At the conclusion ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey,’ a 2005 documentary that outlines the genre’s history, filmmaker Sam Dunn declares that the metal community has always thrived without broad societal support. While the defiant remark was meant to galvanize metalheads unbridled love for the musical style, one could apply the comment to the latest release by American power metal outfit Iced Earth. ‘Incorruptible,’ the twelfth studio album for the Florida-based group, presents an underwhelming collection of ten unfocused tracks that simply regurgitate drab, ‘90s-era clichés.
Little suggests that ‘Incorruptible’ will become the “classic” album Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer feels the record is destined to be. ‘Black Flag’ abruptly oscillates between slow, doomy verses and galloping, Viking metal choruses that fail to coalesce, attempting – and, ultimately, failing – to rouse listeners after a lackluster introduction. On follow-up track ‘Raven Wing’, one notices that the refrain feels distinctly hollow as Brett Smedley’s drums and Luke Appleton’s bass fail to flesh out the tune’s average skeleton.
Iced Earth are (briefly) at their strongest during ‘Seven Headed Whore’. Here, blistering double-kick drums propel Jake Dreyer and Schaffer’s thrash metal riffs while Stu Block moves from guttural vocals to piercing shrieks with ease. Unfortunately, the three minutes of glory Iced Earth capture on this track cannot compensate for the other fifty-plus minutes of largely forgettable music. Triplet rhythms pepper ‘Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)’, but take backseat to pompous, drawn-out solos that offer no respite from run-of-the-mill song structures.
While Iced Earth largely fails to persuade new listeners to embrace their latest effort, it seems likely that long-time fans will find ‘Incorruptible’ acceptable. Recalling the backlash to Metallica’s ‘St. Anger’, ‘Incorruptible’ avoids venturing into unfamiliar experimental territory that could have potentially alienated their base. Unfortunately, that Iced Earth refuses to boldly pursue originality in favor of repacking their own formula gives the impression that the group is effectively Iron Maiden-Lite, a diluted product that is struggling for relevancy.
‘Incorruptible’ is out now via Century Media.