Saturday, April 16, 2011

Iced Earth - Box Of The Wicked

And to cap off our back-to-back "What the hell, Schaffer?" overview, we come to a product that's actually kind of insulting.

Normally I only review albums that I own, but here I just didn’t feel the need. What you’ve got here are four CDs of previously-released material, plus a bonus disc. It’s a decent idea in concept – if you’re someone who absolutely has to own everything that Schaffer has ever laid his riff over for some reason, or if you love IE but haven’t picked up the Something Wicked albums for whatever reason. For everyone else, you can skip this.

Look, if you want to know my feelings on the albums, you can look up my Metal-Archives review of The Crucible Of Man. In short, I enjoyed Framing Armageddon (especially the ripping strains of the climactic tracks), and Crucible redefines unambitious disappointment. The singles don’t really offer anything out of the ordinary; they were meant as teasers for the respective Something Wicked albums, and they’re rather superfluous here having served their purpose; granted, the Barlow redubs of Owens tracks aren’t –bad-, and your morbid curiosity may inspire you to check out the butchered version of The Coming Curse, but other than that, like I said – superfluous. Not the kind of thing that one would be inclined to double-dip for, and yet here we are.

As for the bonus disc? Don’t bother for it. It’s only twenty minutes long, and contains just another Framing Armageddon track redubbed with Barlow (A Charge To Keep) and three live tracks from Graspop ’08. But the insulting thing is that with several more albums’ worth of material under the band’s belt since Alive In Athens, they chose to give us three tracks that also are played on the Alive In Athens album, rather than show how newer IE tracks shine in the live setting. Really? That’s like going out of your way to avoid pleasing the fans. I don’t have this set so, for all I know, these could be the best live renditions of Pure Evil, Dark Saga and the band’s self-titled song ever, but I’m rating this on principle.

How about a full live set, featuring old and new material? How about bonus tracks on each album, like demos or covers or what-have-you? As it is, this is just a lazy cash-in with a bonus disc (with an EP’s worth of only quasi-new material) thrown in to entice any fan with a loose enough wallet who forgot to research before buying.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that box sets are a hard thing to get right. They’re typically valuable/expensive, so from the jump, you have to assume that they’re for the die-hard fans (because if you were getting into a band and wanted to buy a CD, what would you go to first: their best-reviewed album, a cheap greatest hits package, or a box set that costs as much as dinner at a fancy restaurant?). And typically, the fans who buy box sets that are otherwise nicely put together, like Soundtrack To The Apocalypse and Warchest, have to put up with a ‘greatest hits’ section of the set full of material that they already own. So the question with any box set is, is the exclusive material worth it? Here, the answer isn’t just a ‘no’. It’s a ‘no’ supplemented by a slap to the face of whoever thought this was a good idea.

Please don’t support releases like this. IE fans, save your money for the live CD/DVD set coming out soon; for the first time in too damn long, it’s a Schaffer product that looks promising.

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