Iced Earth - The Reckoning
I guess it was a very sad day for fans of Iced Earth (myself included) when it was announced that critically acclaimed and beloved vocalist Matthew Barlow was leaving the band. Many metallers probably also feared that this perhaps would be the beginning of the end for one of the most appreciated bands of the metal genre. But luckily that wasn't so 'cause at more or less the same period in time Tim Owens had to leave Judas Priest in favour of the returning Rob Halford and Iced Earth had found a brilliant new singer. With a complete band again the recordings of the eagerly awaited upcoming full length album The Glorious Burden could proceed and in the meantime we're being served a real juicy appetiser with the CD-single The Reckoning. A release that perhaps was more longed for than even Iron Maiden's Dance of Death earlier this year and after letting The Reckoning spin several turns all I can say is that it's much better than I could have wished for.
It all starts with the fabulous Don't Tread on Me and just after a few seconds the choir-supported chorus explodes from the speakers. A chorus that is as much classic Iced Earth as a mix of Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian. Then we get to hear Owens show his register as the song picks up the pace and absolutely nothing bad can be said about that. Top notch from the very first note! After the second chorus the track slows down to a very solemn middle section. Unfortunately this promo version fades out just seconds after the track speeds up again but that we're in for a kick ass opener isn't an issue to be questioned. This chorus will repeat itself in your head many times, that's for sure.
The following track is an unplugged ballad where Owens get to show that he also can sing in a calmer, less aggressive way and even this task he's handling with the honours. The track itself is the weakest on the single in my opinion but for a ballad it's still very digestible. Iced Earth can't exactly be accused of making bad ballads and When the Eagle Cries is no exception. This might be a Shaffer composition originally destined to end up on a Demons & Wizards album which might give you further clues to what this one sounds like.
Then the pace increases again with the third track Valley Forge. This one has a slower verse section and perhaps a more hard rock influenced refrain but it's a real good song. Just as Don't Tread on Me it also fades out but I can't imagine that there are any huge surprises in the part we don't get to hear. However though, I don't think that neither this or the previous one will make it to the final album. The semi ballad Hollow Man then concludes the album. The chorus on this one is a real killer that immediately sticks in your head. Owens continues to impress vocally and it feels like Iced Earth makes better use of what he's capable of than what Judas Priest were able to do.
To conclude this the review I must say that The Reckoning without a doubt leaves me very satisfied with the new chapter in the Iced Earth saga and what's yet to come. The Glorious Burden will reach the market in January 2004 so stay tuned all Iced Earth fans and the rest of you metalfreaks! But one more final thing people: check out the cover Reminds you of a certain The Trooper single or is it just me?