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Iced Earth is an American Heavy Metal band from Tampa, Florida. It was formed in 1985 under the name Purgatory by guitarist and main songwriter Jon Schaffer and original drummer Greg Seymour. Iced Earth released their debut album in 1990, have since released ten studio albums, four EPs, three compilations, three box sets, threelive album and one covers album.
After releasing two studio albums in 1990 and 1991, respectively, Iced Earth took a three year layoff from 1992 to 1995, after which the band returned with new lead vocalist Matt Barlow. Iced Earth went on to release four studio albums with Barlow between 1995 and 2001, respectively; 1995's Burnt Offerings, 1996's The Dark Saga, 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes and 2001's Horror Show.
After Horror Show, Barlow quit the band and joined the police force, while Iced Earth continued on with Tim "Ripper" Owens, of Judas Priest fame, on vocals. With Owens, the band released two studio albums (2004's The Glorious Burden and 2007's Framing Armageddon), until late 2007, when it was announced that Matt Barlow would be rejoining the band, after five years apart. Iced Earth recorded the album The Crucible of Man with Barlow in 2008, but in 2011 it was announced that he would be leaving the band once again, this time for good. Later that year, Into Eternity frontman Stu Block was announced as Iced Earth's new lead vocalist. Dystopia, Block's first album with the group, was released in October 2011, and was met with a very positive response, with some critics calling Dystopia one of Iced Earth's best albums. Block's second album with the group, Plagues of Babylon, was released in January 2014.
Since its inception, Iced Earth has had numerous line-up changes, with founder Jon Schaffer staying as the only constant member. As of 2013, there have been over twenty musicians in and out of Iced Earth since its formation in 1985 (see: List of Iced Earth band members for more details). Currently the band is composed of rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, lead guitarist Troy Seele, singer Stu Block, bassist Luke Appleton and drummer Jon Dette.
Formation and early years (1984-1989)
The central figure of Iced Earth is, and has been, guitarist Jon Schaffer, who formed the band on January 20, 1985, in Tampa, Florida. Schaffer's original vision for the band started under the moniker "The Rose" in 1984. The group was very short-lived, after which Schaffer formed a band called Purgatory, which would eventually change its name to Iced Earth. Line-up changes were common within the band, with Jon Schaffer staying as the only constant member. The group recorded a demo in 1985, titled Psychotic Dreams. In 1988, Purgatory changed its name to Iced Earth. According to Schaffer, a friend of his, who died in a motorcycle accident prior to Schaffer moving to Florida was responsible for the name. In 1989, Iced Earth recorded another demo called Enter the Realm, with the line-up of Gene Adam on vocals, Randall Shawver on lead guitar, Dave Abell on bass, Greg Seymour on drums and Jon Schaffer on rhythm guitar and vocals. All of the songs on Enter the Realm would later appear on the band's debut album, with the exception of "Nightmares" and the title track.
Self-titled debut album and Night of the Stormrider (1990-1992)
After getting signed to Century Media Records, the band, now with Mike McGill on drums, started work on their debut album. Recorded at Morrisound Recording, with Tom Morris and Jon Schaffer as producers, Iced Earth was released in November, 1990 in Europe and on February 25, 1991 in the US. Following the album's release, Iced Earth toured across Europe with Blind Guardian.
Following their self-titled debut, Iced Earth quickly began work on their second album. Prior to the recording process, singer Gene Adam was let go from the band after he refused to take singing lessons. Adam was subsequently replaced by John Greely, as was drummer Mike McGill by Richey Secchiari. The album, entitled Night of the Stormrider, was once again recorded at Morrisound Recording, with Schaffer and Tom Morris as producers. The album was released on November 11, 1991, in Europe, but in the US, the album's release was delayed until April 1992, so it wouldn't compete with the group's debut album. Following Night of the Stormrider's release, Iced Earth once again toured Europe with Blind Guardian.
Burnt Offerings and The Dark Saga (1995-1997)
Following the supporting tour for Night of the Stormrider, Iced Earth took a three year layoff from 1992 to 1995. During this downtime, the band was faced with issues that almost resulted in them breaking-up, but eventually Iced Earth resurfaced with Burnt Offerings. Heralded as Iced Earth's heaviest album, Burnt Offerings was released on April 14, 1995, and was the band's first album to feature drummer Rodney Beasley and vocalist Matthew Barlow.
In January, 1996, Iced Earth began recording their fourth studio album, this time with Tom Morris' brother Jim Morris acting as co-producer, along with Jon Schaffer. The album was also the first to feature drummer Mark Prator, and the last to feature longtime bassist Dave Abell, who left the group after finishing recording. Although Abell was credited for playing on the album, bassist Keith Menser appears on the back cover, because Century Media demanded the touring line-up to appear on the cover. Incidentally, Keith Menser was fired after he didn't learn any of the band's songs for the tour, so he was soon replaced by James MacDonough. Mark Prator was also let go from the band, and was subsequently replaced by Brent Smedley. Released on May 23, 1996, The Dark Saga was a concept album based on the comic book character Spawn. Musically the album was much more melodic and simplified compared to previous Iced Earth albums. For the supporting tour, Iced Earth was joined by Nevermore.
On April 21, 1997, Iced Earth released their first compilation album: Days of Purgatory. The album featured songs from their first two albums, as well as the Enter the Realm demo, resung by Matt Barlow, with new drums and bass on some tracks as well. The album also featured a few songs from Burnt Offerings, remixed and remastered.
Something Wicked This Way Comes and Alive in Athens (1998-1999)
In March, 1998, work began on the band's fifth studio album, with Jim Morris returning as the producer. Prior to the recording process, long-time guitarist Randall Shawver left the group. Guitarist Larry Tarnowski handled lead guitar duties on the album, but wasn't credited as a full-time member of the band, but as a session musician. Brent Smedley was also unable to play on the album, due to personal reasons, and was temporarily replaced by Mark Prator, whom Smedley had originally replaced in 1996. Released on June 17, 1998, Something Wicked This Way Comes was notable for featuring the debut of Jon Schaffer's Something Wicked Saga, which he would expand upon on future albums. While on the supporting tour for Something Wicked This Way Comes (with Brent Smedley back on drums), the band recorded their first live album in Athens, Greece on January 23 and January 24, 1999. Entitled Alive in Athens, the three CD set was recorded in front of a sold-out audience (both nights) at the Rodon Club. The album was released on July 19, 1999.
Also in 1999, the band released The Melancholy E.P.. Originally conceived as a radio-only single, the EP contained three previously released songs ("Melancholy (Holy Martyr)", "Watching Over Me" and "I Died for You"), as well as two new ones (cover versions of Bad Company's "Shooting Star" and Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral"). However, Century Media Records did not end-up releasing the EP, so it was made available for fans as a limited 1500-copy special release.
Horror Show (2000-2003)
In 2000, work began on Iced Earth's sixth studio album. Entitled Horror Show, the album contained songs based on horror films and literature, such as Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera and the Wolf Man. Released on June 26, 2001, the album was the band's first to feature drummer Richard Christy, and the third with guitarist Larry Tarnowski (now a full-time member). Originally Steve DiGiorgio played bass on the album, but left the group after the recording process. According to Jon Schaffer, DiGiorgio was required and agreed to go on tour, but left due to "prior commitments." He was replaced by James MacDonough. Horror Show was also the first Iced Earth album to be partially recorded at Jon Schaffer's home studio "Schaffer Sound."
On November 26, 2001 (March 5, 2002 in America) the band released the boxset Dark Genesis, which featured the band's first three albums plus the Enter the Realm -demo, remastered and remixed with new cover art. The set also featured a new album, entitled Tribute to the Gods. It was Iced Earth's first and only cover album, featuring songs from such bands as Iron Maiden, Kiss and Blue Öyster Cult.
After the events of 9/11, Matt Barlow came to the conclusion that he wanted to start contributing to the "real world." Barlow approached Schaffer with this in late 2002, but Schaffer convinced Barlow to stay with the band. When Iced Earth began recording their next studio album, Schaffer realized that Barlow's vocals were not what he desired; he felt that they lacked passion and quality, so he decided to let Barlow go after all. Barlow became a police officer in the Georgetown Police Dept. in Georgetown, Delaware.
The Glorious Burden (2003-2004)
After Barlow's departure, Iced Earth continued work on their next album, and eventually Jon Schaffer got Tim "Ripper" Owens, from Judas Priest, to sing on the record as a favor. Owens, who was still in Judas Priest at the time, was originally supposed to be credited as a guest musician, but after singer Rob Halford rejoined Judas Priest, Owens joined Iced Earth full-time. Prior to the recording process, Larry Tarnowski was let go from the band, so the lead guitar parts on the album were played by producer Jim Morris and session guitarist Ralph Santolla.
Prior to the album's release, Iced Earth released The Reckoning. The single contained four songs off the new album, that the band felt were most likely to get radio airplay. The Glorious Burden was released on January 12, 2004, in Europe and on January 13, in the United States. Much like how Horror Show was based on horror films and literature, The Glorious Burden was inspired by historical events. It was also the band's first album with their new record company SPV. Following the supporting tour, James MacDonough left Iced Earth to join Megadeth.
Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 (2005-2007)
After The Glorious Burden, work began on the group's next album, which would be an expanded concept album on the "Something Wicked" storyline from Something Wicked This Way Comes. Before starting work on the album, Iced Earth was faced with multiple line-up changes. In July, 2006, Ernie Carletti was chosen as the group's new lead guitar player, but after being faced with rape and kidnapping charges, he was replaced by Tim Mills. Incidentally, Tim Mills was also forced to leave Iced Earth in order to concentrate on his own business, "Bare Knuckle Pickups". In October, 2006, Brent Smedley rejoined Iced Earth once again, replacing Richard Christy on the drums. Because the band were left without a bassist and lead guitar player, Jon Schaffer ended up performing most of the lead guitar and bass parts on the album (although some tracks featured playing from producer Jim Morris, guitarist Troy Seele and bassist Dennis Hayes). In May, 2007, Seele was announced as a permanent member of the band, as was Dennis Hayes two months earlier.
Before releasing the full-length album, Iced Earth released the EP Overture of the Wicked, which featured re-recorded versions of the original "Something Wicked Trilogy" as well as a brand new track, entitled "Ten Thousand Strong". Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 was released on September 7, 2007, in Germany, September 10, in the rest of Europe, and on September 11, in the United States.
The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2 (2007-2010)
In December, 2007, it was announced that Matt Barlow would be rejoining Iced Earth after five years. Following his return, work continued on Iced Earth's next album, originally titled Revelation Abomination: Something Wicked Part 2. Majority of the album's music had been recorded at the same time as Framing Armageddon, and originally Jon Schaffer had planned to finish the album after the end of 2007. However work on the album had to be pushed back, due to Barlow's prior commitments to his other band, Pyramaze. In early 2008, it was announced that Dennis Hayes had been replaced by bassist Freddie Vidales.
Before releasing their next full-length album, Iced Earth released the single I Walk Among You, which contained a new song from the forthcoming album, as well as two song from Framing Armageddon, resung by Matt Barlow. After being retitled The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2, Iced Earth's ninth studio album was released in September, 2008. After The Crucible of Man, the band released Box of the Wicked, in early 2010. The boxset contained Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, The Crucible Of Man: Something Wicked Part 2, the Overture of the Wicked EP and the I Walk Among You single, as well as a bonus CD, containing one song from Framing Armageddon, now with Matt Barlow on lead vocals, as well as three previously unreleased live tracks from the Graspop Metal Meeting festival in 2008. The boxset also included a poster and a booklet. Also in early 2010, Iced Earth signed a new contract with their former record company, Century Media Records.
In March, 2011, Matt Barlow issued a statement on Iced Earth's official website, stating that he was retiring from the band due to family commitments, among other things. Barlow still took part in the band's 2011 summer tour, and played his final show with Iced Earth on August 6, 2011, at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany. Shortly after announcing Barlow's departure, Iced Earth revealed that Into Eternity frontman Stu Block had been chosen as the band's new lead vocalist. With Stu Block now on board, Iced Earth began recording their next studio album in May, 2011.
On June 27, 2011, the band released the DVD Festivals of the Wicked, which featured shows from Metal Camp Open Air (2008), the Rock Hard Festival (2008) and Wacken Open Air (2007). On September 7, 2011, Iced Earth released a re-recorded version of the song "Dante's Inferno", from the album Burnt Offerings. The band's new album Dystopia was released on October 17, 2011 in Europe and October 18 in the United States. While not a concept album, many of the album's songs were inspired by dystopian themes and films such as V for Vendetta, Dark City and Equilibrium. Two songs ("Dystopia" and "Tragedy and Triumph") also featured the return of the "Something Wicked" storyline. After the Dystopia's release, Iced Earth kicked off the Dystopia World Tour, which was heralded as "the most extensive world tour Iced Earth has ever undertaken" and that it would take the band "to countries it has never previously played."
On April 10, 2012, it was announced that Freddie Vidales had left Iced Earth. He was subsequently replaced by Luke Appleton from Fury UK. On August 19, 2012, Iced Earth recorded a new live CD/DVD in Cyprus, entitled Live in Ancient Kourion.
Plagues of Babylon (2013-present)
Jon Schaffer announced that Iced Earth would begin writing new material for their eleventh studio album in early 2013. The title was later confirmed as Plagues of Babylon, and the album was released in January 2014. On May 6th, 2013, Iced Earth announced that drummer Brent Smedley had left the band due to personal reasons, to be replaced by Raphael Saini. Saini played drums on the upcoming album as well as filling in on tour. Jon Dette took over on drums in November 2013. In January 2014, Plagues Of Babylon reached position #5 on the German Media Control Charts, this is the band's highest chart position in their entire career.
Musical style and lyrical themes
Iced Earth has commonly been described as heavy metal, thrash metal, power metal and progressive metal. When asked about the band's musical style, Jon Schaffer, Iced Earth's chief songwriter, said: "We're a metal band. That's what we are. We have every dynamic from Pink Floyd to Slayer and everything in between."
Iced Earth's music has evolved and shifted several times during the band's history. On the group's 1990 self-titled debut album, the band's sound was characterized by time changes, acoustic passages and Iron Maiden-type galloping rhythms. Many of these elements carried over to the follow-up album Night of the Stormrider, which added keyboards and piano, as well as some choral arrangements. 1995's Burnt Offerings has been heralded as Iced Earth's heaviest album, and included the band's longest song to date, "Dante's Inferno." As a counter measure to Burnt Offerings, 1996's The Dark Saga featured a much more subdued sound compared to previous releases. The focus was less on technical musicianship, but on emotion and melody. Something Wicked This Way Comes combined elements found on previous albums with brand new ideas. The "Something Wicked Trilogy," which closes the album, took many cues from the Night of the Stormrider album. Iced Earth continued to expand their sound throughout the 2000s, like adding a full-piece orchestra to the song "Gettysburg" from 2004's The Glorious Burden.
Common lyrical themes in Iced Earth's music have been religion, history, fantasy, literature, and films. The band has also released several concept albums, the first being 1991's Night of the Stormrider. The second, 1996's The Dark Saga, was based on the Todd McFarlane comic book character Spawn. 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes introduced the Something Wicked Saga, which was later expanded upon on 2007's Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, and 2008's The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2. Iced Earth have also released several albums written around a theme. 2001's Horror Show was largely based on horror literature and films, 2004's The Glorious Burden was inspired by history and war, while 2011's Dystopia centered around dystopian themes in literature and film.