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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Reviews: Iced Earth, Exit Ten, Charred Walls Of The Damned

Iced Earth: Dystopia (Century Media)

American Traditional Metal legends Iced Earth return with their new solo album and their first after the retirement of Matt Barlow. Much like with Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden and Rob Halford in Judas Priest, Matt Barlow can be considered to be 'the voice' of Iced Earth, so, like Priest when they replaced him with Tim 'Ripper' Owens there was a great vocalist but not the one everyone wanted. So when Barlow returned for the second part of the 'Something Wicked' concept albums there were a lot of happy faces. This changed when Barlow announced his departure however in Canadian Stu Block, formally of Into Eternity, they have found a fantastic replacement. Not only can he do the mid-range power vocals of Barlow but also the shrill screams of Ripper. The album itself is the first album to not to be based on the concept since The Glorious Burden only the title track and Tragedy And Triumph are based on the continuing concept. This album is one of Iced Earths heaviest with many of the tracks heavy and unrelenting showing of Block's brilliant voice, creative genius Jon Schaffer's unrivalled rhythm playing and Troy Steele's melodic and aggressive leads and solos. Both the first title track and final track Tragedy And Triumph use the metal favourite of Holst’s Mars: Bringer Of War before launching into a thrashy assault with Dystopia and a Maiden homage with Tragedy And Triumph. Many of the songs are based on dystopian themes and films with V and Equilibrium both being based on the films of the same name. The track Anguish Of Youth has a similar style to The Dark Saga's I Died For You. Block's voice is at its best on his self-penned number End Of Innocence but throughout the album he is simply awesome. The disciples of Barlow will not be able to complain, his voice is flawless and this is classic Iced Earth sounding as hungry as they ever were. Tremendous. 9/10

Exit Ten: Give Me Infinity (Deep Burn Records)

After surviving the trials and tribulations of an unpredictable music world Exit Ten return with their second full length album. The band had a great debut with Remember The Day but many ignored it because of two reasons. Firstly the band looked like a fringed Emo band and the second was that the album was deleted after the record company went bankrupt meaning the band had to buy back their own album! However they have weathered this storm and come back stronger. Whereas Remember The Day was a melodic rock album with some progressive touches, like expressive guitar work, some keys and a very clean vocal delivery, this second album bring a distinctly more prog feel to the album. The band have created an 'album' meaning that all of the tracks fit perfectly together and it is definitely an album that needs to be heard from start to finish. The opener has a distinctly In Me feel (a band that Exit Ten are similar to in style) and this begins a very cathartic, upbeat and intensely technical album. The technicality doesn't get in the way of the bands core values of great song writing. Some of the highlights of this album is the track Drama which has a great almost Breaking Benjamin guitar riff and segues into a piano led outro, the heavy Curtain Call and the grungy Mountain. One of the keys to Exit Ten's uniqueness is their vocalist Ryan Redman who has an expansive and emotive voice that is equally suited to high balladry and gritty rocking. This is an album that needs to be heard, from a band that merges elements of Fightstar, Pearl Jam, InMe and Muse to create a fantastic album from a band that are so young. 9/10

Charred Walls Of The Damned: Cold Winds On Timeless Days (Metal Blade)

The first CWOTD album was a 30 minute speed/thrash album that came from the mind of former Death/Iced Earth drummer (and Howard Stern alumni) Richard Christy. He created the first album in his house before inviting Death bassist Steve Di Giorgio, screamer Tim 'Ripper' Owens and producer and guitarist extraordinaire Jason Suecof. The first album was short, sharp blast of heavy metal that was somewhat disjointed but enjoyable. This second album is both longer and more accomplished than its predecessor, Christy still blast beats furiously through many of the songs, with Suecof riffing like a demon melding heavy power with intricate melodies. It is however when the band eases off the gas that they become more of an interesting protest. Ripper's voice to be its usual blend of screams and Dio-like power. The album is not perfect nor is it necessarily essential but it is enjoyable for any fan of heavy metal or the people involved. 7/10 

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