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Album Reviews : Iced Earth – Something Wicked Part 2: The Crucible Of Man

By on August 26, 2008

Many Iced Earth fans were left disappointed after the bands previous release Framing Armageddon due to little variety, few memorable tracks and the obvious lack of Matt Barlow on vocals. Well, as most of you would already know, Barlow is back for this new album and to be honest, I saw that as an instant guarantee that “The Crucible Of Man” was going to be an improvement. Not that I hate Rippers vocals, far from it, but he just doesn’t have the range and emotion that Barlow has which left Iced Earth sounding a tad shallower than before.

That problem is gone here, thanks mainly to Barlow’s voice, this album sounds just that bit warmer and more passionate than the last one. It’s still nothing compared to the albums of old, but it’s an improvement nonetheless. He does sound a bit restricted here though. It often seems like he has been worked into the album with the choirs and other vocal arrangements having priority. While there are tracks where his vocals do sound close to their past work (“Sacrificial Kingdoms” and “Harbinger of Fate” are two that jump to mind), he sounds restricted and doesn’t soar over the top of everything else like on many past releases, and especially his recent work with Pyramaze. Still, he sounds bloody brilliant and it’s fantastic to have him back.

Anyway, enough about the vocals, Schaffer’s writing is pretty much a continuation of the last album here. The similarities are extremely obvious, particularly with the inclusion of the many foreign instruments that feature on both. The epic choirs are even more common here and most of them sound great. Special mention goes to the incredible mixture of choirs and Barlow’s more aggressive voice on “Divide and Devour” – that sounds spectacular. Those people that were sick of the mid-paced tracks on Framing Armageddon and craved something thrashier won’t find it here unfortunately. This album is even slower than the last one with most songs staying in Schaffer’s mid-paced comfort zone. “A Gift Or A Curse” and the occasional smaller segments of other songs slow the album down to ballad pace, while “Divide and Devour” speeds up a bit and is the only track that really has any power to it. However, there is still a lack of memorable songs here and I find it difficult to really remember details of many tracks without going back and listening to them again.

The highlight for me is the thrashiest and fastest song on the album, “Divide and Devour”. It comes far too late in the album (it’s the third last track) but is certainly a welcome addition. Like I said before, it’s the only track that really sounds powerful. Schaffer’s riffing is just that bit faster, the drums switch regularly from a slow, heavy beat to speeding alongside the guitars, and Barlow’s voice is a tad more aggressive here. Eventually, some church-like choirs join in and jump in and out of the remainder of the track, with Barlow joining in every now and then to emphasise certain parts of the lines. It sounds fantastic.

Overall, the album sounds a bit heavier and chunkier than their last effort which is great. Musically, this album is probably tad less powerful than Framing Armageddon, but the return of Barlow and the crunchier guitars make up for it. Some fans will see this album as a big improvement for the band, while others will see it as more of the same. I’m one of the former. 7.5/10

Band: Iced Earth
Album: Something Wicked Part 2: The Crucible Of Man
Year: 2008
Genre: Thrash/Power
Label: SPV
Origin: USA
http://www.myspace.com/icedearth

Track listing:
1. In Sacred Flames
2. Behold the Wicked Child
3. Minions of the Watch
4. The Revealing
5. A Gift or a Curse
6. Crown of the Fallen
7. The Dimension Gauntlet
8. I Walk Alone
9. Harbinger of Fate
10. Crucify the King
11. Sacrificial Kingdoms
12. Something Wicked (Part 3)
13. Divide and Devour <- Reviewers Choice
14. Come What May
15. Epilogue

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.