Its late March and ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer
originally planned to be putting the finishing touch
on the second instalment of his Set Abominae saga.
However, the much publicized return of singer Matt
Barlow (already beholden to Danish prog metallers
PYRAMAZE), finding a new bassist and a managerial
restructuring have conspired to delay the project even
further. So this visit to Tampas Morrisound studio
results only in the final mix for the I Walk Alone
single, backed by Barlows interpretation of three
cuts from Framing Armageddon, the initial part of
Schaffers Herculean effort.
In the wake of Schaffers single-minded vision, the
body count has mounted, replacing every band position
(at least once) since commencing the project. The
ultimate prize remains a work in progress, the
guitarist yet to complete lyrics to four songs. Might
the whole situation be some sort of Ahab questing for
the white whale scenario? Im staying the course, to
use an old naval term, denying the comparison. Those
things are (undoubtedly) a distraction. Of course it
would be better not to have to deal with those things,
but I havent gone mad yet, jests Schaffer.
In addition to the single, theres Setian Massacre,
A Charge To Keep and The Clouding, undeniably the
finest composition of Part 1. All retain the original
musical performances but have been remixed, now
featuring Barlow on vocals. That was Matts
decision, says the mainman of which tracks were
selected. I asked him which ones he felt comfortable
tackling, given the short amount of time. He had the
Pyramaze recording, besides his career and family, as
well as starting work on (Revelation Abomination) Part
Two. Matts already written a couple of songs,
lyrically, for Part Two and hes going to do one more.
Hes been busy. This is a single and it will help us
get a jump on the next part. I dont have filler
tracks. I dont have anything I can make exclusive to
the single, that wont appear anywhere else.
Schaffer hints at the renewed importance Barlow will
bring, not only to fans and the band, but the
guitarist. It probably wont be that long before we
start another record and Matt will be involved. This
is our last record for the SPV deal. Well probably
resign with them, but who knows. The reality is, Ive
written a lot of songs and pretty much said what I
have to say. Matts always been a great lyricist,
whether it was my concept for a song, or ours
together, once theres some direction, hes good at
doing the research and getting it into form. Hell be
more involved in writing lyrics in the future, after
this, because this is sort of my lifes work. Ill
still be involved with the music and lyrics, but
probably only four or five songs a record, instead of
90%. I just dont see the need to do that anymore.
Dont think that Iced Earth is going into retirement.
Were actually able to do more shows than people
expect. When we announced this, people were like,
Theyll do two or three festivals a year. That was
never the plan. The cool thing about Matts schedule
is that were able to do more, we just have to
restructure how we do it. When we tour North America,
it will have to be in sections. Im probably going to
buy a mobile home and have local crew from Indy. That
way we can just jump in it and go, do regions at a
time. Instead of touring the States in seven or eight
weeks, it might take four or five (sporadic) months.
If its planned ahead, it will work. Even main markets
in Europe, in pieces. Matts schedule is four days
on-four days off and when he takes vacation time, it
applies to his shift. So a couple of weeks can turn
into a significant amount of time. For Australia,
which is going to happen, we to use vacation time. We
just have to plan it. I would rather end Iced Earth,
rather than go on without Matt. Thats where I was at.
It just didnt feel right. So for me, to work around
Matts schedule is no big deal.
The rejuvenated Iced Earth will be unveiled May 2nd,
at Powerfest, in Chicago. Well probably just play
the new single (I Walk Alone), says Schaffer of
newbies in the set. I dont like hitting the fans
with too much new (unreleased) stuff. Its sort of
kills the vibe of the show. Especially with Matt
coming back, were focusing on a little bit of
Stormrider (not much), The Dark Saga, Something Wicked
and some Horrorshow stuff. Asked about Framing
Armageddon tunes, he adds, Well have to kick it
around in rehearsal. Setian Massacre was always
killer to do live. 10,000 Strong, probably, but I
dont know about Charge. Depends on the length of
the show. Not that its a slow song, but its more
ballad-like. I dont want to do too many of those
songs if were doing 45 minutes. Well do
Melancholy and Watching Over Me and the rest will
be balls out! We have several shows throughout the
summer and were booking two weeks of dates around the
ProgPower festival. As of now, we have about 30 shows
in the can.
Some of those dates will make their way onto the long
talked about DVD. The DVD is part of our deal with
SPV, confirms the guitarist. Were kicking around
ideas. Well be compiling footage, filming some of the
festivals throughout the summer. We might end up doing
a one-off show, after Christmas, its all being
discussed now, but the DVD will be filmed in this
So what does the new single/material sound like?
Based on one listen:
I Walk Alone: Interesting effect to start, with
Barlow almost in spoken word delivery. A meandering,
mid-tempo number ultimately unleashing short blasts of
the Barlow baritone bellow. The recurrent Set theme,
inherent throughout part one, is evident here as well.
Mankinds dishonesty lays them to waste. I am the
truth I walk alone.
Setian Massacre: Due to Matts lower register (and
remix?) highlights different musical aspects than the
version with Ripper. Barlows voice being closer to
bass/drums, whereas Tim accents the guitar.
A Charge To Keep: No doubt a major overhaul. Matts
emotion was always best on the slower ballady to
mid-tempo numbers, where theres more room to breathe
(see Melancholy/parts of I Died For You).
The Clouding: Will have to listen to this one again.
As my favourite off part 1, the dichotomy within this
song has a greater initial impact with Tims voice. As
a higher voice, when it kicks in to the faster,
heavier, more sinister second half, a starker
difference. You can feel Matts emotion on the bluesy
first half and he sounds positively diabolical towards
Cant wait to hear it all live!
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