Iced Earth is an American heavy metal band from Tampa, Florida that combines influences from thrash metal, power metal, progressive metal, opera, speed metal and NWOBHM. Iced Earth has been known to have a volatile and oft changing line-up. Founding member, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer being the only original member who has remained, handling nearly all of the songwriting and leading the band. Current vocalist Matt Barlow and former lead guitarist Randall Shawver are the next longest-tenured members, the only people besides Schaffer to have spent a full decade in the band. Shawver, the first lead guitarist to record with the band, joined in 1988 and remained until 1998. Barlow joined in 1994 and remained until 2003, when he was inspired by the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. to leave the band and become a law enforcement officer. However, he returned to the group in late 2007, making his live return at the 2008 Chicago Powerfest. In 1999 Jon Schaffer teamed up with Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi K??rsch to form a side project called Demons & Wizards and have released two albums to date.
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Formation and debut
The central figure of Iced Earth is rhythm guitarist and songwriter Jon Schaffer. Schaffer originally founded the band under the name Purgatory while he was living in Columbus, Indiana, but after Schaffer relocated the band to Florida, he was forced to change the name due to another group already using the name Purgatory. He would rename the band Iced Earth in tribute to a longtime friend who had died in a motorcycle accident; Schaffer would not later write the song "Watching Over Me" on the Something Wicked This Way Comes album for this same friend. The group set out and recorded their first demo titled Enter the Realm, which sparked enough interest that they were signed by Century Media Records. In 1991 they recorded and released their first album titled Iced Earth.
Night of the Stormrider
Vocalist Gene Adam was originally going to perform on the follow-up record, Night of the Stormrider but was fired from the band after refusing to take singing lessons when Schaffer was concerned that he would not be able to handle the vocal duties for the new album. He was replaced by John Greely. Since then, the band has gone through numerous lineup changes, with Jon Schaffer remaining the only permanent member. Greely was kicked out of the band, allegedly for stealing money from other band members and making anti-semitic comments on the European tour with Blind Guardian in Germany.
Burnt Offerings, The Dark Saga, Something Wicked..., Horror Show, and tribute
Vocalist Matt Barlow joined the band (after a three-year band hiatus following Night of the Stormrider) in 1995 for Burnt Offerings. Barlow's vocals proved extremely popular, even though he refrained from any vocal training until 1996. Barlow lasted eight years in the band, providing vocals on the original studio albums The Dark Saga, Something Wicked This Way Comes and Horror Show, along with the covers album Tribute to the Gods and the live album Alive in Athens which was recorded in 1999. Following the events of 9/11, Barlow was inspired to part ways with the band, but was talked out of the idea by Schaffer, However, Schaffer decided in June 2003 that Barlow's vocals were "not what they used to be" and chose to fire him after all. Barlow went on to pursue a career in law enforcement, and would not return to the band until late 2007.
The Glorious Burden
Vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens had recently parted ways with Judas Priest (to make room for the return of former vocalist Rob Halford) and became Iced Earth's new vocalist. His first album with the band, The Glorious Burden, is an examination of many aspects of warfare and military figures who have shaped the modern world. Its topics range from the Declaration of Independence to 9/11 to Napoleon Bonaparte. The final three songs collectively titled Gettysburg (1863) are a 30+ minute journey through The Battle of Gettysburg which took place during the American Civil War. Gettysburg (1863) would also feature what would be Barlow's final recordings with the band until 2008, as he was a featured musician on the album, providing backing vocals. Originally, The Glorious Burden was released as a limited edition that features the songs "Waterloo" and "When the Eagle Cries (Unplugged)" to the first disc and moves the three songs that comprise Gettysburg (1863) to a second disc.
The album's theme became the center of a controversy after Schaffer gave an interview to Canadian heavy metal magazine Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. After the interview was published, Schaffer accused the magazine of taking him out of context and of pushing an anti-American bias, and subsequently announced that the band would boycott the magazine in the future. However, Schaffer granted Mark Gromen, also of Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles and a friend, an interview in issue 101 (January-February 2007) effectively ending the boycott.
During a break of touring the US drummer Richard Christy left the band to join The Howard Stern Show in mid-2004. He was replaced by Bobby Jarzombek to finish the remainder of touring duties for The Glorious Burden.
In June 2006, Ernie Carletti became the new guitarist, and was to handle most of the guitar solos on Iced Earth's upcoming album.. However, he was arrested a few months later under rape charges. In October 2006, Schaffer announced that Carletti would not be participating in Iced Earth, and would be replaced by Tim Mills. At the same time, drummer Brent Smedley was re-hired for the recording and touring of the new albums, replacing Bobby Jarzombek.
Something Wicked Part 1
In December 2006, Schaffer announced information about the two upcoming Something Wicked albums. He also announced that the bass guitar duties on the new albums would be handled by James "Bo" Wallace, and that the original "Something Wicked" trilogy of the 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes would be re-recorded for an EP, which would also include a new track, titled "Ten Thousand Strong". On , 2007, Schaffer sent an update to Blabbermouth, with confirmed track listings for both of the new albums and the new single, and the news that Bo Wallace had to leave the band due to family health issues, and would be replaced by Dennis Hayes, of Tim Owens's side project, Beyond Fear.. Just 12 days later, Schaffer updated Blabbermouth again, with the announcement that Tim Mills had to leave the band as well, due to employee problems with his company, Bare Knuckle Pickups. On , Schaffer announced that his friend Troy Seele was the new lead guitarist. Framing Armageddon, the band's ninth studio album, was released on , 2007.
Iced Earth began their 2007 Wicked European Tour on , 2007, at the Sweden Rock Festival. Following appearances at the RockWave Festival and Wacken Open Air, the band backed up Heaven and Hell and Lamb of God on their British tour in November.
Something Wicked Part 2
On , 2007, Schaffer announced that Barlow had returned to the band. He revealed this would considerably push back the release date of Something Wicked Part 2, due to an addition in Matt's family; but that when the band released the album, they were planning to tour and make an appropriate DVD release of live footage from it. This marks the end of Tim Owens's tenure with Iced Earth. While Owens is a talented vocalist, many Iced Earth fans did not embrace him as they had with Matt Barlow. Dennis Hayes's name was removed from the band's bio, signaling a bassist change as well.
As a result of Barlow's return, Iced Earth's live playing schedule has been drastically altered. Schaffer has stated that Iced Earth will probably no longer do massive tours. Instead they will focus on large scale music festivals and small tours. Though many fans doubt this is the right course of action, Schaffer has stated that "these upcoming Iced Earth shows will be the best in the band's history, and having the band's schedule like this is the best way for it done."
Iced Earth headed two tours in 2008. Progpower USA IX and Chicago Powerfest in Mokena, Illinois from to in 2008. Chicago Powerfest was the first show with vocalist Matt Barlow. They also now held bassist auditions to fill in for touring line-up and Something Wicked Part 2. Recently, Schaffer and former Iced Earth guitarist Ralph Santolla teamed up to auction off two Gibson Les Paul guitars that were painted with the United States Of America and Confederacy flags. These two guitars were used by Schaffer and Santolla when the Gettysburg trilogy songs were played live. The profits of the two guitars will go to the wounded warriors fund. Gear-Box Records LTD. will release a 10-track career retrospective in 2008 limited to 2,000 copies.
On , Iced Earth confirmed the release date for their new single, I Walk Among You. The release dates for the single were June 13 for Germany, June 16 for the rest of Europe, and June 17 for the United States. The band also stated that their follow-up to Framing Armageddon, will be released in Autumn 2008. A few days earlier, Iced Earth also announced that Freddie Vidales would be joining the band for their upcoming tours in 2008. On , 2008, Iced Earth released samples from all four songs appearing on the band's single I Walk Among You.
In several interviews, Schaffer has stated that Iced Earth will re-record 2007's Framing Armageddon with Barlow on vocals and be packaged as a box set along with a slightly expanded 2008's The Crucible of Man and a live CD/DVD of the upcoming 2008/2009 tour. Schaffer has not confirmed a release date as of yet, he plans for a 2009 release at the earliest. In February 2009, the band announced that they were cancelling the final three dates of their European co-headlining tour with Saxon, due to scheduling conflicts.
According to Schaffer, Iced Earth's musical style is influenced by many traditional heavy metal and NWOBHM groups such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. The most distinctive element of the band's sound is the stutter-like right-hand gallop of rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, which sounds something like the 'eighth-note, two-sixteenth-notes' gallop made famous by Iron Maiden's bass player/songwriter Steve Harris, sped up tremendously and varied rhythmically. "The music is heavy, melodic, dark, fast, and complex. Schaffer plays true rhythm guitar, giving the band its trademark sound. Iron Maiden's 'galloping' rhythm is quite evident, except that Iced Earth is a much faster horse. "
Strong melodic hooks are typically laid over the top of this gallop, sometimes doubled by two guitars playing in harmony, such as in "The Reckoning." They often vary rhythms by using the two dotted eighth note followed by a quarter note or four dotted eighth notes followed by two quarter notes, known as the clave or chopped clave pattern. This is often used by Judas Priest.
During Barlow's period in the band, the vocals were often low-pitched but with occasional high-pitched screams, however after Owens joined the band the emphasis shifted to the higher-pitched spectrum. Common throughout since the release of Something Wicked This Way Comes is the practice of recording multiple vocal tracks to simulate the sound of a small choir. Schaffer claims that this is probably due to his work with Blind Guardian. A common element of the band's sound is the frequent usage of double-bass-drumming. Iced Earth's drum work is often highlighted by frequent use of drags and flams on the bass drum, usually intended to complement Schaffer's rhythm guitar.
Iced Earth lyrics tend to deal with theological issues such as punishment and sin, destiny, heaven and hell, the Antichrist and the apocalypse. Many of the band's recent albums have been concept albums written around a theme, e.g. the antihero Spawn (The Dark Saga), horror movies (Horror Show), and historical wars (The Glorious Burden). Jon Schaffer also created original stories for concept albums, most notably on Night of the Stormrider, Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1) and its sequel The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2). Much of Iced Earth's lyrics currently deal with Jon Schaffer's fictional character Set Abominae.
In some songs (such as "Dante's Inferno," "Angels Holocaust," "Damien," and "The Coming Curse") Iced Earth uses the technique of Gregorian chant. Multiple Iced Earth songs contain female vocals: "A Question of Heaven", "The Phantom Opera Ghost", "Melancholy", "Watching Over Me", "The Awakening", "In Sacred Flames", "Harbinger Of Fate", "Behold The Wicked Child", in addition to a remake of "Burnt Offerings" on the Days of Purgatory album.