Jon Schaffer and friends tackle theSomething Wickedstory once again on a collection that feels more like a symphony than a traditional rock album. The symphonic element reveals itself through sonic vignettes such as "Overture," "Reflections," and "Execution," … see full wiki
Like many Iced Earth fans i got into the band at the time of _Something Wicked This Way Comes_ and impatiently awaited the full concept album for years and years. i was a little leery after _The Glorious Burden_, which is an unbalanced album, largely because i was rather unappreciative of the vocals. The Ripper's vox were sometimes really great, and sometimes really cheesy. Now that the first part of the concept, _Framing Armageddon_, is out, so what is the final judgment? Awesome and worth the wait!
This is probably the best all-round album since _Night of the Stormrider_ (interestingly, neither album has Barlow!), and it reaches the same heights as the best Iced Earth. It's definitely more on the power metal side, more so than _Horror Show_ and _The Glorious Burden_, but despite its subject matter _Framing Armageddon_ avoids the cheese Iced Earth often gets caught with. More than anything Schaffer here appears to have emulated Hansi's approach to vocals in Blind Guardian - HUGE. Choruses of such grandeur, melody, and vocal multitude that only Blind Guardian compares in metal. As much emphasis as there is on the army-of-vocals choruses, Tim Owens' vocals themselves really should be emphasized. They are awesome on these songs. He really is a great, versatile vocalist to whom i should have given more credit in the first place. Even with Matt Barlow's return on the forthcoming Part II, and even when he performs these songs originally by Owens, the goodness of the original performance will always be valued. The atmospheric interludes, lots of stuff from violent synth'd battle sounds and haunting passages arranged for acoustic guitars and obscure, worldly percussion instruments.
This is perhaps the least Iced Earth sounding album Iced Earth has done, for better or worse. The focus here is definitely a specific vision that has less of Schaffer's individual personality and is more its own thing. Personally i think it is very successful. The beginning is awesome with the epic, mood-setting "Something Wicked Part I". The middle is full of good fast and mid-tempo power metal tracks like "Setian Massacre", "Ten Thousand Strong", "Order of the Rose", "Retribution Through the Ages", "Infiltrate and Assimilate" - quite Blind Guardian-esque in my opinion, and other stuff like the prog-metal-ish "Domino Decree", the Floydian first half of "The Clouding", and the brutal gnashing of "Framing Armageddon". All the songs are very individual sounding and evocative. The album also has an incredible finale ("When Stars Collide"), a slow, dire monster with massive choral presence, more foreboding than almost any finale. The final instrumental piece "Awakening" closes the album on the softer note, and really...if i am permitted to nitpick, this was Schaffer's only mistake. The final note of "When Stars Collide" leaves the listener with a very heavy sense of foreboding and dread, and provides for the ultimate cliffhanger while we wait for pt. 2. "Awakening" is fine and pleasant, but it might detract from the ending. i dunno.
Final note: as one other reviewer wisely notes, "his CD should be reevaluated once the sequel comes out." i completely agree, and think it will probably be even better when joined by its second half. Can't wait!
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