on November 27, 2001
Anyone who suspected Iced Earth might get lazy for their last release with Century Media would have never seen this one coming...
Horror Show, while not consistently the band's strongest writing, does tend to exhibit more progressive songwriting. It's still Iced Earth -- Schaffer's devastating chugga-chugga riffing, Barlow's dynamic voice -- but there's also a good deal of diversity and musical exploration. For those who expected a bunch of CHEESE coming out of the Horror Show's theme -- which, obviously, deals with monsters from popular literature and film sources -- you will be impressed to see that there is none. Lyrically, the band maturely handles the true nature of the subjects: the mournful romance of "Dracula"; the arrogance and obsession of "Frankenstein"; the ill-starred tragedy of "The Phantom Opera Ghost." Schaffer's lyrics on "Dracula" are especially stirring (with clever internal rhyming to boot!). "Do you believe in love?"
Before I talk more about the horror theme and its songs, I want to mention the one song that contrasts with the main subject matter. That song is "Ghost of Freedom," which, aside from being one of my favorite Iced Earth songs, is one of my favorite songs by _anyone_. It's difficult to describe the music in such a way that I explain its power. It's familiar territory for the band -- largely acoustic, with a heavy section during Tarnowky's lead, not unlike "Consequences" from Something Wicked. The ending is SO powerful. I guess it's best described as a "patriotic power ballad." Barlow's lyric is beautiful -- a tribute to those who have fought for our freedom through the years. It is especially poignant with the painful resonance of the Sept. 11 attacks... "Ghost of Freedom" captures the heroic spirit of national loyalty that has encapsulated the US for all these years. Bravo to Iced Earth for creating a song that identifies and preserves that spirit. I also say that anyone who says a metal band can't have soul is incurably stupid.
Anyway...Monsters! We all like monsters! I'm especially a fan of vampires, so "Dracula" is naturally a favorite of mine. It's not just the vampire I like though...it's the omnipresent sense of romance, even heard in the tormented, fierce vocals of Barlow and the characteristically heavy riffing of Schaffer. "Dracula" is one of Barlow's best vocal performances ever. Over the acoustic beginning, he presents an anguished, plaintive character. When the epic, melodic-but-heavy riffing kicks in, he commands a similar tone, but suffused with added wrath. That's emotion! The band also packs reams of passion into "The Phantom Opera Ghost," where Barlow is joined by female vocalist Yunhui Percifield as Christine. She's a pretty little singer (whose enunciation suffers on a few lines, but nobody's perfect), and her interaction with Barlow is part of what makes this song so good. The emotional level is heavy, and the songs dynamics run from as peaceful as a placid woodland pool (mandolins!) to as violent and inclement as a storm (heavy sh!t!!). The heavy moments of this song are truly some of Iced Earth's most brutal rhythms.
This review may be suggesting that Horror Show is a romantic album, but I want to say that's not always the true. One listen to the thundering opener "Wolf" will make my case. The best word to describe this song is "sick." New drummer Richard Christy (formerly of Death) rides the double-bass drums so fast it sounds LITERALLY inhuman. Seriously! It's so fast, I don't think it's good for my heart. (I like it though...sometimes pain is fun.) The de facto chugging riffs pummel with full force, and Barlow's murderous bellows are truly bestial. "Dragon's Child," based on the creature from the Black Lagoon, is a melodic track with mid-tempo, tuneful riffing and myth-like lyrics from Barlow. "Im-Ho-Tep" implements a mesmerizing Eastern chord progression over a crunchy, staggering riff.
And it looks like Set Abominae has competition as the Anti-Christ! The 9-minute "Damien" delivers a frightening account of the malevolent son of Satan. An evil bass line layers gothic choir work before muscular rhythms grind around Barlow's baneful singing (with a cool "high-over-low" vocal harmony). With its orchestral instrumental interplay, prophetic chorus, evil narrative interlude, and spooky piano outro, it comes close to the symphonic/progressive metal of bands like Symphony X. It's interesting new territory for the band. Memorable line: "I embrace the hounds of hell and the power they oblige."
Perfectly fitting is the band's cover of Iron Maiden's classic instrumental "Transylvania." I don't have the 2CD limited edition of Horror Show, so "Transylvania" is stuck between "Dragon's Child" and "Frankenstein" on my CD. It fits well, methinks. Anyhow, the fact that this song sounds so suitable is a declaration of Schaffer's strong Maiden influence. I like Maiden, so that's nothing but goodness!
Hmm...this review is getting pretty long, so I'll end here. Let's just say that Iced Earth is better than you, so you should buy Horror Show and grovel before its greatness.
on October 17, 2001
I'll have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I first got this album. But, I gave it time, and now I think it is great, possibly their best yet. I'm just now coming to terms with the fact that an album could actually be better than "Something Wicked", but I figure if anyone can do it, it's Iced Earth. Here's a song-by-song review:
1. Wolf- Fast, hard-hitting opener. Has sort of a Blind Guardian-ish feel to it. Any BG fan would probably like it. Matt even kinda sounds like Hansi in some parts. Great song.
2. Damien- Oh my god! This has got to be one of the most perfect songs ever written. Starting with an eerie choir, followed by a cool little acoustic thing, just before the heavy riffs hit hard. Brilliant song, with a great chorus. The spoken word thing is great too. I wonder if Sam Neill has heard this song?
3. Jack- Hmm, kind of weak for IE, but still better than most of the stuff on MTV. Great riff, but the chorus is just so goofy. I think their cover of "The Ripper" would have been much better.
4. Ghost of Freedom- Time to be blown away again. Unbelievable ballad, with a great concept. I seriously think this should be our new national anthem. If we all banded together and sang this song in one voice, not a terrorist group in the world could touch us.
5. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh's Curse)- I love songs with mid-eastern themes. Great hypnotic riff, and a killer drum intro from Richard Christy.
6. Jeckyll & Hyde- Good song, but it could have been better. I think they should have split it into two distinct parts, one for Jeckyll and one for Hyde. Oh, well. The part where Matt is talking to himself is hilarious.
7. Dragon's Child- Irresistibly great song. Semi-melodic riff, catchy chorus. Just awesome.
8. Frankenstein- No, it's not the Edgar Winter song. This is kind of a short, mid-paced track, with crushingly heavy rhythms. I love that line in the chorus, "I will create in my own image, if God can then why can't I?" Too cool.
9. Dracula- Kind of epic. Starts off soft and acoustic, then rocks hard by the end. Great vocals from Matt. Kind of a Blind Guardian-ish chorus.
10. Phantom Opera Ghost- Another masterpiece of a song. Great female vocals on this one. She's probably not the best choice for this song, but not bad. She sounds sort of like Gwen Stefani, only a little better. Anyway, just a great song, definitely the best duet ever. I love the part where Matt screams "If I can't have you, no one will!".
11. Transylvania- Iced Earth covering Maiden? What are you trying to do, give me a heart attack? Unbelievable interpretation of the classic instrumental. The solos aren't quite as good, but really, who else can solo like Dave Murray? Near perfect cover.
All in all, a brilliant album, the undisputed best of 2001. The new Ozzy, Transatlantic, and Sonata Arctica are the only other albums from this year that even came close. This is so far the best album of the new millenium, other than Maiden's "Brave New World", and one of the top five best albums ever made. If you love metal, you cannot be without this. Hail Iced Earth!
on March 12, 2002
To start off with, Horror Show is a truly great metal album. With that said, I think the casual metal fan will take a while to warm up to Horror Show because it is a concept album. If you're already an Iced Earth fan and you've read the interviews on the website and listen to the 2nd CD, you'll know ahead of time what to expect and the whole CD will become more accessible.
When I first listened to Horror Show, I thought the engineering sounded a lot different from past IE discs. It didn't turn me off or anything, it just struck me as different. Musically, every track is classic Iced Earth. What that means is driving rythm guitar like no other band I know of coupled with Barlow's timeless vocals (Barlow had to be put on earth specifically to be IE's lead singer). All the songs are full of pure driving energy (with a little drop-off with the Creature from the Black Lagoon song, "Dragon's Child"). "Jack" and "Phantom Opera Ghost" are two instant classics, imho.
I think if you look at the progression from Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera" to Iced Earth's "Phantom Opera Ghost", you realize that IE is one of the main bands keeping metal alive as an art.
on July 17, 2001
I started listening to Iced Earth last December (no pun intended...) when I got introduced to the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" album. Since then, I've been a growing fan of Iced Earth and I've come to discover their entire catalog over the past few months.
When this album was set to be released, a lot of people were very skeptical. Some of the comments I've heard were things like "Horror movie monsters? How cheesy!!!", "Iced Earth sold out after Burnt Offerings and they will never release another quality album!", and "I'm not so sure about this album...we'll have to wait and see." So I became a little discouraged about my expectations for this album as the release date approached.
Then I finally picked up the album to give it a good listen for myself....
...and I was pleasantly surprised!
This is perhaps Iced Earth's best release, and definitely the best metal release of 2001! Every song in this album is solid, with no exception. The epic tracks "Damien" and "Phantom Opera Ghost" are alone worth the purchase of this album. Both of these songs demonstrate Jon Schaffer's incredible songwriting skills which rival or even top Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime". This album is more consistent than "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (another masterpiece), with somewhat of a return to the faster songs characteristic of Iced Earth's earlier albums.
The general mood of this album is rather dark and subdued. Matt and Jon have done their homework and research when it comes to learning about the stories of all the monsters depicted on this album, while presenting their unique perspective of the emotions and moods behind the stories themselves. The themes relate to the monsters and how they have become victims of circumstance. Far from cheesy, the lyrical material demonstrates a genuine "human" side to all the monsters and characters involved in their stories.
In short, this album is highly recommended to all music fans! It's too bad that Iced Earth does not get the recognition that they deserve in America.
on April 11, 2003
I go to music messageboards a lot and that's where I find most of this underground music. It doesn't get nearly enough reconition, but it's so much better than anything you will ever hear on the radio, that's pretending to be Metal. A perfect definition of Iced Earth is that it's like a combination of Iron Maiden and Metallica, yet heavier than Maiden, and much better than Metallica.(in my opinion, of course) They also have very meaningful lyrics; I haven't heard lyrics this great since Iron Maiden.(I'm still new to good music, though, so not saying those two are the only good lyric writers) Matt Barlow is an awesome singer; he can sing very low and kind of errie, but he can also hit the high notes! He's a great all around singer. The whole band is bursting with talent.
The greatest songs on this album are without a doubt, The Phantom Opera Ghost, Dracula, and Transylvania. The Phantom Opera Ghost opens up with an amazing acoustic intro and then has the duet with Yumhui Percifield, through out the whole song. She has a really good voice and it's definitely something different to have two main singers in one song; especially when it's a female singer. I really like it. Dracula opens up with another acoustic intro, and Matt sings in a very low style, if you thought he was just a good loud type vocalist, you were dead wrong, he sounds really great in the lower style. Then after about two minutes of that, it blasts into a heavier song. Exellent stuff. Transylvania is just a cover song that Iron Maiden did way back on their debut album. It's one of the best instrumentals done by Maiden and Iced Earth plays it amazingly.
Wolf, Damien, Ghost of Freedom, Dragon's Child, and Frankenstein are all great songs. Not up to par with the previous ones, but still VERY nicely done. You will definitely become a fan of these songs.
Jack, Im-ho-tep, and Jekyl and Hyde are good songs. Just because I put them at the bottom of the pile, doesn't mean they are bad. In fact, they're just there because the rest of the songs are tough competition. Really, I'm not too much of a fan of Jack, but the chorus is catchy enough for me to like it. The other two are the better ones.
Ghost of Freedom: A-
Jekyl and Hyde: B-
Dragons Child: B
The Phantom Opera Ghost: A+
on November 15, 2002
Why all the negative reviews, people? Iced Earth's most recent album HORROR SHOW is a great album, plain and simple. I cannot find one bad thing on it. This very talented band, keeping the spirit of metal alive, has taken a familiar concept -- the theme of monsters -- and turned it into a deep, rich subject, whereas a lesser band might have turned it into a cheesy and unforgiving mess. My intro to Iced Earth was their 1996 "Spawn" album THE DARK SAGA, and I knew I had to get more of their stuff. Whereas THE DARK SAGA is a more somber album, HORROR SHOW is far more brutal in the riffing department. Guitarists Jon Schaffer and Larry Tarnowski really let loose on this album. Add to that the thunderous rhythm section of double-bass maestro Richard Christy and bassist Steve DiGiorgio (both members of the now defunct Death) and you got some killer metal coming your way. And of course, Matt Barlow is always great. He puts on another intense, focused, and tight vocal performance as always.
Instead of going through the album track by track, here's my personal list of the highlights from this album. (NOTE: I own the single-disc version. The double album with the Schaffer interview was not in the store at the time, so bear with me):
"Wolf" (track 1)--A blistering, insane thrash metal piece with a hypnotic opening rhythm and awesome energy. Play it loud.
"Damien" (track 2)--A powerful 9-minute epic based on the Son of Satam from "The Omen" movies. The lyrics are filled with vivid imagery, though the chorus is a bit too long. Nice alternation of acoustic melodies and heavy riffs. The spoken word part is very creepy as well as disturbing.
"Ghost of Freedom" (track 4)--This touching ballad kind of detracts from the album's theme since it has nothing to do with it, but it's still a great song. Perfect lyrics from Barlow on this one, and the ending is really strong.
"Transylvania" (track 8)--A killer cover of the classic Iron Maiden instrumental. Fits well with the album's theme.
"Frankenstein" (track 9)--Many people don't mention this song, but I love it. Amazing how Schaffer was able to tell the story in under 4 minutes. The fuzz-toned riff is gigantic, and the chorus is so good.
"Dracula" (track 10)--A stunning mini-epic that begins with a slow acoustic intro that builds and builds until it turns explosive. Barlow does the best Rob Halford impression ever on this song (and I mean that in a good way).
"The Phantom Opera Ghost" (track 11)--The closing epic of the album, and definitely the most complex. Beginning with surprisingly lovely mandolin from Schaffer, this song combines brutal riffs, atmospheric acoustics, keyboards, and time changes galore into one tight package. The duet between the female singer's sexy and slinky voice (as Christine) and Matt's demonic growls (as the Phantom) are really something to hear. Watch out for Christy's Neil Peart-like drum solo towards the end!
What else do I have to say? To quote Emerson Lake & Palmer, "You gotta see the show! It's rock and roll!"
on July 25, 2006
Despite having a larger fan base in Europe than in the United States, Florida headbangers Iced Earth have blessed fans of classic heavy metal with a theme album about monsters! Iced Earth have been around since the early 1990's, but the group became well known in the metal scene almost 10 years later with the release of Something Wicked This Way Comes. The next studio album, sadly the last to feature lead vocalist Matt Barlow, is 2001's Horrow Show.
The albums starts strongly with 'Wolf,' a fast paced onslaught that should have the listener in awe after one song. Damien, an epic song about the infamous son of Satan, is possibly one of the best songs featured. I am a Christian, but I listen to the lyrics in the context of the background on Damien, who is portrayed from The Oman. Other monster's tales included are Dracula, Frankenstein, Jack the Ripper, and the dreaded Phantom Opera Ghoast, which is my favorite song featured on this release. The song 'Ghost of Freedom' is a ballad about the fight to ensure freedom for an entire nation. Schaffer is very patriotic and has a passion for history.
A lot of fans that I know classify Iced Earth's music as a cross between old Metallica and Iron Maiden, with some hints of Judas Priest, Kiss and Morbid Angel. Iced Earth have a very balanced style of music and these guys will definately make your neck sore with their releases. Matt Barlow left fans a wonderful legacy of work with his last full-time performance with vocals. Horrow Show is one of Iced Earth's finest moments, along with Burnt Offerings and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Iced Earth does not disappoint fans with the evil, dark, but fun release, Horror Show.
on June 27, 2001
After a good six months or so of waiting, I have finally gotten the new CD from Iced Earth. And, well, I gotta say, it's pretty cool. I have to admit that I've heard better from them, but it's still really great. The monster movie theme is kind of cliche, and it might have been lame if done by anyone else, but it really turned out quite good. Standouts would have to be the spooky "Damien", the epic "Phantom Opera Ghost" (with awesome dual vocals), "The Dragon Child", and the incredible "Ghost of Freedom". But, as with any Iced Earth album, there isn't a bad song on here. As if all of this wasn't good enough, there is a bonus disc, which contains a totally rippin cover of Iron Maiden's "Transylvania" (my favorite band covering my second favorite band, I love it when stuff like that happens!), and an exclusive interview with Jon Schaffer. The music is tight as ever, if maybe not quite as interesting, and Larry's solos are better than ever. There's also killer work from ex-Death members Richard Kristy and bass virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio (although his abilities are not as well-represented here as I hoped). All in all, this makes for a great album. Also, the album cover is their coolest looking yet, and maybe the coolest I've ever seen. It's not exactly their best album, but if this is the closest they ever come to making a bad album, we've got nothing to worry about. So, if you're tired of all the rap metal and death metal out there, and you want a good slice of old-fashioned heavy metal, the way it used to be, here's one more album for you to get. ...
on June 12, 2005
I love the theme of the album. All of the classic characters like Dracula, Frakenstein, Jekyll & Hyde, etc. are all here and have awsome songs to match their story. There's also the soft, but still powerful Ghost of Freedom, which is one of my favorites on the album. Then there's the ultra catchy Transylvania, a cover of the old instrumental by Iron Maiden. I just got this album a few days ago and it's already one of my favorites.
on June 11, 2008
If you haven't bought this album, or if you don't like it, then you cannot call yourself a true Heavy Metal fan... This is by far the best Heavy Metal album ever written, and if you disagree, may Schaffer's chugga-chugga riffs hit you like a Train... With that said, here's my review:
OVERALL REVIEW: First off, Iced Earth is my favorite band of all time. I own every Iced Earth release to date except for a select few EP's... In my opinion, this album defined the best Iced Earth line-up of all time, and with that comes their greatest sounding record. With Jon Schaffer's amazing writing skills, Matt Barlow's Heavenly yet Demonic Vocals, Larry Tarnowski's Crazy Solos, Steve DiGiorgio's Thundering Bass, and Richard Christy's Drums that could beat any man down, you have what is probably the greatest album of all time! The albums theme is Horror. All the songs are based off of old Horror Movies. Many fans were sad when they found out that this would be Barlow's last album with the band, but thing's have changed, and he returns 7 years later as Iced Earth Frontman once again! Heavy Metal doesn't get better than this, so if you don't own this album, buy it!!! I strongly recommend that!
Now, let's turn to the Tracklist:
1. WOLF: This is a killer opening song for the album. The Chorus is crazy with great Vocal lines and awesome double bass. It kicks you in the face, so be prepared when listening to it for the first time.
2. DAMIEN: This is my favorite song on the album. It has some of Iced Earth heaviest riffs and darkest vocals/lyrics to date. It is also the epic track of the album.
3. JACK: This is also another extremely heavy song, similar to Disciples of the Lie. It's lyrics are also dark.
4. GHOST OF FREEDOM: The album takes a break from its theme here. This song is very melodic and beautiful. It was written with inspiration from the movie, The Patriot. It's not a Horror Movie, but it is still a movie.
5. Im-Ho-Tep: The opening to this song was written by Larry Tarnowski, and besides the guitar solos, is the only material he wrote for the entire album. It's perfect for the Eqyptian Theme.
6. JECKYL & HYDE: Another one of my favorites. The breakdown in this song is awesome. You hear two voices arguing (Which is Jeckyl & Hyde) and then it kicks into an awesome Guitar Solo (which fits perfectly with the fact that he's fighting against his inner self), probably my favorite solo on the album.
7. DRAGON'S CHILD: This song is good, but nothing special in my eyes. It keeps the theme and feel of the album going, so it does it's part.
8. FRANKENSTEIN: This song is also good, but doesn't do much for me. It does feature Schaffer on Lead Vocals during the chorus, though.
9. DRACULA: This song is amazing. Yet another one of my favorite. It has a beautiful introduction and some of Barlow's best vocal work to date.
10. THE PHANTOM OPERA GHOST: This is a great album-ender. It feature's a duet between Barlow (The Phantom) and Yunhui Percifield (Christine). Schaffer feels that he could have put more into the song, so maybe we'll hear more from this story in the future.
Disc 2 has a cover of Transylvania by Iron Maiden on it, but the real beauty of this disc is the in-depth interview with Schaffer. He is one of my biggest influences as a musician, so I really enjoyed hearing what he has to say about music. Now, there is a single disc Horror Show and a 2-Disc Horror, so if you want to hear the interview, make sure it's the 2-Disc CD.
As my final words, I can't express how badly I recommend buying this CD. It is just an absolutely perfect album. I hope this review was helpful!