Glaciers Are Us
CoC interviews Iced Earth
by: Adrian Bromley
Florida metallers Iced Earth are in route for global domination. Or so they hope. The band's latest offering, _Something Wicked This Way Comes_ (a follow-up to 1996's brilliant _The Dark Saga_), is a brilliant testimony to the ways that metal should be played: passionate and oh so heavy. Draped within pure metal geniusness, the latest offering from Iced Earth digs deep into the soul of metal, lashing out with truly dynamic sounds and a real stellar production. Is this their best work to date? Many with say it is. Guitarist/ lyricist/mastermind Jon Schaffer is one of them.

"This record has a lot of diversity on it," he starts. "When we made _The Dark Saga_, and seeing that it was a concept record, we aimed to follow the love story that grew out of the whole Spawn / Dark Saga thing. There were slow songs and powerful choruses that chimed with melody. But many of our fans who still liked the record thought we were lacking a heavy sound. Fast songs were lacking. We listened to the fans and tried to bring a good array of diversity to this record. There is this whole rainbow of sounds here. Matt [Barlow, singer] did a superb job singing on this record. It flowed very well. I am very happy with the results."

He continues, "I am very proud of what we did here with this new LP. We approached this record the way we approached all of our other records. We just record what comes out. The basic thing for the record was that we were going to make a concept record on a story I wrote. I had written some material after _The Dark Saga_ sessions ["Watching Over Me" and "Stand Alone" -- Adrian], and that was about a year and a half ago, and then we decided that they were cool tunes that stood on their own and not with the story. So what we did was include the first ten songs that stand alone by themselves on the record and then have the three-song trilogy at the end of the record. The idea was to give the listener a sort of prelude to the next record, stemming from the three-song trilogy on this LP. The next LP will be a full-concept record based on that story, Something Wicked."

"At first, while making this record I was having a hard time making music," acknowledges Schaffer. "All of the stress was getting to me and I really couldn't concentrate too much on what I was doing. Then I got things in control and went back to the old way of just letting things flow and it all worked out in the end."

The role of Iced Earth -- whose current lineup is rounded out by Randy Shawver (guitars), Brent Smedley (drums) and bassist Jimmy McDonough -- has been well-documented in metal music through their various early releases (_Iced Earth_, _Burnt Offerings_, _Night of the Stormrider_), but it wasn't until singer Matt Barlow took over that the band sort of got a kick in the ass and some well-deserved recognition. Things were clicking, the sound was great and they weren't just a run-of-the-mill metal outfit slaving through the waves of the metal industry. They had hit a hard and definite bullseye with _The Dark Saga_. Metal fans took note. "We had put a lot of hard work into this band from day one and it shows. But I dunno... I am so dedicated to this band. I have never, ever felt like giving up. Well... there was a bit of time during the _Night of the Stormrider_ sessions that everything was all fucked up and stressful, but we carried on. We struggled and the success of _The Dark Saga_ was a great feeling for us. Now things are starting to go our way and it's exciting. We come over to Europe and play to all these rabid fans for two hours and it kind of erases all the bullshit that comes with this industry."

"Things are surely starting to roll for us a bit better now," states Schaffer. "_The Dark Saga_ helped get us out in North America, thanks to the marketing from our label. In the early days it wasn't much like that. The label really worked hard to get the name out and it paid off."

Through the years of trudging through the industry to make ends meet, how does Schaffer feel he has managed to keep Iced Earth intact with their metal roots? "I've never been tempted to do anything other than play metal," says Schaffer with sincerity in his voice. "I only do things I wanna do and doing stuff outside of metal music has never been an issue. I don't want to play this noisy shit of the 90s. I wanna play metal music. If metal music gets popular again like it is in Europe, that's gonna be great. If it doesn't happen and metal goes away or no one cares, we are still going to be doing this. This is what we are about. Being a metal band. Another thing is that I don't really listen to many other bands, so I don't get influence to change my style or bring ideas into Iced Earth that are not metal. I don't listen to music much 'cause I am in the business. It's as if I was a carpenter who works all day and then goes home and has to work on his house. I don't wanna do that. When I drive around in my car I listen to the shit I grew up with, none of this current music trends. I don't wanna be influenced by things I don't like."

On the topic of their dedicated fan base, Schaffer says, "We have been lucky to have a good fan base with this band. And with the success of _The Dark Saga_, we gained many more new fans. That is expected with every record -- if not, you are going backwards, right? We definitely have reached a bigger audience and that comes with touring and making LPs. We have been lucky to have dedicated fans over the years who have stuck with us, kind of forming a cult-like following of sorts for Iced Earth. It's very dedicated and we stay true to them and our music fully."

As many would expect from being a musician, sacrifices are made all of the time. Schaffer has made many to keep the metal torch within Iced Earth flickering. "I have sacrificed everything for the band. From the early days of leaving home at the age of 16 and eating mayonnaise sandwiches and living on the streets to putting my band before my family and my friends, I have made a number of sacrifices to make this band the number one priority in my life. There is just this intensity within me, a burning ambition, that makes me want to do this. I can't divert from it. I am completely driven to make this happen and I'll do whatever it takes."

"There is a lot of creativity coming from me for Iced Earth. I don't really see an end in sight," Schaffer states. "If you ask me five or ten years from now, it may be a different story. I can't predict the future. I know right now all of us feel the intensity of what is happening and the chemistry of the band is killer. It's working out great. As for what I have done, I have never seen myself as a great musician. I never wanted to become a superstar musician or guitar hero guy. I don't even like being called a rock star. I am a songwriter and composer. That's what I do. The whole drive behind the band from day one is to write songs. I dunno why. It's just the way I have always been. And I'll keep doing this 'till I run out of song ideas. Could be a while though."

(article submitted 1/9/1998)

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