(CD, Century Media, 2017)
The coming of Stu Block really turned the tide in the music-making of ICED EARTH because, as far as I am concerned, the two “Something Wicked” parts were average albums and not as inspired as I have been used to. Of course, I have no idea what was going backstage but what I do know is that “Dystopia” managed to rekindle the interest of many longtime fans (myself included). Indeed, Stu injected fresh and high-octane fuel in the band’s tank something that became evident during the ICED EARTH shows where Jon Schaffer looked genuinely inspired / motivated. “Incorruptible” is the third effort with Stu behind the mic, and I would have been socked if it turned out to be an average ICED EARTH LP.
The epic intro of “Great Heathen Army” makes this one a perfect show-starter especially in the way the guitar distortion kicks in along with the classic as flames in Hell Schaffer-branded guitar-groove (you know, the galloping one). Stu screams Valhalla and blows all the remainder clouds of doubt (if there were any to begin with) whether his voice is a perfect fit for ICED EARTH. This is a hit-to-be song and carries all of the band’s well-known guitar-based structures. The lyrics here are about Vikings and I cannot recall if I have seen it before in previous ICED EARTH albums. And the same goes for “Black Flag” which deals with pirates (!) and does this in the Schaffer way, entering with a clean guitar part before bringing in the distortion and the fat rhythms. The vocal melodies during the chorus along with the riff that follows are absolutely sing / chant / hum-along parts, so I am guessing this will be another concert-must-have.
I have already praised Stu’s singing but I think he deserves more for his performance in this album. The ballad-like “Raven Wing” will explain why I believe this album finds ICED EARTH in the best form since a long time ago. The vocals sound like a mix between Ripper and Matt having the best of the two worlds; the high pitched aggression and the powerful melodies, respectively. Yeah, enjoy the way Stu is changing singing profiles in this song which, by the way, follows the “Watching Over Me” recipe with a tad more power. Speaking of power, then its best to comment on the double-bass aggression of “Seven Head Whore” where ICED EARTH enter the Thrash territory with high-pitched vocals (borderline screaming) and Jon’s unique way of attacking the rhythm guitar parts.
It is a well-known fact that Jon likes digging deep in the US history, especially of the Civil War era, and has occasionally written epic songs about historical battles. In this album, he has put together the almost 10-minutes long “Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)” which deals with the Battle of Fredericksburg and the heroic demise of the Irish Brigade. Remember, this is not about choosing sides or (hell no) being a warmonger but praising the deeds of a group of people who “came across the ocean in search of liberty, escaping persecution, famine and poverty” and entered the battlefield which for many was the last thing they did. The song is powerful, epic with the most characteristic rhythm breaks and military-tune-esque riffs. The staccato rhythm guitar parts with the nice hi-hat sound are one of the many sweet ICED EARTH spots. If you loved what Jon did in “The Glorious Burden”, then you love this even more. Of course, expect to get blown away by the burst following the calm-before-the-storm break with the bagpipes and the sounds of war... Yeah, it is getting goosebumps time.
What started with “Dystopia” seems to have become stronger with “Incorruptible”, being the best album out of the three, after the second part of “Something Wicked”. Everything you love in ICED EARTH is here, enhanced by the fresh ideas, the signature guitar work and the absolutely amazing performance by Stu Block. This is a must-have, if you have been loyally following this band, but also if you have stopped doing so, after some weaker studio efforts.
PS: The drum roll and initial guitar groove of “Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)” has an almost “Down With The Sickness” feel...
01. Great Heathen Army
02. Black Flag
03. Raven Wing
04. The Veil
05. Seven Headed Whore
06. The Relic (Part 1)
07. Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)
10. Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)
Jon Schaffer - Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Vocals
Stu Block - Lead Vocals
Jake Dreyer - Lead Guitar
Luke Appleton - Bass
Brent Smedley - Drums