In the opening moments of the original Conan the Barbarian film, Conan’s father holds up a newly forged sword and solemnly instructs his son that in their world, you can trust no man, woman or beast, only cold steel. This wisdom is as applicable today as it was in the Hyborian Age, but allow your own friendly neighborhood Steel to attach a modern-day proviso. When a new Iced Earth album arrives, you can trust it will include three things: bombast, bravado and triplets. Many, many triplets. Incorruptible is the veteran band’s 12th album of 100% pure American power metal and the third to feature the talented Stu Block on vocals. In many ways it’s exactly the album you’d expect from Mr. Schaffer and company at this stage of their career. It’s full of thick riffs, powerful vocals and tales of bravery, battles and brotherhood. There are no surprises or innovations, as it clearly was designed to play to the Iced Earth base. In fact, Incorruptible sounds like the band toiled mightily to find the sweet spot between classic albums like The Dark Saga and Something Wicked This Way Comes and Ripper-era outings like The Glorious Burden.

So it’s no surprise the main feeling I get from Incorruptible is one of familiarity. Opener “Great Heathen Army” could appear on any Iced album from 1998 onward. Those classic Schaffer riffs crest and crash like iron waves on a sheet-metal beach and Stu does his best Barlow-meets-Ripper impression with his commanding and authoritative voice. It’s the quintessential IE song and fun in their epic yet meat-headed way. You won’t walk away unhappy, but it doesn’t promise a new Pax Romana for the band. Better still is pirate yarn “Black Flag,” which has a bigger-than-life feel and plenty of buccaneer badassery. The song wins bonus points for mentioning a letter of marque and the refrain of “we live out our days with barrels of rum, black powder and the flash of the blade” is free-booting fun without reminding me of that “other” pirate act currently harassing AMG commerce.

The one-two punch of “Raven Wing” and “The Veil” show the band is still capable of penning catchy, brooding numbers that leverage emotion without ever sounding sappy1 and Mr. Block does a great job vocally. “Defiance” is the big standout with punchy, aggressive urgency and a great vocal performance by Non-Disco Stu. This cut more than any reminds me why I loved this band so much in the late 90s and early aughts.

Not all that’s iced is slick though. “Brothers” is a bro anthem about the bond between men (known as a “brothem” in the industry), and it’s cut from the same cheese-marbled loincloth Manowar buys is bulk. “Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors)” is a lengthy instrumental homage to Native Americans and has some sweet moments, but runs about 2 minutes too long. The 9-plus-minute closer “Clear the Way (December 13th, 1862)” sees Mr. Schaffer return to his Civil War obsession, focusing on the fabled Irish Brigade. The Maiden influences are plentiful here and it’s a solid tune with some nifty musical ideas, but it feels like it should end around the six-minute mark.

At 54 minutes Incorruptible feels a bit too long overall and songs like “Ghost Dance” and “Clear the Way” could easily have been trimmed. Others like “The Relic (Part I)” aren’t bad but trend close to filler. It’s a front-loaded album too, with most of the best stuff appearing early on.

Musically the band had its template fully formed by 1996 and they’ve done little tinkering with it since. If this came out after Something Wicked it wouldn’t have seemed a departure, and it doesn’t in 2017 either. Mr. Schaffer is a talented guitarist and his triplet-heavy style is an integral part of the band, giving them their distinctive sound. He plays well and knows when to hand off to guitar phenom Jake Dreyer (Witherfall) who rips off some unbelievable solos, as he did on his own band’s excellent recent release. This kid can play and when he gets to be front and center, fireworks ensue. Stu Block has an amazing range and can go high without causing fillings to ache. What I like best about him however is his gritty, powerful mid-range which is like Matt Barlow without mimicking him. On songs like “The Veil” and “Defiance” he brings enough firepower to elevate the material and though he’s in a bombastic metal band, he manages to avoid sounding over-the-top somehow.

Incorruptible is more or less what I was expecting from Iced Earth, though I was hoping for a little more. It’s a solid album with a few above-average cuts and fans will probably be pleased. Sadly, when I want to hear Iced Earth I never seem to go past The Glorious Burden and generally stick to the first Barlow era. This won’t be changing those habits, but it ain’t bad.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: icedearth.com | facebook.com/OfficialIcedEarth
Releases Worldwide: June 16th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Though the chorus of “The Veil” is eerily similar to that of “When It’s Over” by 80s pop rockers Loverboy.
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  • Daniribalbert

    Damn, and I thought this would be the next above the average IE album. Still, I’m gonna be listening to it on the 16th.

  • Piston Rod

    I was never a real Barlow fan. Just not crazy about his voice. My favorite album is still “Night of the Stormrider”, with the Ripper albums right behind that one.

    • Jeff Manteiga

      Greely was amazing on Stormrider, definitely an underrated front-man. The “…that’s when it planted the evil seeeeed” section of “Travel in Stygian” is ungodly! =]

  • R.Daneel Olivaw

    Stagnation!!the same and the same ……..and the same!!!!

  • savafreak

    Wouldn’t expect an album like SWTWC or TDS, they lost their Mojo after THS, but surprisingly they came back gracefully with Dystopia, combining their trade mark Heavy elements with Melody and darkness, yet they took a step backwards with Babylon, their most mediocre and boring album to date.

  • Iain Gleasure

    Sure Druhm may have took a shot at Alestorm but the album ratings speak for themselves. Alestorm are riding the oceans freely and IC are just floating with the tide.

  • Jason

    My Iced Earth fandom wavered a little bit with Ripper, but Stu managed to win me back with Dystopia and the awesome Live in Ancient Kourion, so I’ll be sure to give this plenty of listening time.

  • Jan

    I’ve been an Iced Earth megafan back then. Alive In Athens rocked my world to the core. But since after Horror Show, the returns started to diminish. Wicked 1 & 2 had their moments. But everything with Stu on vocals has been embarassing in terms of songwriting. And the three new songs off Incorruptible on youtube are equally lifeless. Stu has been great with his previous band, but I can’t stand his phony Barlow impression. And I can’t stand the lyrics. Schaffer’s new anti-deep state hymn Seven Headed Whore sounds like it was penned by Steve Bannon. It’s disgusting. Like, wasn’t Sons of Liberty enough to get that particular BS out of Schaffer’s system? Obviously not. Everytime Schaffer puts out something new, I keep hoping that maybe he’d find his way back to sense and quality. But hey. Seems like the joke’s on me. Again.

    • Jeff Manteiga

      Honestly, anything after TGB is aggressively mediocre. TGB has a few embarrassing songs (exhibit A: something about eagles crying?) but still, some really cool parts (Gettysburg trilogy is pretty solid imo).

      • Jan

        TGB was the last time there was any creative spark to it. Red Baron / Blue Max, for example, still kills! Still, that record certainly was the beginning of the drawn-out end.

        • Jeff Manteiga

          “The reeeeedddd battle flyyyyyyeerrrr!!”

          Song rips, for sure!

          • Asahi Moonsault

            What about Fraaaaming Armageddooooon

        • WhamBamSam

          Maybe I should revisit TGB, but I just haven’t been able to get into it, whereas I love Dystopia to bits and like Plagues pretty well.

          It might be Tim that ruined it for me, but I was actually really rooting for him to live up to the talent he seemed to have and put out just one good record for years and years and am usually an easy mark for all things Iced Earth. Well, we’ll see if fresh ears do it any favors.

          • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

            TGB is SOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!

      • GardensTale

        Gettysburg was effin’ sweet, especially High Water Mark. I’m still a big fan of Horror Show as well. “Wolf” rips

        • “High Water Mark” was actually their last high water mark.

        • tomasjacobi

          Horror Show was the last truly great album by them.

          • Asahi Moonsault

            It’s no coincidence things went downhill when Barlow left.

    • savafreak

      I’ve always have difficulty in knowing where Shaffer stands politically, sometimes I feel he is overly conservative and nationalist, other times he seems a free thinker and liberal in thinking but not Democratic Party of course, as you can be a Liberal but do not follow any party, especially the so called Democratic Party! Being not American, I didn’t understand the message from Seven Headed Whore, but if it seems like it was penned by that Bannon thing, then its a turn off for me!

      • Jan

        Well, you can take a look for yourself. Do you know about the deep state conspiracy theories currently furthered by Bannon and his Breitbart troll army? Schaffer has on many occasions brought up his general distrust of all things Washington. His Sons of Liberty record is basically one album-length alt-right grassroots movement hymn.

        And then look at thinly-veiled messaging like this:

        ‘Lord of flies, lord of death, lord of hate
        Deceive the masses in the dark, seal their fate
        Divide and conquer keep the wicked in control
        Hellfire on earth feeds it’s stated goals

        Seven heads, seven kings, ten horns
        Ride the dragon heed the seven headed whore
        As the peasants feast on drunken fornication
        They feed their children to the beast abomination

        Anointed by the crown
        The vile heads of state
        Form the evil kingdom
        Seven headed whore

        False gods seed division and deceit
        Sovereign city holds the secrets that we seek
        Lift the veil as the battle rages on
        Kingdoms fall with the whore of babylon’

        It doesn’t get much more clear than this.

        • savafreak

          Wow, one has to really read between the lines. The last thing I want is to give my hard earned money to an alt-right propaganda or ideology. Sometimes it is really obvious (like Mustaine’s latest effort) and sometimes it is cryptic with a lot of metaphors that needs someone who really knows the system inside out to figure it out! And the idiot me, I thought that Sons of liberty was an “eye opener” from the opposite side, a la V for Vendetta thingy!

          • WhamBamSam

            I’d say that his views probably skew more libertarian. Still an ideology ill-designed for serious people, but as I’m fond of saying, there are two kinds of libertarians. There are ones who mostly want less corporate welfare and more legal weed and came to the wrong conclusion as to how to achieve those things, and then there are the tiresome assholes that just can’t wait to tell you that taxation is theft ad nauseum. I’d peg Schaffer as falling into the former category, if his views conform to a particular ideology at all. Lyrically, he seems to mostly do what musicians often do, and pens anti-authority screeds which can be read as left-wing or right-wing depending on your outlook in the same way that you can see every break up song as being about your ex. I steered clear of Sons of Liberty because it was dressed up in the same sort of iconography that Tea Party types are so fond of, and because I wasn’t really interested in hearing him do vocals for an entire album, but I’ve basically decided that I probably don’t hate his politics as much as I love his music, so I still give Iced Earth my patronage.

          • Jeffrey Dean

            Anyone saying that Sons Of Liberty of Jon are ‘alt right’ either doesn’t understand what the alt-right is, or what libertarianism is and how it drastically differs from the alt-right. Also, if you STILL believe that a ‘deep state’ (regardless of the term used) doesn’t exist in the US at this point you’re just being willfully ignorant. Especially in a post-Snowden world where we know for absolute fact that everyone is being watched, recorded, and catalogued. There’s just no excuse anymore to not know about or acknowledge the corruption of the government and big banks.

        • Paul Westfall

          They borrowed from the book of revelation. It’s common metal lyrics. All of that can be found in there

          • Jan

            Sure, the imagery is common in metal lyrics. Maybe Schaffer really is more oldschool libertarian than alt-right. Maybe I overreact to lines like ‘Sovereign city holds the secrets that we seek’ (which doesn’t sound biblical; the OT usually isn’t about man seeking secrets from Sovereign cities but more like ‘they’ve sinned and we’re gonna utterly destroy them’) because things are fucking bleak and I don’t want my fave metal bands dabbling in partisan politics (the anti-Washington sentiment is more common among rightwingers, and shared by Schaffer, so…).

      • Spread Wide & Panic

        Um, there is no surprise where Schaffer stands politically. He’s borderline alt-right in his thinking.

        • My understanding is he’s a Libertarian. That’s not alt-right, which is a meaningless term anyway. I personally don’t care what his views are. It’s metal not political science class.

          • savafreak

            When an artists infuse his music with overly political messages, it matters for me, I would turn away from it if his views that are heavily presented in the lyrics are offensive for me, why would I support something I don’t believe in or against my principles!

          • So you don’t listen to any death metal with murder, killing, rape subject matter or black metal about Satan and evil?

          • savafreak

            That is different man, Cannibal Corpse are joking when they sing about cumming blood, just like a Quentin Taranitno movie, singing about violent stuff in a humorous way is damn funny, the know that killing is bad, they dont promote it, just make it “cinematically aesthetic”! But when you do political agenda in a troubled times like these, it really speaks volumes for me

    • Brent Johnson

      I actually enjoy Dystopia , seemed adding Stu gave some life to them but now, it’s rehashes of everything up to then.

      • Barry Gilpin

        Yeah I dug Dystopia, but the one after that (name escapes me) is blah.

    • FiMBrony

      I mean, I like Iced Earth even more for being so bold to produce music like this. I’m surprised how much rock and metal has stayed silent on the slow corruption and selling of our liberties and freedoms.

      • Morgoth

        As Long as the liberty is sold by the left side, it doesn´t matter to them. Funny that the biggest threat to our liberty, an medieval political ideology, is no concern for our liberty fighters from the left.

  • Metrognome26

    I loved Dystopia but I thought that Plagues of Babylon was the audio equivalent of watching paint dry. Hopefully Stu sounds like Stu on this one and he’s not just doing a Matt Barlow impression like he did on PoB.

    • AnnieK13

      I like just about every Iced Earth album but I loved Dystopia, which was by far my favorite and still gets pretty heavy rotation with me. I am looking forward to hearing this album in its entirety.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    “It’s full of thick riffs(…)”
    Eh, Iced Earth ran out riffs after Night of the Stormrider and Burnt Offerings.

    • I said “thick,” not “high-quality.”

  • WhamBamSam

    I’m part of that base that they’re playing to, so I’m still psyched about this one. I thought Plagues was a bit of a step down after Dystopia, but I’ve generally really liked Stu’s tenure with the band.

  • rumour_control

    Pure Steel GOLD:
    “…plenty of buccaneer badassery”
    and
    “…a great vocal performance by Non-Disco Stu.”

  • John W. Baylor

    I’ve been a Iced Earthian since 1996 since I learn of them with The Dark Saga when I mistaken the CD for Spawn Soundtrack. I have all their CDs & DVDs.

    • brutal_sushi

      That was the album that got me out of NüMetal and into real metal. And I bought because spawn was on the cover.

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    I don’t care for any of their albums after “The Glorious Burden”, which also happens to be my favorite release of theirs. (“Declaration Day” still gives me goosebumps.) Not to say that the 4 subsequent albums didn’t have a decent song or two, but as a whole I think those 4 albums are easily the worst ones in their catalogue. (I will admit to having never heard their debut self-titled album though, so I can’t comment on that one.) The 3 songs that I have heard from “Incorruptible” have really impressed me. Especially “Seven Headed Whore”, which is WAAAY better than anything they’ve released since 2004. Looking forward to the whole album.

  • Grymm

    I think Stu is an awesome vocalist and a perfect fit for Iced Earth. I just wish the music wasn’t so pedestrian compared to Dark Saga, SWTWC, and of course Night of the Stormrider.

    Still better than their last two, though.

  • brutal_sushi

    I thought that Dystopia was a super solid album. I thought that Plagues of Babylon was going to be super heavier compared to Dystopia based off the promos, and that one tuned out just meh. Everything on this one seems like big arena Iced Earth awesomeness.

  • From DR8 on Plagues Of Babylon to DR 6 on this one, now that’s a setback.

    • It does urk me. When I got the promo I was like WTF. Why?

      • Good question.I still use the very start of the album as arch-example of what can be achieved with good dynamics.

  • Nathan Schmidt

    Iced Earth fans can be all over the map. I think Plagues was one of their best.

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      Everything with Stu has been great. Jon seems to be inspired and enjoying his collaboration.
      My least played would be The Crucible of Man.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    My feeling is these guys should hang up their vests and guitars or try something a bit different feels a bit redundant now

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      Iced Earth>Horrendous. Incorruptable=AOTY.

      • blindg

        The problem is the album is completely different from the way Schaffer had described. It’s not a combination of TDS, SWTWC and Dystopia. It’s not bad but about 80% is mid-tempo.

        • FutureBeyondSatan

          They have never been a full out shred fest. What I do know is I like it. And I am always right on what I like and don’t like!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Now I know you’re a Russian hacker!

        • FutureBeyondSatan

          Nah, my computer skill are push the on button, plug in headphones, move mouse, and click play. I just have impeccable taste in music and a vast Iced Earth collection.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Ahhh brain damaged :)

  • Drew Music

    I would say that Stu’s work with IE is better than his work with IE.

    • Shrümpelstiltskin

      I disagree completely.

    • blindg

      I think it’s the other way around.

      • Drew Music

        I.e., IE > IE?

  • Eli Valcik

    Are you guys doing a review for Ende’s Emen Etan or were they too trve to send you guys a promo? Anyway it’s one of my leading contenders for Black Metal in my end of the year list. Check it out.

    • Drew Music

      I’m getting to the point where my 2017 list may have to be in two parts, black metal and everything else. The last couple of years, while steeped in trendiness at times, really have given us a ton of killer black shit.

      • Eli Valcik

        Agreed, Mistur for example.

        • Drew Music

          Indeed, True Black Dawn and Somnium Nox are two others battling to secure their place down the road. I really think Kwintessens will prove to be the most unfuckwithable of them all, but we’re only half way there.

          • Eli Valcik

            Yep, and as a huge Black Metal fan I’m really excited to see how this year will end.

          • Drew Music

            Right? I seriously doubt its peaked for year, something wicked this way comes and it’s gonna be fucking insane.
            Also, props/thanks for the passive introduction to that French Sampler MMXVII à la Bandcamp, that was a cool fucking find indeed. I’m kind of opposed to modern Monolithe (7 minutes, guys, are you fucking kidding me?!) but just about everything else on that compilation is pretty much making my morning.

          • Eli Valcik

            No problem, as soon as I saw a 7 minute monolithe son it was pretty much an instant buy. Also that Arkhon song is a monster too.

          • Drew Music

            Eh, I’m happy for them that their new material still gets them fans, and I can’t even call new Monolithe bad, just I dug the fuck out of their earlier, monolithic material, and I hate to see it go. And that Arkhon track is, indeed, a monster. I’m just pumped to learn of so many other artists in one go. Sometimes the interwebz are kind like that.

  • Wilhelm

    Everything that they release today sounds like paint-by-numbers metal; there’s aggression, melody, ballads but no passion. This combined with Stu’s Barlow ripoff vocals makes me cringe, there’s only one Barlow and he is god. Maybe I’m old, tired, and remember when Dark Saga first hit the shelves, but there’s nothing like that first Barlow-era (throw in stormrider, just because it kicks ass) in terms of creative energy and raw passion.

  • Leo Rebelheart

    Man, I was hoping that having a guitarist that doesn’t suck at shredding might elevate the material some. Back when they had barlow, they didn’t really need the lead guitar guys to be that good, and that was fine. But they’ve never had a real shred tier player like jake dreyer in the band before, and that Ravenwing single really showed how much that kind of talent adds to a song.

    How’s he do overall? I heard the album was written before he joined the band, and the solos were kinda last minute.

    • Bryan Stroup

      They had lead guitars too on their best albums. Which just so happened to be with Barlow as well. Shit, the best song they ever wrote was full of leadwork everywhere.

      • Leo Rebelheart

        I mean, I suppose I’m being nitpicky, but the first lead guy, randy shawver, really was kinda garbage in terms of technique. That said, he was creative with his pedals and his note choices, so he made stormrider and burnt offerings sound pretty good despite limited range. Moreover, he actually did get good for dark saga, and threw some real good stuff down on a bunch of those songs. Then he quit and we got larry. Who, if alive in Athens is anything to go by, knew precisely one 3 string sweep arpeggio that he used extensively on horror show and something wicked, and otherwise had no idea how to even play shawvers old licks. The best solos on something wicked were recorded by Jim morris, the head of the recording studio, lol. Eventually they got Troy, who at least could play everyone’s old licks (he sounds good on live in ancient kourion), but God I just thought troy was a boring player. So when I google this knew jake kid, I was like HOLY SHIT, cuz he’s got a whole arsenal of legit yngwie licks at his disposal, instead of the B- kirk hammer style leads that the band has used their whole career. Again, it was never a problem, they didn’t NEED a six string arpeggio monster sweep tapper, but I’m super jazzed they have one now. Like, did you listen to the ravenwing single? It feels like such a step up for me.

  • Bryan Stroup

    Not really surprised at this score sadly. The previously released videos just made it seem like another Dystopia, where there might be two or three pretty decent songs, but the rest would be larely forgettable. Guess I wasn’t wrong either about “Great Heathen Army”. I said in the comments that it seemed like they just used a Power Metal App to spit out the lyrics, or they just went back and recycled their previous material like they have been for decades now.

  • Serjien

    Sounds like we will get more of the same with these guys. I have been a fan since the mid 90’s and although I can appreciate Stu’s work, he will never outdo Matt Barlow, in my opinion.

    Also, Jake Dreyer may be wasting his talent with IE, should focus solely on the next Whiterfal!!

    • Bryan Stroup

      I hope that Nocturnes and Requiems wasn’t a one-off. So far, it’s my album of the year.

  • Dead1

    Dead1 agrees with Steel Druhm?!?

    Looks outside to check world is still here.

  • Slow And Easy

    How can schaffer call this album one of their greatest of all time,worst than dystopia and a litle better than plagues,mediocre with few good songs like defiance,the veil,clear the way,brothers,raven wing,the rest is boring uninspired mid tempo songs will forget soon.

    The only positive is the new guy at guitar with some fresh licks here and there.So,conclusion,another good but not great disc from fellow american mr schaffer,as for stu block,his high notes are meh for me.

  • Auer Erwin

    the sound and the production are only horrible im sure mr jens bogren the best metalproducer in the world made here much more the last albums made from this guy like kreator or symphony x or fates warning sounding 100times better and heavier

  • Asahi Moonsault

    Since Barlow left the first time this band lost all its appeal. I suspect it is because Schaffer and Barlow himself wrote the songs together and that’s why Horror Show was the last great CD from this band. Too bad, this Incorruptible is worse than Crucible in my opinion. The only way to save this band is by going back to the Burnt Offerings era and to that style.

  • Lou Daz

    I just listened to the whole album, and this is the first Iced Earth album that I loved from beginning to end. Hardly a dull moment, even with the instrumental tracks. “Seven Headed Whore” ranks as number one as my favorite heavy metal song of 2017 so far. Very pleased with this record.

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      I second this! I wish I could turn this up even louder!

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Another great Iced Earth release!!! AOTY!
    Those of us with military backgrounds may appreciate “Brothers” a bit more than comparing it to Manowar cheese crusted loincloth. Semper Fi!

  • ImageOfChaos

    While this album is not as good as anything from the original Barlow era, it is the best thing they have done since then. The only other albums since Horror Show that are even worth listening to IMO are the Glorious Burden and Dystopia and this is absolutely better than both of those. New lead guitarist is very solid and while Stu is no Barlow, he is a hundred times better than Ripper. Add in a solid set of Schaffer riffs and it’s hard to expect more from Iced Earth at this point in their career arc. Solid 3.0 with a few truly great moments thrown in.

  • DaveSt

    I find it strange that the chorus to “The Veil” is pretty much musically and lyrically lifted from a Loverboy song (“When It’s Over”).

    • Yep, I heard that too. I included it in a footnote in my review.

  • Steven Gibb

    Stu was a great choice when he was brought in, but everything has been remarkably boring since he joined. I actually can’t stand his voice in Iced Earth, it’s like a bad Barlow impression constantly and with his vocals and Schaffers lack of originality, every song ends up just sounding samey.