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Horror Show

Track Listing
1. Wolf
2. Damien
3. Jack
4. The Ghost of Freedom
5. Im-Ho-Tep (The Pharoah's Curse)
6. Jeckyl and Hyde
7. Dragon's Child
8. Frankenstein
9. Dracula
10. The Phantom Opera Ghost
11. Transylvania

Century Media 2001

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More Releases by Magnum:
Iced Earth - The Dark Saga (1996)
Iced Earth - Days of Purgatory (1997)
Iced Earth - Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)
Related Releases:
Demons & Wizards [Schaffer]


Their first album since the highly acclaimed "Something Wicked This Way Comes" from 1998 which was much celebrated as a groundbreaking disc in the field of power metal, Iced Earth returns with their movie monster marathon entitled "Horror Show". Even though its been three years since "SWTWC", the band kept themselves in the minds of their fans with the three disc live set "Alive in Athens" and who could forget the media buzz surrounding Demons and Wizards, Jon Schaffer's sideproject with Blind Guardian crooner Hansi Kursch? There are rumors of a second D&W album to come our way sometime in the next year or so, but nothing matches up to the pure fury of a real studio Iced Earth disc. "Horror Show" feels that void in some ways, yet leaves the listener feeling a bit on the empty side.

"SWTWC" was definitely a filling disc. It captured imaginations everywhere with its sense of style and pure unleashed power, offering us rich Egyptian influences that gave it a feeling of depth, not to mention innovation. Backtrack a few years to the Spawn themed "The Dark Saga", and it also gave us songs that managed to be catchy and knock the wind out of the sails at the same time. Killer songs, which not only make us think, but that infest the mind like the plague without compromising one shred of heaviness...that's what Iced Earth is all about. They do power metal the American way, a good bit darker and grittier than our European heroes, and completely lacking in medieval lyrical cheese. Not that there's anything wrong with tunes featuring mangled English that roughly outline the tales of valiant warriors of the Forgotten Sun battling dragons of the Nighttime Dawning from the Accursed Wicked Mountains of Devil Wizard's Moonbreak Tower. This is all well and good, I proudly pop out a Rhapsody or Hammerfall disc frequently just to revisit these remote locations populated with fantastic characters, but now and then something a little bit deeper is in order and that's where Iced Earth comes in. At least most of the time.

Which brings us back to cheese. A concept disc about men in monster suits capering about with ketchup like substances all over them, starring in black and white movies is bound to have a little cheese sneak into the pot. After all, cheddar makes everything better, right? Horror movies are often the very definition of cheese after all, and fashioning songs around their main attraction is going to end up seeming a bit like that often yellowish in colour milk product. Thankfully Iced Earth manages to skip around this most of the time and offers up some fairly meaty material that surround darker themes than one would originally assume at first glance. Antichrists, death from love, and a handful of rather brutal and twisted pictures are painted for us with blood and tragedy. "SWTWC" and "tDS" were so delightful because they were serious trips into the pit of darkness. "Horror Show" is delightful because it manages to be both crushing and at times campy, seamlessly.

But along with the dead serious intensity, Iced Earth's songwriting has also taken a little slip, which does more damage to the disc than the inclusion of the all consuming cheese factor. There are a few which are perhaps the best the band has ever done, but the remainder are mere shadows of what has been offerings in the past. They give us a strong sense of deja vu. We've been there before, heard it before, perhaps even done better, and are wanting something fresh and new, not another rehash of their past catalogue with a glowing layer of newly applied paint and a snazzy production to give it that glossy sheen.


01.] "Wolf"
Man and beast emerged into one creature that is the stuff fireside spook stories are made of. Lurking guitar, tight yet stringy backed by uncertain plodding drums is quickly swept away by an inhuman scream. With a beastial roar the song is off and running, guitar riffs darting through a forest of sound, as if searching for a human to bite and ensure the curse shall continue with yet another infected host, but death is right around the corner, riding on the wings of a silver piercing shard. A rampaging speed metal track.... "A shape shifting demon of pure lunacy, a shot from the darkness tears through its flesh, a bullet of silver lays it to rest."

02.] "Damien"
If only Iced Earth was surfacing closer to the mainstream... the general Church going public would have a field day with this one, which is based off of "The Omen". Damien Throne is an antichrist as the tale goes, and well, this is his story. The effective use of a Latin choir is to be commended for giving the opening, and the curtain closing finale an unsettling spice. Nine minutes of epic bone crushing power and even a well done spoken section which I shudder when finding these, they are usually so cheesy you almost have to cringe, but IE pulls it off convicingly here. The heavy layers are so thick and run so deeply that its difficult at times to sift through the web-like complexity.

03.] "Jack"
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack poked himself... oops wrong story eh? While this song is both nimble and quick, it bares little resemblence to a child's tale but rather centers around the famous murderer, Jack the Ripper. A freaky gory ride worth taking, with its stabbing guitar riffs and rumbling drums, even though there's no denying the similiarities between this and other more exciting tunage from this disc. 

04.] "The Ghost of Freedom"
Never heard of a movie or novel born monster whose name is 'The Ghost of Freedom'? Well don't worry you haven't gone crazy nor lived in a box THAT long. This song takes a step outside of the whole 'horror show' concept for a moment and pays tribute to all of the soldiers who have fought and ultimately died while defending our country. Set to a music quite ballad-esque, these are the sacrifices of war. The chorus is almost worth dying for itself, which manages to be sorrowful and inspirational simultaneously... quite a feat indeed.

05.] "Im-Ho-Tep (The Pharoah's Curse)"
The Pharoah put the curse on this floundering tune for good! The Egyptian grooves seem to begin in safe abundance but end up fading into oblivion as the song pans on and ultimately ends up fizzling as it runs out of steam. The middle section is nothing but filler. The drums pound, the vocals scream, the guitar shreds but without any sense of a dependably sure structure. If you need your middle east fix, reach for "Something Wicked" for "IOT(TPC)" is hookless and as exciting as a brick.

06.] "Jeckyl & Hyde"
Cautious to unfurl, but once it does watch out! The song takes the form of many personalities, mostly of the swift and speedy kind. But the blood curling axe swinging sections and the pleading disruptive argument between personalities is damningly delicious. The chorus is flooring and Richard Christy's drums are agonizingly chaotic. The result of all this is something akin to Iron Maiden on speed.

07.] "Dragon's Child"
Another hesitant, shrouded start gets going with a suitably heavy pacing that's not overly fast and furious this time around. This one's intent is to give a more mystical outlook instead of making the listener's ears ring. So we peer deep into the waters, searching for the creature from the Black Lagoon. The lyrics are a little repetitive but the addictive chorus and those searing electric riffs embodying a truly unexpected twisted beauty make up for any drawbacks. The infusion of melody was enough to make this a real standout amongst the opaque gems scattered on this disc.

08.] "Frankenstein"
Shades of Sabbath pop up in this rather plodding tune that suits the whole Frankenstein theme nicely. The disjointedly gripping guitars and the 'evil' Barlow singing along with the screaming version is a ghoulish delight. Things never properly speed up but instead keeps the ball and chain on for this look at the unnatural creation of life through the eyes of a manical scientist.

09.] "Dracula"
Taking it slowly but surely the song begins as an errie acoustic yarn. Barlow's voice rings out with a disturbing, caressing warmth as the acoustic guitar strings along behind him interweaving and creating a lacy like background pattern for the vocals to rest upon. Then a meaty guitar riff appears suddenly, desecrating the silence and wispy reflection upon the pathos of love.  A scream declares the 'blood is the life' and quite tasty at that is it? The double drums deliver a swift kick to the ass and sets the pace for the rest of the song. The chorus, with its legion of backup voices providing a solid wall of pure sound and break neck speed is breathtaking. "For true love I shall avenge, I defy the creed that damned her."  A sparkling highlight with so much life, it cannot possibly be vampire bitten yet, but the bat flutters oh so closely. 

10.] "The Phantom of the Opera Ghost"
Matt and a female singer duel it out, but although Barlow's performance is so deeply rich and throaty, Yunhui Percifield's voice is much too brittle, she sounds like one of those chicks that should be left toiling with their teen (or mid 20s) angst in mediocre alterna-grrl bands. She just lacks the power that's needed to stand alongside the frontman, and thus makes her seem even more lacking than she may be. There are a few parts, especially during the softer interludes, where she seems very suitable however, which offsets the weaker sections of her performance. In these high points she becomes an ethereal being, a haunting ghostly sound in the darkness. The song wrestles with "love, death, life and hate"... with the pacing taking its twists and turns accordingly. Lyrically the end is rather shocking... and macrabe, filled with the spookiest organ. "Myself I'll kill, if I can't have you no one will."

11.] "Transylvania"
Cold and very British, the essence of Iron Maiden's track is preserved in this galloping cover that is every bit as tortured as the original. Expert technical work and a comforting way to top off the disc with familiar style.


Even with these downfalls, taken as a whole, I'Earth's latest effort is fun to listen to, sometimes with a purely frightening quality that easy to lose yourself in amongst the crushing waves of sound that pull you under into their horrifying world. The drums crush like the rabbits smashing the life out of pesky antlike humans in Night of the Lepus, the guitars drain the life eagerly like a blood thirsty vampire, the choruses are twice the size of godzilla, and the vocals.... well.... Matt Barlow is a tough one to describe, with his distinctive, powerful sound that is all adds up to one helluvah of a disc that with a few more killer songs would have been just devastating. Instead it ends up being just another pleasant walk through the dungeon, not quite living up to the hype.

Ratings and Wrap Up:
Songs - 7.0, Performance - 9.0, Production - 9.0, Lyrics - 8.0

Hot Spots: "Dracula", "Dragon's Child", "Damien"
Bottom Line: IE's heaviest yet...

Review by Alanna Evans -

the cover might be the best thing about the album?

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