ICED EARTH mainman/guitarist Jon Schaffer has released the following statement regarding the departure of singer Tim "Ripper" Owens and the return of Matt Barlow:
"It will be sometime before I'm going to be doing press due to the holidays and the fact that I'm still deep in the final writing process of ['Something Wicked' album] Part 2. I'm aware that the news of Matt coming back into to the band has taken many people by surprise so I'll try to explain the situation a little better.
"I do love Tim's voice and it is the kind of voice I hear when I write, and he's a really cool person. And I do not want an unnecessary war of words started because certain journalists like to create controversy to sell their magazines. I love Tim as a person, a friend and a musician, and I do not have negative feelings towards him at all. We would all appreciate it if the trash pedlars would respect the situation and keep their venomous speculations to themselves. An unlikely request I'm sure, but it would be nice. On the other side, Matt and I are brothers and there was a very deep and spiritual connection that came through in the music that we created and performed together over the years.
"ICED EARTH has always been about passion and honesty in the music — I'm talking about real, raw emotion. That's what has always made the relationship between the band and the fans a very special thing and it is the thing that made the chemistry that Matt and I had together so special.
"When we split before, our relationship had suffered from various things, but mostly it came down to not communicating like we should have, which led to things being blown out of proportion. All of that is behind us and we have grown and matured and will have an even more fulfilling relationship because of what we've experienced and learned from the past.
"ICED EARTH activities will be more limited now because Matt will still be carrying on his career as a law enforcement officer. I would rather we do it this way and have the shows that happen be very special events than to carry on and feel like what's happening isn't genuine. This is NOT a cut on Tim. It's just that ICED EARTH really began to blossom after Matt joined the band and for years we worked our asses off together, on stage and off. Those years of work and commitment defined what ICED EARTH truly is, and frankly I would rather end it than to carry on without Matt involved. All of this has been coming to a head for a while, and the talks with the fans in Europe helped cement what I already knew needed to happen.
"I wish only the best for Tim, this is not a standard bullshit statement, it's the truth. A guy with so much talent and personality only deserves the best in life and that's what I wish for him completely."
ICED EARTH live in SAn Francisco, California in March 2002 (with Matt Barlow on vocals):