Album Review – Iced Earth / Horror Show (2001)

Are you looking for the ultimate Heavy Metal soundtrack to spice up your Halloween party? Mr. Jon Schaffer and his henchmen can definitely help you with that.

IcedEarth-HorrorShowTampa, Florida-based Power/Thrash Metal veterans Iced Earth might be one of the most underrated bands in the history of heavy music, and I believe they’re not bigger or more famous due to Mr. Jon Schaffer’s fickle temper, which has resulted in countless (and unstable) lineup changes in the history of the band, lowering any expectations a fan might have about their future. I personally don’t care that much about the mood of any musician, as long as this doesn’t negatively affect the overall quality of the music. Take a look at Dave Mustaine and Dani Filth, for example, and you’ll notice there are some changes in their music, but the core essence of Megadeth and Cradle of Filth is always there for the delight of their fans. Due to those constant changes you never know exactly what to expect from Iced Earth, as they sometimes deliver really bad material, but fortunately for all of us their 2001 album Horror Show showcases the Iced Earth we all want to listen to, sounding powerful, well-engendered and, above all, very creative and entertaining.

Horror Show is not just a traditional Heavy Metal album, also bringing a lot of the energy from Power Metal and some of the violence found in Thrash Metal, and that’s in my opinion the best “formula” Jon and his crew can offer us. Furthermore, it’s kind of  a concept album focused on different horror stories, making it even more interesting for Heavy Metal fans that also enjoy reading a frightful book or going to the movies to see a good dosage of monsters and blood. For instance, all songs on the album are based on classic horror films, from werewolves to vampires and mummies, and many of the lyrics are lifted directly from the source material, proving that when Jon doesn’t let his personal issues interfere in his music, the final result is always fantastic. Add to all that some incredibly talented musicians like Matt Barlow on vocals, Larry Tarnowski on the lead guitar, Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on bass and Richard Christy (Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on drums, and there you have the utmost recipe for awesomeness.

Wolf, the first track of the album inspired by The Wolf Man films, is an excellent heavy song to kick things off, showing why Jon is considered by many one of the best riff-makers in Heavy Metal. The speed of the song and its grinding riffs give it an amazing Thrash Metal touch, not to mention its chorus inspired by a poem that is recited in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, making any fan excited for the rest of the album. Then we have Damien, inspired by The Omen films, presenting outstanding lyrics that make a lot of sense if you have read the book or seen the movies like I’ve done (“When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet fills the sky / The Holy Roman Empire rises / And you and I must die”). As a matter of fact, the chorus was taken from the 1976 film The Omen, and the spoken section was adapted from a speech in its 1981 sequel, Omen III: The Final Conflict, just to give you a sense of how detailed this song is. Things get even better in Jack, inspired by the one and only Jack the Ripper, with Jon slashing our ears with his riffs in great “Ripper” fashion. Moreover, perhaps the funniest thing about this song is that Horror Show was the last studio album (apart from their album of cover songs called Tribute to the Gods, from 2002) Matt recorded before Tim “Ripper” Owens (The Ripper himself!) joined the band in 2003 and recorded The Glorious Burden in 2004, which is for me one of their best and most consistent albums of all.

The album continues with Ghost of Freedom, the only song that wasn’t inspired by any horror movie or character. It’s a very beautiful ballad and one of the top moments of the whole album, showing us a more “romantic” side of Jon and how good Matt’s voice can be even when he’s not screaming. The following three songs might not be masterpieces, but they surely keep the album at a high level of adrenaline and epicness. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) (inspired by The Mummy), Jekyll & Hyde (inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Dragon’s Child (inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon) not only have amazing concepts, but the music itself is very pleasant and cohesive, embracing us all and pulling us deeper into the world of horror created by the band throughout the entire album.

IcedEarth_Promo2001Frankenstein (“surprisingly” inspired by Frankenstein) is even better than those three tracks, raising your energy level and making you want to headbang like a crazy motherfucker, followed by the best song of Horror Show without a shadow of a doubt, the stunning Dracula (also “astoundingly” inspired by Dracula), a metal masterpiece that’s absolutely flawless from start to finish, presenting to the listener the duo Jon and Matt at the peak of their forms. This is an all-time fan favorite and a mandatory track in any of the band’s live setlists, also bringing to our avid ears ass-kicking lyrics (“Do you believe in love? / Do you believe in destiny? / True love may come only once in a thousand lifetimes…”). Lastly, we have The Phantom Opera Ghost, obviously inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, and despite all the additional elements and musicians it sounds too pretentious and doesn’t deliver what the fans are actually expecting.

The limited edition has a bonus disc with two totally opposite moments: an incredible cover for Iron Maiden’s Transylvania, where Jon does what he does best with his guitar; and a tedious interview with him that lasts for over an hour. I guess there’s a one-disc version of Horror Show that includes Transylvania as a regular track, so if I were you that’s the one I would buy. And finally, one thing that Iced Earth have always delivered are stunning album arts. The band’s own mascot, Set Abominae, might not be part of the compositions this time, but he certainly makes the front cover of Horror Show designed by Danny Miki and Travis Smith darkly captivating. In a nutshell, Horror Show, which makes the already distant year of 2001 look like it just happened yesterday, is a mandatory choice for that Heavy Metal Halloween party you’re planning with your friends (as well as a good source of inspiration for your costumes), or maybe you can just dress up as Jon Schaffer and walk around your neighborhood playing some of the tracks from Horror Show on your guitar, how about that? We could even call this new Halloween tradition as “Trick or Thrash”.

Best moments of the album: Wolf, Damien, Ghost of Freedom, Dracula and Transylvania.

Worst moments of the album: The Phantom Opera Ghost.

Released in 2001 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Wolf 5:20
2. Damien 9:12
3. Jack 4:14
4. Ghost of Freedom 5:12
5. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) 4:45
6. Jekyll & Hyde 4:39
7. Dragon’s Child 4:21
8. Frankenstein 3:50
9. Dracula 5:54
10. The Phantom Opera Ghost 8:41

Limited Edition Disc Two
11. Transylvania (Iron Maiden cover) 4:30
12. Interview with Jon Schaffer (conducted by Sumit Chandra) 69:27

Band members
Matt Barlow – vocals
Jon Schaffer – guitar
Larry Tarnowski – lead guitar
Steve DiGiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums

Guest musicians
Yunhui Percifield – lead vocals on “The Phantom Opera Ghost” as “Christine”, backing vocals
Jim Morris – guitar solo on “Ghost of Freedom”, keys, backing vocals
Howard Helm – keys (pipe organ) on “The Phantom Opera Ghost”
Richie Wilkison, Rafaela Farias & Sam King – backing vocals

Concert Review – Tarja Turunen (Tom Brasil, São Paulo, Brazil, 10/24/2015)

Tarja’s fans never disappoint when she plays in Brazil and, this time, they said goodbye to the “Colours in the Road” tour in a night full of love, gratitude and amazing songs.

OPENING ACT: Mad Old Lady

Tarja_Saturday night, October 24, was an example on how multicultural a big city like São Paulo can be. That night, the city hosted several concerts, on small, medium and big venues, of small and big bands and there was no reason to one stay at home. One of the shows that night was of the Finnish singer Tarja Turunen, at Tom Brasil. She came back to the country a year after her last show here and, this time, with nothing less than seven dates in Brazil to end the Colours in the Road tour, that also had dates in Mexico and El Salvador and ends with concerts in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina in November.

The Brazilian band MAD OLD LADY were the opening act of the night. Formed by Eduardo Parras (vocals), Guga Bento (drums), Rafael Agostino (keyboards), Timo Kaarkoski and Tiago de Moura (guitars) and Fernando Giovanetti (bass), they were one of the bands that recently played at Motörhead’s MotörBoat (the only Brazilian act in this edition) and, back to Brazil, they were responsible for entertaining the audience that was waiting for the Finnish soprano. Mad Old Lady are a well-known band by Tarja’s fans for they also were the opening act of her previous concert in town, in 2014. The fans enjoyed an honest concert and saw on stage competent musicians playing songs of their album Power of the Warrior, and even a cover for Metallica’s Enter Sandman, sang by the bassist Fernando, the highlight of their show for many.

Band members
Eduardo Parras – vocals
Timo Kaarkoski – guitars
Tiago de Moura – guitars
Fernando Giovanetti – bass
Rafael Agostino – keyboards
Guga Bento – drums

TARJA TURUNEN

tarja_19

Photos by Yuri Murakami – http://www.sleepychaos.com.br

All the expectations of the night, of course, were kept for TARJA TURUNEN. October marked the tenth year since Tarja left Nightwish and the fans, always loving and supportive, were excited to see her once again on stage. The enthusiasm of the crowd was in high levels with the entrance of the musicians that form Tarja’s band in this tour: Guillermo De Medio (keyboards), Nicolas Polo (drums), Pit Barrett (bass), Alex Scholp and Julian Barrett (guitars). To the sound of the first tunes of The Phantom of the Opera, composed by Baron Lloyd-Webber, Tarja was the last one to come onstage and drove her fans to pure happiness while singing the famous song of the musical.

tarja_04

Photos by Yuri Murakami – http://www.sleepychaos.com.br

Smiling and talkative all the time, Tarja showed that she deserves the title of one of the greatest divas of heavy metal: between the songs, she always took a moment to thank the love and support of the fans, in English, Spanish and even in Portuguese, received many presents, like stuffed bears, dolls and love letters, and said that she considers Brazil as her fourth home. The setlist of the night was very generous and mixed songs from her three solo albums, some covers and even a new and yet unreleased song, No Bitter End, that Tarja said it will be in her upcoming album, to be released in 2016. The fans made a beautiful side show following the singer all the time clapping, screaming and singing along with her.

tarja_09

Photos by Yuri Murakami – http://www.sleepychaos.com.br

Among the covers, Tarja also revealed being an huge fan of James Bond’s movies and sang Goldfinger, theme song of the movie released in 1964. The Finnish diva also sang Slaying the Dreamer, a Nightwish song that she hasn’t sung since her departure of the band, and the night ended up with Gary Moore’s classic Over the Hills and Far Away, also famous as a cover released by her former band. There was still room in the night for a special birthday celebration to drummer Nicolas Polo, with everybody singing for him and Tarja bringing him a cake in shape of a snare drum. During this moment of the party, Tarja once again showed her gratitude to her loyal fans and said it was a pleasure and an honour to come to Brazil at the beginning and also at the end of this tour. When the show was almost over, during Until My Last Breath, one of the most known songs of her solo career, she came down the stage to salute all the fans that were on the front row.

Undoubtedly that was a memorable and very special night. Tarja is a talented singer like no other, she has a very strong presence and a charisma that few vocalists in heavy metal show in and out of the stage, as well as a legion of really dedicated and passionate fans. If it was an honour for her to play twice in Brazil with this tour, can you imagine how special it was to her fans? Certainly we all are already waiting for the return of this beautiful Finnish diva with the release of the new album, next year.

Setlist
The Phantom of the Opera
500 Letters
Ciarán’s Well
Falling Awake
I Walk Alone
Anteroom of Death
Never Enough
Dark Star
Neverlight
Until Silence
No Bitter End
Goldfinger
Deliverance
Victim of Ritual
Slaying the Dreamer
Die Alive
Until My Last Breath
Over the Hills and Far Away

Band members
Tarja Turunen – vocals
Guillermo De Medio – keyboards
Nicolas Polo – drums
Pit Barrett – bass
Alex Scholp – guitars
Julian Barrett – guitars