Sound: Since the announcement that Iced Earth would be coming out with a box set titled Box of the Wicked, fans have been quite vocal about their initial feelings on the release. On one hand you had a collection of material, which although has primarily been already heard before on past albums, has somewhat of a new twist thanks to a bonus CD, poster, and a variety of other materials. But with the changing lineups over the years, like it or not, certain teams have been formed. For those on the side of Team Ripper favoring former vocalist Tim Ripper Owens jaw-dropping, epic vocal style hearing a boxed set with essentially very little from the singer may leave you cold. If you're an Iced Earth fan through past and present (through all of the vocalist changes) owning Box of the Wicked is a no-brainer and somewhat of a privilege given the fact that only 10,000 copies are available.
The 5-CD box set features two studio albums (Framing Armageddon and The Crucible of Man), two original digipak EPs, and one live CD featuring only vocals by current member Matt Barlow. The frontman is strong in his own right, but it's hard to go up against Owens, whose range (as evidenced by the Framing Armageddon CD) could at times go head to head with Rob Halford or Ronnie James Dio. The fact that guitarist Jon Schaffer's songwriting skills seem a bit lackluster on The Crucible of Man (with more chugging power chords than solid riffs) doesn't help matters much.
In any case, if you're just getting into Iced Earth's music, Box of the Wicked isn't a bad way to go. It will give you a taste of what you can probably expect in the coming years from the Tampa band. Does it leave out quite a bit of material from the past few decades? You bet, and that's probably one of the biggest disappointments. Framing Armageddon is a stellar record, and combined with some cool artwork and a bonus live CD, the boxed set may be very well worth the price.
The bonus CD features four songs, Dark Saga, Iced Earth, Pure Evil, and A Charge To Keep, which is now sung by Barlow. It would have actually been satisfying to get perhaps even a few more live tracks from past eras, but again, diehard fans should find the release a welcome addition to their catalog. // 7
Lyrics: Iced Earth has never disappointed when it comes to delivering lyrical content with epic, life-changing, or apocalyptic themes. If you are a fan of movies like The Omen or general themes where evil is unleashed upon an unsuspecting world, you'll eat up every moment heard on the Box of the Wicked CDs. // 8
Overall Impression: While I could go on and on about the epic nature of Tim Owen's delivery or Schaffer's intricate, carefully thought-out songwriting on Framing Armageddon, the review is for the boxed set as a whole. The quality doesn't always stay consistent on the boxed set, but Iced Earth is still a force with which to be reckoned in their genre even on a bad day. For avid fans, the boxed set, particularly because of its rare quality, should be a must-purchase. However, if you're sore over the many changes that do seem to keep happening within Iced Earth and already own most of their albums, you will be able to live without this release. // 7