The central figure of Iced Earth is rhythm guitarist and songwriter Jon Schaffer, who formed Purgatory in Indiana in 1984. After moving to Florida and changing their name to Iced Earth, the group's Enter the Realm demo was popular enough that they released an eponymous debut LP with Century Media Records. Since then the band has gone through numerous lineup changes, thanks in part to the authoritarian rule of Schaffer. Vocalist Matt Barlow joined the band (after a three-year band hiatus following Night of the Stormrider) for Burnt Offerings, largely based on Dante's Inferno. Barlow's emotional and powerful vocals proved extremely popular and he remained with the band for many years, eventually parting amicably with the band in June 2002 to pursue a career with the United States Department of Homeland Security. Conveniently, singer Tim 'Ripper' Owens soon left Judas Priest (to make room for returning original vocalist Rob Halford) and became Iced Earth's new vocalist. His first album with the band, The Glorious Burden, is due on January 14 2004.
Iced Earth's music is often described as Iron Maiden combined with 80's thrash metal. The most distinctive element of the band's sound is the stuttering right-hand gallop of rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, which sounds something like the 'eighth-note, two-sixteenth-notes' gallop made famous by Iron Maiden's bass player/songwriter Steve Harris (in such songs as 'Run to the Hills', 'The Trooper', and 'Caught Somewhere in Time'), sped up tremendously and varied rhythmically. Overtop of this gallop are typically laid strong melodic hooks, sometimes doubled by two guitars playing in harmony. The vocals are often high-pitched, but express an extremely full range and are usually very emotional, while the rhythm section uses thrash and power metal techniques such as double-bass-drumming to keep the speed and energy high.