One of the most difficult things to get used to in my formative years as a metalhead was the idea that sometimes bands changed their lead singers. I think the first bands that I noticed this with were Black Sabbath and Cannibal Corpse. Now obviously bands have been changing lead singers for years, but when I was younger and more naive the lead singer seemed like the most indispensable member.
All of the above is meant as an introduction to Iced Earth's latest release, with new singer Stu Block. Iced Earth has had a number of singers over the years, so it is really no surprise that the band is on their fifth different lead singer, with Matt Barlow serving two stints. Block was previously with progressive melodeath band Into Eternity, which is a band whose last couple of albums I have definitely enjoyed. I was interested in hearing how Block would do with Iced Earth. Iced Earth has always been guitarist Jon Schaffer's band. He is the creative force behind them and the only stable member over the years.
Iced Earth was a little stagnant on their last album. It sounded stale and was largely a disappointment. Sad considering that it was the second stint with Barlow. So, the question was whether the addition of Block would reinvigorate the band. That question was answered with an emphatic yes.
This is Iced Earth's best album in years. I think I prefer it even over the albums Tim Owens appeared on. Block actually sounds a little like a cross between Owens and Barlow in places. It is their fastest and most energetic album in a while. The riffs are still typical for the band, meaning galloping Iron Maiden-esque melodies.
Iced Earth has released a very good album here. While it is no match for their best albums at the height of the band's career, it is fairly impressive for a band going for a quarter of a century.