ICED EARTH - The Glorious Burden
January 23, 2004, 16 years ago
As cool as it is having Rob Halford back with Judas Priest, you've gotta feel for Tim Owens, the man being forced out with the band's worst album (Demolition) as his swansong. On top o' that, he's joined a band whose sound was defined as much by Matt Barlow's voice as Jon Schaffer's axework. And so he becomes the focus of The Glorious Burden, everyone waiting to see if turns Iced Earth into a car wreck. Not bloody likely. In fact, Owens pretty much blows away all his Priest-work from the get-go (on par with choice bits from Jugulator like 'Bullet Train' and 'Crystal Spires'), singing, growling and screeching like never before, having been caged for far too long. Whether or not the diehard Iced Earth fans accept him remains to be seen, as Barlow's backing vocals on 'When The Eagle Cries', 'Attila', and 'High Water Mark' serve as a reminder of what might have been. But Owens certainly makes a lasting impression with 'The Reckoning', 'Red Baron/Blue Max' and 'Attila'. Musically, the album is typical three chord Jon Schaffer for the most part, instantly identifiable as Iced Earth and about five notches above the material on the last outing, Horror Show. Schaffer's passion for The Glorious Burden's history-based subject matter shines through, 'The Reckoning' easily being one of the best songs he's ever written, 'Waterloo' a killer homage to Iron Maiden's Steve Harris, tracks like 'Hollow Man' and 'When The Eagle Cries' instantly memorable. The big focus, of course, is on the three part 31 minute 'Gettysburg (1863)', Schaffer's musical take on the three day battle that left 50,000 men dead. The fusion of IE power metal and the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra does work, but to these ears it's just too damn safe, too square both musically and vocally, dragging down the momentum of the tracks preceding it. In the end, The Glorious Burden doesn't have the same over-the-top appeal as The Dark Saga or Something Wicked This Way Comes, but it is a solid album. Definitely a triumph for Owens and Schaffer, anything but a burden for the open-minded listener.