Released date: October 18, 2011
Insanely heavy, ferocious with crushing sound. That is what defines Florida based five piece Heavy Metal legends Iced Earth. Over the last 25+ years, this phenomenal band has given us some of the best metal tunes. Now, after three years of the write/record/tour cycle and the departure of one of the best vocalists in the history, Mr. Matt Barlow, Iced Earth are out with their tenth studio album Dystopia. Stu Block (Into Eternity) is the new guy on board and it’s evident that changing of vocalists can easily affect the writing process of the band, but the way they have conceived the golden vision, you have to appreciate Jon Schaffer and the team for that. They have come up with one of the best Iced Earth records of the last 25 years. Schaffer has been the driving force, and after listening to Dystopia no one can ignore the fact that Iced Earth still have a phenomenal vision which just expands and breaks all the rules after every record. Pure American Heavy Metal indeed!!
One interesting thing about Iced Earth album’s is the way they work on the writing process. It’s evident that they are masters when it comes to writing a concept album. Before you actually start the Dystopia journey, the art work sets the tone for the entire process. The apocalypse scene is clear ahead. Anxious enough, I started my journey with “Dystopia”, a title track with catchy hooks. It’s a classic Iced Earth sound with chugging riff’s, bass-lines and drum patterns executed perfectly. Intro snare roll followed by Schaffer riffs just set the ball rolling. Schaffer again nails some of the crazy guitar riffs and to make things more insane we have Block delivering some of the best high-pitched screams. Man this guy is on a mission to prove that he deserves to be part of Iced Earth. And with the brilliant display of vocals he indeed justifies not only his presence but he is bold enough to justify the meaning of Dystopia. It revolves around the band’s mascot and indeed a great start to an album.
“Anthem”, on the other side, is slow song which makes a mark. As Block says: “It’s indeed the anthem to celebrate your life”. Lyrically precise, Block delivers his vocals flawlessly with some interesting lines:
Reconnect with our humanity
Transcend to a higher place, accepting reality
You are the key to the life you seek
Right from mid-range to high-pitched he nails it to the core.
“Boiling Point” can be defined as a chaotic thrash riff attack from the beginning till the end. It’s powerful, loud and insane. Drum patterns are executed brilliantly by Brent Smedley, and the way Block delivers the lyrics, his emotions are meant to be appreciated.
“Anguish of Youth” on the other side, is another powerful ballad which took me to the 80s era. It’s great to hear Iced Earth fusing fast powerful songs with slow and mid-paced ballads.
“V” is another rhythmic track full of melodic harmonies. Damn, we are done with the first half of the album and I was so blown away with these five tracks I had to go back and listen to them again. It has that awesomeness written all over it. Although you may find the first section of the album pretty mid-paced, the second half is seeded with some fast numbers which will blow your mind.
“Dark City” is another classic heavy metal track were Schaffer explores different territories leading to some crazy power metal tunes. On a similar note we have “Equilibrium” which continuously showcases Block’s wider range and riffs by Schaffer just makes it another memorable tune. It has a pretty catchy chorus:
Destroying our stimuli
Force us to defy all that is human
The serum keeps us pacified
Our instinct will take over
“Days of Range” is a short and powerful song. Arrangement wise it’s a damn good job done by the band. On the similar note we have the remaining two tracks which are my personal favorites. “End of Innocence” is another radio friendly smooth track, with acoustic guitars and soft layers. Filled with awesome guitar solo’s by Troy Steele, it sets the tone as the powerful ballad. This song is surely a surprise package by Iced Earth.
“Tragedy and Triumph” defines the term EPIC. It has epicness written all over it. From drum rolls to melodic riffs to Block’s massive vocals, everything is perfect and makes you scream for more. It’s undeniably chaotic, memorable and probably one of the best ways to end a classic heavy metal record.
After departure of many vocalists, Schaffer has been the director of the entire group. An adamant emperor of the band known for his skills of exploring different zones. Iced Earth really sounds at its best, irrespective of lineup issues. You just cannot stop Schaffer from doing what he wants to. The best part about this album is it finishes quite smoothly. Not even for a second do you feel like the record’s dragging. This one is surely going to loved by all fans and heavy/power metal freaks. It justifies more listens and this is what you expect from them. They have grown into old wise men, deftly creating with innovation and creativity. Schaffer and the team have done it again. Dystopia is a powerful album filled with emotions, and in the end all you can give is undeniable respect which these guys have earned over a quarter century. This one is surely one of the best classic metal albums I have heard in years and arguably the BEST by Iced Earth to date.
EVIL Iced Earth \m/