Iced Earth (30th Anniversary Edition)

Iced Earth

ICED EARTH have been one of the longest-running and most well-known bands in the scene, […]
By Max Elias
December 18, 2020
Iced Earth - Iced Earth (30th Anniversary Edition) album cover

ICED EARTH have been one of the longest-running and most well-known bands in the scene, and although much of that fame was achieved with different members (most notably Tim "Ripper" Owens, who was briefly in JUDAS PRIEST), the spark of ingenuity is still alive from incarnation to incarnation. This celebration of a POWER METAL institution's impressive longevity holds up as well as it did upon release, even perhaps benefitting from some of the advanced in recording technology made between 1990 and today. The guitars are sharp, clear, and driving, and the vocals pierce the mix without superseding it. The first song is of course the title track, which hits with all the ferocity of a band just beginning its journey, hungry to prove something. And Stu Block proves himself a worthy replacement for Owens, with wailing, passionate vocals and ominous spoken word passages, like during "Written on the Walls". The aforementioned song is a perfect example of ICED EARTH's talents; it starts heavily melodic, streamlines itself into a galloping straight-ahead attack, and segues into a brief clean interlude before crescendoing with a sublime dual guitar melody, all while feeling completely natural. The ending feels triumphant and blends perfectly with the start of "Colors".

"Colors" sees some more aggressive vocal work; it's less wailing and has more edge to it, almost like THRASH METAL. The instrumentation matches; before the somewhat unexpected spoken word part (that does seem to be something ICED EARTH are fond of), the main riff is one of my favorites in the first half of the album. After a fleet-fingered solo, the song returns to its thrash-adjacent pummeling.

ICED EARTH can write power ballads as well, like any good POWER METAL band. The first half (maybe a little less than that) of "Curse the Sky" proves that. Big chords, legato vocal lines, and midtempo drumming lull the listener into a captivated trance before the band accelerates as a preamble to some truly emblematic guitar acrobatics. There are multiple solos during the course of the song, all of which throw the energy up into the stratosphere.

I am loathe to admit that before doing this review, I only knew ICED EARTH by name and had not really listened to them, but this remaster of their debut is changing my mind pretty effortlessly. I think the reason I never cared to check them out was I'd only heard of them because of Tim "Ripper" Owens, and his time in PRIEST produced two of their worst albums. But this is catchy, tightly written, and yes, aggressive POWER/THRASH METAL when the style was at its apex. After the absolute freight train that is "Life and Death", the band provides some breathing space in the form of the instrumental "Solitude"; which I usually am not too enthusiastic about, but towards the end of an album, after being swept away by soaring melodies and gritty hammering riffs for 40 minutes or so, it is a welcome reprieve.

And things return to normal fairly quickly on "Funeral"; with the focused and sharp riffing supplanting a mournful, grandiose melody, and ebbing and flowing with enviable fluidity. Though there is scant lead guitar work, and certainly nothing approaching the excess that metal guitarists often find themselves seized by, there doesn't seem to be a need, as the song is dynamic, melodic, and changeable enough already.

The album closes with its longest offering, the 9-minute long epic "When Night Falls". For a few minutes, wistful arpeggios and tastefully placed accents create a dreamy soundscape that reminds listeners that metal can be beautiful just as well as any other genre. The hammer drops about two minutes in, with galloping rhythms and frenzied pedal-tone riffs setting blood boiling. By the time the chorus rolls around, the song has dipped back into dreamy arpeggiation for a touch of color and settled into a big, cavernous stomp. The guitar melody preceding the solo is gloriously singable and it may be best to listen alone so no one around wonders why there's a serial killer humming to themselves on the subway. ICED EARTH did something difficult back in 1990; they wrote a 9 minute song that feels a third of the length because of how easy it is to get lost in. Without a doubt this is a brilliant remaster, and is all but guaranteed to enthrall new fans who never heard the name ICED EARTH before.

10 / 10









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"Iced Earth (30th Anniversary Edition)" Track-listing:
  1. Iced Earth
  2. Written on the Walls
  3. Colors
  4. Curse the Sky
  5. Life and Death
  6. Solitude
  7. Funeral
  8. When the Night Falls
Iced Earth Lineup:

Jon Schaffer - Guitars, Vocals
Stu Block - Vocals
Luke Apleton - Bass, Vocals
Brent Smedley - Drums
Jake Dreyer - Guitar

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