Band: Iced Earth
Label: Century Media Records
Genre: Power Metal, Heavy Metal
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Metal music is a strange beast. The genre that we all know and love has spawned so many different sub genres and stylistic branches that to actually sit down and write them out would take an age (the closest that anyone has come to achieving this feat has to be the now famous anthropologist Sam Dunn in his critically acclaimed 2005 documentary ‘A Headbanger’s Journey). With its subject matter focusing on many different subjects such as fantasy, mythology, history and also the everyday emotions, trials and tribulations of humanity, Power Metal has to be one of the more far reaching and long standing takes on Metal music. It is for that reason that the genre boasts a number of the world’s longest serving musical groups such as Helloween, Blind Guardian, Symphony X and Iron Maiden (granted, Iron Maiden are not primarily Power Metal, but they certainly carry a number of the key characteristics).
A band that certainly sits in and amongst the big league names of the aforementioned genre has to be Iced Earth. Since Jon Schaffer brought his brainchild into the public domain in 1985 (albeit under their original moniker of The Rose, and then Purgatory before finally settling upon their current name) the band has at least thirty different members, which makes the fact that the band has a solid back catalogue with eleven studio albums as well a number of different compilation and live releases. Over the past several years and with their latest vocalist Stu Block in tow, Iced Earth appear to have picked up some real momentum and have been releasing consistently decent albums with a seemingly unending stream of fresh ideas. With this kind of consistency in recent years it seems inevitable that this album would be another slab of good quality Power Metal. But did it deliver?
The album begins in a typically grand fashion. The track slowly swells and grows in size with presence of male gang vocals, almost resembling the sound of a marching battle formation. When the other musicians join the track we see the standard Iced Earth sound that has made them so beloved in their scene. The drum work is fast paced and aggressive without ever having to stray in to the oh-so dull blast beat territory. Schaffer lays down his trademark fast paced, galloping riffs which have been so trusted and well renowned throughout the band’s back catalogue, the lead work will be more than enough to satisfy the guitar geeks among the audience with it’s harmonised riffs and impressive solos and the vocal melodies soar over the top and provide some fantastic melodic hooks that are sure to get the crowd involved when they bring it to the live setting.
The next track ‘Black Flag’ is my personal highlight from this album. The vivid and descriptive power of the vocals (including some rather impressive King Diamond-esque high notes), coupled with the swagger and attitude of the delivery really add a fantastic element to the song. The chorus is catchy as hell and will get even the most miserable metal fans singing along. The guitars once again play an integral part in the overall sound of the song. Beginning with a clean, harmonised part before the distortion kicks in and the guitars continue the same complex riff. The drums continue to impress throughout the song without becoming to complex and messy (which is often the downfall of a lot of metal bands nowadays) and the chorus is so infectious, you may want to get yourself checked by the doctor after listening to it.
You can probably guess that the fifth track on the album isn’t a love song by its name, ‘Seven Headed Whore’. This one takes the title for the heaviest and most aggressive track on ‘Incorruptible’, almost sounding like Iron Maiden on steroids with its galloping, palm-muted guitar riffs and fast paced drums. The snarling, yet melodic vocals soar and intertwine with the lead guitar parts in the typical Iced Earth fashion. This track also serves as a perfect way to showcase the capabilities of their new guitarist Jake Dreyer with the guitarist trading off with Schaffer with intricate and precise solos that are truly impressive and engaging.
The final track on the album is a real exhibition in grand, epic song writing. ‘Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862) tells the tragic, real life story of the Irish brigade at battle of Fredericksburg in the American Civil War which is well known as being one of the bloodiest battles in American history with the death toll said to have reached over 16,000. The song itself is of epic proportions, clocking in at just less than ten minutes in duration. Although it sticks to the same blueprint as the rest of the tracks on this album, everything feels like it is on a gargantuan scale. The guitars sound is colossal and as wonderfully produced as ever. The drums once again lead the band through all the different twists and changes that this engrossing story requires the now trademark battle cry of Stu Block sounds as good as anyone else in the game at this point.
The fact that Iced Earth still sounds this hungry and full of ideas at this point in their career is truly a testament to the wonderful creative brain of Schaffer. He has always had a knack for pulling in the best musicians to slot in effortless the ever rolling machine of Iced Earth. This album is exciting, invigorating and more importantly, shows that these warriors aren’t ready to lay down their weapons any time soon.
1. Great Heathen Army
2. Black Flag
3. Raven Wing
4. The Veil
5. Seven Headed Whore
6. The Relic (Part I)
7. Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)
10. Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)
Total Playing Time: 54:26