Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Iced Earth - Horror Show
(Century Media)

The cool thing about Iced Earth has, as of late, been the tag-team serious metalness of the long-locked duo locking devil horns up front with your inner headbanger. Yes, make the sign of the hammer for Matt Barlow and Jon Schaffer, a pair of unreal(istic) rock stars (God luv 'em) who can deliver a grand flourish with suburban metalfest panache. Iced Earth's form of power metal, something they'd been doing far before it became hip, always sounds like a struggle to get out, like there is tension, friction, as if the relationship between the bass player and the guitar player is... wait, that's the twelfth horror story condensed on this album. In any event, Jon and Matt seem to pour it out for you, like Nevermore, like Virgin Steele, like Manowar, really, more metal than any of those bands because they live in the brown pig pen muck of a derided and chided metal sub-genre, a power metal that is not pretty. Lyrically, I don't really buy all this stuff about these movie monsters being metaphors for actions and reactions in greater society. It's really a hokey device. But again, it just plays to the fact of surrender, giving up all pretense for a wallow among the hopelessly metal-obsessed: we are one of you, one, two, three, four, let it rock, which Iced Earth do, dancing on the razor's edge of collapse, urgently pushing these stuttering galloping crypt-kickers with a lurch over the wall, again, never efficiently, always with parts grinding steel on steel, Matt caught in the cogs and howling over the pain.
Rating 8.5

Falconer - Falconer
(Metal Blade)

Somehow this managed to stir my arid, frigid, barren power metal cockles and I gather it might be because it comes from two obtuse locales. First of all band brainchild Stefan Weinerhall is a rare crossover from the black metal side, having cut his teeth in Mithotyn, named after a toothpaste ingredient. Second, vocalist Mathias Blad isn't even a metalhead, indeed, joining the band wary of the whole thing. Lyrically, as much as Stefan might be proud of writing about lesser folk of medieval times, it's still pretty much elves and hill and dale. But the surrounding claptrap is quite thrilling... punchy, explosive production, epic twin leads, weighty riffs channeled through a creamy, regal guitar sound, rich, measured vocals and drum grooves that suck you in to the beating blood heart/temple connection of a Viking mead-induced migraine. I guess I've just realized that I don't think all power metal blows, that there is hope, that in fact, I guess I'm finding use in every fourth or fifth rock 'n' troll'er I survey, falcon in hand, wizard of all the land.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3