The metal world was stunned today by the news that Iced Earth vocalist Matthew Barlow, considered a permanent fixture of the band by most, was quitting to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Barlow issued a moving and emotional public statement thanking the fans for their support and explaining his motivation for leaving the band – and within moments, guitarist and founder Jon Schaffer added his own lengthy post to Barlow's farewell, overshadowing it. “Hey, that's all right,” Barlow was heard to comment to a friend earlier this afternoon, during a chance encounter in the auto parts department of an area Wal-Mart. “It's Jon's band, and he's always been the dominant force. I support him, and the rest of Iced Earth, and I'll always wish them success.” “Matthew Barlow is an incredible singer,” Schaffer immediately piped up, popping out of a stack of radial tires. “While I could tell immediately upon recording tracks for our upcoming CD, The Glorious Burden, that his heart was no longer in this band, due to his sub-par performance, I respect his decision to enter the law enforcement field and protect this country we both love so much. Especially me, Jon Schaffer.” “Man, that guy's kind of an overbearing ass,” Barlow's friend muttered as he and Barlow made their way toward the checkout counters. “Many people consider me a prick due to my forthright nature,” Schaffer announced over the store's public-address system. “However, I do not believe that having the conviction of my opinions, and the balls to express those opinions freely, makes me anything less than a metal warrior and a proud American.” Barlow waited till he was out in the parking lot to jot down a note to his friend. “Jon's always gotta have the last word, in everything,” Barlow scribbled on the corner of a Wal-Mart circular. “No matter what.” Just then, a biplane flew over the store, sky-writing the words THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY THE CASE in the clear mid-afternoon sky. At that, Barlow and his friend looked at each other, then up at the sky, then at each other again, and then bolted to their cars, making a hasty exit from the parking lot. Guitarist Larry Tarnowski, who recently left Iced Earth's touring lineup, says that Schaffer's insistence on the last word may have been why Barlow split in the first place. “I know it had a lot to do with my leaving,” Tarnowski said, speaking from an undisclosed “safe house” deep in the Rocky Mountains. “Even now, I have a hard time speaking, because I know when I'm done saying something, no matter how impossible it sounds, Jon's going to add to it, edit it to make me look bad, or otherwise walk all over me.” At that moment, Schaffer's head popped out of a woodstove in the corner. “Larry Tarnowski was a valuable part of the Iced Earth legacy during his rather brief, undistinguished tenure with the band. If he chooses to put 'school' or 'getting a word in edgewise' over the power of heavy metal, thus branding himself a poseur, that is his decision and I, Jon Schaffer, support his right to make all the mistakes he wants.” “Whatever!” Tarnowski screamed in reply, sticking a pillow over his head. “Whatever whatever!” Schaffer shot back. “Whatever whatever whatever!” Tarnowski cried, tears streaming down his face. “Whatever whatever whatever whatever!” Schaffer volleyed back, at which point Tarnowski lapsed into a catatonic silence, sucking his thumb. No matter who ends up occupying the frontman position in Iced Earth, Barlow remains confident that the band's enduring commitment to heavy metal glory will continue. “I'm just hoping that maybe – just maybe – when Jon's in mid-set at an open-air festival on the other side of the planet, rocking out to a classic Iced Earth track with all his heart, while their new singer, whoever it may be, jams along beside him – that maybe then, I'll be able to say something – anything – without him getting the last word.” “Not fuckin' likely, Quitty McQuitter-stein,” muttered Schaffer, peeking through Barlow's bedroom windows before scurrying away to head off something Richard Christy was about to say.