Iced Earth – The Reckoning

Today’s single is a CD from 2003 and it gives a wealth of stuff to talk about – we have a singer change, an album theme that got hated on, a (very rare) autograph in my collection, oh and something decades later about the band’s leader attempting to overthrow the US government.

First, the single. This is a four song effort and all songs are from Iced Earth’s upcoming album The Glorious Burden. The second track is an alternate, acoustic version, while the other three are the album cuts.

And yes, the discerning metalhead many find that the cover reminds them of another heavy metal band’s iconic single cover. I always thought so, anyway.

For one bit of background – the work on this album had begun in 2003 when then-singer Matt Barlow left the band. I don’t know the exact timeline of how things worked out, but at some point Rob Halford rejoined Judas Priest and Tim “Ripper” Owens joined Iced Earth. This single marks Ripper’s IE debut.

The Reckoning (Don’t Tread On Me)

The lead song is a metal shredder that plays to Owen’s strengths well. It’s almost a bit thrashy yet retains the “power metal but not quite” feel that Iced Earth were known for. It was a good track to lead with in terms of Owens’ singing.

The song seems to be about the post 9/11 atmosphere, in that the big, bad American war machine is coming for the enemies. I don’t know if anything was ever specifically said about the song’s inspiration but the 9/11 seems obvious.

This would be a criticism of The Glorious Burden initially – the American exceptionalism that was prevalent through the record. While not a concept album, the central theme of the record was major American wars, and the music press had a go at Iced Earth for making such a record. As it would turn out though, fans didn’t really seem to care and the record was largely considered a success.

I’ll run through the other three songs real quick. When The Eagle Cries is directly about 9/11 and the American feeling right after the attacks. The song is a bit much for my tastes but it’s not bad or anything. Valley Forge is about the namesake battle in the Revolutionary War and is a good track, and Hollow Man has nothing to do with American history and is about a personal struggle of some kind. Again, all of the songs are on the full album, though When The Eagle Cries is an unplugged track on this single.

So there are a few more things to discuss here. One is something you might have noticed on the cover of my CD – there’s a bit of scribbling there. This is signed by drummer Richard Christy. Richard spent time in my area in the early 90’s and would often return to the area over the holidays, he signed this at a show he and some friends were putting on. Richard would leave Iced Earth a year later for a job with the Howard Stern show.

I’m not one much for autographs, I only have a few. But since Richard was going to be in town and I happened to have this CD laying around, I decided to do the logical thing and get it signed. Maybe I would have been better off getting a Death album signed, but this is fine.

And I suppose no discussion of Iced Earth and American exceptionalism is complete without talking about the events of January 6, 2021. Jon Schaffer was a part of the US Capitol riot, having been seen with bear spray and advancing toward police officers inside the building. Schaffer quickly took a plea deal, admitting guilt in the attempted insurrection.

It was honestly kind of funny in the immediate aftermath of the riot, when the FBI were releasing photographs trying to identify people and Schaffer was one of the first to be outed. It wasn’t all that shocking – Schaffer had become a dolt in interviews before the 2020 election and no one who’d paid any attention to him was shocked by what happened. It did surprise many who hadn’t followed along with Iced Earth for a long time or at all, but the music news and the general news converging like that was pretty hilarious.

The whole debacle didn’t make much difference to me – this single is the only thing I have by the band. I’ve tried getting more into them a few times over the years but, while I can appreciate that they did some good stuff, it just never really caught me in a huge way. Seeing the band implode because of the stupid actions of its founder and leader wasn’t really skin off my back, I had no vested interest in Iced Earth. The whole January 6 actions were not comedy in and of themselves, but it’s nice to have something to laugh at from them.

All in all, I have this CD that, if nothing else, has Richard Christy’s autograph. It is a nice performance from Tim Owens and company, and it’s a funny little piece of history after Jon Schaffer’s villain turn in early 2021.

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