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

Album Review – Geisterwald / Geisterwald EP (2018)

From the haunted woods of the Swiss city of Geneva, here comes an infernal masked duo armed with their mechanized and uproarious Industrial Metal.

Formed in 2017 in Geneva, a city in Switzerland that lies at the southern tip of Lac Léman, Industrial Metal masked duo Geisterwald is unleashing upon humanity this year their self-titled debut EP, channeling all their passion for heavy music and their musical backgrounds into their newborn spawn. Comprised of Harald Wolken on vocals, guitars and synths and Gaëlle Blumer on drums, and with all of the songs from the album being entirely sung in their mother tongue German, Geisterwald are ready to make an uproarious impact on the underground Industrial Metal scene, with the music found in their debut EP being a fantastic taste of what those two Swiss metallers are capable of when armed with their gas masks and their metallic instruments.

The EP kicks off with an ominous intro sounding as if a beast is rising from a dark and tenebrous pit in the mechanized Alte Körper (which should translate as “old body” if I’m not mistaken), where Gaëlle crushes her drums while Harald alternates between deep, primeval growls and eerie clean vocals, resulting in a heavier-than-hell display of Industrial Metal infused with Neue Deutsche Härte. Just as insane and piercing, Kreuz (or “cross”) presents the duo building an industrialized atmosphere with their menacing sounds, with Gaëlle delivering both traditional metal beats and more factory-like sounds while Harald brings a touch of delicacy and lunacy to the overall music with his synths.

Then get ready for a dark and demented Neue Deutsche Härte extravaganza titled Wolf, sounding and feeling intense, macabre and demented all at once, with its somber guitars and the howl of a wolf being the details that make it so compelling and vibrant. Furthermore, Harald’s vocals feel truly demonic amidst the thunderous sound of the drums by Gaëlle, showcasing the amazing synchronicity between them. And the last blast of modern metal music by this infernal duo of masked marauders comes in the form of old school Industrial Metal the likes of Ministry and Rammstein, titled Schlag Stärker (which means something like “hit harder”). Simply bang your head nonstop to such heavy tune, where we’re able to enjoy a merciless Gaëlle on drums while Harald does what he knows best, which is growling deeply and in the most enraged way possible.

Whatever comes next for this talented duo is probably going to be even more insane and destructive than their debut EP, and while we wait for more top-tier Industrial Metal made in Switzerland let’s all go check what Geisterwald (which by the way is a wordplay in German for “ghost forest” or “haunted woods”) are up to on Facebook, including the dates for their wicked live performances, listen to their music on SoundCloud, and purchase a copy of their debut EP from BandCamp, from Big Cartel or from Amazon. As a matter of fact, I guess you wouldn’t mind getting lost in the haunted woods of Geneva and face the industrialized roars by Geisterwald, would you?

Best moments of the album: Schlag Stärker.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Intro 1:01
2. Alte Körper 3:20
3. Kreuz 3:33
4. Wolf 3:21
5. Schlag Stärker 4:20

Band members
Harald Wolken – vocals, synths
Gaëlle Blumer – drums

Album Review – Sonata Arctica / Pariah’s Child (2014)

What in the name of Ukko is this garbage?

Rating10

pariahs_childAccording to the Merrian-Webster Online Dictionary,  the definition of the word shame can be “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety”, “a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute”, or “something that brings censure or reproach; something to be regretted”. However, there should be a new item added to this list: the new album from Finnish Power Metal band Sonata Arctica, the horrible Pariah’s Child.

Honestly, I don’t even know where to start, or even if I should start talking about what was supposed to be called “music” in Pariah’s Child. It’s not Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Hard Rock, or even basic Rock N’ Roll, it’s just pure garbage that will make your ears bleed of annoyance if you don’t stay away from what is a serious contender for “worst album of the year”. There’s some blah blah blah that Pariah’s Child marks the return of wolf-themed songs, that “wolf” is a metaphor for fear, that it’s “old” Sonata, but nothing really works in this shameful disgrace. Instead of keeping drinking some good old Koskenkorva Viina, it seems Tony Kakko had a really bad trip with counterfeit LSD.

You might be deceived by The Wolves Die Young, which not a terrible way to start (even with that irritating sound from the keyboards), and think I’m exaggerating when I say the whole album sucks, but after listening to the “happy garbage” Running Lights, the most generic thing you can find in the world of heavy music (especially the totally forgettable guitar solos), and the even worse Take One Breath, you’ll start asking yourself “what the fuck is this shit?”, or even screaming out loud “please, make them stop!”

Still not convinced? Well, even if you have ears of steel like the Superman, the “kryptonite” song Cloud Factory will take care of it and make them explode, so stupid and boring this thing (which some people dare to call a song) is. Or maybe after listening to the more than awful Blood you might considering burning all your Heavy Metal albums and become a monk in Tibet, where the only thing you’ll hear is beautiful SILENCE.

sonata_arcticaBut believe me, as incredible as it may sound, the last part of Pariah’s Child gets A LOT worse than that. What Did You Do in the War, Dad? with its cheesy lyrics is so bad, but so bad, that I have no words to describe it; Half a Marathon Man is a totally failed Hard Rock attempt (it’s NOT a beautiful day!); and X Marks the Spot is pure nonsense and, more important than that, a warning to stop listening to the album before things get even more nightmarish.

If you love Sonata Arctica more than your life and didn’t get the warning from the previous song, then it’s your fault you’ll have to listen to the mellow torture called Love. I think even Ukko, the High God of the sky, weather, harvest and thunder in Finnish mythology, would cut his wrists and blood would rain over Finland after listening to this trash! And finally comes Larger Than Life, a 10-minute torment that in the hands of a supreme tyrant like Kim Jong-un could be used as the most powerful torture device ever seen in the history of mankind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Finnish Metal and was really expecting with an open heart another good album from this decent band from the land of ice and snow, but in this case it’s impossible not to hate every single minute of this shit. I’m just giving Pariah’s Child a 0.5 for some respect I have for Sonata Arctica’s old stuff and for the band members being nice guys, because it actually deserved a HUGE FUCKIN’ ZERO. Not even the well-done album art showing a lonely wolf (or a pariah) saves it. Unfortunately that’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but a very sad and shameful truth.

Best moments of the album: A few parts of The Wolves Die Young are somewhat acceptable.

Worst moments of the album: Everything else. Pariah’s Child is a total nightmare.

Released in 2014 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Wolves Die Young 4:13
2. Running Lights 4:26
3. Take One Breath 4:19
4. Cloud Factory 4:17
5. Blood 5:54
6. What Did You Do in the War, Dad? 5:13
7. Half a Marathon Man 5:43
8. X Marks the Spot 5:20
9. Love 3:50
10. Larger Than Life 9:57

Band members
Tony Kakko – vocals
Elias Viljanen – guitar
Pasi Kauppinen – bass guitar
Henrik Klingenberg – keyboards
Tommy Portimo – drums