The American progressive heavy metal band Iced Earth was founded in 1985 in Tampa, Florida. During their 32 year career, they’ve had lots of time refining their style, which is distinguished by their successful combo of thrash and traditional heavy metal elements in their music. This summer, they’ve just released their 12th album, Incorruptible.
The album begins epicly with a cinematic intro of Great Heathen Army which introduces the listener nicely and strongly into what the band is about. Heavy guitars bow nicely to the 80’s and 90’s thrash metal while Stu Block gives us an example of his vocal range’s capabilities. The first verse is over before you even know it and the fast-paced track slows down for a chorus, which is the weakest point in the track. It changes the feel of the song completely and nimbly shifts to traditional heavy by being mid-tempo and using triplets in the background while guitar leads follow the vocals. After that we venture deep into the early “Euro-heavy” and the solo section sounds like Accept.
After the second verse, comes another chorus that repeats and the intensity of the song is discharged without reaching to a climax before it ends. It also works as a sign that this album is much more focused on heavy metal that what the previous Plagues of Babylon (2014) was.
The second song, Black Flag, is pretty much similar but without the thrash elements and even simpler arrangements, which kills the originality and the mid-tempo song seems to be revolving around the chorus with too boring basic triplet drum patterns and a lead guitar riff that only gets irritable the more I listen to it.
Following the tradition, third song is a ballad-like slow one. Raven Wing begins with clean guitar strumming, which gives great room and serves Block’s beautiful and frail singing perfectly. It’s not the most original trick but it works and I try to take it as a tribute to the heavy metal pioneers.
The rest of the song doesn’t give us more surprises and it rolls on nicely, like the most of the songs in this album, but it makes me hungry for more complexity in arrangement and technically challenging guitar riffs.
At first listen, The Veil with it’s touch of mysticism in the intro made me first fell in love the first. It’s more like the progressive side of IE and reminds of Iron Maiden‘s The Nomad, but it loses to the Brits by the chorus, which is pretty basic and more sing-along type. It’s not entirely a bad thing because the deviant feeling and soundscape persist through the verses and conducts us nicely to the guitar solo.
After each song, the album seems to be just getting better and better, and Seven Headed Whore kicks nicely like 99 by The Haunted and represents the thrashy side. The guitars have enough balls and progressive lead sounds good with the just right amount of originality the band has done before.
After that, the rest of the album pretty much repeats itself and nothing particularly raises up to shine before the second to last song, Defiance which is the second complex track.
It kicks very nicely and is upbeat to my surprise with just the right amount of flavor. A neoclassical intro solo leads us to an uplifting riff before the verse which changes to an even bigger gear. The chorus grooves nicely and this feels like the most thought song on the album so far, leaving the previous ones completely to its shade. There’s always something interesting going on and this is up to the level of the title track of Dystopia (2012) album.
It’s not hard to guess that the last song is the most complex one. The long intro with quite a lot of effected clean guitar feels like an eternity after it turns into a true rocking riff for a brief moment before unleashing to us as more heavy one and ultimately appears to us with nothing to add.
Overall, I’m disappointed by the lack of originality and progressive elements in this album but I’m dumbfounded by how much the album sounds like many others. I’m not convinced this is a full-though album but more like a thing to tick off their ‘to-do’ -list and its purpose remains a mystery to me. It has it’s moments but as a whole it sounds like a basic-good melodic metal album with lots of notations to the past decades and those who forged the heavy metal genre. For an average listener the album is good for background music but I’m not entirely sure if these are the songs I’d like to hear live.
Stu Block – lead vocals, backing vocals
Jon Schaffer – rhythm and lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Jake Dreyer – lead guitar
Luke Appleton – bass guitar
Brent Smedley – drums
1. Great Heathen Army
2. Black Flag
3. Raven Wing
4. The Veil
5. Seven Headed Whore
6. The Relic (Part 1)
7. Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors) (Instrumental)
10. Clear the Way (December 13, 1862)