|Review: Iced Earth - Incorruptible|
Label: Century Media
Year released: 2017
Review online: July 7, 2017
Reviewed by: Bruno Medeiros
Rated 4/5 (80%) (19 Votes)
Jon Schaffer's loyal servants, Stu Block (vocals), Luke Appleton (bass) and Brent Smedley (drums), as well as newcomer Jake Dreyer (guitars, ex-White Wizzard, Witherfall) sharpened their instruments once again and, this time around, managed to inject a more organic and enjoyable performance to the Iced Earth sound. With songs that range from the more emotional and slow to the classic Power/Thrash fast and aggressive anthem "Seven Headed Whore" – best song here, by far – Incorruptible feels like a journey through the band's entire catalogue, like each song was picked from a different previous album.
Speaking of the songwriting process, the majority of the songs are inspired by different stories. Closer "Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)", for instance, tells the story of the Battle of Fredericksburg, part of the American Civil War – which naturally reminisces 'The Glorious Burden' album – while "Great Heathen Army" shows the tale of Ragnar Lothbrook's (legendary Viking leader and object of several Norse poetry) sons, "Black Flag" ventures in the ever-so-fun pirate world and the instrumental "Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)" illustrates the Native American religious movement of the same name, for example.
Instrumental and performance-wise, the first half of the album kicks the hell out of the second part's ass with far better leads and verses, especially thanks to Stu Block who seems more comfortable and loose here than in the later half, especially in the slow and mid-tempo passages of "The Raven Wing" – this one very similar to beloved tracks such as "Ghost of Freedom" and "Melancholy (Holy Martyr)" – and "The Veil". The second part, however, also has a winner in "Defiance", a strong and corpulent track worthy of Iced Earth's name, but songs like "The Relic (Part 1)" and "Brothers" fall short of exciting the listener and don't offer quite as much punch and energy as others.
I don't usually reserve a whole paragraph to talk about a band member, but Jake Dreyer is worth it, so here we go. This is the first work he's recorded with Iced Earth, so you may not have heard of him until now, but he's a really virtuous and technical guitarist and also a very insightful lyricist, as seen in his previous band White Wizzard and his current project Witherfall with the awesome Nocturnes and Requiems (one of the best albums of the year so far, trust me). I noticed that he puts some of his unique way of playing on selected parts of the album, mainly in the solos, and this was exactly what Schaffer needed: a young guitarist who is full of energy and can easily emulate his guitar peculiarities; and if the big boss is wise enough to admit that Dreyer is actually a superior guitarist than he is, he can unlock the guy's full abilities and let him run amok. Yes, you read it right and I honestly believe that. Jake Dreyer is already a better guitarist than Jon Shaffer. Don't believe me? Then go listen to Witherfall's album and you will.
Like I said above, Incorruptible is one of the most heterogeneous and democratic albums of Iced Earth's extensive career. Schaffer seems to have recovered his creativity to write killer songs such as "Seven Headed Whore" and "Black Flag", and the guys surrounding him – especially Jake Dreyer – are competent enough to bring his ideas to life. This doesn't stand a chance if you compare it to Night of the Stormrider, Burnt Offerings or Dark Saga, but my guess is that nothing by these guys from now on will, so if you approach it without comparing it to the band's previous catalogue you should enjoy it. Good effort.
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