Having had a not unreasonable level of anticipation for this release, given the subject matter and my desire for vindication for 'Ripper' Owens, I am extemely glad to say that 'Framing Armageddon' more than exceeded my expectations. The opening track 'Overture' is a beautiful percussion/cello instrumental that segues perfectly into brutal riffing, smooth lead lines, the best drumming I've ever heard from Brent Smedley, and (everyone's favourite), ear-splitting vocals from the aforementioned Tim Owens. Stand-out tracks include 'The Clouding', a ballad-esque epic detailing the awakening of man after their collective mind-wipe from the Setian race that concludes with one of the most vicious, bitter lyrics and music that I've heard from this (or for that matter, any other) band - 'Never trust in the motives of man/ They failed to evolve in Mother Nature's plan / And though they seem safe in this newly clouded state/ The nature of their heresy has proven quite innate' - as well as my personal favourite 'When Stars Collide (Born is He)', the multi-layered vocals of which show the influence of Jon Schaffer's some-time collaborator Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian.
What is most notable about this album is how free Schaffer sounds, embracing the epic bombast of European power metal that he used to such great effect on the Gettysburg trilogy from 2004's 'The Glorious Burden', while his narrative lyrics prove to be his best yet. My only real gripe is that the final track, 'The Awakening', feels as though it would be better suited as the introduction to the second album, and that 'When Stars Collide' is the logical endpoint. This is all purely speculative, however, until next January.
So, in conclusion... thank you, Iced Earth, for proving the nay-sayers wrong and bringing new life to a band who consistently bring fantastic material to an increasingly dull and lacklustre music industry. Armageddon is truly here - roll on January and 'Revelation Abomination'!