Iced Earth - _Days of Purgatory_
(Century Media, 1997)
by: Drew Snow (9.5 out of 10)
Yeah! This is what I've been waiting for. Iced Earth have consistently put out awesome speed metal albums (their last veered away from that a bit, taking a tad slower approach), and the only problem throughout the years is that they've changed vocalists with every album except the last. Finally they found the right singer for the job, and indeed Matthew Barlow's clean intonations and harsher screams fit Iced Earth's varied music perfectly. So what better thing to do than re-do a lot of the older material from the first two albums with Barlow on vocals and add a few new guitar lines? And while we're at it, why not add a couple of new songs that were recorded in the band's early days under the moniker Purgatory? That said, I can confidently say that what the band's first two releases, _Iced Earth_ and _Night of the Stormrider_, respectively, lacked in vocals and production, is quickly remedied on _Days of Purgatory_. The production is amazingly strong and almost forces you to crank the volume and bob your head, while the vocal offerings of Barlow are the same as always: strong and right on the money. Epic tracks such as "When the Night Falls" and "Travel in Stygian", with their complex structures, jaw-dropping riffing, and dramatic choruses are better than ever, and the new songs, "Nightmares" and "Winter Nights", keep up the tradition. Iced Earth evidently weren't happy with a few of the vocals and melodies of the original songs, either, as in a couple of songs, the arrangement is a bit different. Basically, the only thing keeping _Days of Purgatory_ from receiving a perfect score is that it's not entirely new material, but as far as Iced Earth goes, this has got to be as good as it gets because I am totally blown away. Count me in as one of Iced Earth's biggest fans.

(article published 12/8/1997)

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