4. The Ghost of Freedom
5. Im-Ho-Tep (The Pharoah's Curse)
6. Jeckyl and Hyde
7. Dragon's Child
10. The Phantom Opera Ghost
Century Media 2001
|More Releases by Magnum:
Iced Earth - The Dark Saga (1996)
Iced Earth - Days of Purgatory (1997)
Iced Earth - Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)
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
"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.
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 otherworldly...it 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: