Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Iced Earth - Dark Genesis
(Century Media)

Man, leafing through this completely first rate box, you think, strike one for the little guy. For here is a band that is still, nearly 20 years down the dustpipe of the dream, underground by most measures, seeing a fully elegant presentation of their blood sweat and toil. You feel like you've cracked open a secret tome, and that there is some presence, perhaps a chrome-clad guardian angel, that rewards the true at heart despite their lack of accolades, that patiently and without irony wants to tell their story, despite the toilers dedicating their lives to a thankless task in a foregone and accursed conclusion of a music genre. Such is the tale of Jon Schaffer, as is endearingly retold by archivist Sumit Chandra over ten pages of the 32-page book stitched into this set. As you listen to the desperate yet determined and professional (and exclusive) Enter The Realm demo that opens this five-disc box, you read about Schaffer fleeing a bad homelife in Indiana to live in his car and abandoned buildings in Florida. You then progress through the first three records, not surprisingly disowned or at least disparaged by perfectionist Schaffer, also not surprisingly firmly among fan favourites, the receiver of Iced Earth's dark anti-power metal able to osmose the dedication of the makers of this melancholic gothic post-Maiden trilogy. As you wade through Chandra's meticulously recounted and detailed band history, you also see the band's graphic and photographic presence progress, through many rare photos both live and seriously posed (and seriously not for posers). As the tale winds down, focus shifts to all the lyrics to the three albums, presented with the new comic art images rejuvenating these anachronistic metal vignettes, each collection of tracks remastered, as if anybody but Jon saw serious fault with the originals. Finally, it all comes full circle, with Jon writing a long love letter of appreciation to the bands that helped him through a rough childhood (as the immortal Foghat once said, 'When I was stone blue, rock 'n' roll sure helped me through'). It is a poignant bit of writing from Schaffer, and it is of course, underscored and soundtracked by the brand new 11-song covers album, which takes on greater significance when you immerse yourself in the metal life of Schaffer and his unwavering eye to the dream. Each of these classics (from the likes of Maiden, AC/DC, BOC, Alice, Sabbath, Priest and original dreamweavers Kiss), gets the unmistakable, sharp and slightly chaotic Iced Earth treatment, characterized more by the vocal howl of a man perhaps more Icey and Earthy than Schaffer, vocalist Matthew Barlow, who sells every dream Jon conjures with vocal eyes that scream and stare right through you. All told, Dark Genesis becomes a fitting recap, as well as a talisman of hope, a boxful of testimony that middle earth metal can build a mountain one fan at a time, and that excellence in any field - if all is right with karma - will be recognized, budgetary constrictions be damned.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Page 3