May 1, 2023

The American heavy metal/thrash band Iced Earth has had one hell of a roller coaster ride since its inception in the 1980s with some incredible records being released along the way from a team of ever rotating musicians with founder and main man Jon Schaffer being the only ever present. Schaffer has mainly supplied rhythm guitar but also some lead guitar as well as bass and lead and backing vocals throughout the band’s history and now it appears to be just Schaffer and drummer Brent Smedley following on from certain political activities in the US which we will not go into here.

The band’s last studio release was 2017’s Incorruptible so it’s been quite a while since we had some ‘new’ output from them so these two EPs will come as a welcome relief for the fans, and even a distraction to other events in Schaffer’s personal life. Both EP’s will be released on various formats including two-in-one digipack CD, vinyl picture discs and as digital downloads too and includes older material from 2007 and 2008 when Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Matt Barlow traded places as the band’s vocalist. I’m a big fan of Owens so was delighted when he took over the microphone duties and he appeared on several of their best albums but Barlow is a fine singer too and he has had several stints with the band with Owens leaving and Barlow then going in 2011 to be replaced by Stu Block.

Regardless of whoever is the singer Iced Earth has always delivered the finest metal in the best traditions of groups like Savatage, Judas Priest and even Metallica and Queensrÿche making for a very heady brew. The nine tracks on these releases are all unquestionably Iced Earth being full of their usual, trademark power and majesty but with a level of skill and finesse that has always marked the group out as a very special one.

The first three tracks comprise the Hellrider EP which sees Owens on vocals, Schaffer on rhythm, lead and bass guitars plus backing vocals with Brent Smedley on drums and with the obligatory thrilling guitar solos from Tim Mills. These songs were all originally on the 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes but were re-recorded with Owen on vocals in 2007. The I Walk Among You EP sees a further three tracks from the 2007 album Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part I with vocals courtesy of the returning Barlow with Schaffer again on all guitars and bass, Smedley on drums and this time guitar solos courtesy of Troy Seele. The EP then continues with another three songs recorded live at the 2008 Graspop Metal Meeting which saw the same line-up but expanded by Freddie Vidales on bass with Seele supplying lead guitar too.

All the material has been remastered with new artwork and is a neat introduction to the band for those who have not come across them previously and fans of old will be delighted to have something ‘new’ to listen to but we are all still hoping for a totally new work – as soon as possible please.

Hellrider/I Walk Among You

  1. Hellrider (feat Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens) – Prophecy (5:58)
  2. Birth Of The Wicked (4:15)
  3. The Coming Curse (8:01)
  4. I Walk Among You (feat Matt Barlow) – Setian Massacre (3:36)
  5. A Charge to Keep (4:19)
  6. The Clouding (9:03)
  7. Dark Saga (Live at Graspop 2008) (3:36)
  8. Pure Evil (Live at Graspop 2008) (6:36)
  9. Iced Earth (Live at Graspop 2008) (5:34)