Iced Earth founder Jon Ryan Schaffer has just made history for all the wrong reasons.
The metal guitarist, who moonlights as a member of the MAGA nation, has pleaded guilty to two separate crimes tied to the January invasion of the U.S. Capitol. Appearing in a DC District Court, Schaffer admitted guilt to both obstruction of an official proceeding, and to entering a building with a dangerous weapon. (The latter, in case you’re curious, wasn’t devil horns or a Gibson Les Paul; the dangerous weapon was bear spray).
The history-making part of the plea is that Schaffer is the first person to plead guilty in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. In a move that makes one wonder what kind of metal madman rats out his fellow warriors at the drop of a hat, Schaffer has agreed to cooperate with investigators in the hope that whatever sentence he gets will be reduced.
Presumably worried about being hunted by a crossbow-wielding Ted Nugent, and an inebriated golf-cart-driving Kid Rock, Schaffer will also be considered for the federal U.S. witness security program.
This, of course, begs the question of “How in the hell is the man supposed to continue to entertain the unwashed masses and devoted headbangers of the world?”.
Thanks to those who’ve come before him, Schaffer does have some options. Like for example submitting himself to a shearing at the nearest sheep farm, and then convincing his fellow members of Iced Earth to go the KISS route. (This might work, as long as the band “members” agree to switch up instruments during shows; hard as this might be to believe today, no one knew what Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons looked like offstage until “Lick It Up”).
Then there’s the Gwar/Slipknot approach where all his fellow Iced Earthers start wearing masks onstage. Admit it—as much as you might love Balsac the Jaws of Death, Jizmack da Gusha, and Clown, you’d have more luck flying to the moon under your own power than picking Mike Derks, Brad Roberts, or Michael Shawn Crahan out of a police lineup. Weirdly, the same went for Schaffer before he decided to start taking his marching orders from the persimmon-hued shitstain known as Donald Trump.
There’s also the option of just saying “Fuck it all”, and leaning into the fact you’ve embarrassed yourself, your country, and every metal musician with a brain (starting with Serj Tankian, Kirk Hammett, and Duff McKagan). Fuck the witness protection program, man, and get out on the fucking road with a MAGA baseball hat stapled to your fucking head, and your blue Capitol Invasion windbreaker glue-gunned to your back.
Then it’s just a matter of putting together a set list that cherry-picks songs from Iced Earth’s back-catalogue. In hindsight, many of them read like something written for Capitol Insurrection (The Metal Musical): “Disciples of the Lie”, “Consequences”, “When the Eagle Cries”, “Waterloo”, “Boiling Point”, “Resistance”, “The End?, “Great Heathen Army”, and “Vengeance is Mine”. For the encores Schaffer can send his fellow members of Iced Earth offstage while he performs a straight-from-the-heart version of Dennis Leary’s “Asshole”.
By fellow members of Iced Earth, we’re of course talking drummer Brent Smedley, and no one but drummer Brent Smedley. Fans know him as the guy who’s joined, quit, and rejoined Iced Earth four times in the past. He’s evidently decided to tough things out this time because, like Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, he presumably has nowhere else to go.
That gives him something in common with the man who writes his paycheques.
Schaffer was released from the courthouse with the conditions that he: give up his passport, stay outside of DC, and accept that he’s not to own firearms or explosive devices.
Goodbye European tour, four-night stand at the 9:30 Club, and on-stage flashpots. And so long Iced Earth, because, in making history, Schaffer has pretty much guaranteed there won’t be a farewell show, let alone a reunion tour.