Last week I played through a new video game entitled “Dates Inferno”. As you might guess, it is based on the 1st part of Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is a really cool game. It is a lot like God of War for those of you who have only an XBOX 360. Anyway, upon finishing it the second time, I played through a mini-game entitled “The Gates of Hell”. I decided what better music to Hack & Slash demons to than Iced Earth’s “Dante’s Inferno” based on the same subject matter. The nearly 17 minute track is the concluding aria to a dark, but brilliant, album entitled “Burnt Offerings”. Burnt Offerings was released April 18, 1995. It is the 3rd studio release and the first to feature new vocalist, Matthew Barlow. Burnt Offerings is said to have been written during a time of turmoil and anger, particularly focusing on a dispute with the band’s then record label, Century Media. Schaffer himself claims it is his least favorite IE album due to the negativity of that time and his mindset in writing it. But, after nearly 3 years of legal issues and mistreatment of the band, Burnt Offerings arrives.
Upon first listening, I was in LOVE with Barlow’s vocals. He is not as technically proficient as “Stormrider” vocalist John Greeley, but Matt has something no other IE vocalist has… emotion. When Matt sings about doomed lovers in “Last December”, I feel their pain. I feel his rage on the title track, and his disappointment on “Creator Failure”. The tragic beauty of his lament is heart wrenching on “The Pierced Spirit”, a track that leads into one of the highlights of the Iced Earth catalog… “Dante’s Inferno”. A brilliant song as epic as the poem itself. Jon utilizes lines from the great work along with relating the enormous 1st act through lyric that convey the main thrust of Inferno, without leaving the listener feeling that something is missing. This was the last album to feature the Trash metal influences felt on the previous albums. With vocalist Matt Barlow firmly entrenched as the voice of Iced Earth, the band became a more traditional metal band… along the lines of Iron maiden or Judas Priest. Though still very heavy (mainly due to Jon’s triple picking style and IE’s subject matter), they became very melodic. I will probably write of my love of the years following in future blogs.
Iced Earth’s inclusion of Matthew Barlow cemented my interest forever in Iced Earth. The meeting I had with Jon, Matt, and the rest of the band, guaranteed my devotion to the band. I have rarely met artist who seem so appreciative of their fans and are just genuinely good people to talk too. Here is a story I realted to the readers a Metal Odyssey. I was refering to a song by Death Angel entitled “Veil of Deception” & incorrectly stated “Mistress of Deception”, a song by the Thrash Metal band, Coroner. That’s the set-up, here goes:
My apologies… “Veil of Deception”. For some reason I confused the Coroner song with the Death Angel song. Alot of Metal knowledge banging around in my head and sometimes I access the wrong factoid. On that, the worst situation I could have possibly imagined occured in 1997 with Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth. We were talking about the just released “Days of Purgatory” set when I commented to him how much I liked Matt’s (Matthew Barlow) vocals on “When The Night Comes Down”, as opposed to vocals originally laid down by Gene Adams. As I am sure you know, “When The Night Comes Down” is a Judas Priest song and I meant to say the song “When The Night Falls”. I was mortified. In my world, I am the guy who knows all things METAL. What a slip up. We happened to be listening to Priest on the way to see Iced Earth. That is no excuse. I have to state, Jon was gracious in his correction, to me, of my error. I told him “I am so sorry, I did not mean any insult in stating the wrong song title.” That is literally what I said. His retort “You confused us with Priest, how am I supposed to be insulted by that?” He was so cool to us the rest of the night. Signed album after album, gave us some merch, just really a class act… the whole band. I will never forget that day.