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Exclusive: BW&BK Hits The Studio With ICED EARTH!

Exclusive: BW&BK Hits The Studio With ICED EARTH!
Posted on Friday, March 28, 2008 at 08:15:18 EST

Special report by Mark Gromen

It’s late March and ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer originally planned to be putting the finishing touch on the second instalment of his Set Abominae saga. However, the much publicized return of singer Matt Barlow (already beholden to Danish prog metallers PYRAMAZE), finding a new bassist and a managerial restructuring have conspired to delay the project even further. So this visit to Tampa’s Morrisound studio results only in the final mix for the ‘I Walk Alone’ single, backed by Barlow’s interpretation of three cuts from Framing Armageddon, the initial part of Schaffer’s Herculean effort.

In the wake of Schaffer’s single-minded vision, the body count has mounted, replacing every band position (at least once) since commencing the project. The ultimate prize remains a work in progress, the guitarist yet to complete lyrics to four songs. Might the whole situation be some sort of Ahab questing for the white whale scenario? “I’m staying the course, to use an old naval term,” denying the comparison. “Those things are (undoubtedly) a distraction. Of course it would be better not to have to deal with those things, but I haven’t gone mad yet,” jests Schaffer.

In addition to the single, there’s ‘Setian Massacre’, ‘A Charge To Keep’ and ‘The Clouding’, undeniably the finest composition of Part 1. All retain the original musical performances but have been remixed, now featuring Barlow on vocals. “That was Matt’s decision,” says the mainman of which tracks were selected. “I asked him which ones he felt comfortable tackling, given the short amount of time. He had the Pyramaze recording, besides his career and family, as well as starting work on (Revelation Abomination) Part Two. Matt’s already written a couple of songs, lyrically, for Part Two and he’s going to do one more. He’s been busy. This is a single and it will help us get a jump on the next part. I don’t have filler tracks. I don’t have anything I can make exclusive to the single, that won’t appear anywhere else.”

Schaffer hints at the renewed importance Barlow will bring, not only to fans and the band, but the guitarist. “It probably won’t be that long before we start another record and Matt will be involved. This is our last record for the SPV deal. We’ll probably resign with them, but who knows. The reality is, I’ve written a lot of songs and pretty much said what I have to say. Matt’s always been a great lyricist, whether it was my concept for a song, or ours together, once there’s some direction, he’s good at doing the research and getting it into form. He’ll be more involved in writing lyrics in the future, after this, because this is sort of my life’s work. I’ll still be involved with the music and lyrics, but probably only four or five songs a record, instead of 90%. I just don’t see the need to do that anymore.”

Don’t think that Iced Earth is going into retirement. “We’re actually able to do more shows than people expect. When we announced this, people were like, ‘They’ll do two or three festivals a year.’ That was never the plan. The cool thing about Matt’s schedule is that we’re able to do more, we just have to restructure how we do it. When we tour North America, it will have to be in sections. I’m probably going to buy a mobile home and have local crew from Indy. That way we can just jump in it and go, do regions at a time. Instead of touring the States in seven or eight weeks, it might take four or five (sporadic) months. If it’s planned ahead, it will work. Even main markets in Europe, in pieces. Matt’s schedule is four days on-four days off and when he takes vacation time, it applies to his shift. So a couple of weeks can turn into a significant amount of time. For Australia, which is going to happen, we to use vacation time. We just have to plan it. I would rather end Iced Earth, rather than go on without Matt. That’s where I was at. It just didn’t feel right. So for me, to work around Matt’s schedule is no big deal.”

The rejuvenated Iced Earth will be unveiled May 2nd, at Powerfest, in Chicago. “We’ll probably just play the new single (‘I Walk Alone’),” says Schaffer of newbies in the set. “I don’t like hitting the fans with too much new (unreleased) stuff. It’s sort of kills the vibe of the show. Especially with Matt coming back, we’re focusing on a little bit of Stormrider (not much), The Dark Saga, Something Wicked and some Horrorshow stuff.” Asked about Framing Armageddon tunes, he adds, “We’ll have to kick it around in rehearsal. ‘Setian Massacre’ was always killer to do live. ‘10,000 Strong’, probably, but I don’t know about ‘Charge.’ Depends on the length of the show. Not that it’s a slow song, but it’s more ballad-like. I don’t want to do too many of those songs if we’re doing 45 minutes. ‘We’ll do ‘Melancholy’ and ‘Watching Over Me’ and the rest will be balls out! We have several shows throughout the summer and we’re booking two weeks of dates around the ProgPower festival. As of now, we have about 30 shows in the can.

Some of those dates will make their way onto the long talked about DVD. “The DVD is part of our deal with SPV,” confirms the guitarist. “We’re kicking around ideas. We’ll be compiling footage, filming some of the festivals throughout the summer. We might end up doing a one-off show, after Christmas, it’s all being discussed now, but the DVD will be filmed in this calendar year.”

So what does the “new” single/material sound like? Based on one listen:
‘I Walk Alone’: Interesting effect to start, with Barlow almost in spoken word delivery. A meandering, mid-tempo number ultimately unleashing short blasts of the Barlow baritone bellow. The recurrent Set theme, inherent throughout part one, is evident here as well. “Mankind’s dishonesty lays them to waste. I am the truth I walk alone.”

‘Setian Massacre’: Due to Matt’s lower register (and remix?) highlights different musical aspects than the version with Ripper. Barlow’s voice being closer to bass/drums, whereas Tim accents the guitar.

‘A Charge To Keep’: No doubt a major overhaul. Matt’s emotion was always best on the slower ballady to mid-tempo numbers, where there’s more room to breathe (see ‘Melancholy’/parts of ‘I Died For You’).

‘The Clouding’: Will have to listen to this one again. As my favourite off part 1, the dichotomy within this song has a greater initial impact with Tim’s voice. As a higher voice, when it kicks in to the faster, heavier, more sinister second half, a starker difference. You can feel Matt’s emotion on the bluesy first half and he sounds positively diabolical towards the conclusion.

Can’t wait to hear it all live!

"Matt’s already written a couple of songs, lyrically, for Part Two and he’s going to do one more."

That is wonderful!

Everything is wonderful!
The Wicked One

A real treat for me. Can't wait to see them live

damn, jon looks OLD
Tainted Innocence

i sooo agree.
he's in his 50's now.

actually he's only 40

He became 40 for 15 days ago didn't he?
Aggelos Poneros

yep Smile
Man's Coming Curse

Fantastic about the DVD, Im glad they are making alot of progression aswell with Part 2. I cant wait for it to be released!!!
The Wicked One

paranoidmexican009 wrote:
damn, jon looks OLD

thats what happens when u don't do the following,

dye hair

have a beard

still looks young to me. then again ive seen REALLY, REALLY old
The Sexiest Metalhead

All this is great news. The best being the Matt's writing on this album!

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