I was introduced to Iced Earth when they released their Horrorshow album in 2001, did the usual back catalogue check from there and have also followed them ever since.
It has been a very rocky road for band leader Jon Schaffer with a turnstile of musicians and three vocalists in the last 15 years alone. It must be difficult to be as driven as he obviously is.
Incorruptible opens in the grand style that this band has come to demand on the Viking tale ‘Great Heathen Army’, with a choir and strings before the story takes off. ‘Black Flag’ feels very plodding as it opens, leaving you wanting more before it takes into a more typical Maidenesque gallop and salvaging what begins as an uninteresting track.
Schaffer and his current band that make up Iced Earth play out of their skin, mixing their brand of power metal and thrash to great effect throughout the album, only ever really dropping the ball on the slower tracks ‘Raven Wing’ and ‘The Veil’ – something I feel they has always done on any of their albums. Any album by Iced Earth would be better without the attempts at balladry; they just slow down the pace far too much. Luckily the heaviest song on the album ‘Seven Headed Whore’ follows these tracks, with its early thrash influences proudly worn.
The back end of the album is very similar to the first half, opens great with ‘The Relic (Part One)’, has a couple of take it or leave it tracks with the instrumental ‘Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)’ starting out well, even if it feels like I have heard the main riff before on another Iced Earth album, but meanders on for too long and loses its original impact, and ‘Brothers’ is another almost sappy ballad.
I can be a sucker for a good bombastic tune though and this album closes with ‘Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)’ another Schaffer tune full of Iron Maiden gallop, American Civil War imagery and cinematic music.
Special mention must be made of vocalist Stu Block. On his third album with the band, his vocals just keep getting stronger and stronger, like a mix of both Matt Barlow and Ripper Owens with a great high falsetto and gruff mid range vocal abilities used to strong effect throughout, even on the out of place ballads. This is also Jon Schaffer’s second attempt at the console producing his band, and it has to be said he has done a great job of committing his musical vision to tape here.
Overall, with the shackles of the grander Something Wicked concept removed for the sake of this album it allows the music to once again take precedence and helps to create their best album since ‘The Glorious Burden’ in 2004. The quality of the music and stories are some of their best in some time.