Iced Earth - Burnt Offerings review
01. Burnt Offerings
02. Last December
05. Burning Oasis
06. Creator Failure
07. The Pierced Spirit
08. Dante's Inferno
Two main things make this album the best IE's album and an immense masterpiece: Jon Schaffer's anger and Mattew Barlow's voice. Year 1996, IE had gone through some major difficulties in the past 3 years, mainly regarding contrasts with their label and between some band members, the result: Jon Schaffer wrote the angriest the darkest and the heaviest songs that he has ever composed so as to vent his anger on music and confirm himself as a composer of infinite talent. But (luckily I say) he also had problems with his singer: John Greely, because he was ruining his voice smoking hash. So, Rodney Beaslay, Jon's drummer suggested to give a guy that was singing in his brother's garage-band a chance.
And so he came. Mattew Barlow was immediatley accepted, the perfect voice for IE's songs, and probably the best metal singer (and not only metal) on the scene. He added his fantastic and versatile voice to Jon's compositions to create an absolute masterpiece. These two "metal monsters" were supported by the able drummer I've already mentioned, the guitarist Randall Shawver, whose riffs perfectly accompany Jon's rytmic gallops and bassist Dave Abell, both in the line-up from the debut album.
I'm realizing now that I have to define the genre of IE to help those who haven't heard them yet, so do they do power metal? Not at all I think. I can say that they have the speed of a power metal band, the heaviness of a trash metal band, that they can build atmospheres of a good gothic band and finally that they have the perfect metal voice. Barlow's singing can be melancholic to make you cry, heavy to make you scream, and evil to frighten you. He takes low notes as well as high ones not limited to very high power metal singing nor to continuous death growling. I think there is nothing he can't do with his voice.
Take tour CD, look at the fantastic artwork (the illustrations of Gustave Dore' for the Divine Comedy) put the disc in and be caught by the opening song, the title track, the first of 8 masterpieces. Who thinks that evil and satanic feelings can only be carried by Black Metal have probably never heard this song beginning with a spectral piano intro followed by a phrase taken from the movie "Bram's Stoker Dracula", that leads you to a world of human sacrifice in wich Satan reigns in blood. This song has probably the best guitar riff I have ever heard it catches you and drags you down. Throughout the album Jon Schaffer hurts you with his precise and heavy guitar working, showing the world that he is one of the greatest rythmic guitarist ever. What makes this album the best IE album is also the complexity of the songs, you will not find the scheme strophe-chorus-strophe but slow parts that shine simply in virtue of Matt's vocal abilites are followed by a gallop of Jon with his guitar and then a solo interrupted by another but diverse slow part?nothing is foreseen. I will not describe all the songs of this album but I have to talk about the two last tracks to make you understand why this is a masterpiece.
The only slow song Schaffer wanted to put in his album, is "The Pierced Spirit",a very short (1:54) acoustic interlude, a little jewel, a chant of melancholy and sadness, emotions broken out by Matt's deep and emotional voice. It introduce us into the infernal world of "Dante's Inferno" epic song which bases itself on the Dante Alighieri's first part of his masterpiece: the Divine Comedy. Its useless to try to describe how Jon Schaffer/Virgil leads you to a 16:29 minute travel through the infernal plains,creating one of the best metal songs ever. Read the poem, press "Play", close your eyes and sink into a world of pain and fear. So, that's it, no need to say more, I think. If you don't know this wonderfull band from Florida, this is the moment, and this is the album to begin with.
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