Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Burning Oasis

Iced Earth - Burnt OfferingsIced Earth's Burnt Offerings is a masterpiece born from the anger Jon Schaffer (Reznor:nin::Schaffer:IE) had over money issues with his record label, Century Media. What was personal hell for him gave birth to the literal Hell that's spoken about in almost every song on Burnt Offerings.

Saying the record is dark is an understatement. It screams eternal damnation, in both lyrics and instrumental sonic fury, straight from the title track (which refers to said business troubles) until its monumental finale, the 16:30 minute behemoth "Dante's Inferno" (which describes in lurid detail the journey through the nine planes of Hell).

Like the harmonies and grand scale epics of Iron Maiden? Old school thrash of Metallica and Slayer? A splash of progressive Rush? Then Iced Earth is your band, and Burnt Offerings is the album that heaps all of these ingredients in by the pound. New (at the time) to the fold, lead singer Matt Barlow has range that goes deep or can scream as high as Rob Halford. Schaffer is from the Metallica School of Rhythm Riffology: his playing is as tight, precise, chunky, and fast as James Hetfield's (Schaffer's control of a guitar pick is incredible). He even pleasantly colors outside the lines at times, like when he takes a page from Soundgarden's "Jesus Christ Pose" (check the riff in the middle of "Creator Failure"). The leads by Randy Shawver are inspiring (the end of "Burning Oasis" is a highlight), and the whole package is made complete by a production that feels spacious, open, dynamic, and bold. The slight reverb that's been applied to the instruments makes one believe the band is actually playing in the caverns of Hades.

Iced Earth's next record, The Dark Saga, is a more cohesive concept album (and contains the must hear one-two punch of "Dark Saga" and "I Died For You"), but Burnt Offerings is the stereotypical "if you can only have one album by IE, this is the one to have." Just be sure to seek out an older copy. The current pressing, in addition to sporting different cover art, has been remixed and remastered. Schaffer, a perfectionist surpassed only by George Lucas, has taken off the reverb, intensified the treble, and mucked with the volume levels of various instruments and vocals. Stay away - listening to this version of Burnt Offerings is like watching Greedo shoot first in Star Wars.


Anonymous AJB said...

For those who feel intense outrage at the way Lucas changed the cantina scene, now there's a way to display the outrage in public:

9:41 PM  

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