Revolver has teamed with Iced Earth for an exclusive silver vinyl 30th anniversary edition of their landmark self-titled debut. It's limited to just 300 — get yours before they're gone!
"There was always just something that attracted me to the sound of heavy guitars," says Jon Schaffer. "Ever since I was a very little kid, a good distorted riff just lit me up."
As the leader of Iced Earth for three decades, Schaffer has written a few good distorted riffs himself. And he largely credits his ability to do so to the seminal hard-rock and metal bands and albums that influenced him as a child. With Iced Earth currently celebrating the 30th anniversary of their self-titled debut effort with a newly remixed and remastered edition, Revolver asked Schaffer to name his five favorite debut albums of all time. And he was more than game — except for one thing.
"I don't know how I'll pick just five," Schaffer says with a laugh. "I could probably come up with 12 or 13. But I'll give it a shot."
Hearing that first album is an early, early memory. I'm talking, like, three-years-old type of memory. My older sister listened to it and it was just spooky and heavy. And the opening track, "Black Sabbath," is still one of the greatest heavy songs of all time. Just the whole vibe, that opening with the bell and the rain, and then that three-note monster riff comes in and then you have Ozzy doing his thing. It's just like, forget it! It's a legendary, amazing classic album for me. I love it from start to finish.
I love it. I love "Then Came the Last Days of May," "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll," there's just something about the whole album. Is it produced amazing? Eh, it's cool. But the songs? The songs are awesome. I still spin that album. It screams. It's haunting. This goes back, again, to my older sister, because that's where all the exposure to this kind of stuff came from. I was around it all the time because that's what she played. But I remember specifically hearing these heavy guitar parts, hearing "Cities on Flame," and man, that's heavy shit. It certainly was back in the day. That's one of those riffs that to me, it's like "Smoke on the Water" or "Iron Man." It takes me back to a point so early in my life. I think Blue Öyster Cult should be credited with a lot more than they are for what they did for the entire heavy metal scene. Because they did a lot.
Their first album is loaded with really badass songs. It's just … the production is very bad. KISS struggled with production until I think, Dressed to Kill. That was when things started to sound better. But what I love about the first album is the amount of good songs — "Black Diamond," "Strutter," "Deuce." 'Cause I'm an old-school KISS fan. Alive! was the first album I bought, when I was seven years old, and it was game over from there. From that point on I was all in. The music became like an obsession. And I love this one.
I'm not a gigantic Van Halen fan, but I am a big Eddie Van Halen fan. Not enough to ever attempt to play like him, but I loved the fact that he was literally one with the guitar, and his rhythm chops were so amazing. And even the solos, you can hear what great timing he had and you could feel it. It's like, "I own this shit!" That's really something that separates the men from the boys. But for me, I wasn't into that party side. I was never very lighthearted. I've never been inclined to want to write songs about getting laid. [Laughs] Which is funny, because I was such a big KISS fan. But Van Halen did their thing. And as far as debut albums that really rock me memory-wise, I'd have to say when I first heard "You Really Got Me" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," I had never heard anyone play a guitar like that. When Van Halen came on the scene, I was just like, "Holy shit!"
Even though I didn't start getting into Maiden until The Number of the Beast, the first album's gotta be there. The songs are so cool — "Phantom of the Opera" is one of my favorite Maiden songs of all time. The record's got a vibe. It doesn't need to have great production because it's just got this magic kind of feeling. That said, if they would've recorded it around, like, the Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave era, it would have been totally different. But still, you hear the full Maiden thing on the first album — their formula of taking the Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy–type dueling guitars, the harmonies, all of it, but with the tempo changes and the speeds that they played at. It was amazing. You listen to it now and it doesn't sound that fast because we've had Metallica and Anthrax and Iced Earth and all these other bands. But back in the day this was a big formula change in hard and heavy music. And it's so uniquely Maiden.