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Album Reviews : Iced Earth – Incorruptible

By on August 18, 2017

If Iced Earth guitarist, visionary and main-man Jon Schaffer is anything, it’s a survivor. 12 studio albums and numerous other compilations and releases deep into a sterling career, Incorruptible continues a trend of very listenable, articulate metal that surely reflects as much about Schaffer’s personal outlook on life as it does about his music.

I subscribe to Jamey Jasta’s excellent podcast series; The Jasta Show. He often plays new music before and after a discussion with a member of the metal, punk or rock’n’roll community. I was waiting in the drive-thru at Zaraffa’s for my much needed strong long black one morning listening to his series and had tuned out of his narrative while I placed my order. When the senses returned to the sound emanating from the speakers I heard what I initially thought was opening notes to Slayer’s iconic “Raining Blood”. Rather, Jasta had selected a track from Incorruptible, “Seven Headed Whore”.

Seven Headed Whore” is certainly a big nod to Slayers patron saint and dearly departed guitarist Jeff Hanneman, so I do wonder if it is an intentional homage and I also wonder what makes Schaffer tick.

Earlier in the year I had a chat to death metal’s honorific GOAT soloist, the brilliant Ralph Santolla, for an episode of my podcast series. When I asked him for a quote on Schaffer, Santolla drew on the time he spent touring and in the studio for Iced Earth’s The Glorious Burden (’04): “John Schaffer is one of the most focused, hardworking people in any field that I’ve ever met in my life. He is so determined and committed to his vision of what he wants to do and he works his arse off.”

Santolla went on to offer that “…as far as like rhythm guitar, like I mean metal, down picking rhythm guitar, he’s the best I’ve ever seen. He is absolutely phenomenal.”

If Ralph Santolla offers hosannas to a guitarist, you know he’s the real deal.

Across Incorruptible you will hear Schaffer’s impeccably crisp and even down picked rhythm guitar strokes. I do focus intensely on the performance of a guitarist for my reviews, through this lens it is neigh impossible to select an album highlight as Schaffer offers far too many head banging rhythms to isolate in preference over another. However the album cuts that offer some choice melodic phrasing on the six string include opener “Great Heathen Army”, “Brothers” and the epic final cut; “Clear the Way (December 13, 1862)”

“Clear the Way (December 13, 1862)” continues Schaffer’s mining of subject matter associated with North American military history. On “Clear the Way” he has written an ode to the Battle of Fredericksburg which is a tragic episode of the American Civil War.

Elsewhere, vocalist Stu Block continues his fine form. As the bands fifth vocalist in over 25 years of recorded output, he has been the man since 2011’s career highlight, Dystopia. All through Incorruptible, Block’s signature hybrid vocal enhances Schaffer’s guitar; indeed, the cut “Brothers” could be about their sterling musical comradeship.

Throughout his career Schaffer has both a habit of writing excellent material and attracting excellent musicians. How is this for an impressive list of collaborators: Death and Control Denied’s outstanding drummer/ percussionist Richard Christy, supremely underrated former Megadeth bassist James MacDonough, former ‘Priest front man Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens, fretless bass extraordinaire and another Death and Control Denied alumni Steve Di Giorgio, Rob Halford muse Bobby Jarzombek, former Slayer, Testament and Anthrax drummer John Dette and perhaps the greatest co-contributor of all, the quoted Ralph Santolla.

Incorruptible is an excellent addition to Schaffer’s legacy that started way back on the 1990 self-titled album.

Band: Iced Earth
Album: Incorruptible
Year: 2017
Genre: Power Metal
Label:  Century Media Records
Origin: USA


Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith