(Century Media Records)
In a time when the already much-maligned Heavy Metal genre is being almost continuously re-defined (let's face it; the artists and groups of our rapidly-fading youths aren't exactly getting any younger), many formerly-prominent acts that had, for various reasons, slipped from the limelight, have found themselves at the epicenter of intensely renewed interest. Unfortunately, despite even the most sincere of intentions, many of such would-be resurgences are often irreversibly marred by dysfunctional line-ups, substandard releases--i.e. questionably-assembled Greatest Hits' or, worse yet, re-recorded Greatest Hits compilations--and poorly-executed touring. Fortunately, this is most definitely not the case with Tampa, Florida-born Heavy/Power Metal icons Iced Earth. Breathlessly re-emerging with Incorruptible, their latest and quite possibly greatest auditory masterpiece, the notoriously-prolific group is now poised to once again kick our collective asses. The question is, are you ready?
On the brilliant Incorruptible (2017), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Heavy, Power and to a minor extent, Thrash Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling lamentation “Great Heathen Army” and the mélancolique, acoustic-tinged “Raven Wing”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Wasting little--if any--time reaffirming their rightful placed atop the mid tiers of their numerous genre 'associations', the group wholeheartedly flexes their creative muscles early and often. Attempting--or so it would seem--to capitalize on the veritable tidal wave of success initiated with the release of Plagues Of Babylon (2014), the group offers an idealistic representation of their classic tonalities. Yielding an initial series of scalding auditory excursions that are as fine-tuned as they are over-the-top, the group boldly reminds us all of their more-than-considerable lyrical and compositional abilities.
Continuing with the rumbling, bile-spewing “Seven Headed Whore” and the quasi-tribal, thought-provoking lament “Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)”, the recently-rejuvenated combinations of vocalist Stu Block, rhythm guitarist Jon Schaffer, lead guitarist Jake Dreyer (ex-Jag Panzer, Kobra And The Lotus, White Wizzard), bassist Luke Appleton and drummer Brent Smedley (who returns to the group for a fourth tenure following the departure of Chaoswave alumnus Raphael Saini) steamrolls ahead as what can only be described as a carefully-calculated pace. Seemingly empowered by the much-welcomed addition of Dreyer, the group drives home each key focal point via a seamless blend of Block's now trademark histrionics, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms. Wisely avoiding the desperate 'reinvent the wheel' mentality so often employed by their few remaining contemporaries, the group breathlessly bestows the proverbial goods upon their oft-feral constituents.
Arguably the multi-octave Block's magnum opus (surpassing both Dystopia and Plagues Of Babylon as well as his work with Canadian Progressive Metal titans Into Eternity), other standouts, including the emotionally-charged “Brothers” and the delightfully antidactylus closer “Clear The Way (December 13, 1862)”, only further reinforce their rightful place as bona fide forefathers--and in certain regards, lonely yet steadfast curators--of the Heavy/Power/Thrash Metal genres. With their contractual obligations to former indie behemoth Century Media now officially fulfilled (for a second time, no less), the improbably long-running group finds itself on the cusp of a creative and commercial re-birth guaranteed to propel them to the dizzying heights of international acclaim. The end result(s), as you have undoubtedly already deduced, of their now-trademark penchant for painstakingly concerted efforts, are once again quite easily meritorious of the highest of critical and/or commercial distinction.
But is it The Glorious Burden, Vol. II? Absolutely not. But then again, that's the point, now isn't it? Even if you somehow still find yourself yearning for the histrionics of the Matt Barlow and Tim 'Ripper' Owens era(s), the majority--if not all--of the decidedly over-the-top wares contained herein find the notoriously prolific group effortlessly delivering the proverbial goods. A genuine and sincere must have for any genuine and sincere Iced Earth enthusiast, what ultimately separates the mighty Incorruptible from its predecessors is the solidification of the creative nexus between Block and Schaffer, a much-welcomed and increasingly rare characteristic destined to propel the group to the dizzying heights of international acclaim. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of a refreshing alternative to the painfully mindless drivel that is so often 'mainstream' Metal, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane balm for what ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Plagues Of Babylon (2014)
Live In Ancient Kourion (2013)
The Crucible Of Man: Something Wicked Part II (2008)
Overture Of The Wicked (EP) (2007)
Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part I (2007)
The Glorious Burden (2004)
Tribute To The Gods (2002)
Horror Show (2001)
The Melancholy EP (EP) (1999)
Alive In Athens (1999)
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998)
The Dark Saga (1996)
Burnt Offerings (1995)
Night Of The Stormrider (1991)
Iced Earth (1990)
Enter The Realm (EP) (1989)
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