Jon Schaffer: still true to metal
As metal openings go, then some grandiose classical stuff building slowly over 90 seconds before the singer screams in the highest pitch he can register “Valhalla!” is just about the most metal you can get.
But then, we are dealing here with Iced Earth, a band who since releasing their first album in 1990 have steadfastly walked only the metal path. When Biff Byford sung about denim and leather all those years ago, he might well have had these boys in mind.
Now even more of a self-contained beast than ever before (“Incorruptible” was recorded in main man Jon Schaffer’s new Iced Earth HQ) the ramping up of the metal hasn’t stopped there.
Lead guitarist Troy Steele has gone, to be replaced by former White Wizard axe slinger (apt terminology when dealing with this band) Jake Dryer – he got the job because, in the words of his new boss “he’s a metalhead.”
The type of Heavy Metal band that those with a passing interest in music think all Heavy Metal sounds like, Iced Earth have for 27 years proved themselves to be probably the forerunners at this type of thing, and “Incorruptible” is 10 classy songs of classy heaviness.
Singer Stu Block is at his best here, not least on the aforementioned opener “Great Heathen Army”, while “Black Flag” adds the type of prog elements of latter day Iron Maiden as it heads off on a voyage with the pirates.
There is nothing here that isn’t mighty, “Raven Wing” is a ballad of sorts, but is still one with its horns up as Dryer gets to show his full range. Along with his gaffer he is in rare form here.
“The Veil” (for this record at least) broods, but its huge slabs of guitar only serve to give this a more monolithic feel, and it is reminiscent of the type of work that was prevalent on their 2014 “Dystopia” collection.
The short, sharp boot to the nuts of “Seven Headed Whore” was the vicious first single from the record and with good cause. The double kick drumming of Brent Smedley, the machine gun riffery and Block channelling some kind of Rob Halford Painkiller-esque roar, make it the perfect intro to the band.
That is not to say, though, that it is typical of the album, “The Relic Part 1” with its mysticism and undercurrent of evil is rather more that, and the unsettling theme is continued in the Eastern rhythm of “Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors”), the album’s only instrumental, it is an evocative piece of work.
Barely a dip in quality throughout, with the acoustic led chugger “Brothers” and the moshpit filler “Defiance” showcasing the two sides of the band superbly.
“Incorruptible” ends, as all great metal should, with an historically based epic. “Clear The Way (December 13th 1862)” concerns itself with a particularly bloody episode in the battle of Fredricksburg and does it justice by being a real ten minute highlight.
Their best album for some time, “Incorruptible” is also fabulously well named. So true to what he believes is Jon Schaffer that honestly you believe him when he says that there’s not enough money in the world to make him deviate from his vision.
In a world where greed is good and where everyone is in it for what they can get, Iced Earth remain the true exponents of what metal should be.