Sound — 9
After hearing this album for the first time, I was forced to my knees for two reasons: One being the need to pick my jaw up off the floor, and two being the need to fall at the feet of one of the greatest metal bands of all time. This album found a fantastic balance of ear crushing riffs (delivered, as always, by the mighty Jon Schaffer), and mellow acoustic passages. The drumming is perfect, and always gets your foot tapping or your hand twitching, despite the bass being slightly to hushed. Songs like "Burnt Offerings", "Last December", and "Brainwashed" are those special types of songs that are classified as "Insta-headbangers". It would be wrong to try and list the best songs of this album, as the entire CD is nothing short of superb; but if forced to choose a favorite, it would be (of course) the 16 minute epic "Dante's Inferno". How can you not love a song that rips out your soul and drags it, screaming, through the nine planes of hell, before stuffing it back into your bloated, sweaty body? Maybe if you're an emo, but we all know that emo's don't have souls. Anyway, the sound quality occasionally falters, but it is usually covered up by a Barlow-shriek. Simply amazing.
Lyrics — 10
Ah, the lyrics. Schaffer's specialty (that and his stuttering right hand). Previous albums had all displayed the bands skill as performers, but this CD is a landmark in Iced Earth's rise to power. The lyrics complement the riffs, the riffs complement the lyrics, and the singing complements everything else. This is Matt Barlow's first album with the band, and his abilities are fully utilized. Heart-wrenching verses, ear-shattering chorus's, boner-inspiring vibratos, boner-shriveling screams: all are part of Barlow's genious. After listening to Gene Adam and John Greely, I can confidently say that Matt Barlow is the most ear-ravaging presence to ever grace a stage alongside Shaffer and the boys.
Overall Impression — 10
This CD is perhaps one of the most important albums in the power/thrash metal genre. It recognizes the full potential of a rifflord like Schaffer, coupled with a vocal god like Barlow. As stated previously, the most jaw-dropping songs are "Dante's Inferno", "Burnt Offerings", and "Last December". One small let-down, though: the live version of "Dante's Inferno" has noticeably more passionate vocals. Barlow seems to be trying to contact the gods on the Alive In Athens version. But in retrospect, that isn't exactly a bad thing. Just go buy Alive In Athens as well! If someone stole this album I wouldn't buy another one. I would watch the sky and look for the pillar of flame as the metal gods "burnt" the son of a bitch to death, and then I would simply retrieve the CD from his charred corpse.