Iced Earth – Dystopia [2011]

Band: Iced Earth
Album: Dystopia
Release year: 2011
Genre: Power Metal

Iced Earth are perhaps one of the most well known and well regarded American power metal acts, having toured both the US and Europe. Dystopia is the first album to feature new vocalist Stu Block [Into Eternity], following the departure of Matt Barlow.

The first track of the album is none other than the title track “Dystopia”, beginning with a mighty guitar riff combined with drums. The joining of a second guitar adds more power to the music of the song. The first wail of the song that is heard sounds likes a poor attempt at imitating Gaahl. The tempo increases, adding a thrash element to the music. The vocals aren’t what they’re expected to be – Stu is clearly trying to imitate his predecessors. Though he sounds similar to Barlow in some parts, his attempt to perform similar high pitch vocals to The Ripper do spoil the track for the listener. Already, the album is at an okay start.

“Anthem” has a mesmerising soft introduction that only gets better with the slow, thundering sound of the bass mixed with the tapping of cymbals. The soon turns heavy with a partially melodic twist. The bass stays powerful and thunderous throughout the song working well with the drums – Which is no surprise for an Iced Earth track. The guitar solo adds some new life to the album as well, helping the listener forget about the vocals for a short while. The gang vocals towards the end, with all due respect to the new vocalist, are much better. “Boiling Point” storms its way next like a furious thrash metal anthem. The riffs are violent and angry whilst carrying a certain touch of classic metal. The use of church bells at the beginning adds a very dramatic tension to the music. The use of constant double bass pedals gets tiring after a while as they can be heard from beginning to end. The vocals don’t really add anything special to the song either.

The acoustic beginning of “Anguish Of Youth” takes the listener by surprising and the vocals sound so much different and more distinct. Even when the song takes that heavy twist the vocals don’t change their sound – Its good to hear Block using his own vocal style. The contrasting acoustic and heavy sections are truly brilliant, as is the solo. Following straight after is “V”. The introduction is monstrous – in the good sense – and has a very traditional metal feel to it. The vocals are a let down as they are back to sounding like Barlow. The melodic sections and solo are typically Iced Earth sounding, which will no doubt be a bonus for the more hardcore fans of the band.

“Dark City” is another song to have a soft introduction. The high pitched vocals sound almost like The Ripper – To as whether this is a good thing or bad thing will be left for the fans to decide. The riffs pack a truly powerful punch. The guitar solo has a very old school sort of sound to it, like a Black Sabbath meets Judas Priest meets Saxon kinda sound. The melodic-like riff towards the end teases the listener’s ears with excitement – It’s a shame it comes to a sudden end. The start of “Equilibrium” seems a tad like a slowed down Judas Priest track til the tempo increases. For the most part, the song is as bland as a cucumber sandwich. The solo is the one of two exciting parts of the song – The second exciting part of the song being the vocals after the solo.

The beasty intro of “Days Of Rage” tears its way next as the album draws closer to the end. The vocals are rage-fuelled and raw while the guitars just scream with angst and energy. The one and only flaw to “Days Of Rage” is its short lived length. “End Of Innocence” is the second track on the album to start with an acoustic section. The vocals are lacking the Barlow-Ripper-esque sound though they do become more rough sounding when the heavier sections of the song kick in. The album finishes with “Tragedy and Triumph” which sounds similar to the title track at the beginning. The song feels heavier when the tempo gets turned up by a few notches. Everything during in this song seems to gel well together drums. This one would definitely be the perfect song for driving down the motorway at 70MPH.

For most of the album, the vocals are off-putting due to their similar sound to Barlow and The Ripper though towards the end of the album they work well with the music. Block’s use of his own vocal sound helps improve the album and most of the songs are well composed and have the typical Iced Earth sound. However, there probably will be some division between the fans over this album – Something that generally happens with a new vocalist.


Nico Davidson

14 Responses to “Iced Earth – Dystopia [2011]”

  1. Oh my! I really lost track of these guys! I had no idea Barlow had left (again) and that they were power metal now! Last time I’ve checked, they were still a thrash/heavy band… I’m even afraid of listening to this…

    • They’ve always being power/thrash in my eyes since they take inspiration from NWOBHM & thrash. The album isn’t that bad, it’s just the vocals provided by Block…

      • I dare you to find a power metal piece in “Something Wicked This Way Comes” 😉

      • I’ll have a listen to it later. I’m not a massive listener of Iced Earth though. 😉

      • “Something Wicked…” is from 1998 – it’s only natural their sound has suffered some changes ever since… Still, I’m having a hard time seeing them as power metal, as that genre is too… happy! Fast but happy. Iced Earth used to be obscure. I don’t know. I lost track of them the first time Barlow left, and even when he got back, I didn’t pay attention anymore. To me, they will always be thrash, as it’s the memory I keep of them 🙂

      • One of their key differences from power metal is the lack of keyboards but they’re considered to be power metal, heavy metal and thrash metal. The new vocalist is trying too hard to be Barlow and The Ripper. :/

      • Ouch! Bad move! You should NEVER try to impersonate your predecessor!
        Well, power metal for me it’s happy and fast guitars AND keyboards, high-pitch vocals ALL THE TIME, and at least half of the songs talk about fantasy creatures and medieval kingdoms, so…. Too much prejudice on my part, maybe? 😉

      • Exactly! It got irritating real fast yet other webzines/magazines are praising him for it!
        And yeah, a lot of prejudice on your part You’re meant to be a critic.
        Children Of Bodom are classified as power metal, y’know? 😛

      • Ah ah ah! But I was commenting, not reviewing 😉
        CoB, power metal? Of course! You listen to Stratovarius or Hammerfall and you immediately think of “Follow The Reaper” or “Hate Crew Deathroll”… *facepalm

      • I’d say they’re more on the melodic death metal side of things, to be honest.
        Though power metal just combines traditional metal with speed metal and power metal vocals do follow the same kind of vein as Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Dio, etc so it’s possible for Iced Earth to power metal. The keyboards were a later addition to power metal. 😉

  2. randomnumber7 Says:

    I am really excited to get my hands on this album, I ordered the deluxe edition with all the extra goodies. Stu is a fantastic vocalist, he has the best of both Barlow and Ripper, without sounding like he’s trying to copy them. The song Dystopia is a beast. I heard it on Revoker magazines website. The main riff is one of the best I’ve ever heard and Stu shines. The high pitched screams are superbe as well as the more agressive verses and the soaring chorus will be drowned out by a live crowd singing along. Awesome band!

    • I don’t expect anyone to take my reviews as lore.
      He just seemed to be trying to imitated Barlow and The Ripper in my opinion. The riffs on the title track are pure awesome though and I would recommended that people buy the album just for the music. 😉

  3. I don’t think Stu is imitating his predecessors, he was not forced to be a clone, like it sometimes happens to new singers. There’s definetly some influences from Matt and Tim but that’s what I’d call them: influences. Iced Earth has it’s own style in vocals, and every singer has to adapt to the genre, learn to use that agressive, emotional, powerful style that is one of the trademarks of the band(combined to Jon’s heavy riffs and to Bren’t drums).
    But Stu has his own style and I find that he shows it and that it fits well with the band. And he has an amazing range.
    I think that it was a grea find on Jon’s part.
    I’m a devoted Matt Barlow fan, he’s my favourite singer out there and I love his voice, but I’m not at all disappointed by Stu’s vocals.
    As for the album itself, I think it’s a solid album, I like all the songs, really like most of the songs and there’s two songs I fell in love with and that will probably become two of my favourites IE songs: Anthem and End Of Innocence. Pure Iced Earth spirit.
    I’m looking forward to seeing them live again, with Stu this time 🙂

    • For me, as a casual listener of IE, it did feel like he was imitating but that’s just my opinion. I’m not gonna be some sort of troll about it and start sending hate mail to the band. 😉
      The album is pretty good – hence the 3.5/5 – Just for the most part I was trying to adjust to the vocals – I review while listening to an album, so that might explain why I was a bit put off by the vocals. Musically though, the album is great and sounds just like any of the IE albums I’ve listened to.
      I’ve not heard Block’s vocals before this album so that might be another reason for my comments about his vocal style – I’ll probably listen to the album at a later date and really enjoy the new vocals. 😉
      I wouldn’t mind seeing IE live though. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite the experience.

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