Iced Earth - Incorruptible review
01. Great Heathen Army
02. Black Flag
03. Raven Wing
04. The Veil
05. Seven Headed Whore
06. The Relic (Part 1)
07. Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)
10. Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)
Incorruptible, like Plagues Of Babylon, lacks the visceral, unrelenting songwriting and crisp production of Dystopia; it doesn't hit as hard or as immediately. While that's a hard claim to back up when "Great Heathen Army" kicks off the album with Stu Block screeching, "VALHALLA!" at the top of his lungs, the first half of the album is more of a slow burn. It's the second half of the album - the folk-influenced instrumental whirlwind of "Ghost Dance," the earnest and moving tribute to camaraderie in "Brothers," and the second strike of epic lightning in "Clear The Way" - that really takes off from the moment of first contact.
After getting used to the idea of a pirate song not by Alestorm and an invasion-of-Northumbria song not by Forefather, however, Incorruptible's first half, a mid-paced array of traditionally structured heavy metal songs, begins to show its true colors. Though too predictable, melodic, and firmly entrenched in the band's wheelhouse to have the same impact as Dystopia or experimental benefits as the Something Wicked albums, these songs have a dark, gloomy atmosphere carried over from Plagues Of Babylon and feel much more mature than a lot of other artists writing in a similar vein. Perhaps if these tracks were thrashier, they would feel more akin to Iced Earth's classic material a la Something Wicked This Way Comes or Burnt Offerings, but the speed demon "Seven Headed Whore" fills that void by itself, and a battle-hardened power metal sing-along like "Great Heathen Army" will work its away up the ranks one way or another.
"Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)", though considerably leaner at only 9:30, is the epic follow-up to "Gettysburg" that we have been waiting for since The Glorious Burden. The chronicle of the Irish Brigade during the Battle of Fredericksburg in the American Civil War sees the band experimenting with some folk elements on top of a crushing metallic skeleton. Interspersing the haunting echoes of mournful pipes among thunderous chords, launching cannonades of percussion behind harmonized leads, and galloping through a mixture of sweat-soaked triumph and futile despair, "Clear The Way" brings Incorruptible to a tumultuous climax in the way that only a Schaffer-penned historical epic can. The song is an experience rarely matched in Iced Earth's discography; on this album, only the magnificent and heart-wrenching instrumental "Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)" comes close.
With his searing highs, forceful lows, and passionate mids, Stu Block continues to demonstrate that he is, without a doubt, the right man to front Iced Earth. For the most part, the vocal lines aren't much more adventurous than they were on the last two albums, but now and then he gets the chance to show off the vocal acrobatics he proved himself capable of on Live In Ancient Kourion; in any event, his sheer power and conviction can drive anything the band puts in front of him.
I call myself a big fan of Plagues Of Babylon in spite of the album's lukewarm reception, but it's clear that paring down the track list and running time has made Incorruptible a much stronger album; it's easier to digest than its predecessor, easier to return to, and easier to get invested in, with its stronger songs standing out more memorably and its weaker songs working less to the album's detriment. I think it's too early to tell if Incorruptible will be remembered among Iced Earth's strongest works in the future, but some of these pieces unquestionably will be, and it's good to know that the constantly changing lineup has once again failed to slow Jon Schaffer's riff machine.
|Written on 10.06.2017 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.
|If there was one album that I really looked forward to in 2017, it was this one. But did Jon Schaffer and co live up to my expectations with Incorruptible?
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