By Mike Maher

American heavy metal band Iced Earth has had a long hiatus since their last studio release, a double disc set titled “The Glorious Burden” in 2004. The first disc had some good songs but did not really hook me. The second disc, “Gettysburg (1863)”, was unbelievable and quickly became my favorite Iced Earth song to date. Since 2004, the band has gone through a label change (from Century Media to SPV) as well as multiple line-up changes (vocals, guitar, bass and drums). But you can’t keep a good man down, and guitarist/band leader Jon Schaeffer and his guys are back with the “Overture of the Wicked” EP, prepping us for the forthcoming “Framing Armageddon” double disc set. That release will be followed by a third disc finishing off the Set Abominae story, an apocalyptical tale spanning 10,000 years of human history. For those that don’t know, Set Abominae is the scary Egyptian looking mummy guy on the cover of the EP and on the “Something Wicked” album. The “Something Wicked Trilogy” which was initially available on the “Something Wicked This Way Comes” album in 1998, is described as an intro to the Set Abominae story. The “Overture of the Wicked” EP features one song which will be on the “Framing Armageddon” release, titled “Ten Thousand Strong,” as well as a reworked “Something Wicked Trilogy.”

Vocalist Tim Owens, who joined the band at the time the “Glorious Burden” was recoded, sounds very good on “Ten Thousand Strong.” He lets it rip with a long high scream right from the start. The chorus on this song is very catchy and you’ll be singing along in no time at all. It’s got all the Iced Earth hallmarks, featuring Schaeffer’s trademark riffing and triplets. I think everyone will be pleased with it.

Now, on to the “Something Wicked Trilogy” (Prophecy, Birth of the Wicked and, The Coming Curse). It may seem like blasphemy to longtime fans to re-record these songs nine years later. I wasn’t too excited to see songs that I thought were wonderfully and powerfully done by ex-vocalist Matt Barlow (who is now the vocalist for Pyramaze). Nevertheless, it makes sense to have the whole story, especially a 3 disc epic, sung by the same vocalist. Owens puts his own stamp on these songs, and sounds really good doing it. I can’t imagine joining a band with the loyal fans that Iced Earth have and trying to do what Barlow did, but Owens has been there and done that before with Judas Priest. And he seriously impresses me with his work in Iced Earth. One thing you’ll notice about the new “Something Wicked Trilogy” is that the sound is a bit different. It seems the guitars are more muted or tuned a bit differently to accentuate Owens’ vocals. The double bass drum is right in line with Schaeffer’s guitar and the reworked trilogy is an awesome metal ride from start to finish just as the original was in 1998.

I’m excited to hear the full Set Abominae story and positively looking forward to “Framing Armageddon.” Watch for it in August or September 2007. Check out the band’s website for a sample: