Ladies and gentlemen,
Here are a few pictures from a great show I attended on June 23rd, 2017 at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Opening act Jack Irons, a former member of Red Hot Chili Peppers, played some great rhythms and beats on his kit, accompanied by some simplistic electronic sounds. Deerhoof turned out to be a very experimental alternative rock band with a very unique style that I loved a lot but that many people in the crowd didn't appreciate much. Red Hot Chili Peppers set the arena on fire for nearly two hours and played old classics such as ''Give it Away'', ''Californication'' and ''By the Way'' as well as more recent stuff such as ''Dark Necessities'', ''Go Robot'' and ''Goodbye Angels'' but also a few rare tunes like ''Mommy, Where's Daddy?'', ''I Could Have Lied'' and ''She's Only Eighteen''. Great times!
Red Hot Chili Peppers
I discovered Iron Reagan when they played a show with Voivod and Black Crown Initiate among others two years ago and fell in love with the band's vivid crossover thrash metal with a great balance between socially and politically inspired lyrics on one side and humorous and nasty fun anthems on the other side. Since Tony Forresta is the lead singer and Land Phil the bassist and backing vocalist in both bands, it was only a matter of time until I would discover Municipal Waste and the new album seemed to be a good occasion to get into this band.
While Municipal Waste's Slime and Punishment is an above average record with a lot of fury, it sounds like a weaker copy of Iron Reagan to me. The little experiments are a little bit less surprising, the lyrics a little bit less provocative, the long songs a little bit more meandering and the short songs a little bit less to the point. Especially the first half of the album isn't very impressive since several songs sound familiar to a point where they become indistinguishable. Other songs even end on lazy fade-outs which isn't appropriate for this vivid type of music and short tracks.
Other than that, this release includes a few truly gripping tracks in the middle section and second half. ''Parole Violators'' is a furious up-tempo hardcore punk track with amusing radio play elements to conclude the tune on an original note. Title track ''Slime and Punishment'' convinces with a thunderous and dominating bass guitar sound, a nice melodic guitar solo and an additive main riff that creates the foundation for the angry vocals and powerful gang shouts. The instrumental ''Under the Waste Command'' convinces with fast melodic guitar solos that sound like Iron Maiden in the eighties on steroids. The vivid ''Think Fast'' is a perfect album closer and should provoke massive circle pits in concert as well.
On the other side, I'm wondering what justifies the existence of two bands involving similar line-ups when they sound almost identical. I would have expected them to sound similar but not nearly identical. Since Iron Reagan is clearly the band with the better momentum right now that has released three killer records in a very short period of time, maybe Municipal Waste should be put on hold or just disband to put all the creative input into one single group. Municipal Waste fans are obviously not going to like my statement but that's how I feel about the situation. One extremely strong band with very regular releases sounds better two me than two above average groups that release above average albums from time to time. If the last Iron Reagan record had kept its best ten tracks and combined it with the four killer songs from the Municipal Waste record, that would have been a very strong candidate for album for the year.
Final rating: 70%
Iced Earth has always been a band with big hits and misses for me. Incorruptible might not be a masterpiece but it's easily the band's best record in more than a decade.
Let's get the negative points out of the way. Jon Schaffer's songwriting is far from being surprising. All songs can be resumed as melodic mid-tempo tracks with strong heavy and power metal vibes and occasional restrained thrash metal riffs. While not being bad, the two opening tracks kick the record off on a rather low note because they sound like many other Iced Earth songs with the classic trademarks listed above. These two tunes already have too many similarities to really stand out despite an interesting instrumental overture to ''Great Heathen Army'' and cool lyrics about pirates in the case of ''Black Flag''. Several tracks overstay their welcome and feel stretched. This is also due to the fact that choruses are often repeated to death which is the case for both ''Raven Wing'' and ''The Veil''. The fact that some songs end with bland fade-outs instead of proper finales is also a sign for lazy songwriting.
However, after an average first half, Incorruptible gets better and better in the second half. ''Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)'' is an instrumental track that finds the right balance between gripping power metal riffs and creative sound elements inspired by First Nations chants and melody lines. ''Brothers'' is without a doubt this record's anthem and in this case the chorus is so addictive and powerful that I don't mind that it's repeated so many times. This song should get a mandatory spot on the band's concert set lists for years to come. The best track is the closing epic ''Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)'' which reminds me of Iron Maiden's heavy metal epics of the eighties. Emotional melody and vocal lines meet a vivid rhythm section, atmospheric parts in the overture, middle section and coda and very interesting lyrics inspired by historical events. Even a few decently employed bagpipe melodies make their comeback and add a special note to this track. Anyone who likes classic heavy metal epics will fall in love with this track that might be one of the best in Iced Earth's career.
Despite a few minor flaws, Incorruptible is a diversified, engaging and passionate heavy metal record with great production, skilled guitar work and strong vocals that might at times remind of Stu Block's predecessors without copying them. He basically manages to take the best from Matt Barlow and Tim Owens in particular and adds his own touch to it. Let's add that the album is a grower since even the weaker tunes blend in rather well and get more memorable after a few spins. After the vapid Plagues of Babylon, Incorruptible is a very solid return to form and Iced Earth's best record in more than a decade.
Final rating: 78%