ICED EARTH – Something Wicked This Way Comes

ICED EARTH - Something Wicked This Way Comes


Century Media
Release date: June 22, 1998

User Review
10/10 (1 vote)

Iced Earth’s 1996 album The Dark Saga was the album that made you go “Man, it just don’t get much better than this!” In 1998 along comes Something Wicked This Way Comes to prove that it does get better than that … much, much better.

Previously labelled as an Iron Maiden tribute band, Something Wicked This Way Comes shrugs this label off and stamps Iced Earth’s own mark on the Heavy Metal scene. Rhythm section driven music with precision drumming, especially the multi-tempo double-kick footwork, blistering finger-picking bass guitar riffs and, of course, Jon Schaffer’s triplet guitar playing style, is the solid foundation from which this phenomenal album is built. Matthew Barlow’s wide ranging vocals, from deep growling to high screaming, seem tailor-made for this music; probably the very reason why Jon Schaffer hired him.

The Dark Saga was a concept album based on Todd McFarlane’s comic character: Spawn. Some skeptics may claim that the popularity of this album was due to the Spawn fan boys’/girls’ need to collect everything Spawn. This can’t be said for Something Wicked …, which is an “out there on its own” creation — 12 years in the making — Heavy Metal album that ought to be a benchmark other bands in this genre strive to achieve.

Critics of Jon Schaffer make him out to be an egotistical, selfish, blinkered, stubborn, “my way or the highway” band leader, ruling with an iron fist. What they fail to realize is this is his band, his dream, his vision. He was the one who left home at 16, lived in his car and derelict buildings, scratched a living by odd-jobbing to make a few bucks to go towards realizing his dream of being a great Heavy Metal musician, and ultimately, he feels fully responsible to deliver only the very best, without compromise.

The revolving door line up changes are a testament to this, changing members as and when their capabilities didn’t match the musical requirements. This may be the reason Iced Earth does not have the massive following it so rightly deserves. Many people associate a change in band members with a change in the band’s musical direction. With Jon Schaffer being over 90% of the creative force of the band, no amount of line up changes will considerably deviate the direction of Iced Earth’s music.

Musically, Something Wicked … is a clever use of fast, slow, fast, slow track ordering. Though any Iced Earth fan will tell you, their slow tracks invariably have a powerful aural assault in there somewhere to catch the unknowing off guard who thought it was safe to crank up the volume a notch or two. You also find the majority of their fast songs have a softer, mellower section in the mix. Iced Earth music is a subtle blend of opposites; soft – hard; heavy – floaty; powerful – restrained; guttural low – shrill high, and Something Wicked … is no exception.

The album gets right down to business with “Burning Times,” a hard ‘n’ heavy, mid-tempo track that shows off Matthew Barlow’s vocal range to the max. There is also good use of lead guitar to harmonize with both the vocals and the driving rhythm.

“Melancholy (Holy Martyr)” is aptly named with a melancholy acoustic guitar intro and vocals laden with sorrow and despair: then you get pounced on by the chorus! A fine example of opposites is the speed of the guitar solo in such a slow song.

From the get-go, “Disciples of the Lie” is a full-on Heavy Metal assault. The powerful lyrics of this song deal with those Televangelists and other pseudo-religious scam artists who will save your soul and absolve you of your sins … for a price of course. Matthew Barlow’s vocal delivery gets the message across that they’ve been exposed and something wicked really is coming their way!

“Watching Over Me” is Jon Schaffer’s tribute to his childhood friend, Bill Blackmon, killed in a motorcycle accident in the 1980s. A moving and touching song with Matthew Barlow’s voice, heart wrenching lyrics, and intense melodies makes this probably the best Metal Ballad ever. Incidentally, the guitar solo is played by Iced Earth’s longest serving non-member -– Jim Morris of Morrisound Studios — who has played a major part in the recording, production, and engineering of Iced Earth’s music from day one.

“Stand Alone” is the Thrashiest track on the album, with a perfect example of Jon Schaffer’s unique playing style driving it along at a blistering pace.

From its acoustic intro, to the powerful, heavy outro, “Consequences” is a roller coaster ride, musically, lyrically, and vocally. The lines in verse three: “Live and let live true freedom, not everyone’s the same / No more war for your god, no more war for your race” are extremely relevant in these post 9/11 days. The outro is an exercise of pure Jon Schaffer guitar harmonization.

“My Own Savior” is another great Thrash rhythm track with the immortal line: “Life’s a bitch, life’s a whore” in the lyrics. Ask yourself how many times you’ve had that very thought. There is also a haunting Arabian style Aahhh choral group harmonizing along in the chorus.

A haunting bass guitar riff with some guitar harmonics introduces “The Reaping Stone.” In fact, the bass guitar is very much front and centre throughout the track, particularly during the tempo variation in the middle. Matthew Barlow nails the vocals with a wide range from rough to screeching.

With Jon Schaffer’s fascination of American history, you can safely assume that the instrumental “1771” was inspired by Britain’s loss of a large chunk of real estate and other happenings during America’s War of Independence. This track incorporates some amazing riffs, runs, and harmonies throughout, and the introduction of a flute towards the end is pure harmonic genius.

“Blessed Are You” was written for, and dedicated to, all Iced Earth fans. A melodic acoustic and bass guitar-versed song with powerful, hard-hitting choruses that underline the band’s heartfelt thanks to their faithful followers.

The “Something Wicked” Trilogy: “Prophecy”, “Birth Of The Wicked” and “The Coming Curse”, starts with a catchy bass and clean guitar riff that becomes faster and aggressively heavy half way through. It ends with the ticking, then chiming, of a grandfather clock, effectively signalling that time is running out. Set Abominae has been prophesised and is going to bring about the downfall of mankind.

“Birth Of The Wicked” and the bringer of humankind’s destruction has arrived. A true song of opposites coming together with the crushingly aggressive rhythm section crashing up against melodic vocals and harmonizing lead guitar. A calm, even peaceful piano part opens up “The Coming Curse,” the conclusion of this Trilogy, and the album. However, this peace and tranquillity is soon shattered in a frenzy of kick drum, bass, rhythm guitar, and aggressive vocals indicating Armageddon is here and death and destruction is not far away. The track, and album, culminate in a mixed male/female medieval harmonic chant that you associate with monasteries, or some other place of religious recluse, that ends abruptly, signifying that not even the righteous are spared from the Something Wicked that just came their way!

A Classic Metal album should create a spark within the listener; an uncontrollable urge to do something. To sing along, to pick up your guitar and learn the songs, to jump around, bang your head, perhaps make you laugh, make you cry, make you remember deep buried memories, or, even a very simple thing like stopping whatever it is you’re doing to listen. If Something Wicked This Way Comes doesn’t give you the urge to do any of the above mentioned, check yourself for a pulse!


  • Ross Swinton

    Ross was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. His first recollection of listening to Rock music was at a party in the early '70s, and Thin Lizzy, Electric Light Orchestra, The Who, and Nazareth made him pick up his first Air Guitar and Rock-On! He spent 23 years, from the age of 16, in the Army and wandered around the globe getting paid for travelling to far, sometimes near, exotic, though sometimes dangerous, lands and had a blast whilst doing it. Since leaving the Army in ’98, he has settled near his hometown, just a few miles from Edinburgh, Scotland. Here he helps local bands by recording demos and albums; building them websites; helping put on gigs for them, and generally helping them build up a fan base.

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