Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
(5 reader votes, average 2.60 out of 5)

by Ben Perry

Artist Name: Iced Earth
Album Name: The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
Release Date: September 8, 2008

Track 1: “In Sacred Flames”
An intro track that has a cool acoustic riff throughout changing from simple picking to a strumming to create an anticipation that would come from the birth of Set Abominae that accompanied by appropriate chanting.
Song Rating: 8 out of 10

Track 2: “Behold the Wicked Child”
A main thrash riff covers most of this track in a barrage of quick snare and double bass blasts that is broken up by the occasional chanting and effects that provide depth to the constant speed. A great track, and Barlow does a wonderful job on both screaming and singing much in the way he did on Horror Show. There is a mini kind of solo, more like guitar melody, near the end that does spice things up a bit for the guitar work.
Track Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Track 3: “Minions of the Wrath”
One of my favorite tracks from the album, the vocals are absolutely spot-on with some of Barlow’s best work in Iced Earth since Something Wicked, not counting live albums. The music carries the words perfectly ebbing and flowing when the vocal parts call for it to move the action along.
Song Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Track 4: “The Revealing”
Carrying the momentum from “Minions of the Wrath” the speed picks up even more with an insane thrash riff. The vocals are spit at you fast and furious, with some back-up from Shaffer that adds even more menace to the lyrical content since he has always been the deep, dark voice on the vocal duty.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Track 5: “A Gift or a Curse?”
Taking the speed down a bit on this track, where that method of delivery has become a tad repetitive in my view at this point in the story/album anyway, this is a sweet dizzy of a slower number. The tribal drums from Something Wicked Part 1 are more prominent on here than most of the tracks on this album as they dominated most of the first. The music is perfect to the mood once again as Shaffer has been masterfully crafting the mind of Set and his thoughts through his training to destroy mankind. The brief increase in sonic barrage adds flavor to the slow section, and then when the speed and power comes back its welcome and a break to everything. The vocals get a tad lost during the heavy part, but the fabulous solo makes up for it as up to this point they have been lacking.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10

Track 6: “Crown of the Fallen”
This song has a little bit of everything that makes Iced Earth great. Slower parts with haunting melodic guitar. Good, clean vocals that drip with emotion. Not to mention one of the best solos on the album that sounds like something Megadeth might pull off.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10

Track 7: “The Dimension Gauntlet”
Some more fist in your face action on this track, except with much more diversity in the guitars. That not only adds depth and dimension but, shows the passage of Set’s final test. Great work from everybody in the band on this number.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Track 8: “I Walk Alone”
The first single from this album, and it’s a bone crusher. Jumping from the crushing guitars and drums to a more even-keel speed and back to the crushing just tears at the mind of anyone listening, and brings through the emotions of the Setian race’s hate for humans. However, Set walks alone and doe not care for either race, only his own desire. Great solo as well, but the strength lies in crushing brutality instead of grace for once.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10

Track 9: “Harbinger of Fate”
I love the music on this track, it follows the up and down rollercoaster that makes “A Gift or a Curse?” great. Sadly, Barlow does a great job on the slow parts and on the harder parts are almost as good, but the choral parts are not used as effectively as earlier Iced Earth songs used them.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10

Track 10: “Crucify the King”
There is some nifty guitar parts on this track, mainly at the beginning, middle, and end with the in-between being the marching style riffing that is accompanied by the same style of drumming. The vocals are decent, but suffer from the overdub problem that was part of the main issue with Horror Show and Something Wicked Part 1.
Song Rating: 8 out of 10

Track 11: “Sacrificial Kingdoms”
The vocals on this track are overall, some of my least favorite. Thankfully, the music is absolutely fantastic. The galloping guitar, guitar melody, and brief guitar solo that extend from an instrumental break in the middle of the track hold everything together.
Song Rating: 7 out of 10

Track 12: “Something Wicked Pt. 3”
This is a phenomenal track, musically and vocally to make up for the lack of vocal greatness on the previous tune. I love the screaming of Barlow over the intonation of his regular singing voice. Both of those worlds paired together sounds phenomenal, though I don’t know how that would be pulled off in the live setting. The music is diverse enough to be interesting and stay with the vocals. The end guitar melody that gets sharper and sharper to have more edge with the vocals is especially good at getting a mood reaction.
Song Rating: 9 out of 10

Track 13: “Divide Devour”
The track harkens back to the earlier tunes on the disc that throw everything at you as fast as it can possibly be thrown at you. The vocals do not suffer, but keep pace and sound perfect, while keeping the story being told in perfect fashion. The middle choral part doesn’t do much in the way of helping, however.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Track 14: “Come What May”
Absolutely perfect! Everything on this track is what I want in Iced Earth. Great vocals, in every sense of the way vocals are delivered. Great guitars that gallop in that signature Shaffer manner, as well as having great melody and solos to add flavor and a break from the monotony of simply having the same riff over and over. The drums help break things up with a unique pattern with the snare, cymbals and bass now and again at the perfect time when things are becoming tedious.
Song Rating: 10 out of 10

Track 15: “Epilogue”
An epilogue style track, just instrumental but still great with some cello and tribal drum work that brings the album full circle from the first track. I like the tribal feel and closure that the tune brings to the table. Good for easy-listening after the last hour of sonic bombardment.
Song Rating: 8.5 out of 10

With the return of Matt Barlow to the Iced Earth fold on vocals, there was an added hype to the finale to mainstay and lead/rhythm guitarist Jon Shaffer’s magnum opus. Beginning in 1996, Shaffer penned the beginning to the Something Wicked Saga with three songs on the album Something Wicked This Way Comes that was to be the outline to the full release as it required much work, two albums, and twelve years to complete. The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2) proves to be one of Iced Earth’s most mature works, and truly captures the ultimate sound of the band on Shaffer’s ultimate work.

Last year, saw the release of Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1) with Tim “Ripper” Owens, formerly of Judas Priest, on vocals leaving fans to wonder how it would sound with the original singer telling the tale. That opportunity came in December when Shaffer announced that Barlow would be returning to finish off the sci-fi double album, exciting many fans and leaving high expectation to what The Crucible of Man would sound like. This album truly delivers the goods and leaves no area lacking in discontentment.

The storyline picks up from Framing Armageddon with the birth of the Wicked Child that is set to destroy mankind and allow the Setian race to rule once more. The concept deals with the training of the Child and the views it learns to have of its own race, as well as the view it holds to the humans it is meant to destroy. Framing Armageddon is the back-story and history of human oppression leading up to the plan set down for the Wicked to be born and regain power for his race. The story flows perfectly song to song with Shaffer’s great rhetoric and story sense as previous releases display.

The music on this release has changed much from that which was present on the first part of the saga with a larger thrash metal element in the vein of bands like Metallica and Megadeth which have a direct influence on the solo in “Crown of the Fallen” even though it is not necessarily a thrash metal song as it has a slower tempo. However, songs like “Behold the Wicked Child” and “Sacrificial Kingdoms” barrage you with drums and guitar at break-neck speeds that defines the thrash genre.

Barlow’s addition on vocals is definitely the highlight of the album. His vocals fit the Iced Earth formula perfectly. His vocals are reminiscent of Paul Stanley of KISS doing metal, and with a vocal range and style like that, you cannot go wrong. A few songs suffer from the overlapping vocal syndrome that has been present on the previous three albums, such as too many vocal tracks being overdubbed at the end of “Sacrificial Kingdoms” and “Minions of the Wrath.” The vocals may not be as top-notch as his 1996 renditions as age has certainly shaped his vocal style differently, but neither does it disappoint nor leave a sense of lacking that will be present on both albums in the saga when Shaffer remixes Framing Armageddon with Barlow on vocals to accompany The Crucible of Man in order to give it continuity.

The one criticism I have against this album is that is lacks enough guitar solos, and those on the album do not branch out and last long enough to be of interest. This may be due to the need to tell the story, as the concept album story needs to be told above all else. There is definitely some decent virtuoso guitar work on such songs as “a Gift or a Curse?” which along with “Sacrificial Kingdoms” arguably have the best solos on the album.

This album deserves 9 out of 10 because of its great story and overall musical impact that helps deliver the story.


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