Iced Earth is a band I’ve followed since “Something Wicked” was released in 1998. I became a fan almost immediately, hooked on the songwriting, riffs and rhythm guitar playing of Jon Schaffer. But more importantly, I was hooked on the emotional, powerful vocals from frontman Matt Barlow.
After Barlow left the band, my interest just began to wane. “Glorious Burden was decent (check my review of it, 3 stars) but 2007’s “Framing Armageddon” just completely underwhelmed me. To use an old line, there just wasn’t a lot of wind blowing through that CD. Or the band for that matter.
So hearing of Matt Barlow’s return to Iced Earth was some of the best music news I heard this year. The storyline and songs he began in the “Something Wicked” trilogy could be completed by the same voice.
And listening to “Crucible Of Man”, it feels like there’s a new current of energy running throughout the music. The songs feel more focused than in Part 1, the riffs and song structure seem tighter and more high-energy. I came away (once again) impressed by Jon Schaffer’s guitar playing, probably the best rhythm guitar player out there right now. The rest of the band performs admirably, with Matt Barlow’s vocals being the expected spotlight. His voice just adds a dimension of emotion and weight to the lyrics that propel the songs.
Highlights of the CD are many, there aren’t a lot of weak points. Songs like “Sacrificial Kingdoms”, “Crown Of The Fallen”, and “The Revealing” all deliver satisfying guitar riffs. The high point is the penultimate track, “Come What May”, which has a great vocal melody and chorus that sticks in your head as the album closes. A great mid-tempo rock song.
A strong 4.5 stars for a very good album and a renewed excitement coming from Iced Earth’s corner of the metal world.