Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Label: Century Media
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Guitarist Jon Schaffer has been spearheading Iced Earth for over three decades. Along his journey there have been numerous others battling at his side to create some of power metals strongest albums. The band’s current incarnation features long-time drummer Brent Smedley, vocalist Stu Block, and bassist Luke Appleton, along with new lead guitarist Jake Dreyer. The new album, Incorruptible, is the group’s 12th full-length studio effort, and arguably Iced Earth’s best since the seminal albums The Dark Saga (1996) and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998). It is comparable to 2011’s Dystopia, Block’s first album with the band, which remains the band’s modern era gold standard.
The new record is rich with Schaffer’s classic influences, and celebrates everything we love about heavy metal; headbangingly familiar and without straying too far off the beaten path. “Great Heathen Army” opens the album with an ominous and cinematic tone followed by a wailing cry from Block’s heavy metal throat. The thundering rhythms and thick riffage begin en masse, and set the foundation for the rest of the record. Valhalla here we come!
“Black Flag” is a dark and winding pirate’s tale powered by Block’s charismatic vocal delivery. “Raven Wing” showcases the band’s poignant elements, with broody emotive delivery from Block. This moody feel continues on quiet desperation of “The Veil”.
Iced Earth shakes off the metal melancholy and throttles up for the thrashy chugger, “Seven Headed Whore.” Sadly it is the album’s shortest song at only three minutes. This is followed by the Maiden-tinged groove of “The Relic (Part 1)”.
The album is split by the six-and-a-half minute instrumental, “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)”. While I’m not generally a fan of overlong instrumental pieces, this track holds up without overt distraction.
Schaffer celebrates his new collaborative partnership with Block on the anthemic “Brothers,” with its shoulder to shoulder, horns in the air camaraderie. Dreyer delivers a memorable solo here.
The album closes out strong with the crushing and aggressive juggernaut, “Defiance” and the near 10-minute Civil War epic, “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)”. The latter is the gem of the record and finds the band flirting with some folk elements on a sonic journey that regales the bloody Battle of Fredericksburg which claimed over 18000 lives. It is a song that celebrates all that is brilliant about Iced Earth.
With Incorruptible, Iced Earth are not branching out to new lands of creativity, but instead stand victorious in delivering an album that honors what they do best. Schaffer has written another album of memorable riffs, and his metal brethren have helped him bring his vision to life. Incorruptible is a classic Iced Earth album for the modern era of American Power Metal. Fight, stand tall, prevail!