Tampa, Florida's Iced Earth have been cranking out head-banging metal records for nearly 25 years now. Their tenth album, Dystopia, was inspired partially by films like V is For Vendetta and Dark City, and is the first album to feature new vocalist Stu Block. The record also set the band off on a six-month world tour with dates in Europe, South America, China, Australia and more. The band plays The Showbox Sodo in Seattle on February 15th with Symphony X and Warbringer, and we took the occasion to chat with the band's founder, guitarist Jon Schaffer, to talk about the record, its inspiration and the ambitious tour it yielded.
Why not be more overtly political? I do that with my Sons of Liberty solo project. It's like a roundhouse kick to the face. Iced Earth has never been political, it's about entertainment. Whether it's an album about monster movies or military history, there's always a lot more depth than what's on the surface.
What parallels do you see between those fictional dystopias and today's society? If you read books like Brave New World and 1984 it just feels like we're living in that. We're headed down the wrong path big time, not only as a country but most of the governments around the world are engaged in the same criminality against the people. I think you can see the whole thing unfolding and it's very concerning.
Can you tell me about the epic, six-month world tour for this record? The world tour seems to be something from a bygone era - the kind of thing Iron Maiden or Judas Priest would embark on. Our goal is to take Iced Earth further than it's ever gone before, and not just geographically. I believe that the West is in serious trouble of a major collapse of society. I think planting seeds in places around the world is going to ensure our survival in some very uncertain times. This is the headline part of the tour. What we want to do is hopefully come back and be a support band for some of the bigger guys.
Who would be your dream band to support? [Iron] Maiden would be killer. That would be my number one dream.
Do you have a favorite song on the record? Probably the title track.
How about a favorite lyric? "Anthem."
How did the cover art come together? I wrote a couple of paragraphs about where the album was going thematically and sent it to four or five different artists. Nathan Perry ended up doing the Dystopia cover and just did a brilliant job. I love it. It conveys pretty much what is happening lyrically.
After 10 records and almost 30 years under your belt, do fans want you to evolve or do they just want more of what they know and love from Iced Earth? I can't really think about that. The music's got to stay true. You can't worry about what trends are happening, what the fans want, what the label wants, what management wants. In order to stay true to the art you have to stay dialed in and in tune with yourself. Is everybody automatically going to appreciate it? No. And you can't concern yourself with pleasing the people all the time. It's a mistake I think a lot of bands make.