So my morning was spoiled by the information that Matt Barlow is back in Iced Earth and Tim Owens is out. I know I'm a few weeks behind on this, but I've been out of the loop due to the holidays. Apparently Barlow decided that he wanted to do some music projects again, and Jon Schaffer, apparently tired of hearing from a certain segment of fans who preferred Barlow, jumped on the chance to get him back.
Which brings me to the point -- sometimes the old guy isn't always better. In this case, I like Barlow and he made some great records with Iced Earth, but Owens owns him vocally. The last two records have had the best vocals of any Iced Earth effort and the remake of the "Something Wicked" trilogy smoked the original.
It's always been a pet peeve of mine when a band has someone better than an old member, then cans them because the old member wants to come back. Anthrax, I believe, ruined the best thing they ever had by reuniting with a guy they already knew was a flake -- Joey Belladonna -- and alienating their best singer, Jon Bush. At the time, they'd just put out one of the best records of their career, "We've Come for You All," an album that rivaled their best output of the pervious lineup, "Among the Living." I've talked with Al Pitrelli several times and have a great respect and appreciation for him, but I still think it was shitty, after he left to join Megadeth, that Savatage canned Jack Frost and rehired him when that incarnation of Megadeth ended. In that case, the band's been dormant since it happened, but it still isn't right.
In this case, Barlow will continue to pursue his law enforcement career (the reason he left Iced Earth to begin with), which Schaffer tells us will make Iced Earth's activities more limited. Great. We lose a great singer to get the old guy back, which also means the band will be touring less and fewer fans will be able to see them live and probably also means less studio output as well. There's a real win-win situation for fans, huh?
I wish I had heard the news prior to releasing my top 10 list for 2007, as it would have likely pushed "Framing Armageddon" a little farther down the list. It's landing at No. 3 was largely due to my anticipation of the second half and what the work as a whole would sound like. That anticipation has been seriously dampened by this turn of events, and I'd probably put the record no higher than 6 or 7 at this point. A two-part story with a different singer on each part? Or maybe Schaffer will re-record "Framing Armageddon" with Barlow, as he's wont to do. That would be a way to offer another delay for the second half, wouldn't it?
I know this shouldn't piss me off this much, but I love this band, and I really love the way they've sounded with Owens. I'm sure Barlow will do just fine like he did before, but I think the next record will suffer for it, at least in my opinion. No matter how good it is, I won't be able to help but think what it might have sounded like.