1.In Sacred Flames 01:29
2.Behold the Wicked Child 05:38
3.Minions of the Watch 02:06
4.The Revealing 02:40
5.A Gift or a Curse 05:34
6.Crown of the Fallen 02:48
7.The Dimensional Gauntlet 03:12
8.I Walk Alone 04:00
9.Harbinger Of Fate 04:43
10.Crucify The King 05:36
11.Sacrificial Kingdoms 03:58
12.Something Wicked (Part 3) 04:31
13.Divide And Devour 03:15
14.Come What May 07:24
First of all, let's be honest here. Iced Earth are a love or hate band. I have seldom met anyone in between. At this point in the game, either you're a fan or you're not, and one album isn't going to change this. Iced Earth's last effort was a bit long winded and not highly original. Few felt like the band had any hope of turning this around for the second part of the conceptual piece, "The Crucible of Man". However, I must say the return of Matt Barlow to the group's ranks did give me a good bit of restored faith. Unfortunately I must be quite direct and say this is NOT the glorious return to the Iced Earth of the late 90's that many, including myself were hoping for.
Things get started here with a very predictable 2-ish minutes of acoustic guitars, choirs, and whatever other psuedo-epicness Jon Schaffer feels like throwing at us. “Behold the Wicked Child” offers a solid chorus, but overall this song is nothing special, basically laying a blueprint for the whole album. One thing that really gets me about this album, like its predecessor, is that rather than Schaffer’s classic way of having his clear-cut distinction between quality and crap songs, on these albums he merely molded the two into one, meaning each song has both good and bad parts, basically making every song more or less “average”. “Minions of the Watch” and “The Revealing” are both short (under 3 minutes) and not surprisingly, neither really accomplish much, just the now-standard mid-paced chugga-chug and Schaffer’s psuedo-intelligent lyrics about what seems to me an ever-more-stupid sci-fi concept. Towards the end of the latter track they embark upon nearly a minute of just stupid pointless riffs. “A Gift or a Curse” had a little bit of promise, being a ballad, but alas it is not to be. Imediately you are greeted by awkward sounding bongos, and many of the vocals present on this track aren’t even Barlow. I don’t know who they are, I’m presuming Jon Schaffer, but I can’t really be sure. I have to say though, the section after the second chorus, around 2 and a half minutes, is pretty damn sweet, I really enjoyed it, the guitar solo is pretty good too, unfortunately they just lead us back to another boring verse. “Crown of the Fallen” is actually one of the few tracks on the album that I can simply say “I like”, it’s not highly original (nothing on here is), but I at least enjoy the whole thing. “The Dimensional Gauntlet” sees us back to the standard bore chugga fest, including some hilariously silly-sounding lyrics, and of course, 2-odd minutes in, everything drops out so we can have just a stupid riff going on with absolutely nothing to hide its boringness. Up next is “I Walk Alone”. Nothing new here, the chorus isn’t bad, but overall, just nothing new going on here. “Harbinger of Fate” is another ballad, with the verses directly imitating the track “Reflections” from Framing Armageddon. Overall I probably like this more than “A Gift or a Curse”, but the 3rd verse brings back those hilariously stupid sounding bongos. “Crucify the Kind” is definitely the heaviest song on the album, crawling along while the vocals and lyrics try to be very “evil”, which just comes across as silly more than it does serious. The section before the final chorus is pretty solid though. From here until near the end things just kind of blur together in one big borefest. Not that the songs are any worse than the crop hat proceeded them, it’s just that at this point the listener has become completely jaded with what they’ve been hearing for the last while. “Something Wicked Part 3” includes a riff from “The Coming Curse” from the original SW trilogy, but hardly matches the greatness of the original. At this point something has become remarkably clear to me. It’s almost absurd how throughout both albums, despite the story “progressing”, the music hasn’t been building at all. There is no more feeling of finality or a coming end here than there was in the opening handful of tracks on Framing Armageddon. Most conceptual pieces build to climaxes and if nothing else, gain steam near the end, whereas this just continues at its same generally lame pace, despite the 2 hour-long musical “journey” nearing its end. Speaking of end, not to leave a bad taste in my mouth, Schaffe and Co. throw in one amazing track here, in the form of “Come What May”, which is easily the best thing this album has to offer. It still offers little finality to the album, but is at least a damn good song that doesn’t bore you, despite being the longest song on the album. It’s also one of the only song on the album that shows Barlow really living up to his potential greatness.
So, what do we have here? Honestly, this album isn’t terrible. Not once in the listening process did I actually feel what I was listening to sucked. It’s not bad in that way. Many of these songs alone would be fine songs, it’s just that when you put them all together, it makes one very boring album... let alone a double album. I feel the listener is rewarded with very little for having bore the brunt of 2 hours worth of generally subpar music. If you are a huge Iced Earth fan, I’m sure you will still enjoy this, and if you liked Framing Armageddon you will definitely enjoy this. However, if you hated Framing Armageddon, do yourself a favor and skip this.