Sound — 9
Iced Earth is back with their 5th studio album "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and sounds better than ever. Something Wicked opens up with an abrupt but exciting guitar melody and is lead into the lyrics, written by the legendary vocals of Matt Barlow, also one of the few songs he wrote, but back to the instrumentals, it's not hard to say that rhythm guitaris/lead writer John Schaffer makes an excellent contribution with his guitar magic that is consistant throughout the entire album. The drums are pretty decent, the unfortunate truth is that Brent Smedley has really nice cymbal tones but the bass has some volume issues and the snare sounds "hollow." Nonetheless the drums sound as great as they are talented. Not much can be said about James MacDonough's bass, because it also has some volume issues, because although it can be heard there's a bit of a struggle to hear and that's a little irritating, but when it can be heard it is unmistakably remarkable on his talent to keep up Schaffer's quick "galloping" is an instant smile for those who have anything to say about the bass. Larry Tarnowski's solos are a straight thumbs up, quick and as powerful as the rest of the band. Something Wicked is no concept album, but the Something Wicked trilogy (consisting of the final 3 tracks) are without a doubt the strongest tracks on the album. Prophecy begins calm and peaceful and then the intensity kicks in just as the story goes and quiets back down reflecting the peaceful Setian life as the lyrics describe. Then the song switches to a faster tempo emphasizing the violent plans of the Setians with a killer solo followed by some riffing and back to the beginning. The song winds down and prepares for the next 10, 000 years of plotting... Birth of the Wicked follows the birth of the Setian messiah as explained in the first track with heavy riffs, angry drums, eerie bass and a really cool arabic solo straight from the demonic fingers of Tarnowski, and the song fiinishes off with familiar riffs into the final track of the epic trilogy and the even more epic album. The Coming Curse is the best song on the album for sure and may even be the best Iced Earth song yet. A piano does the honours of opening up the song and is done very nicely over arabic flute echoes and finally leads into the main riff that an Iced Earth fan would call a demand to love, packed with amazing double bass, and is probably the easiest song to hear the bass in. We eventually make our way onto the guitar solo which is another job well done, then the drums take the stage as they burst into the interlude that is quite reminiscent of Prophecy. Gregorian chants drag us into the original tempo and finally back to the original song, yet another barrage of familiar riffs and closing with a saluting riff on top the main riff, then the chants come back and close the album with the overlapping that I will never forget, never.
Lyrics — 10
Matt Barlow is for sure one of the best vocalists that ever lived. He's done a good job writing Burning Times. From track 1 to 13, Barlow embodies the voice of all personas and speeches that instrumentals cannot speak and he does a beautiful job with it, especially when impersonating the characters in the Something Wicked trilogy. He nailed the entire album. I would tell you why in one word but it wouldn't come close to fully explaining why there is no one who would do a better job. His voice has no bounds. From thrashy and angry, to soft, tearjerking singing, and of course his high pitch voice that wraps you in awe. Matthew Barlow is the one of the most powerful voices that music ever saw, if not THE most powerful.
Overall Impression — 10
Iced Earth has released 9 albums, 5 EPs, 4 compilations, a live album, and one cover album, and it's easy to say this is definitely the best of all of them. If there is ever a day where I say "I've completed my music collection" I'll look back and remind myself that this album made it happen.