Dystopian Dreams

3 April 2012 | 6:40 am | Staff Writer

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“We have nothing whatsoever to do with what I call 'happy metal,” says Iced Earth's rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, referring to the legions of frilly shirted European 'power metal' bands who endlessly prattle on about unicorns and write hooks that would make your average boy band blush.

“Our lineage is back to Black Sabbath through Judas Priest and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, in particular Iron Maiden. I was also personally influenced by a lot of great American bands – Kiss, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult. So no, we're definitely not a Helloween 'happy, happy' German singalong type of band that people refer to when they talk about 'power metal'.”

Happy is not a word one would use to describe the intense and outspoken Schaffer. This is a man who has seen hard times (he grew up homeless on the streets of Tampa, Florida) and has little faith that things are going to get any better. This worldview not only seeps into the muscular, almost thrashy riffs that drive the Iced Earth machine, they're also evident in the band's new album Dystopia, which as the name suggests explores a range of dystopian themes. But forget the imaginings of Aldous Huxley or George Orwell, Schaffer has his eye on the here and the now.

“There's an Anglo-American empire in this world – and unfortunately it includes your country as well. The United States was founded as an example to the world, based on the basic principles of property rights and human liberty, but it's been turned into a tyrannical police state. We don't have sovereignty anymore – we only have the illusion of sovereignty.”

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“Everyone hates us and you know what – we probably deserve to be hated. These globalists have hijacked our country, stolen our money supply, stolen our sovereignty – it's a nightmare scenario of the über elite, the financial oligarchy, the blue bloods of Europe taking over the world like they've always wanted to do. It's time for the human race to wake the fuck up and to realise it's not about religion, it's not about race, it's about whether people want to be free or slaves to criminal governments.”

Schaffer's (ahem) 'strident' views have often been characterised as 'conservative' but the man himself vehemently rejects this tag. Indeed with one exception he disdains all the Republican candidates vying to face Barack Obama in November. “Fuck Rick Santorum, fuck those other guys – they're all establishment stooges,” spits Schaffer. “The only guy with any integrity is Ron Paul – he's the only guy that understands that banks rule the world. He's the only guy that understands we're up against a corporate fascist dictatorship that is trying to get installed in the United Nations.”

Schaffer may be disgusted with the state of world affairs but since recruiting new vocalist Stu Block he's re-discovered his passion for making and playing music. “For a long while I was sick of Iced Earth, especially the business side of things and all the stuff people don't hear about. But then I had a bit of an awakening and I feel back in love with Iced Earth again. I did something I'd never able to do before – look back at everything I'd accomplished and realising how good it had been. Around the same time the world financial collapse happened and I realised that we'd have to really commit if we wanted to survive as a band. Matt Barlow [former singer] wasn't ready to do that – he's a cop and has a family – so he decided to step down. Then Stu came along and with him on board, Iced Earth is a group of guys ready to do what's necessary. Dystopia is already one of my favourite Iced Earth records and this band is only going to get stronger. I'm really glad I persevered and didn't give up.”