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Iced Earth is an American heavy metal band that combine influences from thrash metal, power metal, progressive metal, opera, speed metal and NWOBHM. In 1999 their leader and songwriter Jon Schaffer teamed up with Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch to form a side project called Demons & Wizards.
The central figure of Iced Earth is rhythm guitarist and songwriter Jon Schaffer. He first had the idea when taken to a KISS concert. Schaffer formed the band under the name "Purgatory" in Indiana in 1984. After moving to Florida Schaffer was forced to change his band's name by another group called Purgatory. He settled on "Iced Earth", a name that had been suggested by a longtime friend who was killed in a motorcycle accident. The group's Enter the Realm EP was popular enough that they released an eponymous debut LP with Century Media Records. Vocalist Gene Adam was originally going to perform on the follow-up record, Night of the Stormrider. However, during their first major tour, Gene Adams blew his voice via constant hash use. After the end of the tour Schaffer basically kicked Gene out and was introduced to John Greely, who performed on the next album and tour.
Since then, the band has gone through numerous lineup changes, with only Jon Schaffer and ex-guitarist Randall Shawver lasting at least 9 years with the group. Vocalist Matt Barlow joined the band (after a three-year band hiatus following Night of the Stormrider) for Burnt Offerings, largely based on Dante's Inferno. Barlow's vocals proved extremely popular, even though he was not vocally trained until 1996. Barlow remained with the band for many years, recording the albums The Dark Saga, Days of Purgatory, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Alive in Athens, Horror Show and Tribute to the Gods. Barlow eventually parted amicably with the band in June 2003 to pursue a career with the United States Department of Homeland Security. Schaffer wanted him to try and see if he could do The Glorious Burden before leaving, but he soon realized that Barlow had lost his enthusiasm, so he let Barlow go.
Conveniently, singer Tim "Ripper" Owens soon left Judas Priest (to make room for returning original vocalist Rob Halford) and became Iced Earth's new vocalist - Owens is not credited with his "Ripper" nickname while performing with Iced Earth. 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, and there are three songs dealing with the Battle of Gettysburg. While Owens is a talented vocalist, many Iced Earth fans have yet to embrace him as a member of the band. There is a limited edition where the Gettysburg Trilogy is moved to a second disc and the songs Waterloo and the unplugged version of When the Eagle Cries are added to the first disc. The album's theme became the centre 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 BW&BK and a friend, an interview in issue 101 (Jan/Feb '07) effectively ending the boycott.
Together with Hansi Kursch - lead singer and former bass player of Blind Guardian - Schaffer is also part of a side project called Demons & Wizards. In 2005, lead vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens and some friends of his started a new heavy metal band called Beyond Fear, which features future Iced Earth bassist Dennis Hayes as well.
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.
In December 2006, Jon announced information about the two upcoming Something Wicked albums. He also announced that the bass guitar duties on the new albums will be handled by James "Bo" Wallace, as well as that the original "Something Wicked" trilogy of the 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes would be re-recorded as an EP and will come with a new track "Ten Thousand Strong". On March 16, 2007, Jon 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 will be replaced by Dennis Hayes, of Tim Owens' 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 May 20, Schaffer announced that his friend Troy Seele was the new lead guitarist. Framing Armageddon the band's ninth studio album was released on September 11, 2007.
Iced Earth began their 2007 Wicked European Tour on June 9, 2007, at the Sweden Rock Festival. Following appearances at the RockWave Festival and Wacken Open Air, the band will back up Heaven and Hell and Lamb of God on their British tour in November.
Iced Earth's music is often described as Iron Maiden combined with 1980s thrash metal. The most distinctive element of the band's sound is the stuttering 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. Strong melodic hooks are typically laid over the top of this gallop, sometimes doubled by two guitars playing in harmony. 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 has shifted to the higher-pitched spectrum. 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, and the band's upcoming "Something Wicked" albums.
In some songs (such as "Dante's Inferno," "Angels Holocaust," "Damien," and "The Coming Curse") Iced Earth uses the technique of Gregorian chant. Three Iced Earth songs contain female vocals: "A Question of Heaven", "The Phantom Opera Ghost" and "Something Wicked Part 1", in addition to a remake of "Burnt Offerings" on the Days of Purgatory album.
Album cover art:
The covers of Something Wicked This Way Comes, Alive in Athens, Horror Show, and Tribute to the Gods depict a fictional character named Set Abominae created by Jon Schaffer. The next two albums for the band (2007's Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1) and 2008's Revelation Abomination (Something Wicked Part 2)) will be centered on this character. According to Schaffer, the story told over both albums will span 10,000 years.
Schaffer also plans to write a graphic novel about Set Abominae.
The cover art to The Glorious Burden was painted by Leo Hao, a Russian artist famous for drawing covers to Blind Guardian and Aria.
-Tim "Ripper" Owens.