Iced Earth

The Glorious Burden

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    8
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Earth indulge guitarist and principal songwriter Jon Schaeffer's passion -- some would say obsession -- for history. On the bonus-disc edition, there are 11 tracks on the first disc, and on Disc Two, a three-part suite entitled "Gettysburg." Disc One begins, appropriately enough, with "The Star-Spangled Banner," played in overdrive with plenty of crunch, but nonetheless reverently. That statement aside, the album truly begins with "Declaration Day," an examination of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the beginning of the American Revolution. Singer Tim Owens steps into the fray and relates, amid the bone-crushing riffing and half-time drum thud. But interestingly, it's a track that gets juxtaposed with the one that follows it, "When the Eagle Cries." Together they comprise a kind of view across the historical battlefield, from the tyranny of the British Empire to the tyranny of terrorism. The latter cut, with its haunting acoustic guitars in the front line before it breaks wide open, sort of looks back at "Declaration Day" and notes its inspiration. A truly majestic song full of plodding, jarring chords and a hooky chorus, it is part funeral hymn, and part a call-to-arms. Indeed, as the careening bombast of "The Reckoning (Don't Tread on Me)," comes into sharp focus, one can see that Schaeffer's intent is to very clearly showcase the various difficult, and even horrifying, moments confronting America since its inception -- one can read double meanings in all the songs that have American lore at their core. America isn't the mythical and/or archetypal muse here: on tracks such as "Attila," and "Red Baron/Blue Max," the metaphors are extended to two more figures from the dust of the past. At last, here is a record about patriotism that contains no jingoism; it offers its perceptions honestly and without compromise, but instead of going along for the ride, it offers a place to argue from, as well as to enjoy. Highly recommended.

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