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This review is from: Burnt Offerings (Audio CD)
I am afraid I cannot share the gusto with which other reviewers here have been overwhelmed by the majesty of this album. After many listens trying to find some worthy form in the musical narrative I have failed to succumb to its many great wonders, as I am sure there are. As a relatively long-term fan of Iced Earth (from Something Wicked This Way Comes onwards) this is difficult for me as there is much to enjoy in the majority of their releases over the years. For some reason I cannot feel the 'epic' quality that is said to exist. A few rare melodies over chugging guitars and occassional synth strings does not an epic make. The music has to do that. And Burnt Offerings is not really up to the job.
The first 2 tracks, however, are very good. The title track is relatively epic in a sense I suppose. It introduces the album well and the melody is not too immediate which is nice. But after a few spins it shows itself and the song's realisation is its own reward. 'Last December' is shorter but equally as enduring. Again it is not immediate (as none of the tracks here are) but it's a worthy song with a wintry chill tone. So far so good.
Unfortunately that is it until the last 2 tracks. From 'Diary' through to 'Creator Failure', no matter how many times I listened over and over, nothing more interesting than average music presented itself. This may amaze many people and rest assured I am not an Iced Earth 'hater' - I think they're great - but I just couldn't find a decent structure or tune with which to enjoy. Many may say that IE are not about tune or melody but I disagree. Even when extolling brutality through their music, for example in 'Disciples of the Lie' from Something Wicked (the original) one could argue there was no melody. And that may be the case but it is a great example of how a classic can be made from bare bones and a few synths. It has to be done with expertise. Burnt Offerings does not have the same finesse.
'The Pierced Spirit' however is a 2 minute wonder. This is how they show us how they CAN do it. Slight, thoughtful and enchanting. 'Dante's Inferno' is too long for what it is. In all honesty they could have done a whole album or ep on the subject (as they did with Gettysburg - now THAT was awesome!). It feels like many many parts that do not particularly add to a whole. What Iron Maiden and Helloween did with their 15 minutes epics was create repetition and a decent melody and structure it so that you always return to the elements that work. 'Dante's Inferno' simply skips from skit to skit. Saying that it is pretty good despite its failings and the top and tail of the track is suitably epic.
Emperor's Prometheus was epic. Dead Can Dance's Host of Seraphim is epic. Burnt Offerings wants to be epic. But fails, sadly. On the whole though it is a solid enough release but every album they released after betters this ten-fold. Their previous Night of the Stormrider fares better to produce an epic sound to a concept album and it is there I would recommend anyone to venture in order to gain a real feel of the beginnings of IE.