BW&BK World Exclusive: ICED EARTH - Hearing Armageddon: An Advance Listen To Forthcoming Album
May 26, 2007, 7 years ago
Special report by Mark Gromen
Only the third person to hear Framing Armageddon in its entirety (after mastermind Jon Schaffer and producer Jim Morris), BW&BK can announce that this first installment of the two-disc Set Abominae concept is as epic, enjoyable, yet unconventional and boundary stretching (in terms of musicianship, instrumentation and scope of what's perceived to be Iced Earth) as Schaffer has intimated over the last decade. Don't ask him to explain the story, as it's a self-perpetuating myth with too many layers. Sci-fi fanatic Morris claims it could become a cottage industry unto itself, spawning an unending series of book/movie spinoffs, much like Star Wars or Star Trek, although it resembles neither.
Similarly, the music, from opening cello and Middle Eastern equivalent of slow samba rhythm ('Overture'), through the sonic deluge of 'The Setian Massacre', flamenco guitar and tribal drum patters on 'Something Wicked (Part 2)', to the bluesy, slide guitar and lap steel of the 10+ minute 'The Clouding' masterpiece or Hammond organ solo on 'The Domino Decree' and ultimately the entirely sung as a choir 'When Stars Collide (Born Is He)', retains multiple, recurrent parts, themes if you will (like Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf), including a snippet dedicated to the main character, who although absent until Part 2 (appearing simultaneously in the timeline with the birth of Jesus Christ) can be heard on different instruments and at different paces throughout Framing Armageddon.
There's an undercurrent of Setian revenge on humanity, utilizing religious bickering to fragment man's unity.
"Embrace the fact man needs religion
Prophets, saviors and priests
All convinced they have the answer
The truth is they'll never know
Behind faith they'll hide and hope...
So convinced their way is right
The narrow view of all mankind
In the name of God they will divide"
-'Order Of The Rose'
Sixty-nine minutes of music, some of the songs ending abruptly, others segue directly into the next.
First listen standouts? The title track, the lone other example of full bore speed and triplets (a la pre-release single 'Ten Thousand Strong'), aka what many associate as standard Iced Earth. Without a doubt, the two-songs-in-one approach of 'The Clouding' shines brightest. The sedate first half recalls JUDAS PRIEST's 'Beyond The Realms Of Death', then it lets loose. It's a showcase for Tim "Ripper" Owens, who demonstrates newfound versatility throughout the disc and sings at impossible highs for sustained periods of time (see 'Retribution Through The Ages', 'Reflections' or the acappella ending of 'A Charge To Keep'). This is not a one and done listen, first due to the complex story line. Unlike many concept records, the songs stand on their own, identifiable as Iced Earth, yet not rehashing old ideas.
Prepare to commit a large chunk of time to multiple playbacks. And this is only Part 1!
A full in-studio report and interview with Jon Schaffer will appear in an upcoming issue of BW&BK.