• A diversified heavy metal grower - A review of Iced Earth's ''Incorruptible''

    Iced Earth - Incorruptible (2017)

    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%

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