jun 5

Iced Earth / Beyond the Embrace


Fashion trends may come and go, but Florida's Iced Earth has remained steadfastly committed to championing the cause of heavy metal through thick and thin. After years of laboring in obscurity and undergoing countless lineup changes, they have slowly emerged as one of the greatest hopes for classic metal in America. Originally formed as Purgatory by guitarist Jon Schaffer in 1984, the band spent five years in a constant state of flux while paying their dues on the Florida live circuit. They slowly honed their sound by combining '80s thrash influences with the classic metal approach of Iron Maiden. Their 1988 Enter the Realm demo was an underground favorite, and after changing their name to Iced Earth, the band recorded their eponymous 1990 album with a lineup consisting of guitarists Schaffer and Randall Sawver, singer Gene Adams, bassist Dave Abell, and drummer Mike McGill. Further personnel changes saw the arrival of singer John Greely and drummer Richey Secchiari for 1991's Night of the Stormrider, an ambitious concept album which nevertheless fell on deaf ears. Disheartened, Greely decided to call it quits, but Iced Earth would re-emerge three years later with 1995's Burnt Offerings, released on Century Media Records, and featuring vocalist Matthew Barlow and drummer Rodney Beasley. Constant touring saw Barlow prove himself as the band's first reliable singer, and the band hit their stride with the following year's The Dark Saga. Despite the arrival of a new rhythm section (bassist Keith Menser and drummer Mark Prator), the album showcased the ever-improving consistency and quality of Schaffer and Sawver's songwriting, as well as excellent cover artwork from Spawn comic book creator Todd MacFarlane. So happy was the band with their current lineup that they returned to the studio in 1997 to re-record the best of their early material with Barlow on vocals, resulting in the appropriately titled Days of Purgatory collection. Schaffer also decided to relocate Iced Earth to Indiana for "strategic reasons," prompting the departure of longtime cohort Sawver before the first sessions of 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes. The album repeated the successful formula of its predecessors, and with new guitarist Larry Tarnowski and new bassist James MacDonough in tow, the band embarked on their most ambitious American and world tour yet. Their performances in Greece (one of the band's largest markets) yielded the double album Live in Athens, released in 1999. Horror Show appeared in summer 2001.


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