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Iced Earth – The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part. 2)

Label: SPV USA
Format: CD
Released: 2008
Reviewed By: Rich Catino

Iced Earth, one of my favorites to emerge at the beginning of the 90s and part of what I consider to be the “Big Four” from that time along with Euro power metallers Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, and Gamma Ray.

In 1998, mainman/guitarist John Schaffer and Iced Earth released an album titled “Something Wicked This Way Comes” which provided a general overview of the “Something Wicked” story. The saga has been fully brought to life with the release of the back to back concept albums “Framing Armageddon – Something Wicked Pt.1” in 07 and now “The Crucible of Man – Something Wicked Pt.2”.
“Crucible” opens with intro “In Sacred Flames”, an instrumental based in acoustic guitars, chanting vocals and some orchestration that sets an overall classical music tone for the album. “Behold The Wicked Child” kicks in with Mr. Schaffer’s charging riffs and what’s this…is that Matt Barlow at the mic?? That’s right, Iced Earth’s classic voice is back by popular demand as the melody line and chorus with backing vocals are undeniably Barlow based. The chanting I spoke of earlier also returns keeping with a consistent classical theme to the compositions in contrast to “Framing Armageddon’s” more earthly Native American sounds and instrumentations used.

“Minions of the Watch” is a short two minute mid paced chunker followed by “The Revealing” which picks up the pace also in a short two minute jab. Ballad “A Gift or A Curse”, runs along a familiar line to say classic ‘Melancholy” which appears on the original “Something Wicked” album. “The Dimension Gauntlet” is another one that flows at a mid pace, includes I think lead harmony work on par with “The Hunter” from “The Dark Saga”. “Divide Devour” is the heaviest and most aggressive track and it can be really heard in Matt’s delivery and snarl.

Now while “Crucible” does of course have John’s trademark riffs, many would say the overall flow to each song is nothing new, and to an extent I agree. But, if you listen, really listen, songs like “Harbinger of Fate”, more so instrumental “Epilogue” with its strings and percussion, does see John composing a bit different. As a result too, I was hoping the energy level and chorus for something like single “I Walk Alone” and “Something Wicked Pt.3” would not be so flat in its presentation.

Ok, comparing “Framing Armageddon” and “The Crucible of Man” to “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, both are very much worthy follow ups to the original catalyst to the saga. Still, nothing will compare to the original “Something Wicked” album. Both “Framing Armageddon” and “Crucible” have their merits but damn there is just something special, genuine and classic about what came before. Schaffer made the template and what came after just, I don’t know if it doesn’t measure up or succumbs to the old saying “a follow up or sequel is never as good as the original”. Still, don’t get me wrong, when it comes to a Part 1 & 2, John Schaffer and Iced Earth have nothing to be ashamed of.
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