Purgatory - Purgatory (EP)
Century Media
Heavy Metal
5 songs (25:44)
Release year: 2018
Century Media
Reviewed by Goat

Rounding off what's been a pretty tremendous 2018 for music is this fun release from Jon Schaffer with the original line-up of his pre-Iced Earth band, Purgatory. The band didn't release much beyond a couple of demos in the mid-eighties, changing their name before releasing Iced Earth's self-titled debut full-length in 1990, and those aware of it may not immediately be too eager to listen to Purgatory as Gene Adams' vocals on that album aren't generally regarded as being very good. Quite a pleasant surprise, then, to stick this on and find a comparatively killer performance from Adams! His voice always fits the music and manages a bit of range, making you wonder what alternate universe Iced Earth would be like where he stuck around instead of the band's infamous carousel of vocalists.

At least we have this glimpse; all five songs were written in the eighties and all are horror-related, and it's not quite on the level of a lost classic but does have interest even for those non-fans of Iced Earth. Opener In Your Dreams is probably the weakest track present, a forgettable slow, moody song about A Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger that would have been better if it came later in the tracklisting. It shows off the guitars and Adams' voice well however, and with its atmospheric touches to drive the horror aspect home is certainly not a bad track. Yet the following Dracula is much, much better, having more than a little Mercyful Fate in its DNA with falsetto shrieks and melodic guitar passages, as well as an epic touch that shows the roots of some of Iced Earth's grandiose moments to come. An infectious chorus and a touch of gothic gloom only hinted at on In Your Dreams round things off, solid eighties metal that few could resist.

Elsewhere things are a mix of the two in terms of quality. In Jason's Mind and Jack are pretty much what you'd expect from the EP, riff-fuelled and slightly chaotic with the classic horror Friday 13th gasps and added screams of the latter for flavour. Both tracks have their catchy moments and neither goes on too long, but equally neither really stays with you. Burning Oasis, the closing track, is the most similar to Iced Earth as it's known with galloping riffs but has an intriguing touch of true doom that's sadly left unexplored, the band clearly preferring atmospheric meandering and whispered vocals. Purgatory is quite clearly aimed at fans, having a limited physical release, but I can't be the only one who wonders what Iced Earth could have become with a more experimental outlook after hearing this. Still very much a fan, of course, and those who like the band's earlier days or classic heavy metal in general will enjoy this for what it is.

Killing Songs :
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