Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Review: Iced Earth, "I Walk Among You"

I’m a big enough man to admit when I’m wrong, but in this case, I’m not. Tim Owens owns Matt Barlow in Iced Earth, and this EP is the absolute proof.

Those of you who have read my rants here or talked to me on the forums at Teeth of the Divine won’t find any surprises in this review. It’s no secret that I loved Owens and how he sounded in Iced Earth. The return of Barlow aside, there’s a big difference between this teaser for the upcoming record and last year’s "Overture of the Wicked," the teaser for "Framing Armageddon." "Overture of the Wicked" got me really fired up. I loved the re-recordings of the original “Something Wicked” trilogy with Owens, who gave them a little more aggression. They were stripped down, sleek and heavier than the originals. Combined with “Ten Thousand Strong,” arguably the strongest track on "Framing Armageddon," it made me want to get my hands on the record as soon as possible. Instead of that effect, "I Walk Among You" makes me almost dread the upcoming record, as I’m afraid it will be the first Iced Earth record that I truly detest.

Let’s start with the title track. It seems that, if you’re looking to pump up interest in the new record, you’d choose one of the best songs on it to put out there on an EP. If that’s the case, Iced Earth fans are in trouble. “I Walk Alone” isn’t an awful song, but there’s nothing to recommend it either. It doesn’t have a great riff like, say, “Burning Times.” It doesn’t have a memorable chorus hook like “Ten Thousand Strong.” Basically, it doesn’t have anything. It’s a run-of-the-mill filler song for Iced Earth, and I don’t understand why you’d choose to showcase a piece like this.

After that, Jon Schaffer returns to his usual tricks of re-recording old songs with the new singer. Unlike the Owens re-recordings last year, which I thought were great reworkings of the original material (which I still love, as well), the re-recordings with Barlow border on unlistenable. “Setian Massacre” and “A Charge to Keep” are OK, but pale in comparison to the originals. “The Clouding” is vomit-inducing. I had to force myself to listen to the whole song for the first time for this review, and to be honest, I’ll probably never listen to it again. Barlow’s voice seems to drone rather than evoke any emotion, and the song is just dead and lifeless.

Though I discovered Iced Earth with Barlow at the helm, I make no secret of the fact that I’m an Owens fanboy, and I think Iced Earth sounded their best with him behind the mic. I know there are a lot of fans who disagree with me, and that’s fine. I’ll still check out the new record because I love the band, and I want it to be a great record. I can’t help but think, though, that I won’t be able to listen to it without thinking how much better it might have been with Owens.

Get "I Walk Among You."

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