collaborate.This Message Edited On 10.11.06
I actually really enjoy this, except for a few things:
For starters, it almost feels like Tim could've put more emotion into these songs. But given the fact that he didn't have much time to learn the material/lyrics and therefore be more into them, I can understand it a little bit more, but I still have to hold it as a very, very slight negative. But his overall vocals on this album are amazing, and I'm really glad he joined.
And secondly, the solos. I've always been torn on Iced Earth with this issue, as they obviously can play, but on some songs, like on "Attila" and "The Reckoning (Don't Tread On Me" and all of the songs off the Gettysburg album, they don't include them. Maybe it's because they feel they'd be out of place as they try and force emotion as the selling point, but I beg to differ. I feel that a strong, melodic solo in any of the songs off of the Gettysburg Tracks would have made them feel more passionate. I still enjoy all of them however, especially "Hold At All Costs".
This is really a great album, but it could've easily been better if they gave Tim more time and added more soloing.This Message Edited On 10.19.06
Gettysburg is simply amazing, especially if you read the booklet with the songs. The history that is portrayed really brings life to even the dullest of bars.
That being said, I must say that I didn't miss Barlow that much on this album. Schaffer did an amazing job with the arrangement that atoned for the lack of a mind-blowing vocalist. Besides, Owens isn't half bad.
On a final note, Red Baron/Blue Max makes me laugh every time I hear the chorus. If you don't know what I am talking about, listen to the song.