Although Dystopia, Iced Earth’s 10th 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 Matrixresonate 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.”
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 Worldand 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 Crucibleand 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...