Review Summary: More varied and dynamic than anything released post-The Glorious Burden, Incorruptible is a solid comeback and an album for fans of Iced Earth.
It’s been almost 20 years since Iced Earth were labeled by press and fans the next best thing in heavy metal. In a decade where metal was almost outlawed, Schaffer and Co. enjoyed their creative peak and released an array of material which ranged from great to classic 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.
, the US power metal outfit’s 12th release, musically stands somewhere between the band’s golden days and The Glorious Burden
. In fact, if it was released after Something Wicked This Way Comes
, it would be perceived as a very logical progression. While listening to the LP, longtime fans will likely experience numerous instances of deja vu and a strong sense of familiarity. This might deduct a few originality points but at least we get to avoid the bloated, over-produced mess that came with Framing Armageddon
and Crucible of Man
In addition, even though we might not have another “Dante’s Inferno”, a “Something Wicked Trilogy” or “A Question of Heaven” in our hands, Incorruptible
features some of the strongest material in the band’s recent history. The pirate-influenced Black Flack
features some very catchy vocal melodies – an element which made Dark Saga
a classic – and a solid guitar solo, courtesy of new lead guitarist Jake Dreyer (Witherfall). The same apply in the case of “Raven Wing”, a very representative sample of the mid-tempo moments of the album. Of course, there are thrashier tracks such as the energetic opener “Great Heathen Army”, “Seven Headed Whore” (with the Slayer-esque opening) and “Defiance” which give singer Stu Block the chance to show his Ripper (or Halford)-type high pitched vocals.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of songs which are not as strong as the aforementioned ones. “The Veil” is somewhat flat and borders on filler and “The Relic (Part 1)” is saved by some nice guitar leads, drum fills and its atmosphere. However, what separates Incorruptible
from previous average albums is the lack of clunkers. For example, “The Relic (Part 1)” might be average, but works almost ideally as a link to “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)”; Iced Earth’s best instrumental since “1776”, it features some memorable harmonies and melodies even though it could have been slightly trimmed. And of course, no Jon Schaffer album can exist without a true epic. On Incorruptible
, he revisits in a sense the Gettysburg Trilogy with the addition of “Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)”; a 9-and-a-half minute epic which describes the Battle Of Fredericksburg from the perspective of the Irish Brigade. In typical “Gettysburg” fashion, it transfers the listener to the battlefield with folk instruments and cannonball-like drumming. Needles to say, it is one of the album’s highlights.
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?