Throughout their revered career lineup stability has always been a concern for ICED EARTH as they have worked their way through approximately 30 members in their tenure including various vocalists such as Matt Barlow (who later returned for a second stint) and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens. Further apprehension was cast over the band when long serving guitarist Troy Seele departed the band in 2016 but through all the turmoil there has always been one constant, the master technician himself Jon Schaffer, a man who for the best part of 30 years has refused to compromise on his vision for the band and as they approach the release of their 12th studio album due out on 16th June via Century Media there couldn’t be a more appropriate title than Incorruptible.
From the offset and the grand, opulent sounding intro to opening track Great Heathen Army you automatically get the sense that you are about to bear witness to something special and as the hard hitting riffs kick in proceeded by the unmistakable falsetto courtesy of Stu Block you are embraced by anthemic verses and powerful battle cries. It also takes very little time for new recruit and ex-WHITE WIZZARD axeman Luke Dryer to make his presence felt with his exuberant solo work.
As the album progresses it has a more concise and meticulous feel, like a classic heavy metal record with IRON MAIDEN like gallops as opposed to some of the more chaotic and fierce ICED EARTH songs which have come before, they automatically feel a lot more accessible but still possessing that killer, polished edge which they have become renowned for and that makes their songs so recognisable. The vocal performances by Stu Block particularly on ballad-esque Raven Wing show such a diverse and polished quality which adds the perfect level of evocative shine to the tracks but at the same time still displaying a punchy, metal vibe. Despite what seemingly feels like a more restrained and precise tempo for the majority of Incorruptible the band show they still have the fire and capability to write bone shudderingly high tempo tracks as exhibited in the delightfully named Seven Headed Whore which features thunderous drumming, shrieking falsetto and Jon Schaffer‘s signature triple picked onslaught.
The lyrics expertly portray various concepts throughout the album such as the pirate themed Black Flag and the incredibly orchestrated Clear The Way which describes the Irish Brigade and the Battle Of Fredricksburg. The lyrics and instrumental composition are so masterfully assembled that your mind begins to visually reconstruct the event as the song progresses through its various adrenaline filled passages.
Incorruptible is a brilliant combination of memorable and thought provoking content that makes you feel an immediate connection with the music and the concepts encountered along the way. It has that aura about it that you feel it has the potential to stand the test of time and stand out amongst the abundance of phenomenal albums ICED EARTH have amassed throughout their career and it is a true testament to the hunger, drive and unshakable will of Jon Schaffer. The compositions are very approachable and digestible which will appeal to their ever expanding fan base as well as grasping the attention of any newcomers to the wonderfully intricate and vibrant world of ICED EARTH.
Incorruptible is due for release on 16th June via Century Media Records. ICED EARTH are featured in the new issue of Distorted Sound, support independent magazines and purchase a copy here.
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