The central figure of Iced Earth is rhythm guitarist and songwriter Jon Schaffer, who formed the band under the name Purgatory in Indiana, USA in 1984. After moving to Florida and changing their name to Iced Earth, the group's Enter the Realm demo was released.
Starting out as an ordinary Iron Maiden like act, their debut demo was so popular that their debut LP Iced Earth would follow in 1991 featuringGene Adam (vocals), Randy Shawver(guitar), Jon Schaffer (guitar), Dave Abell(bass) and Mike McGill(drums), Iced Earth would drift into a more Power Metal bent. Rick Secchiari took over drums and John Greely took over on vocals for the follow-up, Night Of The Stormrider, in 1992, a role that would be assumed by Rodney Beasley for the next album, Burnt Offerings in 1995. The Dark Saga (1996) saw the drum stool once again being changed for that held by Mark Prator, likewise for Days Of Purgatory (1997) with Brent Smedley assuming the roll. Finally in Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998) the band would face a membership change for something other than the drummer with James MacDonough on bass and no drummer at all. The album would prove to be an inspiration for the last 20 minutes of the recording featured a trilogy fantasy story written by Schaffer himself.
In 1999 a massive 3CD live set in the form of Alive In Athens arrived featuring Matthew Barlow (vocals), the returning Jon Schaffer, Larry Tarnowski (guitar), Rick Risberg (keyboards) and Brent Smedley (drums), to be followed-up with the Melancholy EP later that same year (re-released in 2001 with bonus tracks). The Horror Show followed in 2001 featuring the line-up of the returning Barlow, Schaffer, Tarnowski, the returning James MacDonough (bass),who was quickly replaced with Steve DiGiorgio, and Richard Christy (ex-Control Denied/ex-Death/ex-Leash Law/ex-Tiwanaku; drums), followed by the massive 5-CD boxed set best of compilation Dark Genesis featuring all fo the first 3 albums, Tribute To The Gods made specifically for it and also sold separately, and an early demo recording.
But 2003 would prove to be a year of changes for the band with Matt Barlow retiring from music to pursue a career in law enforcement administration. But the band wasn't entirely left out in the cold when they acquired Tim Owens who had recently left Judas Preist with the first album featuring him singing, called The Glorious Burden in 2004. The platter also featured DiGiorgio and Tarnowski now out and replaced with Ralph Santolla (guitar) and James MacDonough (bass) back. Also in 2004,drummer Christy left the band to audition for the Howard Stern show as Stuttering John's replacement.Bobby Jarzombek (ex-Riot/ex-Halford) would replace him for the releases of The Bessed And The Damned best of... (2005), the audio only DVD, Gettysburg (1863) (2006), and the Framing Armageddon: Sometghing Wicked Part 1 (2007) now featuring new members Dennis Hayes (bass) and Brent Smedley (drums) returning (previously in the act from 1996-1997 & 1998-1999). The EP would be followed up by Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Part 1) (2007) album proper featuring the tracks from the EP surrounded by an entire concept album on a battle between good and evil in a fictional fantasy world.
Box of the Wicked followed in early 2010. The boxset contained Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, The Crucible Of Man: Something Wicked Part 2, Overture of the Wicked EP and the I Walk Among You single, as well as a bonus CD, containing one song from Framing Armageddon, now with Matt Barlow on lead vocals, as well as three previously unreleased live tracks from the Graspop Metal Meeting festival in 2008; the set also included a poster and a booklet.
Iced Earth then signed a new contract with their former record company, 'Century Media Records'.
Matt Barlow then decided to leave, stating that he was retiring from the band due to family commitments after the 2011 summer tour. He would be replaced by Into Eternity frontman Stu Block.
On June 27, 2011, the band released the DVD Festivals of the Wicked featuring shows from Metal Camp Open Air (2008), the Rock Hard Festival (2008) and Wacken Open Air (2007). The, later, on September 7, 2011, they released a re-recorded version of Dante's Inferno, from the album Burnt Offerings.
Dystopia was the next album in October 2011. While not a concept album, many of the album's songs were inspired by dystonia themes and films.
April 10, 2012 Freddie Vidales left the band, to be replaced by Luke Appleton of Fury UK.
Drummer Brent Smedley was next to leave the band in May 2013 due to personal reasons; Raphael Saini took the slot over in time for the next album, Plagues of Babylon.
Brent Smedley had rejoined the band, replacing Dette in time for the release of The Judas Goat (2016).
Footnote: The theme of their Gettysburg album became the center of a controversy after Schaffer gave an interview to Canadian heavy metal magazine Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. After the interview was published, Schaffer accused the magazine of taking him out of context and of pushing an anti-American bias, and subsequently announced that the band would boycott the magazine in the future. However, some time later, Schaffer granted Mark Gromen, a writer who shared his material with BW&BK and a personal friend, an interview in issue 101 (Jan/Feb '07) effectively ending the boycott for now.
Also: Together with Hansi Kürsch - lead singer and former bass player of Blind Guardian - Schaffer is also part of a side project called Demons & Wizards.