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Iced Earth…Turn The Page

By: Eric Compton
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2003
Iced Earth are considered to be the cream of the crop for American underground metal. When we think of good American metal exports, Iced Earth comes to mind. Sure there are plenty of good American bands left, like Testament, Overkill, Vicious Rumors, and Anthrax, but those bands emerged in the 80s when big labels like Atlantic were handing out the paychecks. Those bands have seen the popular days and many have been involved with big venue tours and large promotional efforts.

When Iced Earth kicked their careers off, they started out at nothing. With a seven record deal through Century Media, the band started out with little to no money for their first record. The same can be said for the band's last album through the label, "Horror Show." They were given just enough money to cut records, and that was it. The band worked hard all those years, holding down steady jobs while their records surfaced in many "out of the way" shops and stores throughout the world. The band even reached the heights of Beatles-like mania in Greece, where the band recorded a live album. But the big money never showed up.

Iced Earth has proven they don't construct their form of art for money. But just like everyone else, they do need to make a living some way. Unfortunately the band struggled through various lineups, and by the band's third record, a third singer was brought on board:

Matthew Barlow.

After two records with less than average vocalists, Barlow brought a magical chemistry to the band's dark sound. Taking advantage of Barlow's magnificent talent, founder Jon Schaffer wrote more vocal harmonies for records like "The Dark Saga" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes". Those albums brought a huge fan base to the band, and helped make them a strong flagship for US metal.

After 4 studio records, a live album and a "best of" package, Barlow and Iced Earth seemed to be in control of their own destiny. "Horror Show" made it into the Heatseeker List of Rolling Stone. US tours with Priest and Megadeth were offered to the band, and for the first time ever, Iced Earth were featured on Canadian's version of MTV, Much Music. Transworld Inc, America's largest retail music chain, highlighted the band's efforts by displaying them at the listening centers inside various stores.

After finishing up their label contract with Century Media, Iced Earth signed a better, more lucrative deal with SPV Steamhammer, a large European record company. With the financing to incorporate a more epic feel to the band's sound, Iced Earth went into the studio in March/April 2003 to record "The Glorious Burden", a modern day look at America and its astounding history.

Unfortunately, with the band's struggle to the top, the recent 9/11 tragedy and attempts to finish college and better his financial future, Matthew Barlow quit Iced Earth on 6/2/3.

The loss is catastrophic to the band. How can Schaffer and the members of Iced Earth possibly replace Barlow's vocals? We are talking about a man who can sing higher notes with as much emotion as Halford and Dickinson, but still keep the calm, soothing aspects of his mid-level range. Barlow is the perfect singer for Iced Earth and the perfect band-mate for Schaffer and his infinite vision of metal bliss. It hasn't been a problem to replace bass players, guitarists or even drummers, but the perfect vocalist? Thats a whole different problem.

What does the band do from this point? Here are some ideas Maximum Metal has been toying with:

1. WHAT IS THE MAJOR PROBLEM WITH A NEW VOCALIST?

Well this one is actually two questions in one. Sure, it will not be hard to find a singer to sing Iced Earth's new material. Schaffer will simply tweek the new record to fit the new vocalist. Thats not a problem. I'm sure many fans will be turned off from the idea of even having a new vocalist, but the band certainly has to move on. The problem will go beyond the studio however. How can the band get a vocalist to pick up the old material? The major problems will arise on stage, where the vocalist will need to sing "Ghost Of Freedom", "Melancholy", and other slow ballads in the same set list as ball busters like "Travel In Stygian", "Dracula", or "Vengeance Is Mine". It takes alot of talent and diversity to switch up material like that. Barlow did it, but who else can?

2. WHO COULD FILL THE VOID?

Wow, here is the ultimate question. Lets think about someone who can sing highs and lows, and is currently "rogue" from a band.

I think the obvious choice here is Wade Black. I say this for several reasons. First and foremost, he already has connections to Iced Earth. He and Richard Christy are working on a metal project now called Tiwanaku. Second, Black has proven that he can step into a band and take over the vocals without any problems. He did this for Crimson Glory, Lucian Blaque and Seven Witches. Both of those bands had prior vocalists, and Black had to sing the new material as well as the old. He pulled it off in grand fashion. Black has the ability to sing high and low, sometimes even in the same song. He can sing ballads, rockers, and thrashers. The only problem I can see is the fact that Schaffer will be calling all the shots and Black may want some of his own creative input.

Some other possibilities are evident however. We could look at Joe Comeau as a possible replacement. He could fill the vocal spot and also fill in the band's guitarist vacancy as well. He has played guitar for Overkill, and sang for both Liege Lord and Annihilator in the past. As of now I don't think he has any current musical plans, especially since his split from Annihilator was just last month.

Tim Owens has shown interest in Iced Earth in the past. Recently he has performed at some small venues in the mid-west, and is currently slated for the Brave Words 6-pack Weekend. It was his choice to have Iced Earth open for Priest in 2001, and he has introduced the band at a few of their gigs around his hometown. With Priest being on the shelf right now, Owens may want something to tide him over, if only for one album.

Michael Seifert would be the best fit vocally. He is the vocalist for Black Destiny and Rebellion, and has a style that is almost exactly like Matthew Barlow. The major flaw in that plan is the fact that Seifert lives in Germany.

Rob Rock would be another good change of pace, and he has proven in the past to be a hired gun, singing for bands like Impellitterri, Driver, Axel Rudi Pell, Warrior and even some guest appearances on various tribute and solo albums. He also has close ties to Richard Christy, as Christy appears on Rock's new solo album, "Eyes Of Eternity". The problem however is that Rock is a Christian and Iced Earth's music is a far cry from that religious standard.

I think some other good choices would be Urban Breed (vocalist for Tad Morose), Charles Rytkonen (ex-vocalist for Lefay), and Mike Tirelli (Holy Mother, Messiah's Kiss).

3. DISBAND?

If, and I mean IF, the band can't get a reasonable singer, should the band just disband? Obviously the only thing really left of Iced Earth is Schaffer. Should his dream just end and move on to some other form of creativity? Should he try to move on to another band, possibly under a different name? Perhaps a darker, deathy version of Burnt Offerings? Maybe pair himself with some Swedish deathers like In Flames or Darkane? Demons And Wizards full time? I guess this is the question only Jon Schaffer can answer.

I guess these are the three main questions that Iced Earth are thinking about now. I believe the band will continue, and I believe there are plenty of GOOD Iced Earth records awaiting us. We will just need to find out what is the next step. I personally can't wait for the announcement, as it will be the next chapter in the ever changing Iced Earth mythology.

Lets turn the page, shall we?




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