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Iced Earth – Dystopia

Label: Century Media
Format: CD
Released: 2011
Reviewed By: Rich Catino
Rating: 8.5/ 10


"Dystopia" sees John Schaffer (founding member/guitars) recapturing Iced Earth more classic vibe and creativity found on albums like "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1998) and "Horror Show" from 1998. And not that "The Glorious Burden" from 2004 and "Framing Armageddon" (2007) with Tim Owens singing, or the following years "The Crucible of Man" with Matt Barlow returning on vocals were bad in any way, but pound for pound "Dystopia" as a whole is just better. Less layered and progressive, shorter, more to the point.

 

The albums opening title track clearly establishes all of this, building momentum with a Civil/Revolutionary war –like drum beat before launching into machine gun guitars and rumbling bass to an old school Iced Earth galloping rhythm, guitar riff, melodic leads, and powerful vocals. And speaking of…Stu Block (from Into Eternity) , the new guy behind the mic replacing the departed Matt Barlow (on his own decision) is a powerhouse, embracing the great dark bruiting lower end of Matt and the screaming highs of Tim Owens (see ‘Boiling Point’, this guy can break glass). Adding varied compositions and dynamics like always, Schaffer offers a few less aggressive tunes ‘Anguish Of Youth’ (and ‘End Of Innocence’) which allows Stu (he also gets writing credit for lyrics on several songs) to showcase his more melodic voice and those backing harmonies again instantly recall the greatness of other classic Iced Earth tunes and the album "The Dark Saga". A splash of wicked vocal contrasts what begins ‘Dark City’ and brought me back to the album "Burnt Offerings", sandwiched between ‘V’ (and ‘Equilibrium’ that has a similar riffing) slows down the tempo a bit still packing a punch in the riffs, and ‘Days Of Rage’ (think ‘Stand Alone’ from "Something Wicked") again picks up the pace with speed and anger.

Limited edition comes recommended and includes four solid bonus tracks: ‘Soylent Green’, ‘Iron Will’, ‘Tragedy and Triumph’, and a string mix of ‘Anthem’.

 
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