Artist: Iced Earth
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review by Steve Jenkins
Formed in the mid 80's, Iced Earth have provided an extremely solid catalogue of quality metal music, albeit with a revolving cast of vocalists, including Matt Barlow and ex-Judas Priest frontman Tim Owens. In 2011 for their Dystopia album they recruited Into Eternity singer Stu Block, who also sang on Plagues of Babylon and of course, this new album.
In the beginning, Iced Earth were labeled by press and fans as the next best thing in heavy metal. During a time where metal was almost outlawed, the band enjoyed their creative peak and released an array of material which ranged from great stuff to classic material within the genre. In the meantime, Jon Schaffer established himself as the best right hand of the ‘90s and offered us an infinite number of triplets played in every possible manner. Nevertheless, all of that had to end sometime and The Glorious Burden was a happy end especially due to the Gettysburg Trilogy, arguably the band’s greatest musical achievement. What happened after 2004 is to a certain extent a matter of perspective and partly factual. Iced Earth have been wildly inconsistent or painfully mediocre, but objectively far from their creative heights.
Incorruptible sees Iced Earth return to some of their finest form, and man it's so good to hear. Album opener 'Great Heathen Army' starts off with an intro that isn't too long, with epic power chords getting the mood set, before Stu bursts into the fray screaming "VAHALLA!" in a totally righteous way. For the most part, it is a mid tempo song with a solid solo as well as some majestic and super powerful vocals, reminiscent of Rob Halford.
'Raven Wing' starts off with a soothing acoustic intro, with a softer side to the vocal arrangement, before kicking into overdrive with a heavy bottom-end rhythm riff and melodic lead guitar that features a really catchy groove. This song in my opinion would have been better suited as an album opener instead of 'Great Heathen Army', because the acoustic guitar allows an easier period for things to settle in and better prepares you for the heaviness to follow.
Other standout tracks include the brutally named 'Seven Headed Whore', a really short thrash metal track with a chuggy main riff and blazing drums. At only three minutes long, it is the shortest track on the album and really proves Stu's self labelled "hybrid vocalist" style, easily transitioning from screams into melodic powerful high notes.
Production wise, the album is really well done. All of the components are clear and crisp, nothing is too overpowering and every instrument, including the synths. Any extra instrumentation provides a solid foundation to the song and doesn't ruin the tones the band are trying to set. Lyrically, there is no real concept here, just 10 individual tracks. But each track has its own flavour in terms of lyrical content, barring the opener and closer which both are about historic battles. 'Black Flag' is a pirate story, 'Brothers' is about the camaraderie in a band, 'Defiance' is your stock standard rise up and fight anthem. I highly recommend you read the lyrics for yourself, they are really well written.
At the end of the day, the album’s biggest merit might be its most significant weakness and it is no other than the brand name on the cover and the body of work that comes with it. Remove it and you’ll instantly lose the largest percentage of listeners but try to imagine if Iced Earth never existed and an album of such quality gets released in 2017 by another band, what would its reception be?
7 out of 10 stars.
Incorruptible is out now via Century Media Records.
Watch the official music video for the track 'Raven Wing' below: