REVIEW: Iced Earth – ‘Incorruptible’

Posted: June 13, 2017 by Jeffrey Maki in Reviews
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Review by Jeff Maki
The word “incorruptible” has different meanings. The first, “not susceptible to corruption, especially by bribery,” and the second, “not subject to death or decay; everlasting.” And thus the title of Iced Earth’s 12th album now seems perfectly fitting. This album is a culmination of the band’s career—powerful vocals, powerful lyrics, power chords, power ballads and galloping rhythms that take the band’s ’90s-era sound and transpose it into 2017. And yes, the result is powerful.

Guitarist Jon Schaffer is the force behind this band that released its first self-titled album way back in 1990. In the band’s 27 years of existence, there have been nearly as many band members that have come and gone, including Tim “The Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest) and drummer Richard Christy (Charred Walls of the Damned). Before and after the Ripper, Matt Barlow was the vocalist, replaced by former Into Eternity frontman Stu Block in 2011. During its three decades of existence, Iced Earth has released classic albums like 1991’s Night of the Stormrider (I remember playing the shit out of this CD—especially the title track—when I was 14 years old), 1998’s Something Wicked This Way Comes and a classic horror movie-themed album called Horror Show in 2001. I’ve kept an ear out for the band over all these years, but I was never able to recapture that early fandom I had with “Stormrider.” That changes now.

“Ravenwing,” the first single released ahead of the album, was my first taste of Incorruptible. Imagine the opening drum rythyms of “Enter Sandman” and acoustic guitar, backing a building, massive power ballad, and what we get is something epic in scale. And that’s another sticking point for me with this album—it bears a likeness to ’90s greats such as Metallica’s “Black Album,” Paradise Lost’s Draconian Times and Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark. It has the rythmnic prowess of Metallica, the lasting choruses of Paradise Lost and the galloping singalongs of Maiden.

Incorruptible is packed with variety, something Schaffer strived for, using everything they’ve learned and taking inspiration from 1990s Iced Earth when writing the album. The Viking-inspired opening track, “The Great Heathen Army,” marches, gallops and pillages in all its glory. Things get even more fun on the track that follows, “Black Flags,” a swashbuckling pirate’s tale in which Block snarls the bridge, “We live out our days with barrels of rum, black powder and the clash of the blade!” The most contemporary of the bunch is the metallic-ballad “Veil,” which wouldn’t be out of place on a Five Finger Death Punch album, highlighted by moving guitar work and melodies. “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” is a chance for the band—Schaffer, drummer Brent Smedley, bassist Luke Appleton and new guitarist Jake Dreyer—to show off just about every tribal rhythm, bass lick, guitar melody and solo during this multifaceted instrumental. The heaviest song here is the three-minute thrasher “Seven Headed Whore,” inspired by the biblical figure, the Whore of Babylon. “Clear the Way (December 13th 1862)” closes things in a nine-minute-plus war tribute of the Battle of Fredderickson from the American Civil War, with even more galloping, soaring choruses and the sounds of a triumphant band.

There is not a weak song on this album, and every true metal fan absolutely must hear this in its entirety. Schaffer has taken his influences, his creativity with Iced Earth, new and old, and made an album that is certainly familiar, yet all new and powerful at the same time.

(Century Media Records, June 16, 2017)

Rating: 9.5/10

Jeff enjoys satanic death metal and may still be banned from Canada.

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