Review: Iced Earth – Incorruptible
Written by Mauricio Adan
Iced Earth’s Incorruptible album dropped recently on Century Media Records and, boy, is it one for the book of heavy metal. The American metal legends’ new album is some of the very best Iced Earth material we’ve heard in over 15 years. Incorruptible is one of those records that only comes around once in awhile, the kind that becomes a moment all its own in a band’s career. Iced Earth certainly has a few of those and with this new release they can add another major notch into the hall of heavy metal history. Incorruptible is the album fans have been waiting for and when I say it’s here, I mean it’s here. It’s heavy, it’s fast, it’s melodic as hell, it’s full of kickass, memorable hooks, guitar riffs, lyrics, and stories brought to life like only Jon Schaffer and Iced Earth can.
Coming in at tens tracks, there isn’t a single dull moment or lame song on this incredible monument of metal. The album begins and ends with tremendous strength, two of the strongest tracks are found at opposite ends of Incorruptible, and everything in between is rock solid. ‘Seven Headed Whore,’ ‘Ravenwing,’ ‘The Great Heathen Army,’ and ‘Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)’ have all been unleashed as singles and while normally I would say that’s way too many of your best songs to put out even before the album is released that still leaves a ton of really great music to be discovered. Iced Earth’s 12th studio album, Incorruptible, is truly one for the ages.
The album opener, ‘Great Heathen Army,’ immediately captivates and sets the tone for an incredible album. It gets the ball rolling fast in true fashion. It’s the type of opener Iced Earth fans absolutely love. The first in a slew of songs that will have you singing along with mad fervor by first listen’s end. It builds up with an epic and ominous intro and then punches right into screaming guitars and speeding double bass, then it gets to the hook before you know it, and the solo takes you right where you want to be in the first couple of minutes of a new this record.
While “Heathen Army” gave me a similar vibe to that of “Wolf,” the opener to 2001’s Horror Show, track two instantly gave me a feel of the Dark Saga. Sometimes Schaffer likes to punch right into the metal, other times he likes to lure in listeners with a softer, more enchanting intro song. If this were one of those albums ‘Black Flag’ could have easily done the job and opened the album in style. Now, right off the bat, the first two tracks are taking me back and invoking memories of both Horror Show and Dark Saga, a clear indication of how good this material is.
There are three heavy, ballad type songs on Incorruptible,’Ravenwing,’ ‘The Veil,’ and ‘Brothers.’ The first of these ballads is track three, ‘Ravenwing,’ which was the second single to be released and was met with wide applause from the fans. It’s such a damn good song! I was stuck on it for a few days. After that, I went back and forth between two, as to which of the slower songs was my favorite, but I think ‘Brothers’ ends up taking it. It does pick up in speed a bit but never gets too fast so I’ll leave it in that category, especially considering the lyrics and the overall feel of the song. I always say that a ballad or a slower song has to be a really, really good piece of music or else it’s just boring. That being said, all three of the slower jams on Incorruptible are excellent songs that we’ll be singing along to for years.
Two of my absolute favorites are back to back at track six and seven. ‘The Relic (Part 1)’ was instantly cemented as a brand new favorite and instant classic for me. It tells an awesome and tragic story and is dripping with beautiful melodies and a gripping chorus line. It’s just such a good tune. Then there’s ‘Ghostdance (Awaken the Ancestors),’ the only instrumental of the album. This one will make you want to crank it way up and play it loud. Hell, you might even feel compelled to get up and start summoning some spirits of your own. Like “1776” from Something Wicked, “Ghostdance” is a brilliant and beautifully written metal song. This was the other track that had me entranced for days, like “The Relic,” which I mentioned before. I’m not saying these are the best tacks or even calling them my favorites, but there is something about these two tracks that made them stick in my head more than any others and that’s part of the beauty of this album.
What I love about this record is how it finds an incredible balance with old school Iced Earth and new school heavy metal. Many times, you hear people criticizing a favorite band’s new album because it doesn’t sound enough like (insert any band’s greatest ever album) – a ridiculous notion I grew tired of long ago. Well, here is one album to satisfy all those super sky high standards. You have songs like the first single, “Seven Headed Whore,” reminiscent of the band’s iconic, self titled debut. Then you have “Defiance”, which gave me nostalgic feelings of hearing Something Wicked This Way Comes for the first time all those years ago. This album hits so many pressure points that it’s difficult to find any flaws on the damn thing at all!
Incorruptible closes out with “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)”, a thrilling roller coaster of a song about the Irish Brigade’s brutal slaughter at the Battle of Fredericksburg in the American Civil War. The last and final single, like the album itself, “Clear the Way” is everything we know and love about Iced Earth all in one. Fast, heavy, melodic, emotional, glorious, and absolutely epic with its lyrics. If any one song exemplifies the spirit of the record as a whole it might be this one. The song is easily one of the best, one of my personal favorites and an instant classic that will no doubt quickly find its place among Iced Earth’s greatest hits of all time. Ditto can be said about the record itself. Incorruptible is one of the best new pieces of work I’ve heard in years, from any band, and I would not call that an overstatement in the slightest. This record is easily a top contender for metal album of the year. I’d have to hear some pretty groundbreaking and mind blowing music to surpass this album by any significant degree. This is everything we’ve been waiting for from Iced Earth and more. Incorruptible is out now as of midnight, June 16th, so go out and buy it, then turn it up as loud as you can and let the metal bleed from your speakers! Few albums will deserve it more this year… 10/10