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Classic Review: Iced Earth - The Dark Saga
Iced Earth
The Dark Saga

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


Review online: August 31, 2008
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
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Rated 4.18/5 (83.68%) (76 Votes)

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.

More about Iced Earth...
Review: Alive In Athens (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Review: Alive In Athens (reviewed by Pierre Bégin)
Review: Alive in Athens (reviewed by Sirliftsalot48)
Review: Burnt Offerings (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Dystopia (reviewed by Christopher Foley)
Review: Enter the Realm (2019 reissue) (reviewed by Bruno Medeiros)
Review: Framing Armageddon (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Framing Armageddon (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Horror Show (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Review: Horror Show (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
Review: Horror Show (reviewed by Pierre Bégin)
Review: Horror Show Tour (St. Paul, MN) (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Review: Horror Show tour (Montreal) (reviewed by Pierre Bégin)
Review: Incorruptible (reviewed by Bruno Medeiros)
Review: Night Of The Stormrider (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Overture of the Wicked (reviewed by Bruce Dragonchaser)
Review: Plagues of Babylon (reviewed by Edward T. Head)
Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Something Wicked This Way Comes (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: The Crucible of Man (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: The Crucible of Man (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: The Glorious Burden (reviewed by Michel Renaud)
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Review: Tribute to the Gods (reviewed by Christian Renner)
Interview with guitarist Jon Schaffer on December 21, 2013 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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