Iced Earth 

Overture of the Wicked (SPV)

Overture of the Wicked will surely ignite heated debate among fans of power-metal legends Iced Earth. This EP consists of a new single, "Ten Thousand Strong," and a rerecording of "Something Wicked Trilogy," the closer on Something Wicked This Way Comes, the band's landmark album from 1998. With vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens stepping in for Matt Barlow, the trilogy tells a complex tale of an Antichrist and impending apocalypse. Indeed, Iced Earth mastermind Jon Schaffer never met a concept album storyline he didn't like.

The good news is that "Ten Thousand Strong" is a solid single and an exciting preview of the upcoming album. Now here's the bad: Unless you're an obsessive fan -- and there's really no other kind in power metal -- Overture of the Wicked is solid but unnecessary. Owens gives his usually strong performance, but trying to improve on Barlow's classic wail is an exercise in futility. The rerecording features darker keys and better production values, but Iced Earth can't top tracks that were perfect nine years ago.

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