I've been a huge HUGE fan of Iced Earth ever since I got Horror Show back when it first came out, and I thought that CD was absolutely stunning, it blew me away! I still listen to it now and then, and still consider it one of the band's best. Now, when I heard Matt Barlow left, I was shocked to say the least. I mainly wanted to know why, Iced Earth's popularity has been growing and why would you want to leave when your band is successful? Ex-Judas Priest singer Tim "Ripper" Owens tries to fill his spot in this new 2 CD set. While it's released as a single disc, i'd definitely recommend the double CD Limited Edition set, which includes the extraordinary Gettysburg 1863 disc, which is a Civil War themed bonus disc (along with the rest of the album).
While I don't feel Tim Owens truly fills Barlow's shoes, he's still good, in other aspects. Matt Barlow had such depth and range, Owens just seems fairly monotone and screaming throughout the entire album. No more is the deep changing of Barlow that sends chills up your spine. You get more of a mainstream voiced album. However, the entire album is excellent, the lyrics are superb (mostly written by guitarist Jon Schaffer), and the drumming sounds very "Drummer Boy" like, as if they were drumming straight from the 1800's, yet maintaining excellent quality. While there aren't many searing solos like they're usually known for, the album is still excellent, and it would've got an A+ from me, if Barlow was still with the band.