Review: “Iced Earth” by Iced Earth (30th Anniversary Edition)

Back in August 1990, Iced Earth entered Morrisound Studios to record their debut self titled album with producer Tom Morris in Tampa Florida. The studio had been around since 1980 and during the years that surround this very album, it was where bands like Cannibal Corpse, Death, Decide, Exhorder, Morbid Angel to name but a few recorded key works in their careers. At the time, the band consisted of mastermind Jon Schaffer (Rhythm & Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals), Gene Adam (Lead Vocals), Dave Abell (Bass) Mike McGill (Drums) and Randy Shawver (Lead Guitar) and such has been the way, Schaffer remains the only original member still standing. This brand new edition featuring high class remastering courtesy of Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Overkill, Queensrÿche, Hatebreed) and is the record that lead to such immortal classics such as 1996’s milestone “The Dark Saga” and 1998’s chart-blazer “Something Wicked This Way Comes” as well as the group’s latest album “Incorruptible” in 2017.

For anyone who hasn’t heard Iced Earth before, if you think of a band that blends a combination of Thrash with Power Metal in a kind of Iron Maiden meets Exodus meets DragonForce kind of way then you have Iced Earth in a nutshell. Obviously it ain’t as simple as that but there is no doubt the Iron Maiden influence on the album and band title track, while Gene Adam’s shriller, dry evil vocal tones aren’t too far away from those used by Steve “Zetro” Souza of Exodus. His story telling style is where the Power Metal vibes come into play with influences from the likes of Dio on “Written On The Walls” and regular mentions of Ice and cold within those as well as everything having the epic grandeur that is associated with the genre, drinking from the golden chalice as they sing about glorious battles on the way to Valhalla. The key thing here is what Zeuss has done, which is use modern techniques in the studio that weren’t around 30 years to add a polish to the material and that is very much a success. The drums sound crisper and cleaner, particularly on tracks like “Colors“, while the the guitars sound brighter and more vibrant, as if they have gone from playing in an Arena to playing it in The Albert Hall and despite no additional tracks in the form of demos or something, absolutely nothing has been taken away. The result is that the lead guitar work during “Curse The Sky” for example shines brighter than it ever did before, as if the dirt has been cleaned from a stained glass window 30 years on.

The somber beauty in the opening melodies of “Life And Death” allows the pick up into Speed Metal riffs with that typical gallop to tear away off into the distance like the headless knight riding away from battle on a wild horse as Iced Earth prove themselves the Kings of the riff with constant innovation, tempo shifts and smooth switching between parts. How much of an influence Iced Earth have been on Metallica would be interesting especially when listening back to the likes of “Solitude“, which has that Spanish flamenco guitar flair within its somber notes and when we talk about things like legacy, it has to be a factor. The dark spoken word of “Funeral” doesn’t start until mid way through the joyously darker instrumental which here sounds better than it has ever done, full of verve and energy as Schaffer and Shawver play off against each other as Heafy and Corey Beaulieu do now in Trivium and leave you with that sense of wonderment. The same can be said of “When The Night Falls” which while bringing the vocals back, shines in the elongated instrumental passages [8.5/10]

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

The 30th Anniversary Edition of “Iced Earth” by Iced Earth, remixed and remastered by Chris “Zeuss” Harris, is out 18th December 2020 via Century Media

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