Iced Earth

The Crucible of Man

Written by: EW on 30/08/2008 01:27:31

The reunion of long-time vocalist Matt Barlow with his fellow Iced Earth-ians was an occurrence bound to happen as it was always felt Tim 'Ripper' Owens, he of ex-Judas Priest, just wasn't the perfect fit for Iced Earth. Plus, have you heard Mr. Barlow?! As a massive fan of much of Iced Earth's back catalogue you could call me biased but you'd be wrong: Matt Barlow is one of the greatest vocalists metal has known. Period. The man is a god. He was the frontman of one of the best and most respected pure metal bands going and he left in 2003 to pursue a career in the police force, but has thankfully come to his senses to grace the world of metal once again with his presence. The end result is Iced Earth's 9th LP, "The Crucible of Man" and the 2nd half of the 'Something Wicked' story first properly explored with last year's "Framing Armageddon", a mixed effort at best. So how does the next new era of Iced Earth fare?

Overall, it is a more solid effort than "Framing Armageddon". Rather than drastically improving upon the strengths of the aforementioned album, "The Crucible of Man" has instead corrected some of its deficiencies, reigning in the grandeur and concentrating on what should be the crucial element of any Iced Earth record: the fucking metal, man. The brilliance of Iced Earth is captured perfectly in 1999's "Alive In Athens", a live album so fantastic I can guarantee you right now it'll still be my favourite live album of all-time the day I die. They have always managed to capture some of the greatest riffs and then combined them with scintillating heartfelt passages of honour and despair, and whilst "Crucible..." doesn't quite have a "Travel In Stygian" or "Last December", it has "Behold The Wicked Child" and "The Dimension Gauntlet" which have the potential to be equally great as they feature the increased emphasis on vocal melodies and backing vocals to be found throughout this new record. Perhaps the influence of working with Hansi Kürsch on Demons & Wizards has taken its toll on Schaffer, as the strong choral melodies in "Crucify The King" and "Divide and Devour" are Blind Guardian all over - layers of melodically-tinged vocal lines that soar right up to the heavens and stick in the mind. The 'chuggy' and more Americanised feel of "Crucify the King" and in particular "I Walk Alone" are Nevermore all over, a true testament to the uniqueness of Warrel Dane and crew.

As hardly needs be mentioned the performance of all in the band is top-notch and has always flourished under Jon Shaffer's metronomic rhythm playing but in the case of "The Crucible of Man" at least, it is all about the return of Matt Barlow. Iced Earth feel more confident in their style with the gingerman back and has resulted in the changes to vocal melody department, by far and away the greatest stylistic difference between "The Crucible of Man" and old classics "Night of the Stormrider" and "Burnt Offerings". Further trimming of the audial fat could still be done on album no. 10 to reach the flow of earlier releases but the now is warm and rosy on this Iced Earth. Barlow is back!


Download: Behold The Wicked Child, The Dimension Gauntlet
For The Fans Of: Blind Guardian, Nevermore, Control Denied
Listen: Myspace

Release date 08.09.2008
SPV Records

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