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.
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