Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Pt. 1
Release Date: September 11 Label: SPV Genres: Traditional Heavy Metal
Right off the bat, I'll have to say that I'm torn concerning Jon Schaffer's latest creation. It's a very amibitous album, and it's only half the story. When trying to pin down just how good this album is, I have the nagging feeling that I'll end up biting myself in the arse, since the second part of the story has yet to arrive.
What can be said is that Tim 'Ripper' Owens shines like a thousand suns on this album. I'll stand by my opinion that when it comes to high-pitched metal vocalists these days, he has no match. He's definitely in a league of his own when it comes to delivering. The balls-out-metal delivery cannot be praised enough (the "Framing Armageddon"-screams in the title track is a good enough example), but he could improve a bit for the mellow sections. What about the guitarwork? Jon Schaffer has oft been accused of using the same gallop-patterns over and over, and it looks like he's out to prove those people wrong with this album (of course he's not, but you get my drift). Incidentally, it sounds fresh and quite effortless, with more melodies and guitarsolos than you might be used to hearing from Iced Earth. It's almost as if Jon has taken a leaf out of Blind Guardian's book and put on layer after layer, as BG did with "A Night At The Opera," which worked quite brilliantly for that album.
The overall feeling I get is somewhat mixed though -- the parts are all good, but they for some reason don't seem to flow as well as this concept album needs them to. Maybe trimming a few interludes would've been a good idea. But, keep in mind that it's only part one and maybe the whole picture will look better once we see it all. All in all a good, solid effort, but there's just that something missing.
Arch Enemy - Rise Of The Tyrant
Release Date: September 24 Label: Century Media Genres: Melodic Death Metal
A few years after "Doomsday Machine", Arch Enemy return with a new slob of Swedish (and partially German) melodic death metal. "Doomsday Machine" was not a hit across the board with fans nor critics, but this album looks like it might reinstate their position as one of the premier diplomats of the Gothenburg sound. The guitarwork is jawdroppingly tasty in places. The Amott brothers know their fretboards and often manage to play just what is right, and nothing else. It's an admirable skill, especially in the most show-boating of genres, metal. There are definetely some moments where they show their chops, such as the solos in "The Day You Died" or the wonderfully mellow "Intermezzo Liberte." The riffs are generally of a high quality but I have yet to find one of those riffs that you just want to hear on repeat. Generally with melodic death metal, that seems to be the case, since it does not not solely rely on riffs, but also incorporates melody to a large extent.
Consistency might be the best way to describe this album. It's solid, definetely nothing to be ashamed of, but it's not what we'll remember Arch Enemy for 20-30 years down the road. It's just Arch Enemy doing what they do best.
Down - III: Over The Under
Release Date: September 24 Label: Wea/Roadrunner Genres: Rock
Sadly I have not had the time to check out this release yet, but this UG review will have to do in the meantime. I felt compelled to include it, since it's one of the more high profile releases this fall. It didn't go very well over with Don Kaye over at blabbermouth.net, who gave it 6.5, so you'll just have to make up your own mind (as you always should, I 'spose).
News And Tidbits From The Past Month
Two major news stories have been the focal point this month, one happy and one quite dreadful. The good news is that Iron Maiden have announced their "Somewhere Back In Time" tour. The tour is considered to be the second part of their history tours (the first spanning their first four albums), so naturally this will pick up with the first left off. The tour will kick off in Australia (first visit since the "Fear Of The Dark" tour way-back-when) in February and that's all we know really. Maiden are already confirmed for Wacken Open Air in Germany next summer, and it's been officially stated that it's the ONLY German date on this tour.
Yours truly is of the belief that after Australia is wrapped up, they'll head to Japan and India for a few gigs and from there probably to the US for a handful of gigs. It's almost dead certain that they'll hit LA, NY and Canada, but how many gigs North America will get from there is up to the gods (Rod Smallwood & Steve Harris, in case you wondered) to decide. What can be safely said is that Europe and the UK will gets it's dose of Eddie & Co, but the question is how extensive it'll be. There's a fat chance it'll mainly be festivals (Graspop, Download etc).
What's also uncertain is South America. They got the short end of the stick for both the Early Days Tour and the "A Matter Of Life And Death" tour, so rumours are running rampant in regards to a series of shows in South America (it has even been "confirmed" by various radio stations). The biggest source of speculation is the setlist though -- will they play Alexander The Great live for the first time? Will they include pre-Powerslave material? Will they play Rime? Will they pull out a few surprises? Well, if you look at "The Early Days" tour, the setlist contained a number of surprises -- more Iron Maiden/Killers material than most fans had expected, and less from Number/Piece. It could end up the same on this tour, and in that case it'll most likely be a few tunes from "Somewhere In Time", seeing it's been underrepresented from the 7th Tour and onwards, in comparison to other albums from the same era.
What's also a source of discussion is if they'll just play tunes from "Powerslave"-"Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son", or if they'll use "Live After Death" as an excuse to put in "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Iron Maiden", as they are the only two tracks in their discography to be played at every gig since their respective releases. I think they'll put 'em in for sure. They are such huge mainstays that I can't see them ever removing them from the setlist. Then again, most people thought the same about "The Number of the Beast", and it was axed from the last tour, so who knows? All I know is that I'll be there when they hit my country, and witness one of the greatest shows on earth.
Finally, Machine Head manage to sneak into this month's column as well. No, Robb Flynn ain't paying me, but if he wants to, it can be arranged.
The news is of course that Disney, who happens to own land on which House of Blues venues are located, told the promoter of the "Black Tyranny" tour that no, we do not want metal played here. Thus, the tour (which also features Arch Enemy, amongst others), had to move to different venues for a number of gigs. Disney cited violent imagery, undesirable fans and inflammatory lyrics as the reason for the concerts being denied to play on Disney property.
Shadows Fall also received the same message from Disney the other week.
But why now? Hundreds upon hundreds of metal concerts must have been played in those venues over the years, some with lyrics and imagery far more violent than that of Machine Head and Shadows Fall (such as Cannibal Corpse, that has played there). There might of course be a number of reasons not disclosed to the masses, but it certainly doesn't help bridge the gap between mainstream and metal. Maybe it's not supposed to be bridged in the first place, and it's hardly the first time it's happened. Just ask Ozzy, Sabbath or Maiden how they've been treated.
Or maybe Mickey Mouse thought that "The Blackening" or "The Black Tyranny" tour was some kind of hint to black people taking over America, and was offended. Amidst all this ridiculousness, it almost seems like a truthful and likely option.
So ends this September column -- if you have suggestions or ideas on how to improve the column, write it further down.