Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Framing Armageddon


After "The Glorious Burden", an album featuring the war stories from Napoleon Bonaparte to 9/11 incident, Iced Earth is back with latest album "Framing Armageddon". The mastermind of the band, Jon Schaffer had announced his plan of releasing "Something Wicked - Part I" in September 2007 and "Something Wicked - Part II" in early 2008. Finally the album was christened "Framing Armageddon" which will be released on 11th September 2007. Here is the review of the album, but many would want to read this review after hearing the album atleast once, just like you don't want to hear the story of movie before you watch.

Tracklist:
1. "Overture" (Jon Schaffer) - 2:24

2. "Something Wicked (Part 1)" (Schaffer) - 5:02
3. "Invasion" (Schaffer) - 1:00
4. "Motivation of Man" (Schaffer) - 1:34

5. "The Setian Massacre" (Schaffer) - 3:48

6. "A Charge to Keep" (Schaffer) - 4:24

7. "Reflections" (Schaffer/Tim Mills) - 1:50
8. "Ten Thousand Strong" (Schaffer) - 3:54
9. "Execution" (Schaffer) - 1:27

10. "Order of the Rose" (Schaffer) - 4:51

11. "Cataclysm" (Schaffer) - 1:30
12. "The Clouding" (Schaffer) - 9:18

13. "Infiltrate and Assimilate" (Schaffer/Mills) - 3:48

14. "Retribution Through the Ages" (Schaffer) - 4:32
15. "Something Wicked (Part 2)" (Schaffer) - 2:59
16. "The Domino Decree" (Schaffer/Tim Owens) - 6:36
17. "Framing Armageddon" (Schaffer) - 3:40
18. "When Stars Collide (Born is He)" (Schaffer) - 4:17
19. "The Awakening" (Schaffer) - 2:01

Lineup:

Tim Owens - lead vocal
Troy Seele - lead guitar
Jon Schaffer - rhythm guitar
Dennis Hayes - bass
Brent Smedley - drums
Tim Mills - lead guitar on "Ten Thousand Strong"



The album starts off with "Overture", a two and half minute long mellow instrumental piece. The song starts with tribal drum beats for first few seconds and then a slow violin tune accompanies the beats till the end. Jon Schaffer shows his different face in this song. His guitars start making the most melodious sounds, far from powerful riffs, just like kissing the song here and there while the beats keep continuing. The song ends with a sort of Gregorian chant. Don't even try to make the wildest guess about the album based on this song, I tried and I was egregiously wrong.

With no pause between songs, the second track "Something Wicked - Part I" kicks in like a thunderous assault. The shredding guitar riffs at the start of track by Jon makes you go weak in knees. The signature "Iced Earth" riffs are in place and kick-ass Tim "Ripper" Owens' vocals makes you spell bound. As you listen to first few words, as a die-hard Iced Earth fan, you get a deja-vu feeling, the bells start ringing immediately, it takes you back in time, takes you straight to the years of "Something Wicked This Way Comes". The words from "Prophecy" which you would have sang along a million times now takes a new incarnation in Tim's larynx. "I can see it clearly now, a painful vision indeed....". The riffs in the middle of the song is just awesome and which makes you want to feel over and over again and ends with rhythmic drum beats which fades into the next song. "Something Wicked - Part I" is perfect blending of Jon's riffs and Owens' high pitched vocals. The order in which it appears after "Overture" couldn't be any better.

"Invasion" is a song with a weird tribal sounds with female aria voice for few seconds which leads to sounds of gun and other weird weapons and is just a minute long track. They could have make done without this track, I couldn't figure out the need of this track which neither has music nor the words. Just a minute long cacophony.

"Motivation of Man" is a high-octane battle song with backing vocals and war cries to a great extent through out the song. It starts off with a weird voice of a warlord screaming
"At last we will claim
What is rightfully ours

Absolute power, absolute knowledge

All the galaxies and the subjects therin

Will kneel before the human race

Unlimited power
Unlimited knowledge"
Owens vocals is slightly changed and is filled in a lot by backing vocalists. The guitar riffs are heavy and thunderous and the double bass pump out beats very apt for a battle song.

Suddenly another set of thundering riffs and Owens' high pitched screams kick start the track "Setian Massacre". Its almost like a continuation of "Motivation of Man" with lesser backing vocals and war cries. Brent dishes out thumping rapid double bass and the lead piece at the center and end gels up with the song well, not more, not less.

A change in rhythm is the most noticeable part of the track "A Charge To Keep". 1 - 4 - 3 rhythm pattern starts off the song and it continues through out the song except for the backing vocals. Owens' vocals are much mellowed down when compared to other tracks and the backing vocals make the song sound like an epic. At the third minute of the track starts an amazing muted rhythm followed by a lead which is the part I liked the most in the whole album, though it lasts for just about half minute. This become a personal favorite of mine instantly.

"Reflection" starts off with mellifluous guitar picking, the kind of songs for which you would wave the lighters in the concerts. It brings back the memories of "When The Eagle Cries" from "Glorious Burden" but much shorter in time than that.

As Owens stretches and sustains "The Elder lives on in all Thirteen" at the end of "Reflection", a sudden roll out of drums, riffs and a very high pitched wailing follows without slightest pause in "Ten Thousand Strong". Yet another high energy, high pitched song. This is the track where Tim Mills, the ex-Iced Earth guitarist has played leads and Jon's rhythms gels up well with the chorus. A very typical Iced Earth song with galloping rhythms and for me, this one undoubtedly takes the cake among other tracks of the album. This anthem would sound a bit different in their EP "Overture Of The Wicked". Video was not as impressive as it should have been for such a brilliant track.



A sudden fall in the tempo happens when "Execution" starts. It features pipe music with slow and silent guitar tones and occasional drum beats. Its a minute and a half long instrumental and at end of a minute, like a bolt in the blue, a high pitched scream with some real kick-ass choppy riffs and rolling drums start which acts a prelude to the next track "Order Of The Rose". The track opens with 2 - 6 galloping rhythm patterns and grows with minute variations. Owens' vocals are once again much mellowed and supported greatly by backing vocals. The guitar solo at 2:30 minutes is a brilliant one which fades into 2 - 6 rhythm patters and the one at 4th minute is even better. You feel sad that the leads last for a very short time. I rank "Order Of The Rose" to be the second best track in "Framing Armageddon".

"Cataclysm" starts off silently and a meticulous listener would again go back in time. The short feeble guitar lead is the exactly the same as the one at start of "Prophecy". Its a short instrumental track of 1:30 minute long featuring synthesized sounds of thunderous sparks and shattering glasses. Again this is a song which I felt was absolutely useless and adds no shit to the album.

"The Clouding" is yet another melodious song with guitar picks sounding clean. It is the longest track of the album running for 9:18 minutes with mostly undistorted guitars and cleaner leads and highly mellowed and melted vocals. However at 5:30 minute the distortions kick in with heavy drums and weird screams/laughter. The riffs are amazing but the best part of the song is the transition from a slow "Hollow Man"esque track to something heavier. The song ends with a unique riff pattern, paralleled by drums.

"Infiltrate And Assimilate" has more of a contemporary touch. The lead at 2:18 is a short and choppy one which goes well with rhythms and the drum pattern in this song is fast, unique and periodic. The song has an abrupt ending without any fade-in to the next track.

"Retribution Through The Ages" is a 4:30 long track featuring some fast, galloping riffs. This has got the best and longest lead among all tracks. Owens' vocals are chorused well and it somehow reminded me of "The Reckoning" from "The Glorious Burden". This again does not fade-in to the next track.

The tribal drums starts sounding again on "Something Wicked - Part II" with a nice base line. This one is yet another songs which makes you travel back in time. The icing of the song is the guitar solo which is same as "Birth Of The Wicked" which starts at 55th second. The solo and the beats are fused in such an amazing manner that you feel that this instrumental masterpiece should have lasted for hours, while it ends at 3rd minute.

The "Domino Decree" is the second longest song in the album and written by Owens. It starts with a repetitive guitar solo and in not time Owens' wailing will take over. It has choppy riffs all along and gets slightly heavier at the center and ends with a sort of stereophonic "amplifier feedback" sound.

Title track, 3:40 minutes long "Framing Armageddon" was yet another track with galloping riffs and chorus, but becomes rather catchy at nearly second minute of the song with nicer leads. But! by the time you're listening to this song, you would have heard a lot better riffs and choruses ample times and you would feel it a lackluster.

"When Star Collide" is the penultimate track with no solo voice of Owens. The whole song is sang by backing vocalists in unison and sounds more orchestral had there been no riffs.

Mix a bit of Deep Forest, a tinge of Gregorian, a pinch of aria will give rise to "The Awakening" which terminates the album.

In a nut shell, "Framing Armageddon" is very typical Iced Earth album containing some very heavy, mellowed and mid-toned tracks. "Something Wicked - Part I", "Ten Thousand Strong", "Order Of The Rose", "Charge To Keep" and "The Clouding" will surely appeal to most fans. They could have cut down on few of the tracks to keep the album short.

I thought of explaining certain terms that you come across in their lyrics, at least newbies would find it easier to understand. Most of them are from Wikipedia.

Elder:
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his or her wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. However, elders exist throughout world cultures.

Setian Satanism:
  • According to this sect, the Egyptian deity Set, is the real Dark Lord behind the name Satan. They have their own concept of the Black Flame.
  • This type of Satanism maintains that the Hebrews ran into an adversary in Egypt who was the Pharaoh of the Seti Dynasty, when Set was the principal pharaonic Deity. After the Pharaoh expelled the Hebrews from Egypt, the Hebrew Bible scribes wrote "Exodus", demonstrating the enormity of this event to the Hebrew people. However, there are apparently no Egyptian records to back up any of the Hebrew claims except a passing mention of the Pharaoh kicking many foreigners out at that time — not just Hebrews. Setian Satanists theorize that "Satan" is a wrong or slanderous label for a legitimate Egyptian God, the God Set.
  • The practices and theology of the Set sect are very oriented towards cultivating self-hood. They reject the dissolving of the individual into oneness with existence, and celebrate the separation of the individual self from the rest of the universe. Some followers believe in Set as a real theistic conscious being that appears in revelations and delivers messages, while others revere Set as a principle. How historically correct their picture of Set is might be considered debatable.
  • The religious group that founded modern Setianism is the Temple of Set.

Set Abominae:
A fictional character named Set Abominae created by Jon Schaffer. This is the character that appears on the covers of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or "Horror Show" and also on "Framing Armageddon".

Other posts of interest:
Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell concert, Monterrey
Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death tour, Bangalore


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