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Music / Iced Earth

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Related Acts:
  • Demons & Wizards, Jon Schaffer's side project with Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kürsch.
  • Sons Of Liberty, Schaffer's other side project with more politically-charged songs.
  • Purgatory: The original incarnation of Iced Earth active in the '80s, reformed as a side-project in 2018.
Iced Earth is a Heavy Metal band from the United States that was founded in 1984 (initially under the name “Purgatory”) by rhythm guitarist and main songwriter Jon Schaffer. Their music features a distinct combination of furious Thrash Metal riffage and the catchy, triumphant choruses and copious harmonies of classic Power Metal, with the subjects explored lyrically ranging from theologically-tinged Dark Fantasy to classic horror films and even Horrible History Metal.

Iced Earth's line-up changes very frequently; only Jon Schaffer has remained with the band since he founded it, as most of the other members have been hired session players. Longtime vocalist Matt Barlow temporarily left the band in 2003, returning in 2008 for The Crucible of Man. While he was gone, Tim "Ripper" Owens (the Replacement Scrappy for Judas Priest) sang in Iced Earth. And the fans raged as much as the Priest fans did during their own Owens era.

Barlow left again in early 2011, and his replacement was Stu Block from Into Eternity. Unlike Owens, Block mostly lived up to Barlow’s acclaimed reputation and remained with the band for its next three albums until 2021.

Jon Schaffer has also had several side projects over the years; Demons & Wizards, with Blind Guardian singer Hansi Kürsch (which folded in January 2021 following Schaffer's arrest), his politically-themed solo affair Sons of Liberty, and a reformed version of Purgatory, the original '80s incarnation of Iced Earth, with the surviving members including vocalist Gene Adam. He also released a Christmas-themed collaboration entitled Winter Nights with Matt Barlow in December 2020.

The band also has had two of their songs, "When the Night Falls" and "Pure Evil", featured on Brütal Legend's soundtrack.

On January 6, 2021, Jon Schaffer was discovered to have taken part in the Capitol Hill Riot, which lead to his arrest by the FBI on January 17th. At the same time, Stu Block made a Facebook post that was interpreted by many as him supporting the riots, although he quickly recanted that interpretation and strongly condemned the insurrection, and he (along with every other band member save for Brent Smedley) have since left the band as a result.

Jon Schaffer struck a guilty plea deal in exchange for a reduced sentence in April, but the image of the band has taken a large hit regardless (with their label immediately dropping them), and the fate of Iced Earth with its founder and frontman behind bars remains uncertain. The band's only output since has been A Narrative Soundscape in January 2022, which was recorded prior to the riot for the deluxe version of Schaffer's book Wicked Words and Epic Tales, and a live album in May taken from the performance at the Bang Your Head Festival in 2016.

Latest Line-up:

  • Jon Schaffer - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1984-2021)
  • Stu Block - lead vocals (2011-2021)
  • Luke Appleton - bass, backing vocals (2012-2021)
  • Brent Smedley - drums (1996-1997, 1998-1999, 2006-2013, 2015-present)
  • Jake Dreyer - lead guitar (2016-2021)


  • 1990 - Iced Earth
  • 1991 - Night of the Stormrider
  • 1995 - Burnt Offerings
  • 1996 - The Dark Saga
  • 1998 - Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • 2001 - Horror Show
  • 2004 - The Glorious Burden
  • 2004 - The Blessed and the Damned
  • 2007 - Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1)
  • 2008 - The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
  • 2011 - Dystopia
  • 2014 - Plagues of Babylon
  • 2017 - Incorruptible
  • 2022 - A Narrative Soundscape


  • Anti Anti Christ: Played with in The Crucible of Man. Set Abominae decides not to destroy humanity after all, but makes it pretty clear that if they fuck up too badly, he's on them.
  • Bookends: The synth tune at the beginning and end of Burnt Offerings.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There isn’t much swearing in Iced Earth’s music, but Jon Schaffer has a tendency to do this in interviews.
  • Concept Album: Over half of their albums. Night of the Stormrider tells an original story about a man's quest to destroy his own religion. The Dark Saga is about Spawn, Horror Show is inspired by various classic horror films and books, The Glorious Burden is aggressively patriotic American Horrible History Metal all the way through, and Something Wicked This Way Comes, Framing Armageddon, The Crucible of Man, Dystopia and part of Plagues of Babylon comprise the Something Wicked Saga, an original story about the civilizations of the ancient species that existed on the Earth before man, and their tumultuous fall.
  • Cover Version:
  • Darker and Edgier: Burnt Offerings, which can almost be described as Black Metal with clean vocals at points, especially on the title track, “Diary” and "Dante's Inferno".
  • Driven to Suicide: The narrator of "My Own Savior”, with the “salvation” being his death after the general unfairness of his life.
  • Eldritch Abomination: "Cthulhu", naturally, is about the Cthulhu Mythos and its titular Great Old One.
  • Epic Rocking: Boy, some of these songs are so long you could wrap them around the whole Earth!
    • The sixteen minute "Dante's Inferno".
    • Gettysburg 1863: A suite of three connected songs covering the three days of battle, approximately 30 minutes in total. Epic beyond words.
    • The Dark Saga has the trilogy "The Suffering", encompassing "Scarred", "Slave to the Dark", and "A Question of Heaven". In total, they're about 15-20 minutes put together.
    • Quite a few examples on the first two albums, most notably early classics "When The Night Falls" and "Travel in Stygian", lasting 8 and 9 minutes respectively.
  • Fighting Your Friend: Hold at All Costs
    "Just a mile or so away
    Is my dearest friend in this world
    He wears the blue, and I, the gray
    And God it hurts me so..."
  • Grief Song: "Watching Over Me", written about a friend of Jon Schaffer's who died in a motorcycle accident.
  • Heavy Mithril: Many of their songs, although typically with more theological themes and dark, horror-inspired subject matter than conventional high fantasy.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Set Abominae at the end of The Crucible of Man, as at the last moment he decides not to destroy humanity after seeing all what they have accomplished.
  • Humanity on Trial: "Crucible of Man" is one, with Set Abominae as the judge on their past crimes against his race.
  • Humans Are Bastards: "Motivation of Man", sung from the perspective of ancient humanity and their efforts to dominate the other life-forms of the universe through Imperium-like levels of genocide.
  • I Am the Band: Jon Schaffer is Iced Earth; besides being the sole founder, every track has been written mostly or entirely by him barring a few exceptions, and most of the other band members have merely been hired guns for studio recording and live performance.
  • Lighter and Softer: Musically, the first three albums were heavy and dark fusion of US Power Metal and Thrash Metal (and arguably a touch of 80s Death Metal à la Kreator or Possessed) with long and structurally complex arrangements. The Dark Saga, while still dark and aggressive at points, heralded the band taking a somewhat more radio-friendly songwriting approach with a stronger emphasis on catchy hooks and choruses, and they have stuck with it since (although they still continue to write longer and more complex songs on occasion).
  • Mascot: Set Abominae, the prophesied savior of the Setian race who has been enshrined in human myth as The Antichrist. He appears on the covers of several albums, namely the "Something Wicked Saga" ones.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting:
    • Employed in "Dante's Inferno", "Angels Holocaust,"note  "The Awakening," "The Coming Curse," and "Damien," though it’s not actually Latin in some of them.
    • Also "In Sacred Flames", the intro to Crucible of Man (which is real Latin, though it's isolated words rather than sentences).
  • Power Ballad: The band famously has many. "I Died For You", "A Question of Heaven" and "Watching Over Me" are probably the best known.
  • Protest Song:
    • Iced Earth’s main output mostly averts this, but the one glaring exception is The Glorious Burden, which is an expressly political album written during the wave of renewed American jingoism after 9/11. Besides various songs (e.g. "The Gettysburg Trilogy") being about the most politicized parts of American history, “Valley Forge” is explicitly a Take That! towards what Jon Schaffer views as an America that’s gone “too soft”. "When The Eagle Cries" and “The Reckoning” are also directly about the events of 9/11 and retaliating “eye for an eye”.
    • Schaffer's side project Sons of Liberty on the other hand is very politically charged from the get go, and features songs all based around his political worldview.
    • Post-Sons of Liberty, the more recent Iced Earth albums have had a more political flair, albeit not very specific beyond the broad message of the government being malevolent in some way.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: A variation. Most of the group's mid-80s original lineup reformed under their original name "Purgatory" in 2018 as a tribute to the life of their recently deceased bassist Richard Bateman. This lineup consists of Jon Schaffer (rhythm guitar, vocals), Gene Adam (lead vocals) and Bill Owen (lead guitar) though did not include original drummer Greg Seymour, who had issues with Jon Schaffer (which they have since talked through). The group recorded an EP of professional studio recordings of Purgatory songs, which was extremely well received. Due to Iced Earth's deviation from their original thrash sound of Purgatory and the totally different lineup, the two groups are considered distinct and co-exist alongside each other.
  • Red-plica Baron: "Red Baron/Blue Max" from The Glorious Burden pays tribute to von Richthofen and the Pour le Merite medal (nicknamed as the Blue Max by Max Immermann, another famous German Ace Pilot in WWI that won it) respectively.
  • Religion Rant Song: "Brainwashed" and "Disciples of the Lie" are both Type 3, concerning a bigoted hypocritical preacher and the protagonist’s desire to take vengeance upon them.
  • Revolving Door Band: Aside from Jon Schaffer being the only constant member, they have had 5 different singers over the course of 11 albums. First Gene Adam, then John Greely, Matt Barlow, Tim 'Ripper' Owens (who you may know as being Rob Halford's very similar-sounding replacement in Judas Priest), back to Matt, and now Stu Block. They have also had 4 lead guitarist: Randall Shawver, Larry Tarnowski, Ralph Santolla and Troy Steele, respectively, along with 10 drummers and 8 bassists. No two albums have shared the same lineup.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The Gettysburg trilogy gives a very long and very detailed overview of the battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Most known for his immensely gravelly voice, Matt Barlow is equally as capable at some astounding high notes. See "A Question of Heaven" for some exemplary displays of both.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Inverted. The Setians are the original inhabitants of the earth, and the humans are in fact invading alien colonizers.
  • Teen Genius: Jake Dreyer was only 19 when he successfully auditioned for Jag Panzer (though they broke up before he could do anything with them) and was around the same age when he joined White Wizzard.
  • Title-Only Chorus: Pure Evil! Puuuuuuuuuuuure Evil!
  • Villain Song: "Motivation of Man" is about brutality that humanity reaks across the Universe, Horror Show has multiple songs about the classic movie monsters, and the story of Night of the Stormrider is told entirely from the perspective of a Satanic Archetype.
  • We Have Reserves: In past interviews, this seemed to legitimately be Schaffer's attitude towards his own bandmates, claiming that each and every one of his bandmates was replaceable, including their most iconic singer Matt Barlow. Not surprisingly, because of this attitude, Iced Earth has had a pretty high turnover rate for band members over the years.

Subjects covered by the band's songs include: