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Classic Review: Iced Earth - The Dark Saga
Iced Earth
www.icedearth.com
The Dark Saga

Label: Century Media
Year released: 1996
Duration: 43:51
Tracks: 10
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: August 31, 2008
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Readers Rating
for:
The Dark Saga

Rated 3.98/5 (79.61%) (51 Votes)
Review


Undisputedly, the mere addition of vocalist Matt Barlow to the ranks of one of the genre's most iconic performers was what cemented Iced Earth's legacy within the metal community. Moreover it also provided the final piece of the puzzle for founder Jon Shaffer, whose quest for the perfect line up seemed to be fruitless up until this point. In effect, that process made Barlow's debut outing Burnt Offerings such an unforgettable record, and while its candid and straight-forward follow up is by no means as fierce and ferocious as its predecessor, The Dark Saga remains my favourite of the Barlow-era recordings, as it was the album that first saw the unity Barlow and Shaffer would perfect later in their career, as well as introducing the simpler sound the band would use as their staple from that moment onwards.

While the darker, gloomier nature of Burnt Offerings wasn't completely dropped from the songwriting, the churning, complex riffing and intricate arrangements seemed to disappear, only to be replaced with more direct structures and catchier melodies. The Iron Maiden-meets-Metallica comparison was surely spawned from the band's confluence of guitar harmonies and snarling vocal lines that The Dark Saga employs, though for me it remains one of the true gems of US Power Metal that many would cite as a departure from the band's Thrash-happy roots. Based on the Todd McFarlane graphic novels, The Dark Saga follows the story of comic anti-hero Spawn, and Iced Earth manage to capture the shady environment of the narrative incredibly well, giving the band the opportunity to use their unique sound to a great emotional advantage. Coupled with Barlow's touching performance, songs like "I Died for You" and the anguished title track provide excellent insight into the sensitivity of the character, something latter day vocalist Tim 'Ripper' Owens could never achieve with his technical but emotionally absent protestations. The music found on The Dark Saga is some of Iced Earth's most moving, and most aggressive, with the fabulous "Vengeance is Mine", the chilling "A Question of Heaven" and the double-bass splattered "Violate" all showing Shaffer and Barlow at the height of their musical collaboration.

With only the out of place "Depths of Hell" impairing the album, The Dark Saga is amongst the band's best work, and due to the morose subject matter and poignant performances, remains a fixed player on my stereo. It really is a treasure to behold, and surely the most sincere and effortlessly triumphant record the band ever composed, and even despite the recent return of Barlow to the fold, I fear Iced Earth will never reach these dark, yet elevated heights again.


Track Listing:
  1. Dark Saga
  2. I Died For You
  3. Violate
  4. The Hunter
  5. The Last Laugh
  6. Depths of Hell
  7. Vengeance is Mine
  8. (The Suffering) Scarred
  9. Slave to the Dark
  10. A Question of Heaven
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