Monday, October 22, 2012

13 Days of Halloween, 13 Wicked Albums: Day 5

Iced Earth
Horror Show (2001)
No other album says Halloween to me like Horror Show by the heavy metal band Iced Earth. Many artists have adapted popular tales of terror to musical form, especially when it comes to the famous Universal Studios monsters. In my opinion, though, few have had the success Iced Earth displays on this album. Not only does it cover the gamut from Dracula and Frankenstein to the Omen trilogy and the Phantom of the Opera, but the songs are packed with an impressive mix of brutality, suspense, epic-ness, and evil that one would expect from such a collection.

For those who may be unaware of Iced Earth, you might say that their style is a slightly modernized take on Iron Maiden and Metallica. There is the thrashy, aggressive side of Metallica that makes it into many of their songs (such as "Jekyll & Hyde" and "Dracula" on this record), but also the melodic and climactic power of Maiden that often comes out in longer tracks (i.e. "Damien" and "The Phantom Opera Ghost"). Memorable Maiden-like guitar harmonies are also a staple of Iced Earth's music. The vocalist, Matt Barlow, is versatile enough to change from a gruff yell to an operatic wail and even a Halford-esque, high-pitched scream. The track "Dracula" is a shining example of how he pulls it all off in a beautiful yet demonic-sounding way.

I get the strong impression that Horror Show was a labor of love for guitarist Jon Schaffer, and possibly for the other members too. Iced Earth evolved out of Shaffer's earlier band Purgatory, which had put out three demos, among which was one actually titled "Horror Show." This 1986 demo included songs about Dracula, Jack the Ripper, and Jason Vorhees, and although there's probably no real resemblance to the later release under the same name, it's cool to note that Schaffer has had such a long-lasting interest in the horror classics - an interest which definitely comes out to much acclaim on Iced Earth's Horror Show

The lyrics especially are fantastic, not the silly or generic kind some bands have written on characters like Jack or Count Dracula, but the kind that seethe with mythology, darkness, and mystery. A number of tracks take lines and choruses straight from the old movies. "Damien" incorporates the little poem from the first Omen film, as well as Sam Neil's blood-curdling soliloquy in the third film:

Nazarene, what can you offer?
Since the hour you vomited forth from the gaping womb of a woman
You have done nothing but drown men's soaring desires
In a delusion of sick sanctimonious morality
I was conceived of a jackal
Your pain on the cross was but a splinter compared to the agony of my father
I will drive deeper the thorns into your rancid carcass
You profaner of Isis
Cursed Nazarene
I will avenge thy torment

If that isn't wicked, then nothing is! However, my personal favorite on the album may have to be "The Phantom Opera Ghost," where guest vocalist Yunhui Percifield sings in the role of Christine alongside Barlow's phantom. The two create a chilling contrast of beauty and beast, victim and madman, and the addition of an ethereal organ keyboard effect and some powerful transitions between electric and acoustic help to make this an outstanding finish to an incredible album. I could go on and on about this record, touching on the phenomenal drumming of Richard Christy, the bass lines by renowned bassist Steve DiGiorgio, or the awesome artwork on the CD insert, but I'll save that for you to discover yourself. Horror Show is one wicked album I would recommend to any fan of rock and metal. You won't see much else on this list that comes from the 21st century, and perhaps that's because this is just that good.


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