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Iced Earth - "Overture of the Wicked" (CD/EP)

Iced Earth - "Overture of the Wicked" CD/EP cover image

"Overture of the Wicked" track listing:

1. Ten Thousand Strong
2. Prophecy
3. Birth of the Wicked
4. The Coming Curse

Reviewed by on December 8, 2007

"Overall, Owens' performance was better than adequate. It wasn't as good as Barlow's, but it wasn't off by much."

Iced Earth released the "Overture of the Wicked" EP in advance of their new Epic full-length "Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1" (now released also). The EP features four songs, including one new song, "Ten Thousand Strong," as well as the "Something Wicked" Trilogy from the 1998 release "Something Wicked This Way Comes," re-mixed with Tim "Ripper" Owens on vocals.

I approached this preview of Iced Earth's Epic full-length warily, as my enjoyment of the band has been tempered since Matt Barlow's exit several years ago. I am a big fan of "Something Wicked This Way Comes," however, and my primary skepticism was that those songs would be well-executed by Owens.

The first song hit me with exactly what I don't like about much power metal or Owens - a high-pitched wailing lasting several seconds. Once that dreadful start passed, however, "Ten Thousand Strong" sounded like an excellent song, with a powerful lead riff and a decent pace. Owens sings "Ten Thousand Strong" well, utilizing his range, but singing most of the verses and chorus in a lower tone, much to my liking, although he did repeat the wailing near the end of the song.

The next three songs were from the "Something Wicked" Trilogy and they immediately sounded different to me--more like "Ten Thousand Strong" in production. The changes to the mix were much more noticeable in these renditions of older songs though. The low-end felt weaker, with the bass line being softened significantly and the guitars sounding a bit thinner. The guitar lead at three-minutes into "Prophecy" was dropped, much to my dismay. "Birth of the Wicked" and "The Coming Curse" unfolded with small changes, as well. The piano parts in "The Coming Curse" were removed entirely, which I am ambivalent about. The trilogy seemed to play out at a faster pace but no longer flowed together as it once did. Overall, Owens' performance was better than adequate. It wasn't as good as Barlow's, but it wasn't off by much.

While mastermind Jon Schaffer is capable of creating Epic stories and musical works, I didn't feel that all of the changes to the classic songs were for the better. One can't help but recognize such revisionism and question if Schaffer's own vision could ultimately negatively impact fans' enjoyment of these classic songs that he is revisiting in his newest full-length. Had this simply been a four-song EP of power metal, I wouldn't think much of it. "Overture of the Wicked" is decent, and at times good, but nothing overly impressive. However, to my already lowered, but still somewhat high expectations of Iced Earth, I am slightly disappointed and a bit skeptical of the upcoming (now recently released) "Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1."

Highs: "Ten Thousand Strong" is perhaps the best Owens-era Iced Earth song to date

Lows: The production of the remakes sounds weaker and other changes to the classic songs reek of revisionism

Bottom line: "Overture of the Wicked" is a decent power metal release, but I expect more from Iced Earth

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)