GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (USA) – Although 'Dystopia', ICED EARTH's tenth studio offering, is not a concept album, founder Jon Schaffer admits there are unifying themes to several of the songs – and even an appearance by band mascot 'Set Abominae.'
"I've always been fascinated by the darker side of life," Schaffer said during a break from master tracking ICED EARTH's forthcoming album. "Movies like Metropolis, Brazil, and The Matrix resonate with me. The same for albums like 2112, The Wall, and of course Operation:Mindcrime. Their images of a soulless, repressive society stuck with me over the years. It must be the sci-fi fan in me."
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In much the same way 'Horror Show' (ICED EARTH's tribute to classic characters from literature and movies) was born, Schaffer said his interest in dystopian themes in music and movies led him to try his hand at that genre as well – even paying homage on the new album to the movies Dark City, V For Vendetta, and Soylent Green. The end result is ICED EARTH meets the nightmarish offspring of Brave New World and Blade Runner.
Of special interest to long-time fans are two songs on 'Dystopia' (the title track and 'Tragedy and Triumph') that feature the return of the 'Something Wicked' storyline and 'Set Abominae' – who, when last seen in 'The Crucible Of Man' , had taken his position as ruler of the world.
"The opening song is a step back timeline-wise from the 'Come What May' track," said Schaffer. "'Come What May' [the last track on 'Crucible'] sets the scenario that it's up to us and the decisions we make that will determine the future of the human race. These two songs [on 'Dystopia'] take place at a time when people are in highly controlled prison-like city states, and their eventual emancipation in the closer, 'Tragedy and Triumph'."
In an uncanny case of art imitating life, Schaffer said Set Abominae fit perfectly with the general theme of 'Dystopia'. "I remember it hit me like a ton of bricks in '97, the whole Something Wicked story did," Schaffer said. "I thought, 'Man, this is going to be so cool.' Many years later, we were on tour for 'Crucible' and we were doing an interview over in Eastern Europe. A buddy of mine said, 'You know, Jon, this whole 'Something Wicked' thing could be true.' I thought about it a moment and said, 'Well, I don't know about that. But there are some creepy parallels in contemporary life.'"
"So as I was thinking about all of the great movies, albums, and books with dystopian themes, I remembered that conversation and it occurred to me that the 'Something Wicked' story could continue in a few tracks here very nicely," Schaffer said.
Schaffer admits the recording of 'Dystopia' has been especially challenging because of the band's summer festival gigs requiring him to criss-cross the ocean numerous times.
Despite the challenges, Schaffer says working with new vocalist Stu Block is "a pleasure."
"You just can't ask for a better attitude," said Schaffer. "Stu is so excited to be here. He brings a youthful exuberance to the band, which is a lot of fun. And he's a real dude. He's down to earth, and willing to try anything that Jim [Morris, co-producer, engineer] or I throw at him. He's stepping into the shoes in a very natural way."
Schaffer continues: "We're opening up a part of his voice and a style of singing that he didn't even really know he had. We're exploring this whole new range. And we're just getting started. I believe Stu will continue to grow – and has the potential to grow – into one of the greats, one of the guys that will go down in Metal history. If he stays on this course, with the attitude that he has, his willingness to learn, and his passion, he's destined for really great things. I firmly believe that."
Song titles on 'Dystopia' include:
Days of Rage
Anguish of Youth
End of Innocence
Tragedy and Triumph
'Dystopia' is scheduled for release in Europe on October 17th, and in the U.S. on October 18th both via Century Media. Two bonus tracks are also being recorded for inclusion on special editions of the album.
The release of 'Dystopia' will be followed by the most extensive world tour ICED EARTH has ever undertaken. The European leg of the 2011-2012 World Dystopia Tour begins October 30th in Bochum, Germany. See below for the dates!
Schaffer formed ICED EARTH in Tampa, Florida, in 1984. Since then, he has released nine studio albums, one live album, two compilations, three boxed sets, and several DVDs - the most recent of which is 'Festivals Of The Wicked'. With worldwide sales in the millions, ICED EARTH has earned a seat in the pantheon of America's most successful Heavy Metal bands.
ICED EARTH 2011 EUROPEAN TOUR DATES
06.08.2011 DE Wacken – Wacken Open Air
World Dystopia Tour 2011
30.10.2011 DE Bochum - Zeche
01.11.2011 NL Amsterdam - Melkweg
02.11.2011 NL Uden - De Pul
03.11.2011 BEL Antwerp - Trix
04.11.2011 UK London - O2 Islington Academy
05.11.2011 UK Birmingham - O2 Academy
06.11.2011 UK Bristol - O2 Academy
08.11.2011 FRA Paris - Alhambra
09.11.2011 FRA Lyon - Transbordeur
10.11.2011 ESP Barcelona - Salamandra 1
11.11.2011 ESP Madrid - Sala Heineken
12.11.2011 ESP Bilbao - Rock Star Live
14.11.2011 ITA Milano - Alcatraz
15.11.2011 ITA Rome - Alpheus
18.11.2011 GRE Athens - Gagarin 205
19.11.2011 GRE Athens - Gagarin 205
20.11.2011 GRE Thessaloniki - Principal Club
21.11.2011 BUL Sofia - Yubileina Hall
22.11.2011 ROM Bucarest - The Silver Church
23.11.2011 SER Belgrade - SKC
24.11.2011 HUN Budapest - Club 202
25.11.2011 SVK Bratislava - Majestic Music Club
26.11.2011 POL Warsaw - Stodola
27.11.2011 LTU Vilnius - Forum Palace
29.11.2011 RUS Moscow - Milk
01.12.2011 FIN Helsinki - Nosturi
03.12.2011 DEN Copenhagen - The Rock
04.12.2011 GER Hamburg - Markthalle
06.12.2011 GER Herford - X
07.12.2011 GER Köln - Essigfabrik
08.12.2011 GER München - Backstage Werk
09.12.2011 GER Geiselwind - Christmas Metal Festival
10.12.2011 SWI Pratteln - Z7
11.12.2011 GER Ludwigsburg – Rockfabrik
13.12.2011 TUR Istanbul – Refresh - The Venue
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