Review by E.C.McMullen Jr.
|ICED EARTH: ALIVE IN ATHENS
Century Media www.centurymedia.com
In the sleeve notes of this 2 disk set, Rhythm Guitarist, Jon Schaffer spits some venom at the U.S. Corporate American mindset. At first glance I was in agreement with him until I started thinking. ICED EARTH signed up with Century Media records back in 1990 when they were a very tiny start up company. Despite its humble beginnings, Century Media has worked hard to make sure that their bands always have excellent printing and sound quality on every pressing. While I know that Schaffer's comments weren't directed to his own label, it made me wonder: It ain't no Corporate American Music b.s. this time. I can go into most any store (unless you are a diehard Wal-Mart only drone) and find music from this band. So just what is it going to take for folks to realize that ICED EARTH is one of the very best damned Heavy Metal bands in existence?
Their new CD ALIVE IN ATHENS rocks the listener (and a very appreciative Greek crowd) through two CD's worth of music that drags us through Hell, up into Heaven and back down to Earth again. Its a musical tour through the mind of Dante (no coincidence here, track 6 on the first disk is called "Dante's Inferno" [disk 2 of the double CD European only DAYS OF PURGATORY.) without the overwrought presumption of a Rock Opera.
I first noticed and came onto ICED EARTH in 1996 with the release of the CD THE DARK SAGA. It had a SPAWN cover and was about the comic book and, at that time, I was a heavy fan of Todd McFarlane's baby. I've long since burned out on SPAWN and its excrutiatingly slow, weed wandering plotline. The same can not be said for ICED EARTH.
Over the years, both in music and lyrics, ICED EARTH has grown into a place somewhere between IRON MAIDEN and QUEENSRYCHE. That's not a bad place to be. IRON MAIDEN, for all their Sturm und Drang, is a very literate band often called "The Thinking Person's" Heavy Metal. QUEENSRYCHE is reknowned as the little band that could and did - and for all their onstage histrionics, still struggle to keep it real. While QUEENSRYCHE can be cloy, sometimes bordering on bullshit, it's heartening to know that they at least recognize that in themselves. Sometimes that imagined presumption seems to leak out of ICED EARTH as in their song "Watching Over Me" (from their album SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES). Lead Singer Mathew Barlow's vocals teeter on the edge of emoting in over-the-top dramatics, and it is only in knowing (from his introduction of the song) that he wrote the song in memory of a friend who died that you can cut him some slack.
The rest of the album is pure Live Metal bliss. If you love Metal with real vocalization and a tight yet creative teamwork of sound then you need to get ICED EARTH: ALIVE IN ATHENS. For my part, I envy that Greek crowd!
1995's BURNT OFFERINGS and
from their 1998 album SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES