Something Wicked Saga
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The Something Wicked Saga is a fictional story featured in the works of American heavy metal guitarist Jon Schaffer from the band Iced Earth. The saga is a tale that begins with the origins of man, by way of descension upon the primitive Setian race, all the way to its downfall as paved by the Setians' act of vengeance. It discusses humanity's evil intentions that begin to backfire in their last days, with the Setian messiah Set Abominae serving as the catalyst to its self-destruction. Events parallel to those in the Bible (similarly the Tower of Babel), and elsewhere throughout history, occurred in order to further bring about humanity's downfall.
The saga was first revealed in the final three tracks of Iced Earth's fifth studio album, 1998's Something Wicked This Way Comes, known as the Something Wicked trilogy. These three songs, "Prophecy," "Birth of the Wicked," and the "Coming Curse," served as the backbone to the Jon Schaffer's Something Wicked story, as well as concert staples.
In December 2006, Jon Schaffer posted a journal announcing that Iced Earth's new album, then titled Something Wicked - Part 1, would be released in September/October 2007. The follow-up album, then titled Something Wicked - Part 2, would be released in January/February 2008, with both albums serving to further explain the story within the Something Wicked Trilogy. He later announced the final track list, and that the album would be renamed to Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, with a new target release of August or September. On June 25, Schaffer uploaded the cover of the album on icedearth.com. Audio samples of all the tracks have been posted at spv.de, the official site of the band's record label. In addition to providing prospective album titles and track titles, he updates the band's mixing status on a new single entitled the Overture of the Wicked EP, which was then released in June 2007. The EP, which featured vocalist Matt Barlow's then-replacement Tim "Ripper" Owens, contained the single to the upcoming song entitled "Ten Thousand Strong", as well as a re-recording of the Something Wicked trilogy that showcased the band's more modern sound which was something to be expected for the upcoming release.
Framing Armageddon, released September 11, 2007, is the band's first studio album featuring lead guitarist Troy Seele, and drummer Brent Smedley, who never played on an Iced Earth studio album during his previous stints with the group. Tim "Ripper" Owens makes his final appearance as lead singer on this record, as well. Also, this was bassist Dennis Hayes' first appearance on an Iced Earth album, though he only appears on two songs. Former Iced Earth lead guitarist Tim Mills is featured on "Reflections", and co-wrote both that song and "Infiltrate and Assimilate" (as well as "I Walk Alone" on the next album).
A music video for "Ten Thousand Strong" has been released, though lead guitarist Troy Seele was not yet with the band when it was filmed. The video features special effects to make the live action video resemble animation.
Following the release and tour in support of Something Wicked Part 1, Jon Schaffer announced that former vocalist Matt Barlow would return to the band, causing Ripper to front for Yngwie Malmsteen. Due to his long-awaited return, the release date for Part 2 was to be held back to around the same time that Part 1 was released in Autumn 2008. In June 2008, the single I Walk Among You was released, which featured a track from the upcoming song "I Walk Alone," including various re-recordings of tracks from Something Wicked Part 1. Also during June 2008, the final track list was revealed, and that the album title would be changed from Revelation Abomination to The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2, with a new target release of September 2008.
The Crucible Of Man was released on September 9, 2008 in the United States. This is the second and last Iced Earth album to feature Dennis Hayes on bass. Dennis plays on five songs, despite having been fired along with Tim Owens in late 2007. Iced Earth's current bassist Freddie Vidales appears in the booklet for the album, however he does not play on the disc (all remaining bass parts on both albums are played by Jon Schaffer). This is the first time since Matt Barlow's initial departure that showcases a writing collaboration with Barlow and Schaffer, with "Minions of the Watch," "Crucify the King," "Sacrificial Kingdoms," and "Something Wicked (Part 3), written solely by Barlow. Immediately following its release, it was revealed that Jon Schaffer intends to release both of the Something Wicked albums in one boxed set, with Matt Barlow contributing the vocals on both albums for the sake of continuity. He intends to add at least four songs to The Crucible of Man, including various segues between songs, and remix Framing Armageddon. Schaffer believes this boxed set will be available around Christmas 2008 or later in 2009. This release never ended up happening, but a boxset entitled "Box of the Wicked" was released containing Framing Armageddon, The Crucible of Man, Overture of the Wicked, I Walk Among You, and a bonus disc featuring a re-recording of A Charge to Keep with Matt Barlow on vocals and three live tracks.
To date, seven releases have featured the story circulating Set Abominae:
- Something Wicked This Way Comes, the "Something Wicked" song cycle
- Overture of the Wicked EP
- Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1)
- I Walk Among You
- The Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 2)
- Dystopia, the tracks "Dystopia" and "Tragedy and Triumph"
- The Plaques of Babylon, the tracks "Plagues of Babylon", "Democide", "The Culling", "Among the Living Dead", "Resistance" and "The End"?
In an interview on The Aebyss, Schaffer was asked if "Tragedy and Triumph" will be the end of the Something Wicked Saga, to which he replied:
It's my wishful thinking I think, but, you know, at the end of the day that doesn't mean I won't write anything more. I mean the cool thing about the Something Wicked story is that you can take any period of human history, and apply it to the Something Wicked universe and come-up with a badass story to write about, so to say that there's never going to be anymore songs about it would be foolish, because I don't know that, I mean, I'm not thinking about the next record right now, you know. That'll come up in due time and I'll write about whatever I feel like. [That] is the right thing to do just like I always do. What that'll be I don't know, but I know I could tell hours and hours more stories related to the Something Wicked Saga. That's easy. And it's actually fun to do it.
He also appears in the artwork of several other Iced Earth albums. Schaffer also plans to write a graphic novel based on the adventures of the all-powerful Set Abominae.
Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1 tells the story of the Setians, who were the original inhabitants of Earth, and are directly descended from the "Great Architect". They are said to have nearly omniscient knowledge. Humans, who originate on a distant planet and have developed space travel, invade Earth in a bid for "unlimited power and unlimited knowledge", killing all but ten thousand Setians.
The remaining ten thousand go into hiding in the mountains in the east. The Setian High Council, which consists of the twelve Elders and the High Priest, make a plan to get revenge on the invading human race. They plan to initiate "The Clouding", which involves brainwashing all the humans and making them forget their origins. Once completed, the Setians will assimilate into the human race and manipulate history, as deemed by the Domino Decree, by creating religions such as Christianity and Islam to divide the humans. Division would then cause man to succumb to worldly intentions and in doing so, bring about conflicts that would only make them weaker. Once human kind is sufficiently divided after ten thousand years, the Setians will await, as the prophecy told millennia ago, the birth of the Antichrist, Set Abominae. It was predicted that Set Abominae would destroy all of the human race and execute the revenge the Setians have long awaited.
Framing Armageddon tells the story from the prophecy to the events right before the birth of Set Abominae.
The album tells the story of the Antichrist, Set Abominae, starting with his birth: on the sixth hour of the sixth day of the sixth month (666). He grows up within the Setian community, known as the Minions of the Watch, who would raise the boy and put him on the path to his destiny. It was with this "undying love" that taught Set about the death of his ancestors and how he is their savior from the invading Humans. While learning the arts of the ancients such as time manipulation and shape shifting, he goes through many trials and tribulations and encounters self-doubt about who he is and whether or not he can actually fulfill the Setian prophecy. In the end, he pulls through and emerges complete and confident about his purpose. Upon passing through the Dimension Gauntlet as his final test, he is crowned as the Astral Beast, whose wrath would be the catalyst to Setian salvation.
Set starts his work with the assassination of Jesus Christ, punishing him for the gift of second sight, and moves on to other great leaders and foreseers throughout history. Over the course of the next two thousand years he crushes kingdoms under their own greed, deceit, and thirst for conquest, controls the weak with divisive tools such as religion, and declares his own godhood by appealing to the lies and self-deceit in every human being.
The album ends on an open-ended note, with the song Come What May. As Set observes humanity through the ages, he acknowledges humans as a race with much potential despite its flawed nature. Set makes a requisition for humanity to overcome its imperfections to be thus saved from their destructive fate.