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Iced Earth: The Blessed and the Damned

There are greatest hits packages, and there are GREATEST hits packages. Century Media, probably a tad melancholy over Iced Earth leaving their stable after many years, has just released a double disc set that definitely falls in the latter category. Containing some of the bands best songs up to the end of the Matthew Barlow era, The Blessed and the Damned is one kickin' double disc set of classic Iced Earth. Sure, there are songs that I'm sure the hardcore fan will wish were here...but don't you have those anyway? For those new to the band, this is a great set, and a great place to start to experience of one of the worlds best pure metal bands. All the songs have been remastered, and sound excellent (not that the original versions needed much of a sonic upgrade!)

Disc One is perhaps the most balanced set overall, as it contains seminal songs like "Melancholy (Holy Martyr)", 'Dark Saga", a blistering live version of "Travel in Stygian" from the Alive in Athens CD, as well as "Burning Times", "Burnt Offerings", the raging "Stormrider", and the gnarly "Wolf", among others. One of my favorites from the Horror Show CD is "Damien", a evil sounding piece with just enough muscle and thrash elements to please any headbanger, and it ends the first part of this collection on a real high note.

The second Disc also has it's share of classics, and is perhaps a little heavier than the first, which might be a plus for many die hard fans. The first five cuts, "Angels Holocaust", "Desert Rain" (the version sung by Barlow), "Last December", the melodic "Watching Over Me", and a rampaging live rendition of "Pure Evil" starts the CD off at a relentless pace. While other strong cuts follow, this reviewer is very partial to "I Died for You", one of the bands more melodic, anthem-like songs, and a real good inclusion here.

The booklet is a real joy to read along to, as it offers lots of insight into each album from Jon Schaffer, and he also gives some neat stories about his upbringing and how the band was initially formed, including his early fascination with Kiss, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and other metal bands. While this collection gives a great overall look at the band prior to The Glorious Burden album, fans of Tim "Ripper" Owen might feel a little slighted that there was not at least a track or two from that release.

For newbies wanting to check out the band, get this, and quick! For long time fans, you already have all of this, although Schaffer's notes are definitely reason enough to warrant picking this up anyway.

Track Listing
Disc One
1) Burning Times
2) Wolf
3) The Hunter
4) Curse the Sky
5) Melancholy (Holy Martyr)
6) Stormrider
7) Burnt Offerings
8) Travel In Stygian (live)
9) Dark Saga
10 Written on the Walls
11) Damien


Disc Two
1) Angels Holocaust
2) Desert Rain
3) Last December
4) Watching Over Me
5) Pure Evil (live)
6) The Path I Choose
7) I Died For You
8) Disciples of the Lie
9) When the Night Falls
10) Jack
11) Iced Earth
12) Violate (live)

Added: August 20th 2004
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Score:
Related Link: Iced Earth Official Site
Hits: 1940
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Iced Earth: The Blessed and the Damned
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2004-08-20 08:50:04
My Score:

Love him or loathe him as an individual, it's tough for true metalheads to demonize the heavy hand (and dark mind) of Jon Shaffer. As the rock upon which America's Iced Earth has slowly built its status, the songwriter and guitarist has developed both a savvy ear and a gnarly reputation, even boycotting a major metal magazine earlier this year after claiming his comments were misrepresented in a Q&A article.

His combustible personality and commitment to perfection is on prominent display throughout the two-CD set The Blessed and The Damned one of the finest compilations I've ever heard from a band that, technically, never really had a "hit." It's full of energy and emotion, muscle and melody, attitude and precision. And to its credit, this collection chucks the popular chronological-order track listing in favor of creating a vibe that crescendos and decrescendos appropriately. "Desert Rain" segues into "Last December," which leads to "Watching Over Me."

Spanning eight albums recorded for Century Media Records and three singers (ending with Matthew Barlow no Tim Owens here, since Iced Earth moved to a new label for The Glorious Burden), The Blessed and The Damned chronicles the band's rise from making mediocre, rather stereotypical metal to creating memorable, hook-heavy masterpieces full of beauty and brutality hence this collection's title. Although listening to the set over the course of more than two hours makes it easy to detect some of the similarities that run through the band's latter songs (quiet intros, demon-riddled lyrics, epic arrangements), Iced Earth never seems to wallow in predictability for long.

The Blessed and The Damned comes with gorgeous packaging and insightful, Shaffer-contributed liner notes, and the remastered sound will tempt both longtime fans and neophytes.




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