The Glorious Burden
Band / Release Notes
The Glorious Burden is the seventh studio album by the American metal band Iced Earth. It is a concept album, which explores various moments in military history, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolutionary War, and Waterloo. It also pays tribute to world events such as World War I, the World Trade Center attacks and the ravages of Attila the Hun.
This album features the debut of lead singer Tim 'Ripper' Owens, formerly of Judas Priest. This record is the only Iced Earth album to feature Ralph Santolla on lead guitars. This was the last studio album for bassist James MacDonough and drummer Richard Christy.
The new Iced Earth CD has made its appearance on the shelves and the most visible change for the band has been the addition of new Lead Singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. As all metal fans probably know by now, Ripper was the replacement for Rob Halford in Judas Priest. When Halford returned Tim was free to pursue other bands. While I liked him as a fill in when Rob was not there to play, I feel he is better suited to Iced Earth. Given Ripper’s voice is so “Halford-like” there are many times when one listens to this CD and would think it is Judas Priest or Fight for that matter. This is unavoidable when your singer has this style to his vocals. Whether or not Ripper has just recorded the vocals on this album as a fill in guy, or whether he is a new fulltime member remains to be seen. It is my hope that he does stay, and given that I see some tour dates for my immediate area over the next couple of months, I am thinking this is a new step for him.
There is some solid metal on this CD. A wide variety of styles are present on it in the various tunes that encompass the piece. For instance, the album launches with a rousing metallized rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Being an American Man, I was unsure whether to salute or raise my fist into the air while it played. I give them credit for pulling this out of their hat. Declaration Day has a really solid groove to it. Then there is 'When The Eagle Cries'. This piece is a post 9-11-2001 reflection. The video that Iced Earth made for it is full of images from that terrible day. As a New Yorker who knew many people affected by this tragic act of terrorism I felt this piece was done with a sense of honor and respect. Moving on, “Don't Tread On Me” is definately a power number that reminded me so much of 'Painkiller' era Priest that I had to double-check the CD playing was still Iced Earth. There is also some killer drumming by Christy on this one.
Comprising the final portion of the CD is 'Gettysburg 1863'. This is an excellent 3 part opus. I recommend that Listeners also refer to the booklet to read some of the comments by Jon Schaffer on the extra historical background. The CD Booklet is also very nicely laid out. A full 24 pages with lyrics for all the songs, and some intensive liner notes from guitarist Jon Schaffer about how his fascination for American History and the Civil War primarily was the premise of the new album. There are many beautiful painted images on the inside on the page that follows each track. The pictures depict a little of what the song is about. I was very pleased with this as it added to the total enjoyment of the piece.
All in all when reviewing this piece I feel that Schaffer and Company (Ripper, James MacDonough and Richard Christy) have given us a worthy release for our stereo to blast. Be aware that there is also a deluxe edition of this release with 2 CD's and additional tracks that I have not discussed here.
Anyone who knows me personally realizes that I'm quite possibly the biggest Iced Earth fan in the free world. Since their early beginnings, I have followed the band through every lineup change, questioning Jon Schaffer's strange decisions at times, but for the most part always standing behind the band's performance.
In 2003 it was disclosed that Matthew Barlow would no longer be singing for the band, replaced with ex-Judas Priest shouter Tim Owens. I hated to see Barlow leave, as the last four albums have been highlighted by Barlow's excellent vocal melodies. I loved his range, his stage prescence, and most importantly the passion and emotion that a simple chorus can bring with his "speak-easy" tone.
At the same time, I have been a huge supporter for Tim Owens. Following his footsteps from underground sensation Winter's Bane to the "big city lights" of Judas Priest, I have grown very fond of Owens' superior vocal talent. Metal fans flocked together in hatred of his only studio works with Priest, "Jugulator" and "Demolition". While Priest fans rebuked the Owens era material, I embraced the albums, ranking them near the top of the Priest catalogue. With that being said, I felt that Tim Owens would be the perfect candidate for Iced Earth. Owens understands the term "filling a vacancy" well, and has already learned the fine craft of ignoring the critics (one that Schaffer himself may want to educate himself on). The group along with new frontman Tim Owens have embarked on a new Iced Earth journey, one that distances itself from the past, but makes huge waves for the future.
"The Glorious Burden" is the debut record for the SPV-era of Iced Earth. Until now, every album has been released on Century Media. Schaffer's label negotiating prompted a good dollar amount to land this album on the SPV label. From the looks of the packaging and artwork, the label must have shown a great interest in this still "up and coming" band. This album is based on the great epics of mankind's history, from the blood-soaked battlefields of Gettysburg to the rampage of Attila "The Hun". Schaffer does a good job here telling mankind's struggles and failures through a comprehensive and rather addictive use of melody, speed, and ample aggression. One would think of European greats like Grave Digger (Tunes Of War to be exact), Blind Guardian (Somewhere Far Beyond), and even Rhapsody with its huge chorus factor. At the same time the band keeps its mainstay intact, that being the fast chug-chug-chug rythmn of Schaffer and new string-man Ralph Stambolla's stance on soaring solos and twin guitar drives. This is somewhat of a catch-22 however, as some songs on this record just seem too retro for my liking.
Take for instance a track like "The Reckoning", with its fast crunchy rythmn and pounding double-bass battery. This is a prime example of Schaffer's never-ending supply of recycled riffs, this one sounding like a blend of Stormrider and Something Wicked material that is just being rehashed for lack of fresh creativity. Lets face it folks, Schaffer isn't the best guitar player around, and certainly hammers the point home with rehashed, borrowed riffs that rip off Iced Earth for the sake of new Iced Earth. The same can be said for "Greenface", which sounds just like "Jack" from "Horror Show". "Declaration Day" seems to have its own identity though, with its refreshing harmony chorus and Owens' ability to deliver a heartfelt patriotic look at America's creation.
I greatly enjoyed "Red Baron, Blue Max" although it sounds a bit borrowed and dated. "Attila" is epic in every sense of the word, and I really enjoy the use of "Gladiator" type sounds and screams. "When The Eagle Cries" is by far the worst ballad ever performed by this band and really deserves no place on this album. The same can be said for "Hollow Man", a track that was initially left off of the last album because Schaffer felt the song was "too good" for Century Media (what an ego-maniac!).
Now, with the majority of this record sounding rehashed and simply out-dated (all but Attila, Waterloo, Declaration Day, Valley Forge, and Red Baron-Blue Max can be thrown out in my opinion), we move forward to the Gettysburg epic. This masterpiece, and I mean that in every sense of the word because that is what it is, is broken into three parts creating a trilogy. This trilogy focuses on the trials and tribulations of Union and Confederate soldiers during three bloody days of intense fighting in the town of Gettysburg. Never, and I do mean NEVER, have I heard Iced Earth this damn good.
This epic is just an astonishing, jaw-dropping history lesson put to music. Everything is covered here, from the first moments of battle to the last crusade of General Lee's brigade into the Union center. This is heart-wrenching and moving with every note, with Schaffer orchestrating his best creative work to date, combining a symphonic orchestra sound with the rich textures of CLASSIC heavy metal enhanced with the sounds of battle, the sounds of the dying, and the bonebreaking weight of what really happened and what those soldiers went through for three full days on those fields. In my opinion, this trilogy is the best musical piece ever written by any artist of any genre. I mean that with all sincerity, but this story has purpose and meaning, with Schaffer's love of history put to the ultimate musical test. This masterpiece really has it all and shares with the listener for a half-hour how our country has stood the test of time. Liberty and freedom is not free and this group of songs proves that very point. This is mandatory listening for every American son, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.
Alot of questions were answered with this release. Can Owens pull it off as well as Barlow? I would say he certainly has, but he is quite a different singer than Barlow. Can Iced Earth take metal to the next level, and deliver traditional power metal to the nu-metal fans? I really think so, and from the sales numbers thus far the album is doing well. The new guitarist sounds decent, with plenty of great breakdowns and solos. I think the future looks bright with this lineup, but the group really need to focus and make the next record solid.
"The Glorious Burden" is a very difficult album to take in however. I'm still a bit "wishy-washy" and probably always will be. One-third of this record is simply good, one-third is an absolute masterpiece, and one-third is simply just there as filler. I've never heard an album quite like this, and probably never will. To say the album is rather complicated would be an understatement. Instead, let me say this: "The Glorious Burden" is just what it is. There are plenty of glorious songs here, but there is quite a burden sorting through the bad songs to get to the real goods. I wish we could have lost some of the filler and shortened the record. Then, its quite possible this would be the album of all albums. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable look at history and a great look at the new Iced Earth.
The last full length CD of original IE stuff hit the streets June 25, 2001, and as we all know was "Horror Show." Since then, Iced Earth has made a major change. I am talking about Barlow leaving and Tim Owens (Formerly of Judas Priest) stepping up to lay down vocals for the album. But I am not gonna sit here and tell you what everyone should know. However, I will say that I cannot wait until this record makes itself known to the public (so I can be the first in line to buy it).
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical of this "new" sound, I mean hell, there is no denying Matt had a great voice, and with Jon along side of him, they were a force to be reckoned with. I do love "Demolition" (Judas Priest CD featuring Owens on vocals). Let's Face it, Iced Earth without Barlow, how good can it be anyway? GREAT! Agreed, Owens is not a Barlow, but the style he brings to Iced Earth is that of which I thought was only possible in places like Germany, not like most of the "Metal" (and I use that term loosely when referring to trendy mall metal) you find in the states.
Joining Schaffer and Owens on this historic journey (this entire release paints a detailed epic of the Civil War, a favorite subject of Schaffer's) are drummer Richard Christy (Formerly of Death), longtime bassist James MacDonough, guitarist Ralph Santolla.
From the classic epic Gettysburg (1863), to the true power of "Declaration Day," this is an instant classic. Even without Barlow, (Good luck, you will be missed.), Iced Earth delivered one hell of a kick ass classic. Just imagine the speed, riffs, and bass talents of, let's say, Slayer, the ungodly melodies of acts such as Sinergy or Hammerfall. Lyrically, think for a second, hmm, who has a raw in-your-face sound (beside the sound of the aforementioned Priest album)? Rage comes to mind. Throw in the hard hitting drumlines of old-school Metallica (And Justice For All and earlier, when they had talent). And for kicks, just a dash of a medieval sound (Jag Panzer-Thane To The Thrown), and then you will have The Glorious Burden.
Power/Thrash at it's finest. They did release an EP, that was, well, less than expected, at least by me. but it does the album no justice at all. Iced Earth has what every great band should or does have, a raw vocalist, talent, speed, wonderful harmonies and instrumentation, great riffs and solos, and an album that is sure not to disappoint.