Sound — 9
The Dark Saga is Iced Earth's fourth album. It is a concept album about the comic book character Spawn, a man who sold his soul to the devil in order to return to earth to be with his love, who, in a unfortunate turn of events, is dating Spawn's best friend. The entire album carries a sense of melancholy as well as power in the riff work and vocals, and really does a good job of setting the mood for the story. The sound quality is superb, being slightly inproved over the previous album, and the songs seem more fine tuned and focused.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically is where this album really shines. Matt Barlow's vocal work suits every aspect of the storyline and the album itself, hitting amazing highs and lows, as well as adding to the album's sense of melancholy with the chilling sound of his voice. Following Burnt Offerings, Barlow took vocal lessons, and you can definately see them reflect in the vocal work on this album. The lyrics, revolving around the album's concept and story line, are deep and entertaining, flowing well (you could read them without knowing the song, and still feel a sense of rhythm in them), and all of them pull you deeper into the storyline. Schaffer's work as a lyricist really shine through on this album. If you're looking for an album that can set a mood easily, Dark Saga is for you, it bleeds melancholy and sense of hopelessness in just about every line. Definately the meat of the album.
Overall Impression — 10
Compared to Iced Earth's other work, this album really does shine. Is it their best? Probably not. But it's pretty close. The opening track Dark Saga, really draws the listener in and engulfs them in the dark storyline. It sets the tone for the album with it's heavy riff work, but contrasting lyrical work that, when read alone, reflects a deep sadness. Another song worth mention is Violate, which features a heavy, 'chuga chuga' type of riff work characteristic of rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer's right hand gallop. The song itself might feel out of place on the album, being so heavy and well, violative, but I feel that it adds a bit of variety to the already dark and depressing lyrical work, plus, it shows a hint of Iced Earth's prior work in it's thrash oriented riff work. Also, you can't forget A Question of Heaven, the epic closing track to this epic album, a sad medly of acoustic and clean channel guitar work and amazing vocal work on Matt Barlow's part. A definitive closing track to a definitive album that I would suggest a listen to all metal fans as well as those looking for a good album to set a specific mood they want. it's a staple in my metal collection.