Vocalist Matt Barlow has announced his departure from ICED EARTH in order to pursue a career doing administrative work for the Department of Homeland Security.
The following is Barlow's official statement on the matter:
"In December of last year, prior to ICED EARTH signing a new record deal, [ICED EARTH mainman] Jon [Schaffer] and I had a sit-down concerning what I felt was best for my future and the future of ICED EARTH. I told him that my heart was no longer into performing music and I intended to stand down from my position in the band in pursuit of what I felt would be a more satisfying career and consequently a more fulfilled life. Jon was very adamant that I should not leave the band, and asked me not to do something that I might live to regret. I was compelled to stay with it, but as it turns out my course had remained altered.
"For you to understand my position on this matter, I feel I must explain myself. As for many people, in and outside of the United States, the events of September 11, 2001 had a profound impact. For me personally, it shined a new light on life. It forced me to realize how precious and how short life is. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of something that has affected so many throughout the world, but I believe that what I am striving for will also reflect positively on those I come in contact with.
"I am presently going to school in order to obtain my Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice Administration. When I have received my degree, I intend to follow with a career in law enforcement administration.
"I realize that it may be difficult for some of you to understand the decision that has been made, but please believe that it has been made to preserve the integrity of ICED EARTH. I know that there will be people who bad-mouth the band and me for this and that there will never be a good enough explanation. For those people, I feel pity that they must live through others and I hope that someday they will find themselves in another place. I have been on a great ride with all of you and I have not a single regret. There are great things to come from ICED EARTH and we will all be there to witness them.
I wish Jon and the guys well and I thank you in advance for your support and understanding.
ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer followed up Matt's statement with this posting to the band's official web site:
"As you can see from Matt's post a very difficult decision has been made.
"The events of 9-11 have affected us all in very different ways. I think it made most people step back, take a look at their lives and change their priorities. I certainly did and so did most of the people I know. In fact, I would bet that the whole reason I chose the theme of 'The Glorious Burden' for the next CD was probably because my subconscious is dealing with what happened that day. I realize that some of you don't care about what happened, and actually that's your problem, but I know that most of you do. We have never been afraid to show our loyalty and love of country way before 9-11, and anyone who has paid attention knows that. The reason that I'm explaining all of this is so that you know how close ICED EARTH came to being a memory. After the attacks I was also questioning what I had done with my life and if there was some way that I could help people and do something that really mattered instead of this 'illusion' called the music business. When something this real and tragic happens it has a huge effect on guys like Matt and I, who come from families who have served, and who have a fierce dedication to our republic.
"The music business is a big lie, plain and simple. It's an illusion that's marketed and sold. It's the big production, photos, videos, promotion and image building and all the other shit that makes you the fans think and feel a certain way about whatever band or style it is that you're into, and you don't even know it, that's the amazing thing. However, what happens behind the scenes in the real world is often very different from the fantasies that the fans create in their own minds about their favorite artists. Fans base these fantasies on the images they are fed.
"The point to all of this is that it's pretty hard to stay positive and take it seriously when you figure out what a huge lie it is. After 9-11 I nearly dissolved the band because I thought that what I do with my band is pretty insignificant in the big picture, and it is. However, after months and months of very heavy thought I realized that it doesn't really matter that the music business is a big fucking lie because my songs are not, and my songs are the only reason that I do this. I've said it before, I don't care about the rock star or guitar hero bullshit, this thing called ICED EARTH from the very beginning has been a vehicle for my songs and that's it. If some fans have created another 'reality' about ICED EARTH in their own minds, I can't help them with that, that's the 'illusion' that's getting them. ICED EARTH is and always has been my band and my vehicle to get my songs out, no matter the members that are involved. It's entertaining to see and hear some of things people come up with when they have absolutely no facts. Some people get it and some don't and that's ok because in the end the only person that I need to please is me, and usually if I am pleased then the majority of the fans will be as well. I have no need or desire for ICED EARTH to have fairweather fans. I realize that comments like this make people think I must be a real prick, and maybe they're right, but I know who I am and what I stand for and that scares some people.
"I hope that this long and wordy post will help you all make sense of the changes that are taking place.
"Matt called me a few weeks before we started pre-production and said that he wanted to quit the band and pursue a career doing administrative work for the Department of Homeland Security. He feels that because he is not a songwriter he'd have a more secure future and would be happier doing some good in the real world rather than living the illusion of something as shallow as a 'rock star.' I asked him to not do something he would live to regret, we have a new label and I've written by far the strongest and most compelling material ever and we basically have a new beginning. In hindsight I should not have pressured him into staying but there was no way I could have predicted what would happen, Matt had already quit in his heart, yet out of loyalty he was willing to give it a shot. The recording of the vocals did not go smoothly. It was obvious to Jim Morris (producer) and me that something was very wrong. However, we pushed forward and Jim felt that we may have to change the way we mixed the vocals but that we'd basically be ok. After tracking was done we proceeded with the mix. I was becoming more and more disturbed with the way things were sounding and by the time we started the mix on the 32-minute 'Gettysburg (1863)' epic I knew I had to make a serious decision. It was not a decision that I ever wanted to make. I always expected Matt and I to jam together until we were grumpy old men.
"Here's the not so glorious burden of being the guy who makes tough decisions: I decided to stop production and shelve the album until I find a new singer. Matt's heart was not in it and it showed in his performance. I'm sure that's hard for some of you to believe but it's simply a fact. There are a lot of things you can do with today's technology to make a singer sound better but you can't add feeling with a computer. And we all know from past recordings that Matt has never had a problem delivering feeling, so it was obvious that it was over and he just didn't have it in his heart to really feel the album. 'The Glorious Burden' is without a doubt the best album I have ever written. It is the first time that I've written about such serious and important events. It's also the first time that I've written about something as near and dear to my heart as the history of our country. It probably sounds corny to some of you but I've often used the American Revolution as inspiration to give me the strength to carry on in this constant uphill battle. My love and passion for the study of the Civil War is being translated to music for the first time in the history of the band and that's what makes this album so special. I spent countless hours creating what is most definitely my masterpiece as a songwriter. This is not just another album about dark fantasy/sci-fi/horror material. After 'Horror Show', which is a good record but the personal touch is missing on a lot of it I felt this would be the best way to bring that personal passion back into the music in a new and fresh way.
"So it really comes down to the fact that I still feel like I've got something to say as a songwriter, so I'm going to keep going. I would have rather continued the way things were but I can't make someone want to do something, no one can. This has been a very hard decision, and a costly one, but I would rather not release an album at all than to have it haunt me for the rest of my life because I knew it wasn't the way it should be. Also, I will carry on because I can't see flushing nearly 20 years of hard work down the toilet because a member has had a change of heart. I don't think real ICED EARTH fans would want that either.
"I have spent some of the best times of my life with Matt. We have been able to experience many things in our travels together and I hope he finds what he seeks for his future, I truly wish him the best for his life.
"And so another chapter in the struggle for ICED EARTH and my love of metal begins. I have to say I feel great and completely energized and am very optimistic for our future. A strange thing considering the uncertainty that lies ahead, but if you know me, you know I love a challenge.
"'The Glorious Burden' will come out in all its glory when I find the right guy to redo the vocals. If it takes 2 months, 6 months, a year whatever it takes
to do it right we will get it out the way it's meant to be. The true and dedicated fans should not be concerned that this is the end it most definitely is not, before you know it the album will be out and it will be the best thing you've heard from ICED EARTH.
"I hope most of you will understand the situation that I'm in and will be confident that I will carry on in the same ICED EARTH tradition as I always have: quality, honesty and integrity...