I have to admit that I haven’t been very fair to Iced Earth this year. While the title track to the latest release Dystopia was streamed on Revolver’s website and I enjoyed it earlier this year I was pretty dismissive about the band. This was partly due to the revolving door of vocalists that’s been going on for the past 10 years.Matt Barlow left, then Tim Owens came in ,then Barlow was back only to leave again and now we have Stu Block on the mic. Not to mention the inconsistency with the band pretty much since their inception as far as albums I enjoyed. So when I did get my hands on this album it was more to feed my curiosity on just what Stu would bring to the table. Because let’s face it this is Jon Schaffer’s band and he has a distinct and consistent writing style that is familiar with every release regardless of who’s singing the songs. Stu Block comes from the band Into Eternity which is a completely different style of metal in the more metalcore vein from the few songs I heard so it was going to be interesting to see what he would bring to the table. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.
What You Can Expect: Musically if you’re an Iced Earth fan you will be comfortable with the songs and their structure. Schaffer’s lyrics all touch on elements of Dystopia which means “a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian” which echoes Jon’s political views that government is possibly leaning towards this. This isn’t a concept album like Something Wicked Parts 1 and 2 were but it does have the title track that continues that story.
The Good: Stu Block’s vocal range should never be in question. His vocals are a hybrid of both Barlow and Owens at times that also channel Halford at the height of his powers with Priest. Painkiller era Priest to be more specific. Schaffer made a great decision in bringing Stu on as the track Anthem is probably close to being one of my all time favorite songs by Iced Earth and that’s saying quite a bit considering the long history of the band. Most of the songs are catchy and memorable which is not something that could necessarily have been said about previous releases. This album , if you buy the standard edition is only 10 tracks in length which is great because the album never wears out it’s welcome by having 15 or almost 20 tracks like the previous two releases.
The Bad: That’s not to say there aren’t any misfires on Dystopia. At times the lyrics can be almost eye rolling in the cheese factor as in the last track Triumph and Tragedy though if you wait until the very end of the track there is a funny little bit that was thrown in. A few songs do delve into the tired area of having the rest of the band do the anthemic shouting that doesn’t quite fit the song.
Overall this is a solid release for Iced Earth and I found it enjoyed it the most since Dark Saga came out. I was never really bored with the album even if I didn’t dig some parts that much. This is a promising new beginning for Iced Earth and it would be nice to see Stu stick around and see if it gets better with more releases down the road. I know my interest in Iced Earth is now renewed. Here is the official video for the title track. Enjoy.