Customer Reviews: The Crucible Of Man (Something Wicked Part II)
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on September 12, 2008
Well, after years and years of anticipation, we have the completion of the Something Wicked Saga. My feelings on Crucible of Man are more mixed than they were about Framing Armageddon. With Framing Armageddon, my only reservation was with Owens at the helm as vocalist, but I quickly got past that and loved the album, realizing that it was written with his vocal styling in mind. Framing hit hard musically and gripped me right away. Crucible isn't the same album at all. Whereas Framing felt like it was more about being a straightforward, high tempo metal album, Crucible slows the pace a tad and seems to focus more on telling the story. For me this comes as a mixed bag.

Let's get this out of the way first... I f***ing love Matt Barlow. Along with Chuck Billy from Testament, he is my favorite metal vocalist and I am so glad to hear him back on this album. I'm not sure how much of Crucible was written with Ripper in mind, but I can't see his vocals delivering the emotion or mood that Barlow brings to this half of the saga. Ripper's vocals were great for the up tempo Iced-Earth anthems like 10,000 Strong, but I believe Barlow was truly meant to helm this band and this saga. And Barlow hasn't lost his touch either; he still has all of the great range, from low singing to high tempo growling. He sounds better now than ever.

With that said, and speaking of 10,000 Strong, how come there's really not a song like that on this album? Most of the songs here are mid tempo and while they're not bad at all, there's not as much here that has the punch in the gut like Setien Massacre and 10,000. There are a couple of high tempo tracks at the end; Sacrificial Kingdoms and Divide and Devour are fast and the former is especially a fast Iced Earth track like I remember, but still not quite as memorable as 10,000 from Framing or Attila from Glorious Burden. BUT... While Framing may have been a little more rocking, it felt like a bit of a disjointed experience. There was too much filler and a lot of that filler I tended to skip every time I listened to it. Crucible doesn't really have filler. Each song flows seamlessly to the next and I really have no desire to skip any tracks at all, even if some of them are a little repetitive. I came to realize as I listened to it; this is not your typical Iced Earth album. Every track has a purpose and are put in the only order that they can make sense.

As far as the story of the whole saga goes, it is well thought out and pretty interesting. The artwork to accompany the story in the album booklet is awesome. I mean really awesome. If Schaffer really does get around to making a graphic novel of Set, I look forward to reading it.

I'm not going to go over each individual track, as with this album it would be almost pointless, since it almost feels like 1 hour long track. But a few standouts are Minions of the Watch/The Revealing (I put those 2 together because the first time I heard them, I thought they were one song), Sacrificial Kingdoms (fast and awesome), Something Wicked pt 3, Divide and Devour (also fast and awesome, if this album were Dark Saga, this might be Violate), but there's not a bad song in the bunch. The album starts with some killer stuff, seems to taper a tad in the middle with some songs that sound too much like each other, and then really picks up at the end. The instrumental intro and outro and interludes throughout the songs are haunting as well. Overall, it's a pretty consistent listening experience.

In conclusion, I like this album. It's not as kick me in the face amazing as I would have hoped it to be, but it provides a nice contrast to Framing Armageddon, a lighter tempo yet darker album than it's predecessor. Schaffer once again proves his worth as a song writer and guitarist as well. Some people have complained that the two albums having different vocalists makes it inconsistent, but I disagree. I actually think it's cool to have two albums, each with their own singer and their own flavor tell one solid story. Ripper deserves some credit, and I would actually be just fine not hearing Framing rerecorded with Barlow at the helm.

I eagerly await to see what we get next when Shaffer and Barlow are truly working together as a team again. Long live Iced Earth!
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on September 10, 2008
Iced Earth, what can be said about this band. One of the most creative metal bands out there and they are finally being recognized for nearly two decades of amazing storying telling and musical craftsmanship. After a year of waiting Iced Earth finally relased the conclusion of the Something Wicked tale with 'The Crucible of Man'. After listening to it there is much to be said.

First off the biggest treat for me was the fact that two of Iced Earth prime line-up returned. Brent Smedly and of course the true voice of Iced Earth Matt Barrlow! Yes I did feel a little upset that Tim Owens couldn't finish the project after a supurb job on 'Framing Armageddon'. Eventhough I love Matt Barrlow and I love the atmosphere he brought to this band in past releases. I was just a bit scared that the whole story musically was going to change. I loved the passion and emotion that 'Framing Armageddon' had and how the telling of the story allowed Tim Owens to climb new heights in his vocal talent, I was afraid I wouldn't get that with Matt Barrlows return. I did, I had never heard Matts voice used to such scales with amazing new directions, John Schaffer kept the atmosphere alive and when I listen to the story as a whole it kind of made sense to make the switch because in this new album the story is being told by an entirley new character who was not brought into the story until the very last track on the previous record. The second thing I noticed was this album was more musically driven. There are only 15 tracks as opposed to 19 tracks. This chapter of the story is alot less visual because there is alot more happening in the very begining. Now the pieces have been put in place and the whole purpose of the story is now in full force that character is Set and it is about this character knowing his mission and watching his prey as they live out their lives. The songs grip you with much detail and emotions of this unfortunate creature who had to carry this burden through time and he is willing to throw it all away because he sees redemption in the human race. You don't need breaks in the song with sound effects to shape this part of the story and again another great accomplishment by Iced Earth. Finally this is not the best album Iced Earth has ever released though it is no where near so so or terrible.

I have seen the reviews that some people have posted on this site about the new Iced Earth release. I feel that people always expect too much from any band. John Schaffer finally did what he wanted to do for so long and that was to tell a story that he wrote...HIS WAY! He is such an admerable person because he is driven by his passion projects and doesn't care about money or fame. Being noticed however is something he does want and I don't blame because he is a true artist and those are so hard to come by in music today. I feel this project has brough his band one step closer to his goals because they are now touring more are getting bigger stages. With Barllow back who knows how much further they can go? Perhaps if things keep moving forward more familiar faces will return and that will only give Iced Earth more incentive to do what we fans love most about them... Bring us more heavy metal!!!
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on September 10, 2008
Iced Earth is a band I've followed since "Something Wicked" was released in 1998. I became a fan almost immediately, hooked on the songwriting, riffs and rhythm guitar playing of Jon Schaffer. But more importantly, I was hooked on the emotional, powerful vocals from frontman Matt Barlow.

After Barlow left the band, my interest just began to wane. "Glorious Burden was decent (check my review of it, 3 stars) but 2007's "Framing Armageddon" just completely underwhelmed me. To use an old line, there just wasn't a lot of wind blowing through that CD. Or the band for that matter.

So hearing of Matt Barlow's return to Iced Earth was some of the best music news I heard this year. The storyline and songs he began in the "Something Wicked" trilogy could be completed by the same voice.

And listening to "Crucible Of Man", it feels like there's a new current of energy running throughout the music. The songs feel more focused than in Part 1, the riffs and song structure seem tighter and more high-energy. I came away (once again) impressed by Jon Schaffer's guitar playing, probably the best rhythm guitar player out there right now. The rest of the band performs admirably, with Matt Barlow's vocals being the expected spotlight. His voice just adds a dimension of emotion and weight to the lyrics that propel the songs.

Highlights of the CD are many, there aren't a lot of weak points. Songs like "Sacrificial Kingdoms", "Crown Of The Fallen", and "The Revealing" all deliver satisfying guitar riffs. The high point is the penultimate track, "Come What May", which has a great vocal melody and chorus that sticks in your head as the album closes. A great mid-tempo rock song.

A strong 4.5 stars for a very good album and a renewed excitement coming from Iced Earth's corner of the metal world.
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on October 26, 2008
Music is a matter of opinion and the reviews so far regarding this CD are pretty varied. For me, Iced Earth peaked some years ago when Something Wicked This Way Comes was released. Since then each release (other than Framing Armaggedon which I can't get into) was good but I would rather listen to the Dark Saga or Something Wicked than Horror Show or the Glorious Burden (which did take me a while to get into).

So now we here in 2008 and Iced Earth comes full circle with Matt Barlow back as lead vocalist. Ahead or behind? Looking forward or looking back? Well that is where the opinion is varied but why does it matter - this is who Iced Earth is today and one thing we know from the history of this band is that this may not be who Iced Earth is tomorrow!

For me Crucible of Man is a huge step forward from Framing Armaggedon where other than Ten Thousand Strong I could not really get into the CD. For me it is also welcome return to the voice that hooked me onto Iced Earth in the first place. Crucible of Man is extremely solid from start to finish has a number of really good songs I Walk Alone, Crucify the King, Divide Devour and Come What May just to name a few.

Opinion will vary from mine and I respect that but who cares if some stuff sounds like Blind Guardian (did not see that myself) or whoever you want to compare it to or the songs are too short (hey the CD clocks in at 59 minutes plus so you are not getting ripped off). This is a great metal CD that is getting over analyzed by fans (hey I did it too) that have spent way too much time carrying on the Tim vs Matt thing for 5 years now. Just enjoy and listen and try not to spend time comparing the two singers as they are different.
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on March 19, 2009
I have to agree with the "Good, but thats all" review. I like all Iced Earth's stuff...Barlow and Owens included. But agree with others who say theres no energy here...feels tired and uninspired, a bit lifeless. I couldnt disagree more with the "Iced Earth is back!" type comments in other reviews....huh? Nope.

I dont think anyone should be surprised when a metal band that orginally broke on the scene with an angry sound begins to soften as the money arrives. Schaffer is no different...what's to be angry about? He's no longer roofing houses to eat, hes comfortable, pampered and full of ego. Its called sucess. The anger that originally fueled Iced Earth and other great bands (take a guess) is gone, and cannot be replaced. Just be glad it ever existed in the first place and enjoy the early years.

I feel Framing is closer(but still not the same)then this to being classic Iced Earth anger and emotion. This is a good album, just not a great album.
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on September 10, 2008
I don't know, although most of the feedback for this album has been underwhelming, overall I am digging it. Maybe my expectations for Iced Earth are not as high as they used to be?

I liked the last album FA ok and I definately like this one a little more. Sure it's not a complete return to form like the original 'Something Wicked' album was, but this album has it's moments. A few more than part 1 I think.

First off the sound is once again huge! I know both part 1 FA and part 2 COM were recorded at the same time but whomever mixed and mastered the album this time around (possibly the same guy) gave the guitars a much heavier and fuller sound! The drums sound bigger too! You can hear the reverb and sustain. This is how Iced Earth should sound!

Also having Barlow back is a HUGE asset! Not saying Ripper was bad at all but there is really no comparision of what Barlow brings to the table. His conveying of emotions, overall range, and pure tone are unmatched. Simply one of the best metal vocalist of all time!

Jon's seems to have a lot more interesting idea's and riff's going on this time around. The middle eastern flair that could be heard on part 1 is present on this album as well only this time it's conveyed more through the guitar riffing as opposed to backround instrumentation and choirs. Although a lot of the songs could have been developed further. For example 'The Revealing' and 'The Dimension Gauntlet' have some really cool guitar work and should have developed into full songs rather than instrumental segways. 'Minions of the Watch' is a very cool song yet just stops after 2 minutes?

Another major critisism I have is with the lack of lead guitars once again! Jon please take the reigns off your lead guitar players! The few times Troy does get to solo it sounds great and really adds a lot! Unfortunately however very few times do solos appear.

Highlights of the album include 'Behold the Wicked Child', 'Sacrificial Kingdoms', Divide and Devour', the choruses in 'Crucify the King', 'Harbringer of Fate' and 'Come What May', and the cool but criminally underdeveloped 'Minions of the Watch', 'The Revealing', and 'The Dimension Guantlet'.

Hopefully the next Iced Earth album with Barlow back in the fold will be another 5 star Masterpiece!
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on November 12, 2015
This album starts strong and doesn't let up. The initial five songs discussing Set's youth are slow, and all with memorable riffs and choruses. Then the second half just takes off, bringing the attack like nothing else I've heard. Sacrificial Kingdoms has a motif that hearkens back to the original music on Something Wicked This Way Comes, and has absurd replay ability. Divide Devour is wonderfully aggressive, and then Come What May takes us out with an epic, anthemic chorus, and a showing of just how powerful Matt Barlow's vocals can truly be. 5/5 all day.
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on August 7, 2013
Even with a recent surge of old-school sounding power metal bands (a resurgence that has spawned innumerable good PM groups), Iced Earth seem clearly set out to prove to the world that they might be eighteen-plus years old (and have members that are well into their forties), but they still have what it takes to shred the pants off the heavy metal world (and they can certainly out-shred many of this generation's bands). This is evident all throughout the Florida-based collective's 2008 effort "The Crucible Of Man."

And as good as this album might be from an instrumental point of view, it is also of note from a lyrical standpoint, as it is a quite clearly conceptual piece that details the existence of God, the one man that is personally held accountable for the crucifixion of Jesus, and the evolution of mankind.

The nice little symphonic intro track that is "In Sacred Flames" is promptly followed-up by "Behold The Wicked Child," which explodes out of the gate with an absolutely blistering attack of scorching, lightning-fast guitar leads, blustery buzzsaw picking, and thumping skins. The tune is also complete with memorably melodic, symphonic-laced choruses. Then, following "Minions Of The Watch," a much more mid-tempo and groovy number that plays mostly like a showcase for frontman John Schaffer's impressive, Iron Maiden-meets-Dio-esque pipes, comes "The Revealing," a much meaner and heavier piece propelled by muscular, machine-gun fast pure thrash riffage. "A Gift Or A Curse?" again ventures into more melodic territory, as a gorgeous mid-tempo brooder with power ballad-worthy vocals and plenty of greatly tasty, fiery guitar shredding (including some wailing melodic soloing and heavenly twin-guitar harmonies anchored by some soft hand percussion. But right back on the more aggressive side of the line, "Crown Of The Fallen" is highlighted by cool, mazy, screaming, glass-shattering, Megadeth-meets-Slayer-esque soloing (thus conjuring up memories of Cacophony's "Speed Metal Symphony" days); and "The Dimension Gauntlet" is backed by tasty, crunchy, and uber-chunky and punching guitar hooks.

Moving along, "I Walk Alone" is a triumphant and empowering (without being overly fast or heavy) fist-pumper of a song, and one that, with its catchy vocal patterns, will become a surefire concert-favorite/live staple in the not-too-distant future. "Harbinger Of Fate," then, boasts a really epic scope, as it builds triumphantly from a docile and minor-key intro to anthemic power metal in less time than you might think. And the latter half of the tune is anything but minimalistic, as it is boasts an interesting, martial-sounding drum beat, inspired, powerful vocals, and a searing, shredding guitar solo. "Crucify The King" is empowered by big, fat, juicy (if comparatively mid-tempo) chugging and well-placed fast/slow tempo changes; but "Sacrificial Kingdoms" is flat-out brutal and uncompromising. It features a nonstop succession of great, charging, Metallica-meets-Kreator riffing and frenetic, thrashing tempos. And the only time the onslaught relents is for its triumphant power metal choruses.

Next up, "Something Wicked (Part 3)" is a slower and almost doomy-sounding venture with soaring power metal vocals. But this song, although noteworthy, merely serves as the lead-in/counterbalance to "Divide Devour," which blasts through your speakers with excellent, white-hot modern thrash riffage and Slayer-worthy energy. Plenty of deft double bass slamming is also included, here. So, as you can see, melody is used only as an afterthought, here, although it is not completely discarded, as "Divide Devour" does feature the occasional symphonic/choral-sounding element and some Bruce Dickinson-worthy clean vocals, thus helping to ensure that things do not get too out of control. But the set concludes on an again melodic and subdued note, with "Come What May" being a power ballad that sports soaring leads, warm, harmonized vocals (including some Judas Priest-y falsetto singing), and a fantastic, epic, middle-Eastern-sounding flute solo; and "Epilogue" augmenting softly strummed chords with a tribal beat and (what sounds like) some violin accompaniment.

As you can see, while "The Crucible Of Man" is not a genre-redefining release, there is just enough experimentation and innovation present, here, to make it a step forward for the band. And there is just enough of it to make this very good traditional heavy metal album, even if it is not one that exceeds or matches the level of excellence achieved on previous Iced Earth outings like 1995's "Burnt Offerings" and/or 1998's "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
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on March 23, 2009
First off, before you flame me, I love Matt Barlow, I think he's a fantastic vocalist, and he did a great job on this album, however, do I feel this was written for him? Not by a long shot. It's not as powerful as Framing Armageddon was by a long shot, and honestly, I feel the songs were written with Owens in mind, not Barlow. Honestly, when I heard he had returned to the fore as the lead singer of Iced Earth, my feelings were mixed. I was one of those who loved Owens and his works with Iced Earth, my review of The Glorious Burden proves this.

I feel musically it's not as strong as Framing Armageddon, nor is it as epic, it's got some good songs though, like "Behold This Wicked Child" and "Sacrificial Kingdoms" but overall, I feel it's not as strong production wise. I honestly feel this is definitely a must have for any Iced Earth fan, especially those who are interested in following the Something Wicked saga all the way from it's beginning to it's end.

It does a fine job of concluding the Something Wicked saga, but it doesn't really stand out on it's own as an album. Barlow does a good job returning, but I hardly consider myself a die-hard Barlow-head unlike some. And I am not going to shower this album with praise just because he returned to the fore, and call it Iced Earth's greatest album ever, because it isn't.

It's a good album, worth listening to all the way through, and a fine conclusion to a story, but I feel it's not five star material like some of Iced Earth's earlier works.
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on May 28, 2009
I'm not going to waste time with arguing whether Barlow is a better vocalist than Owens. Neither of them is "the voice of Iced Earth," seeing as this band has had four different vocalists. And Owens is talented in his own right.

This album does not sound like anything the band has done previously. It doesn't sound like Framing Armageddon for obvious reasons. I didn't much care for Framing, and it wasn't that Owens was a terrible singer. It was that I couldn't tell the chorus from the verse. The singing was bombastic all the way through, which ended up detracting from the album.

This album is a very nice combination of Owens-style choruses and Barlow-style verses. Those who were hoping for a straight Barlow album will be disappointed, but those who want to be treated with something different from one of the best metal bands in history should pick up this album.

Some reviewers have called this album "boring." It is true that there isn't a huge variety between the songs like you would find on Something Wicked This Way Comes. This album is a concept album, and is meant to sound epic. It is loud, it is ferocious, and it is solid. It does not sound like some last minute effort the band threw together because Barlow came back. It sounds like Barlow simply took over for Owens and sang the songs his way, and managed to do a terrific job.

In short, this is a must-have album for any metalhead.
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