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Monday, October 10, 2011

Iced Earth - Dystopia review

Year : 2011
Genre : Power Metal
Label : Century Media
Origin : United States
Rating : 6.5 / 10

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Iced Earth's latest studio package is the solid equivalent of a portal device, because this right here is your all-time favorite mobile cheese storage that contains a hyper-abundant amount of rebellious platitude, embodied by the LP's quite consistently anti-exigent lyrical content. The anti-exigency - it is assuaging to write it down twice than not to at all - exhibited in the lyrical contribution on Iced Earth's Dystopia is so fantastically rampant when at its peak moments, that it becomes an unexpected and quite steep challenge to appreciate the actual music ridden by the weightless, naive textual status reports the album is a rather muscular galore of.

- "Prepare for Victory!, WE! are the Resistance!, Victory CALLS!"

- Yeah? Skip the track and tell her I'm busy.

This review will include percepts regarding the actual music on this spin, but a rant is needed to be delivered as result of the cheese-invasion that is affecting about 75% of the lyrics. The record is fixated on two primer lyrical behaviors. First and foremost, it sounds to be in a relentless urge to seek out - dare one say : "recruit" ? - an Enemy figure to proudly stand out against, an act that gives a space to thoroughly - and enthusiastically, so you have something to be properly dreaded of - address the highly paua-metallic spiritual stance needed to form such a declaration on. Mind you, I'm not trying to be the super-asshole here. (Yeah, you could say because I already am.) I like power metal when it takes its mission to form a soul-, to entertain a soul, seriously. But I can tell from a million miles away when locked in an atom-safe bunker when a record-, when a text that is supposed to entertain at the LEAST, takes its listener for a sedated sloth on permanent vacation. This usually happens when the lyrics have absofuckinglutely no dilemma/thought worth sharing to show, and I personally have the hunch that Iced Earth was in a similar position when the immense majority of these lyrics have been forced into reality. Though in my opinion Iced Earth's Dystopia fails legendarily in its attempt - if there was an attempt at all - to reveal lyrics worth imprinting in a spirit, one should not forget that there is music involved, too. Guys, let's talk about the music.

Nah, I lied, first let's indulge a bit more in the cheesefest, because, frankly, the genre looks so much better without it, and why not try to point out the shortcuts that are simply becoming an embarrassment to take? Remember, even from the gates of heaven, there is a road leading to hell. You know the heavy metal deal with Power Sweat : now is the time, we take it back, 'till the end we fight, they can't take our soul away. I'm not exaggerating, these particular fixations are revealed on the record not in a tad less more poetic or exigent fashion than I just gave you the account of. Actually, I just overshot. Things get convoluted, because the enemy is not named, but it might be the Illuminati!! Furthermore : !!!

The other notable pastime of this release is to prepare the Army needed for the Cause, giving the individual soulja' spiritual guidance by pointing out the most potent inner resources and all the stuff - oops? - related. If you think I'm pulling your leg, then here is another verbatim quote from the lyrics contained on this Iced Earth album :

"Transcend to a higher place, accepting reality, you are the key for the life that you seek"

Shit! THAT's it! Somehow I KNEW it! I just KNEW it! You just had to WORD this sublime significance as the antidote for my misery, man!!

cynicism sucks ancient monkey tits and it is the bliss of the miserable, but sometimes you can't avoid it. This textual shallowness though remains terrible to witness when other bands put genuine effort and thought to deliver significant lyrics observing the same theme. Check out the song The Ladder from premiere doom metal squad Argus, and note the difference between genuine spiritual content and smoke in the mirror.

In other words, the immense majority of lyrical content on Iced Earth's Dystopia is a cosmic cheesefest and the painful kind of it too, - nothing wrong with mild dosage of it - and the moments here and there that the band spends with some other lyrical theme, are pretty terrible, too. Like a sad girl who "wants to smile and live", but the "tragedy still holds her." - but she - don't know if you catch the drift here - "WANTS to live, FREE from the life of DESPAIR".

OK, but - I don't even know her. (Aaaand I'm not sure I want to, either.)

All in all, a healthy 75-80% of the lyrics and the consorting thought field sounds to be coming from a recalled-from-the-market heavy metal lyrics generator, and they lack all kind of intellectual elegance, imaginative charm or playfulness. The remaining 25% is "just" cheesy, but still OK power metal, but this won't do anything with your mind, either. And : this is not good. Do you know the song Daemon Dance from cosmic level shredder Yngwie Malmsteen? Like - the singer sings some crazy-ass, huge number ending with :

.. "hundred and twenty six"

and then he sings :

"demons will do their dance, cannot escape, holding a crucifix.

It gives me the shivers just writing it down, because I have no idea what does it exactly mean, but it paints frightening pictures in my mind and THAT becomes the MEANING. The lyrics on this record do nothing other or more than register as shameful cheese in my soul. (But I'm glad if they register as something else and something more in yours.)

From a musical point of (re)view, Iced Earth's Dystopia weighs in as acceptable, deeply traditional power metal, - more on this later - plagued though by below average chorus structures that sound to have the communist marching song vibe unleashed on amphetamine without the sear promise of a fucking leash or a big ass taser cannon handy. The power metal chorus, as an autonomous cultural entity, IS prone to be sucked into the communist marching song vibe on its mere own, because the respective senses of beyond you-level "epicness" and "unchangeability" give out a cheap sense of unity right away to be instinctively perceived by the minds that are forced to experience them, simply because each mind finds itself in a super-similar position when relating to these concepts. Wow, look! Now existence could be comfy and humpty-dory for you, because now you are not the only one bathing in the mystery.

I personally tend to think that the communist marching song vibe that I claim power metal is prone to exhibit, is a host-digesting parasite on the body of this PLAYFUL genre, and its most efficient shortcut to commit ritual-level cheesefest-suicide on, too. When cheese does not take itself seriously, then it is totally OK. But Iced Earth is serious about it, on this record. I think even a stellar build can suffer legendarily when the communist marching song vibe is unleashed on it. A great example of this is the opening track on Symphony X's superb Iconoclast, in my opinion. WTF is this sequence with WE! ARE! STRONG! WE! WILL! STAND! AND! FIGHT! in such a tight build!? You try to be super-serious, and you end up a super-spongebob, only made of cheese. You say something silly like this when you have nothing to say, but you have a suspected anticipation/craving to satisfy. A power metal fan wants to fight and rebel, right? If she/he wants, this craving is a shame to assuage THIS cheaply.

Iced Earth's Dystopia is reeking of the communist marching song vibe during the choruses, and, as such, it is very easy to truly appreciate the absence of it whenever the verse or middle section of a track comes back or takes a turn to explore other directions. Do not expect all THAT much variation though. The riffs are pretty simplistic, - but efficient in their crude charm - the wall of sound structures solely rely on ringed, solo power chords without all that much if any cunning at all among their intents, and the compositions themselves most often are going for a kind of early-Metallica thrashy vibe, complimented by an Eye of the Tiger mood in the mid-tempo builds, only with more fuel and heft used up. Mind us, that these directions do not at all prevent the release to pack very efficient moments. In my opinion, all of these are coming your way when the band engages full power efficiency, and I think they had problem realizing the entertainment factor of mid-tempo sections. Like the start of the otherwise solid opening track. Uhm. Four chords are being played for you for 1 whole fucking minute. Dude. Play them 3 times, everyone will get what you are about, interrupt the fourth, and you have an intro. Now start the damn song. < - tip.

The mentioning of Metallica is not accidental. If the singer on Iced Earth's Dystopia would have three wishes, I bet 4 of those would be to sing exactly like Metallica's James Hetfield. Say what you want about Metallica, - I won't, and I imagine the collective dread and horror of the Metallica members because of it - but James Hetfield has a super-solid set of pipes and palpable emotion in his singing voice, and you would have to be an elite level troll to even to THINK to question that. Iced Earth's vocalist bitterly approximates/imitates the general timber and the great mannerisms - like the word ending alpha wolf quasi-growls - of Hetfield with about 60% convince power, and I have nothing more to add to this notion, because there isn't. A re-occurring secondary vocal methodology of the release is to deliver Rob Halfordish head voice singing here and there, but, something - like the Rabid Animal of Mr. Halford, maybe?? - is fucking MIA, so the experience pretty much is that you are listening to a man pretending he has no balls. And, to be frank, each and every line he sings on this release, sounds to me like he sings about JUST that. "I have NO balls, NO balls, I have NONE of those!" On a third complementary note, some narrative-, Anselmo-like-, badass, menacing background muttering is sometimes utilized, too, but this is marginal compared both to the respective frequencies of the Hetfield-clone singing and the Rob Halford, BUT!, without the balls-kind of signing obtainable herein.

The record has a healthy, youthful general tempo colored by some slower tracks here and there, arranged on the contribution's body in a well balanced fashion. The titular opening track, third song Boiling Point and sixth one, Dark City are highlight deliveries worth revisiting for their efficient and muscular power metal charm. (Dark City is a great example how an - in my opinion - weak chorus, that is supposed to TOPPLE the cake, spoils a solid verse section.) The hymn-wannabes of the record are definitely not cups with my tea in it.

Iced Earth's Dystopia ultimately weighs in as an acceptable, stone-traditional power metal album with almost exclusively non-exigent lyrics, but I already had my rant about that, and I have no intention to paint an extra crosshair on my ass beside the one the rabid Iced Earth fan probably already is perceiving on it. Apart from its weightless, cheese-infestation lyrics, Iced Earth's Dystopia still could have been a great instrumental contribution, only it isn't, and here is why : the songs, as solely instrumental declarations, start out decently enough, then they often lose power - hah! - in non-justifiably prolonged mid-, and end sections. Non-justifiable, because there isn't much happening, hello?? The ending portion of Dark City, for example : a tight start and solid verse structure, weaker chorus, and then an instrumental "jam" revolving around two power chords. This is about as exciting as having sex without a body under you. (Alive body, thank you very much.)

The special edition features two bonus tracks, among these, the song called Iron Will sounds to be one of the most strong declarations on the entire release, and no problem with the lyrics there, either : they are JUST sufficiently cheesy. Once again : acceptable power metal with very limited supply of great moments, and you have heard this music being done much more consistently than this effort is capable to register as a full spin.

Rating : 6.5 / 10

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  1. You are a total jackass. Did you go to harvard or something? You use these huge stupid words that lifelong metal fans dont even understand. You obviously think you are more intelligent and intellectual than the average metal fan. Your review makes me want to puke. Do the world a favor and stop writing reviews. You go on and on and on and on, yet you give this album 6.5? Go read other reviews or the itunes or amazon user reviews.....oh wait, nevermind. I forgot you are so much higher above us lowly stupid people it wouldnt make sense to you anyway. God you are a fucking tool! GO AWAY! Iced Earth fucking shreds and this album kicks fucking ass! THAT IS A REVIEW!

  2. If anything is expectable from a long time metal fan, it is to attempt to voice his opinion with a name attached to it, you did not exactly succeed at that.

    It is just natural that an Amazon/iTunes customer will absolutely LOVE the music he PAID for. Other than that, I do consider myself a rabid metal fan, and an utterly good willed at that. I respect your opinion if you find my writing style terrible, but I must reject your presumption that I try to be supersmart or anything like that. No, I only try to be honest about my personal percepts when listening to music, and I am curious of what others have thought of the same content, too. I, too, look for the music. If you think this album kicks tremendous ass, I'm totally glad. And, if a total jackass does not share your point of view, it is all the more reason for you to be delighted about your (obviously correct) occupied position. Thank you for your comment.

  3. IMHO, yes it was cheesy and the lyrics were weak. Music was okay throughout with some parts where I think they could have done better. Every great Metal band evolves and creates different type of albums. Dystopia might not be the best, but also not the worse. Lets agree on it being somewhere around average.

    Sorry but Stu Block (new vocalist) is just excellent. I've heard his work from Into Eternity to Iced Earth, this guy is a beast. James from Metallica? We are talking about a proper vocalist, Barlow/Halford/Owens/Anselmo type of level. None of them wants to sound like James, its the other way around.

  4. @CaptainHonest : thanks for your comment. I agree with your observations, musically this album is decent for a traditional power metal output, for the most part. But I heard since then that Iced Earth - in their earlier works - was using the exact same riffs in different songs - can't tell example, which is a shame - and it baffled me. Recycling riffs?? This is a very rude thing to do, imo.

    As for the vocal influences, listen to this album's opening track, "Dystopia" from 1:35 to 1:55 singed by Stu Block, then listen to "Master of Puppets" from Metallica singed by James Hetfield. The similarity sounds blatant to me.

    As for who is influenced by who, the first track of this example, "Dystopia" from Iced Earth is from 2011. The "Master of Puppets" song from Metallica is from 1986. 'Nuff said.

  5. LMAO, tell you what, even the song structure of "Dystopia" is similar to "Master of Puppets", at least in the verse. :)

  6. Re-cycling riffs are actually quite common nowdays. Example like Kalmah's song Heroes To Us opening riffs were simply sounding the same to the song With Terminal Intensity or Gamma Ray's song Insurrection have Maiden's and Priest riffs thrown here and there. Its sad but hard to avoid I guess if its stuck in your head while you are trying to write a new song. Maybe view it like this, instead of one kick ass song, now you have two.

    I'm still unconvinced about the similarity to Master of Puppets. I gave it a listen again just to make sure. Maybe I'm not catching the parts well like you did, but I still strongly disagree about the vocals. I think most IE fans would be surprised how well Stu Block actually imitate Barlows deep baritone singing and at times sound like Owens and Halford. The song Equilibrium sounds like Barlow and Halford were doing duet, that was sick.

    Song writing and lyrics seems to be Iced Earth's weak points. I enjoyed your review and humor, thanks.

  7. Well, the vocal similarity between Hetfield and Stu I'm picking up on is not a part or a little mannerism. To me, it sounds like Stu is imitating Hetfield all the way through the first verse sequence, general timber/mannerisms - like the quasi-growls I wrote about - included. And what about the structural similarity between the two verses? If you listen to the two tracks right after each other, I think the first Dystopia verse registers as a very similar aural experience to Puppet's first verse. Dystopia is a little lower in pitch and slower, but it BEGS to be registered as a Puppet-verse reminder, in my opinion. (On a terrible mood pill I would dare say "ripoff", yes.)

    As for the riff recycling, I think we might be talking about different things. What I find unacceptable is to use a riff As It Is again in another song, trying to sell it as an autonomous aural entity, thinking the person who is listening to it has no sufficient levels of awareness to notice that she/he is getting cheated. Imagine if someone would come up with the riff of Pantera's Walk, claiming it as his own. The outrage would be something to behold.

    Recycling, which, to me means : shameless reusing, is not the same as re-arranging a riff rhytmically and altering its notes. I could play the riff of Walk backwards and claim it as my own, only it sounds like shit when reversed.

    But, whenever you alter something in a riff rhythmically or on a note basis, that would necessarily be an autonomous, legitimate riff with its own story and character. After all, you have only 12 notes in Western music.

    Pantera's central riff in Walk and Megadeth's central riff in Symphony of Destruction both reside comfily throughout the first 4 notes of a 6 stringed guitar, and they still pack very autonomous and legit character. If someone would try and "recycle" these classic riffs in an attempt to sell them out as newly found aural entities, - which I referred to as recycling, and what I consider very disrespectful towards an audience - then I imagine popculture itself would roar the hide off of that man's body. There are truly magical things you can do with the first 4 notes of a 6 stringed guitar, but no one is allowed anymore to come up with THOSE two patterns, because one belongs to Pantera and one belongs to Megadeth, and that is Law. I know, it sounded fanboyish, fuck, I don't care.

    Thank you for your fine notions, and I hope the reading experience remains enjoyable for you if you decide to stick around.

  8. Okay so now I went on and kept listening to both tracks and at times overlaying them to identify the similarities. Then I sang both verse,still didn't get the same aural experience you had, not to mention the vocal melody are also different. So I'm just going to leave it at that because I think its a subjective matter, both might be right or wrong at the same time.

    As far as I disagree on that, however I completely agree with you GyZ on riff ripoffs. Its one thing to recycle your own riffs but to actually cut and paste someone else's work and claim it as an autonomous property is just pathetic. Now playing a reversed Walk riff...got to try that.

    Are you familiar with the band Helstar? Since the discussion of riffs arised, I am eager to know what do you think of their album Glory Of Chaos(2010).

  9. According to Wikipedia, these angry cowboys from Texas are thrashing madly since 1982. Looks promising. Thanks for the rec, I will check the album out and deliver a review of it.

  10. If you are talking about Metallica influence. What about the start riff in V and the main riff of Creeping Death. It dosen't take more than one lesson to get the similarity. I don't think it's intential though.

  11. @Megalronica :

    I just listened to both. Nice find, they indeed sound similar in character in certain regions, but Iced Earth at least gave "V" an autonomous character. The similarity between Master of Puppets' first verse and that of Dystopia tough still makes me amazed, and it is hard to me to think that Iced Earth wasn't trying to rip Master off tbh.

    The latest, beautiful ripoffs I have found so far:

    Taberah's "Freedom of Death" rips off :
    Metallica's "Blackened"

    Korn's "Fuels the Comedy" rips off :
    Faith No More's rendition of the Commodores classic "Epic"

  12. Sorry I dont know those tracks you are talking about but I am sure if i listen to them i'll agree with you since you seem to have very sensitive ears (just like me hehe) I mean the singing resemblance between Dystopia and MOP is really not that easy to spot but once i read it in your comments i was surprised how he really sounds like James. Makes me also think about Matt, the singer from Trivium who is always criticized about imitating Hetfild.

    I also dug a little deeper and found a lot of resemblances maybe not from the first listening but then they become hard to miss. For example, since you are bringing Blackened in, don't you think that the intro guitars sound alike with the opening track of this album? The fact that both tracks start their respective albums is also intriguing. If you listen very carefully in the intro just before the first riff you can even hear some of kirks notes in For whom the bell tolls which are also just at the end of the intro, or am I exaggerating on this one? What about Anthem and Welcome Home. lol I must really stop otherwise i ll end up making them look like complete ripoffs. Maybe this is why I liked this album so much Metallica being my favorite band.

    On the other hand, I really dont think they are trying to steal riffs from metallica and put them together. I myself right some music and without noticing take something from my musical memory. It takes me sometimes months before finding out where i heard the same notes before. By the way, I think that this album is really good and deserves more than 6,5. Matter of taste i guess. Maybe also because it's the first IE album I listened to. I didn't have a better background to compare it with, like old fans.

  13. To be honest, this was my very first IE album, too. The reason for this lower score I gave - not that it is all too important what score a critic gives, as the piece of art is always superior to the miserable critic, even if the piece of art is a pile of bantha poodoo - is mainly result of the bantamweight lyrics of the record, and I agree if you pop in a track randomly, the music is pretty solid, and, in my opinion it grows kind of "meh" as a full spin, but I wrote this in the review, too.

    What I think is happening concerning rip offs, is this : the artist realizes that he likes a particular piece of music, and tries to summon the same vibe it summons in him, without getting caught red handed. Korn's "Fuel to the Comedy" is a blaaaaaaaaaaaatant, blatant template ripoff of Faith No More's rendition of Commmodores' Epic in this regard, and I think the same is true to Dystopia's verse and Master of Puppets'.

    In this context, the artist thinks like this : "Hmmm, people LOVE these fucking songs, and hell, I FUCKING LOVE THEM, too! Need to come up with SOMETHING remotely similar I guess, need to come up with something like that!!"

    Only that "remotely" obviously becomes less and less faithful to its own directive, as the unconditional worship of the source song demands its unconditional worship, indeed. The idiotic artist arrives to a point where he thinks that the fucking source song is HIS work, too. That is why they delude themselves into thinking that they contributed something relevant other than a ripoff. I consider that Korn song a very good ripoff song.

    No question about Matt Heafy's rampant Hetfield fandomism, I even have a recording where Trivium covers Master of Puppets, and there is no point to the cover other than it gives an opportunity to Heafy to show off that he can sing what his bestestest n1 musical idol James Hetfield can. James Hetfield no doubt owns galaxies in Master of Puppets and his vocal performance is timeless there, so it is no wonder Heafy wanted to tag along and hold the tail of the Animal. Attempting to sing Master of Puppets is great fun to be honest, it builds the character when your voice crashes and you sound like a raped squirrel instead of a Galactic Declarator like James Hetfield does in MOP.


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