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Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part I)
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Après nous avoir donné un avant goût de sa nouvelle ½uvre à travers le single « Overture of the Wicked » et des prestations remarquées dans différents festivals en Europe, ICED EARTH est donc enfin de retour avec un véritable nouvel album ! Intitulé « Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt. 1) » cette galette est le premier volet d'une saga métallique présentée par Jon Schaffer comme une histoire de science fiction tragique, heavy et apocalyptique. Comme l'annonçait déjà le titre « Ten Thousand Strong », ce disque est un grand cru et renoue avec ces riffs originaux qui rendent le heavy metal d'Iced Earth si particulier. Jon n'a vraiment pas son pareil pour trouver des rythmiques qui font bouger les têtes. Dans la lignée de la version réenregistrée de la fameuse trilogie « Something Wicked » cet album est plus direct, plus intense que son prédécesseur, le pourtant très ambitieux « The Glorious Burden ». Comme l'on pouvait s'y attendre Tim Owens s'est fait sa place auprès de Schaffer leader naturel et maître à penser d'Iced Earth. L'ex-vocaliste de Judas Priest chante avec passion et honnêteté sur ce disque qui, tout au long de ces 19 titres (!!!) s'annonce fantastique dans tous les sens du terme... Et lorsque l'on sait que le second volet paraîtra au printemps 2008 on ne peut qu'avoir l'eau à la bouche...
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Le travail de composition de Schaffer est une réussite et Tim Owens a su repousser ses limites dans les morceaux moins rapides donnant beaucoup d'émotion aux chansons à l'image de Gettysburg sur l'album précédent. Néanmoins, par rapport aux anciens albums du groupe, les solos sont moins présents et le rythme est plus mid-tempo dans l'ensemble, ce qui fait penser avec le recul qu'il manque le petit quelque chose permettant d'égaler les meilleurs albums du groupe.
Maintenant, on peut le comparer aux classiques du groupe tels que "The Dark Saga" ou "Something Wicked This Way Comes" et être légitimement déçu. Pourquoi pas. On peut aussi regretter l'ancien chanteur Matthew Barlow, je trouve également qu'il était exceptionnel et collait parfaitement au style du groupe.
En revanche, ce qui m'énerve et me semble parfaitement injuste, c'est de critiquer Tim Owens. Il est toujours facile de dire que, quand un album est raté, c'est la faute du nouveau chanteur et ainsi, de gentiment s'aveugler et nier que CEUX QUI COMPOSENT sont en manque d'inspiration.
Tout cela me rappelle les critiques faites à Blaze Bailey parce qu'ils n'aimaient pas "The X Factor" ou "Virtual XI" de Maiden... ils avaient en partie raison: Dieu que ces albums sont mauvais! Mais c'est Steve Harris qui était aux fraises sur "The X Factor", c'est tout de même lui qui a composé et produit cet album, non?
Même chose pour Judas Priest avec l'arrivée de Tim Owens (justement).Lire la suite ›
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Glorious Burden is a good album, but it felt more like an album to test the waters than a typical solid IE release. With the band changing record labels as well as its singer, it just seemed like a hit or miss album with some awesome tracks but a few I didn't care for so much. However, any doubts this had created about this epic follow up are put entirely to rest. This is IE's best album to date. Ripper is at the top of his game with a sound that feels like it was crafted just for him, and this may sound like heresy to some, but I find it difficult to imagine Barlow's low, haunting tone on some of these tracks. And with all the great music that flows so wonderfully together, we also have a very well thought and complex sci-fi story that Schaffer has poured his blood and emotion into (The scope and story are more ambitious than a lot of sci-fi that I've read from novelists.) Just brilliant.
There are 19 tracks total on this concept album behemoth, too many to comment on each one, but there are definitely some notable standout tracks:
The album begins with "Overture", which sets the tone wonderfully. It has a very eastern feel with lots of string instruments and bongo style drums. It paves the way nicely for the opener track, "Something Wicked Pt 1". This track is mind blowing. I was expecting to hear the redone version of Prophecy that I heard on the single, but this is its own song. It begins with a stunning riff that seems to be a combination of old Metallica and Beethoven. "The Setian Massacre" I had already heard on the band's myspace page and it's a nice hard rocking track, reminiscent of The Reckoning. "A Charge to Keep" is Framing Armageddon's first ballad, and IE has exceeded their standards with great ballads on this one.
"Ten Thousand Strong" is arguably the best track on the album. Even though I already heard it with the Overture single, the buildup intro track Reflections puts it in a whole new context. Just amazing. This is one of those songs that makes you want to raise your fist and cheer.
"The Clouding" is definitely the most unique of this CD, and I don't believe we've heard anything like it before. It's long -at about 9 minutes- and the first 5 of those are in a slow ballad style with some ambient guitar not unlike Pink Floyd. It turns into a hard rocker with a riff that would fit right at home in an early Sabbath album. Pretty cool song. Framing doesn't stop rocking there either. It continues with "Order of the Rose", "Infiltrate and Assimilate" (reminds me of Violate or Disciples), the epic "Domino Decree" and the title track "Framing Armageddon".
Those may be the tracks of note, but there is nothing unworthy of Iced Earth in the entire album. Every song, including the few short bridge tracks, flow well into each other to tell this story. The lyrics are thoughtful and well sung by the ever versatile Tim "Ripper" Owens. And of course, we have the riffing, the trademark style that is all Schaffer and that keeps me loving this band with every release.
Jon Schaffer, if you are to read this, I tip my hat to you. This is your best work yet and you are an inspiration to anyone who aspires to do something great.
This album is amazing, and anyone who likes metal, nay music, weather or not they have listened to IE or not before, should buy this album. I eagerly await part 2! Cheers and rock the f*** on!
Tim `Ripper' Owens is quite simply an amazing vocalist. His phrasing is amongst the best I've ever heard, as evidenced on the harmonic laced "Reflections' and the ballad type moments of `The Clouding'. While he may not have the `Baritone' of Barlow, I believe he has the best-matched voice for Iced Earth. And with time, more Iced Earth fans will understand what I have understood since he sang on the Gettysburg Trilogy.
Jon Schaffer has also taken steps forward as the maturing song writer. Yes, the infamous `gallop riff' is still as prominent as ever, but is taken in an entirely new direction, which is refreshing to see. The main riff in `Something Wicked Part 1' is a good example of this, brimming with the spirit of latter day Dream Theater composition.
As for the album's epic masterwork, there isn't one - really. `The Clouding' is the closest you're going to get clocking in at 9 minutes. This matters little though, as each song is deserving of its own sound world - no guitar riff is rehashed, not this time...
The artwork and inner booklet is very nice indeed, containing song illustrations in the same vein as 2001's `Horror Show' and 2004's `The Glorious Burden'. Again, Schaffer takes pride in CD packaging and offers up greater reason to buy his art rather than to simply download it. While I maintain the `Something Wicked' storyline, should have been released as a double disc set, the illustrations and lyrics here only offer a `general' outline of the `Something Wicked' storyline, and are not enough to suffice a full blown concept - like a comic book. The original idea was to release a comic book accompanying the CD. However, it is believed it would be too time consuming to do so.
Throwaway tracks: Nearly every Iced Earth album has 1 or 2 duds. Fortunately, there is only 1 here, and that is the instrumental `Something Wicked pt.2' - it will bore the pants off you! The same thing was achieved much earlier with the superior `Overture'.
After 18 + years of writing material for Iced Earth, what keeps Schaffer going is his desire to make the big leagues - to someday move 500,000 copies in the U.S. That is his ultimate goal. What's stopping him is the absence of a permanent lead guitar player (not just guest solo spots on albums). Now the problem may be with Schaffer himself, and his specific vision on how an IE song should sound. Consider the revolving door of band members - with little collaboration to be found in recent years.
On "Framing Armageddon" there are moments where a lead begins but never really takes off. `The Setian Massacre' is a prime example. All the classic bands: Sabbath, Metallica, Maiden, all utilized this area in their music to maximum effect. With Iced Earth, a guitar lead is merely in the shadow of a gargantuan riff. `Retribution through the Ages' carries the longest (and best) solo on `Framing Armageddon'.
With those minor criticisms aside `Framing Armageddon' still receives weekly rotation in my CD player and is easily one of 2007's best metal releases. Look out for Something Wicked pt 2. which should surface around July 2008!!
This isn't the Iced Earth of even just a few years ago. This is a new IE, with more melody, more depth, and more variety in their songs -- and vocals from Tim Owens that perfectly match the music.
Whereas in the past I thought Tim's vocals seemed tacked on, almost like they were purposely cast to replace (former vocalist) Matt Barlow's vocals, on Armageddon Tim's voice fits the music to a T. It's obvious Armageddon was a collaboration, with Jon writing for Tim's killer vocal style rather than for Matt's.
I know I'll take heat for typing this, but I think Armageddon is IE's best work to date. I love Something Wicked and Horror Show. I think Alive in Athens is a landmark in live metal recordings. But Framing Armageddon is in a different league entirely.
The recording is crisp and multi-layered. There's just the right amount of everything. Track 12, "The Clouding," is a phenomenal song. But so are many of the other tracks -- especially "The Domino Decree," a song that skirts the edges of classic prog rock by using keyboards that remind me of Kansas. "Domino" is a stirring, bold, transcendent song on an album brimming over with masterful songs.
Tim shines. No doubt about it. His soaring voice has finally found a home that showcases it. But I think it's Jon Schaffer who deserves high marks for crafting music that lives and breathes, that stands alone as truly great music, rather than music that's clearly created by Jon Schaffer. Jon has a trademark style of riffing and songwriting. Even his guitar tone is classic. But I'm not hearing Jon Schaffer on Framing Armageddon. Even his guitar tone sounds different. No, I'm hearing a mature songwriter who has just created an album that spotlights the talents of everyone involved, not just himself. This is Jon Schaffer's masterpiece. He is clearly at the top of his game.
Framing Armageddon grabbed me from the first listen and has continued to hold my attention virtually all day long.
Remarkable. Absolutely remarkable.
THIS is an Iced Earth that I'd love to see tour.
Bring it to the U.S., Jon!
I'd never heard of Iced Earth before, I'm a 36yr old fan of heavy Metal of all kinds. I'll admit I have since found that I caught Iced Earth in transition so to speak with a different singer. but I think this album rocks!
Being a long time fan of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Megadeth and the like, I was looking for something new, but I don't care for the nu-metal sound at all. This album fit that mold nicely.
The strongest tracks to me are: 'Setian Massacre' 'A Charge to Keep' 'Ten Thousand Strong' 'Order Of The Rose' and 'The Clouding'
I really enjoyed putting the headphones on and listening to this album, it is very crunchy and the vocals are soaring. Tim Owens sounds MUCH better here than on his Judas Priest albums IMO. The story line, I can take or leave, as it requires you to "get into this fantasy world" Of Setians vs Humans, which at this stage in my life is a little "corny" But overall I like the music and lyrics enough to recommend it to my friends. I even checked out Glorious Burden (same vocalist) and purchased that as well.
I've learned my lesson over the years about following a band and purchasing every release (ie) Metallica, Kiss and Judas Priest. Most bands reach a creative peak and put out two or three great albums, and then spend the rest of their career trying to recapture the magic, or go in an entirely new direction to build a new fan base. The exceptions being Iron Maiden's (Matter of Life and Death) and Judas Priest's (Nosradamus)
Iced Earth, as I've discorved them, seem to be in top form, and I for one highly recommend this release as well as Glorious Burden.
My advice for those of you who were disappointed with this: Don't have a favorite band, you will always be disappointed, just have a favorite genre and cherry pick the best of the best, and before you know it you will have a collection of music so awesome, that no matter which one you pick out to play you will have a smile on your face.