Sound — 7
To start things off on a light note, Iced Earth has been to me a very inspiring band, in every way. Matt's singing, Jon's riffing and even the lead work from the many guitarists they've had over the years have influenced my style a lot. Alas, now Barlow's gone, Jon's has a different guitar and yet another lead guitarist has joined the band. Enough back-story; let's try and review this album. First the sound.
01. Overture - this is in my opinion, one of the best songs on the album, and it's just a short instrumental too! This song just captures the entire atmosphere of the Something Wicked universe. I couldn't think of a better intro.
02. Something Wicked (Part 1) - this song starts off fast and thrashy with a riff that slightly resembles the fast riff from Damien, but just keeps going with it until Ripper kicks in. The beginning of his vocal line borrows from Prophecy, but the rest of his performance is unique and powerful. This is one of the few songs on the album that stand up to the three Something Wicked saga songs. But after this comes the
03. Invasion - a short interlude with a combination of gun fire and Star Wars-esque pew-pew laser fire as the main sounds. It represents an invasion. This interlude also ties in well with the next song on the list:
04. Motivation Of Man - a short, low tempo song but packed with powerful fast riffs and a speech from Owens' part. Every song ties in with the next, and this one is no exception. it's ending coincides with the beginning of
05. Setian Massacre - one of the album's more average songs. It has nothing spectacular on it but a few fast riffs and some solos. About the solos, almost every bit of lead work on the album is just pentatonic wank with chorus added. The evil sounding solos from IE's early period are gone, and so are their ballads' melodic or fast solos. The chorus is done well, but close to the end it slips into monotony.
06. A Charge To Keep - a very slow, brooding, almost ballad-like song that kicks into it's double chorus at only 53 seconds. Then a verse and then a chorus again. Then a short interlude, one of the few solos that are harmonized and melodic and then another chorus. The end choruses don't even have a little lead fill to make them sound a little fresh. This is one of the worst songs on the album; the only thing that stands out is the solo.
07. Reflections - another slow song, but this one is more of a clean interlude. It's short and catchy, but very forgettable.
08. Ten Thousand Strong - yes! Finally something truly good! This song is one of the strongest on the album, and has had some parts modified/harmonized since the EP it was featured on. It has an amazing vocal performance from Tim at the beginning, a very catchy chorus, a nice little interlude, and nice fills for the second and third choruses and very strong vocal work from Owens at the end. If only some of the other songs had the spunk this one has.
09. Execution - an interlude that starts off with a Damien-esque bass intro and continues with it, until boom!
10. Order Of The Rose - the verse riff in this song is as catchy as Ten Thousand Strong's chorus. Only that it's chorus is that catchy too! This is the nicest sounding song on the album. It has a solo that's relatively nice but the solo has a very lame sounding part as well. Something cool I found in this song is a nice little riff from Jon during the solo that resembles the intro of Colors a bit.
11. Cataclysm - interlude. It sounds like The Terminator warping in from the future during a storm.
12. The Clouding - this is the longest song on the album. It evolves from ballad to thrasher. The first part is pure ballad. It sounds really good, like any ballad would sound. The second part starts with a very pentatonic-sounding riff (it's probably not pentatonic, but it has that atmosphere) and then some thrashy riffs, a few choruses and a very rhythmic palm-muted ending. All in all, it's a nice song.
13. Infiltrate And Assimilate - an average song. The only thing that really stands out is it's interlude starting at 2:17. The rest is mediocre at best.
14. Retribution Through The Ages - this song is on the other end of the spectrum. It has nothing that really stands out, but it kicks ass nonetheless. I have no idea why. It has a nice solo, nice chorus and nice, fast verse riff (for those IE enthusiasts out there, the riff is the same as the riff from Dracula during I avenge with darkness) and that's about it.
15. Something Wicked (Part 2) - this song borrows heavily from Birth of the Wicked. It's just variations on it's leads over tribal drumming, that's all.
16. The Domino Decree - a long song that ain't half bad! It's very heavy, and Ripper's voice is in it's low register. This song contains the best guitar work and the best instrumental section of all the album in it's second half. This song made me wonder what made it so different from old, pre-Dark Saga IE songs, and in the end I realized that it contains very few different riffs, no time changes, no tempo changes and very little usage of dynamics.
17. Framing Armageddon - this is the fastest and thrashiest song on the album, and contains some of Ripper's best work with Iced Earth or ever. The last 40 seconds are incendiary! A fine addition to IE's repertoire.
18. When Stars Collide (Born Is He) - in contrast with the last song, this one puts on the brakes almost totally. It has the only harmonized riff on the whole album (solos don't count), but that's not really the main delight. The song is all choral, and it's catchy!
19. The Awakening - the outro. It's so melancholic and sad and a perfect outro for the album. What's very cool about this song is that, even though you may not have liked the album that much, it really makes you thirst for the next one! It's half-outro, half-intro!
The story itself is the beginning of the real story of Set Abominae, the story that the Something Wicked saga tried to create a back-story for. I think I use the word "story" too often.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are all very well-done and each song brings a bit a the story forward. Also, each song reveals the motivation behind most of the forces at work (i.e. Motivation of Man). Tim Owens' skills have really improved since his Glorious Burden days. He frequently touches the low register of his voice, which was lacking in GB. He also delivers some mind-blowingly high wails in quite a few songs, he's a pretty good singer, after all!
Overall Impression — 8
In comparison with The Glorious Burden, it's a big improvement. In comparison with Something Wicked This Way Comes, the three saga songs beat the crap out of this album. Only Something Wicked (Part 1), Framing Armageddon and to some extent The Domino Degree could compete with those songs. Though not so impressive, Ten Thousand Strong, When Stars Collide (Born Is He), Order Of the Rose and Retribution Through the Ages are also highlights of the album. The album is worth buying, so don't be shy if you're not sure whether you'll like it that much. It represents new Iced Earth at it's best (for what that's worth).