After 6 years of being an Iced Earth fan and anticipating this album that whole time, I am glad to say that this album was well worth the wait. Jon Schaffer has truly outdone himself here. The music, the orchestration, the lyrics, the awesome metal riffs; everything is here.
Glorious Burden is a good album, but it felt more like an album to test the waters than a typical solid IE release. With the band changing record labels as well as its singer, it just seemed like a hit or miss album with some awesome tracks but a few I didn't care for so much. However, any doubts this had created about this epic follow up are put entirely to rest. This is IE's best album to date. Ripper is at the top of his game with a sound that feels like it was crafted just for him, and this may sound like heresy to some, but I find it difficult to imagine Barlow's low, haunting tone on some of these tracks. And with all the great music that flows so wonderfully together, we also have a very well thought and complex sci-fi story that Schaffer has poured his blood and emotion into (The scope and story are more ambitious than a lot of sci-fi that I've read from novelists.) Just brilliant.
There are 19 tracks total on this concept album behemoth, too many to comment on each one, but there are definitely some notable standout tracks:
The album begins with "Overture", which sets the tone wonderfully. It has a very eastern feel with lots of string instruments and bongo style drums. It paves the way nicely for the opener track, "Something Wicked Pt 1". This track is mind blowing. I was expecting to hear the redone version of Prophecy that I heard on the single, but this is its own song. It begins with a stunning riff that seems to be a combination of old Metallica and Beethoven. "The Setian Massacre" I had already heard on the band's myspace page and it's a nice hard rocking track, reminiscent of The Reckoning. "A Charge to Keep" is Framing Armageddon's first ballad, and IE has exceeded their standards with great ballads on this one.
"Ten Thousand Strong" is arguably the best track on the album. Even though I already heard it with the Overture single, the buildup intro track Reflections puts it in a whole new context. Just amazing. This is one of those songs that makes you want to raise your fist and cheer.
"The Clouding" is definitely the most unique of this CD, and I don't believe we've heard anything like it before. It's long -at about 9 minutes- and the first 5 of those are in a slow ballad style with some ambient guitar not unlike Pink Floyd. It turns into a hard rocker with a riff that would fit right at home in an early Sabbath album. Pretty cool song. Framing doesn't stop rocking there either. It continues with "Order of the Rose", "Infiltrate and Assimilate" (reminds me of Violate or Disciples), the epic "Domino Decree" and the title track "Framing Armageddon".
Those may be the tracks of note, but there is nothing unworthy of Iced Earth in the entire album. Every song, including the few short bridge tracks, flow well into each other to tell this story. The lyrics are thoughtful and well sung by the ever versatile Tim "Ripper" Owens. And of course, we have the riffing, the trademark style that is all Schaffer and that keeps me loving this band with every release.
Jon Schaffer, if you are to read this, I tip my hat to you. This is your best work yet and you are an inspiration to anyone who aspires to do something great.
This album is amazing, and anyone who likes metal, nay music, weather or not they have listened to IE or not before, should buy this album. I eagerly await part 2! Cheers and rock the f*** on!