Iced Earth - Dystopia review


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Band: Iced Earth
Album: Dystopia
Release date: October 2011

01. Dystopia
02. Anthem
03. Boiling Point
04. Anguish Of Youth
05. V
06. Dark City
07. Equilibrium
08. Days Of Rage
09. End Of Innocence
10. Soylent Green [limited edition bonus]
11. Iron Will [limited edition bonus]
12. Tragedy And Triumph
13. Anthem [string mix version] [limited edition bonus]
14. The Mob Rules [Black Sabbath cover] [iTunes bonus]

Once again, Jon Schaffer's vehicle of pure METAL does a dust-stirring figure-eight around all of our dizzied heads, screeching to a halt directly in front of us. I can't think of a time when a new Iced Earth release was a humdrum occasion. Be it Schaffer's knack for incessant line-up changes, anticipated concepts, re-recorded classics (both original and covered), and...MORE line-up changes; one cannot deny that curiosity almost always surrounds every release with the Iced Earth moniker. This one is no different. Come to think of it, for many reasons, Dystopia might just be the most significant case of raised eyebrows yet.

I won't start with the obvious, which would be the particular changes and contemporary nuances of this release; instead opting for the rhetoric: What does the listener always expect when approaching an Iced Earth output? Many absolute answers sprout with immediate confidence: melodic, near-thrash power metal compositions, severely emotive vocals, a weighty ballad or two, conceptual lyrics, machine-like rhythms, and so on, and so forth. That being said, none of these ingredients are missing here. The question is, how well is it done this time?

The job that we metalheads have commissioned the band to do with our minds, ears, and hearts is getting done, and well. As mentioned before, all of our favorite ingredients are included in this dish. I'll even throw out a surprise grand-statement to get your undivided attention. Dystopia, in many ways, seems like the album that could have come after Night of the Stormrider. So, how's those eyebrows doin'?

This being a case of stepping backward in order to progress forward, one must not be concerned with a lack of advancement. The lessening of grandiose, cinematic Blind Guardian influence (that had begun to seem the way of the band's future) is a good thing. A true love for classic metal staples has replaced the bombast almost entirely, paving the way for memorable, powerful songs. Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on steroids, anyone?

The focus of most of this album's controversy is obviously Stu Block, the band's fifth(!) official vocalist. That numerical point should be an eye-opening incentive to just plain deal with it, listen to his voice for Iced Earth-isms, and realize that everything needed is undoubtedly there. The man's voice is both flawlessly adequate for every (and I do mean EVERY) vocal detail ever called for on a Schaffer tune, yet also easily dismissible as mere impersonations. Well, seeing as people typically scream out their Taco Bell order in a Halford-esque wail, it can be viewed that all singing is purposeful and sometimes unnatural tonal manipulation. So, let's cut the negative critical analysis, and support the guy's uncanny ability to hit the Bar-lows (see what I did there?), the Owens highs, the Greely unobtrusiveness- thankfully, however, leaving out the Adams tones of awkwardness, filling that spot with a natural aggressive quality that is obviously derived from his death-growl ability (which is thankfully absent here, as to not fully alienate most Iced Earth fans), yet tamed to a raspy thrash metal midrange.

Songwriting here is of a premium quality, as a single spin will tattoo pieces of the album into your skull. This concerned me at first, since most immediately infectious tunes wear off and sink into the swamps of tedium very quickly. Rest assured, however, each spin just garners this release more and more points toward the legendary. Guitar solos stay tasteful, all the while providing the shred in which to raise thy horns. The rhythm section is tight as ever, and the lyrics conceptual and meticulously crafted. This is pure METAL glory, people. Just accept it.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Production: 9

Written by Tristus Scriptor | 03.03.2012


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.

Staff review by
Baz Anderson
It's been a bit of a rocky ride for Iced Earth in the last few years, especially after things looked so promising with Matt Barlow back in the band. The Crucible Of Man really didn't deliver what the line-up promised, and then another knock back with the news that Matt would be leaving the band once more.

After everything, Iced Earth stand strong here today with their latest offering and another lease of life and promise. Dystopia is Jon's tenth album but the limelight is firmly shining on new singer Stuart Block, who has seemingly breathed new life into this iconic American band. Stu sounds so comfortable in Barlow's position as he emulates the past singer's vocals almost perfectly. Not only this, but his versatility is unparalleled with his ability to scream just as well Tim Owens. Iced Earth have found the last piece of the jigsaw, and it didn't have to be cut to shape this time.

published 15.10.2011 | Comments (24)

Guest review by
For the second straight time Iced Earth saw themselves without a singer and so they had to look for a new one. In the beginning of 2011 the search was over and the choice was Stu Block (former Into Eternity). The expectation was enormous about the new singer. Iced Earth aren't exactly famous in choosing Matt Barlow's substitutes over the years after having as their singer Tim Owens, with technically amazing vocal capacities but without the heart Iced Earth fans truly love.

published 26.11.2011 | Comments (14)


Comments: 6   Visited by: 61 users
05.03.2012 - 00:20
Dark Cornatus
Good review, you relaly summed it up nicely.

For me, i rate the album an 8/10. It's a great IE album, and i completely agree with the taking a step backwards to progress thing. What i like about this one is that there is not a lot of filler.

My biggest gripes on the album are:

1. It's a little too 'Heavy Metal' in style... lacks the punch in riffs and drums.

2. Gets a little boring after a few listens because of the lacking punch. It just doesn't have that power feel to me which is sad. Even songs like Days of Rage are just plain weak in power.
05.03.2012 - 06:39
Tristus Scriptor
Rancid Reviewer
Thanks for reading. I also appreciate the feedback. Come to think of it, I might have (due to the level of IE fan I am) given it a tad higher of a rating if it included just a notch more of that familiar extremity. Don't get me wrong, it is what it is, and classic is the current flavor here. However, a bit of that Burnt Offerings darkness, or that smack in the soul that songs like "Violate" gave us would have been nice. Perhaps next time, eh?
05.03.2012 - 07:08
A good review, and probably a fair review. I might have given it slightly higher only for the inclusion of Stu Block on this album, He provide an amazing injection into the sound on Dystopia that make it well worth a listen.

The be honest I have forgiven IE for the line-up changes ages ago. At the end of the day it is a good as a solo project anyway, with a good vocalist or two, or three or four. IE fans might slap me for this but I think Stu Block is probably the best vocalist they have had to date and the songs really do resonate with IE fans new and old.

A very classy album which has had a serious injection of energy at last.
The Darker Side of Metal - Metal Reviews and Discussions
05.03.2012 - 07:24
Tristus Scriptor
Rancid Reviewer
And thank you as well. As much as I love the other vocalists (excluding Adams, though he had his place...), I've been tempted to say the same thing about Stucifer, yet my fear of personal grand statements is a rational one, haha. I am just happy with Iced Earth in this incarnation, and that, in itself, makes me happy!
10.03.2012 - 07:16
This is kinda exactly how I feel about this album. Its obvious to me that everyone is impressed with this release and feels some new blood in this band.
Goodspeed on the Devils Thunder
14.03.2012 - 15:00
Learning To "X"
Written by BloodFireDeath on 10.03.2012 at 07:16

This is kinda exactly how I feel about this album. Its obvious to me that everyone is impressed with this release and feels some new blood in this band.

Maybe not impressed, but I don't think a lot of people are displeased. This is a very solid album and it deserves the praise it gets, in this era where we don't see a lot of good classic metal a lot.
"There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors."

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