Iced Earth The Reckoning

One of the most anticipated albums in metal is the upcoming Iced Earth full-length The Glorious Burden, due for release in early 2004. The four-track EP The Reckoning is a warm up release leading up to the full-length proper. The lead-off title track is a return to form for the band. After 2001's disappointing Horror Show release, it is nice to see the band back with their signature machinegun guitar riffery back in place, harkening back to the sound of their Something Wicked This Way Comes and the Dark Saga albums. The biggest surprise here lies with the vocals. After September 11, vocalist Matt Barlow left the band somewhat surprisingly to work for the U.S. government with Homeland Security. His replacement vocalist is none other than Tim "Ripper” Owens — the man who also replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest. Again Owens steps into a clean-up situation. While he is a great singer in his own right, he lacks the identity and form of Barlow, who was the perfect front-man for Iced Earth. His style unfortunately leaves Iced Earth sounding more like Judas Priest than themselves, especially on the three remaining EP tracks, all of which are more ballads than rockers and really are nothing special. Hopefully the rest of the upcoming album is stronger than these three. It is not that they are necessarily that bad, it's just that this is a band capable of so much more. Even the EP cover art, which is eerily close to that off the Iron Maiden single for "The Trooper,” is unoriginal and disappointing. Having said that, I still have hope for the full-length. (Steamhammer)