Iced Earth - Night of the Stormrider (1991)
Iced Earth’s sophomore album is where they aced their style of epic, thrashy Power Metal. The album is a concept about a man fed up with religion who receives power from the devil and leads a sort of crusade against humanity, plunging the world into darkness, before finally losing his mortal soul to the devil after all is done. It’s a well written story with a decent variety of songs that back up each chapter. None of the musicianship or songwriting is mind-blowing, but it’s certainly very strong, and the rhythm section puts down some quite unique (for the time) beats.
I feel I should enjoy this album more than I do, but despite the awesome concept and genre being right up my ally, it just doesn’t strike home. The riffs are very rhythmic and unmemorable, somehow they are missing both the edge of Thrash as well as the melody of Power Metal. That aside it is very great stuff, a strong concept album played in a style unique at the time.
'Iced Earth' was a solid debut album that set the bar pretty high for this band very early in their career, but they've managed to take what worked before and build upon it, with this, 'Night of the Stormrider', an equally solid follow-up.
Most of what we have on this album is identical to its predecessor with just a few tweaks. Most notably is the acquisition of a new vocalist (a position that will change many times in this bands history) in John Greely, who replaces Gene Adams. While Adams did a great job with his fairly limited ability, Greely has a much more powerful voice which suits the more symphonic and operatic elements which have been implemented into the groups sound with this record.
Guitarist, songwriter and all-round band leader Jon Schaffer takes charge once more with lightning-fast riffs that puts most thrash metal bands to shame. With song-writing so polished and precise, this sounds like a band that has been around for a long time. If their debut album didn't convert any fans, then tracks like 'Stormrider', 'Desert Rain', 'Travel in Stygian' and the true gem of this release 'Angel's Holocaust' will surely win you over.
Whilst I personally prefer ‘Iced Earth’ to ‘Night of the Stormrider’ (personal preference), strong songwriting and beefed up production make this a worthy successor to a strong debut. It no doubt helped establish Iced Earth as one of power metals heavyweights, and deserves its place in the genres history.