Century Media Records
Release date: June 23rd
by Thomas Niehof
Thomas Niehof is a musician, composer, and producer from the Netherlands. He first started taking music lessons at age six and got into extreme metal in his early teen years. In early 2008 he started taking guitar lessons from German guitar virtuoso Christian Muenzner (ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura, Alkaloid, Eternity’s End). His strong motivation to understand music to a deeper level resulted in the guitar lessons becoming lessons in advanced musical theory and composition. In the meantime, he started to experiment with many different styles of music and musical instruments. In 2011 Thomas auditioned for the audio engineering course at the Herman Brood Academie in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In Summer 2016, Niehof graduated and has been working on various musical projects since.
Some bands out there have such a distinct sound that they truly stand apart from the rest. You instantly recognize them, even when you hear a new song or album you haven’t heard before.
Try it: imagine what AC/DC sounds like. You’re probably humming ‘Highway to Hell’ right now. How about ZZ Top or Led Zeppelin? I think ICED EARTH belongs in this category of bands, as well.
Despite numerous changes in their line up since the 80’s, I think this band has maintained a signature sound. There’s one big difference between the signature sound of bands like AC/DC or ZZ Top on one side and Iced Earth on the other. For example, over the years, both AC/DC and ZZ Top kept a similar approach to the tone of their instruments, as well as approach to songwriting. Compare early Iced Earth recordings to Incorruptible and you will instantly hear the difference; Anno 2017, the guitar tone sounds fatter and more modern.
The drums sound heavy and are well arranged. The songwriting and production show that Iced Earth have improved through natural progression, while staying true to their roots.
The unique character of Iced Earth’s sound has been molded and crafted to perfection over the decades. Truth be told: I haven’t listened to a lot of power metal for years and have only been getting back into this genre since Eternity’s End released their debut album. Still, as soon as I heard the first guitar notes of ‘Great Heathen Army’, the tone was set; Iced Earth have returned with their new album, Incorruptible and from that point I could only listen.
The music grabbed my attention right from the start and didn’t let go until the last song was done playing. Everything about this album is done very well.
It is obvious every single member of this band is skilled and experienced. All members have their moments to shine without sounding like everyone needs their daily boost to their ego in order to be satisfied with the songs. They seem to know their places within the band and the music sounds well balanced.
Incorruptible has a nice mix of different types of songs. The mood set by each song varies from ballad tempo songs with a pounding halftime beat, to uplifting ‘hard rock on steroids’ type of songs where you want to unleash a fierce battlecry.
If you really need to blow off some steam, this is a great album as well: high tempo songs where pounding double bass drumming is combined with aggressive riffing and beautiful harmonized lead guitars provide all the power/thrash metal crossover you need.
One thing that truly stood out to me was the quality of the vocals. I felt like I had heard his voice in another band, a long time ago. A quick search in the catacombs of The Metal Archives revealed I was listening to Stu Block, ex-vocalist of Into Eternity. Roaring lows, powerful midrange, and some of the most intense sounding falsetto screams you’ll ever hear.
Comparing those recordings from 2006 to his vocal parts on Incorruptible in 2017 shows that he has only improved since then; More power, more contrast between subtle verses and all out screams in choruses and more convincing than ever.
There are some things that I would have done differently in terms of production. I’m a big fan of a more natural drum sound. I think they sound a bit too processed.
In the fast songs, this doesn’t show as much. The ballad tempo songs have more space between the drum hits. This is where you can really hear the extreme separation between the different parts of the drum kit. All parts sound very powerful and intense, but sometimes it feels like they would sound better if they sounded more organic and ‘glued together’.
You’re listening to one big drum kit instead of a lot of single kit pieces being hit and creating a rhythm. With too much separation, the cohesion is lost.
Besides the drums I think the rhythm guitars are a bit low in the mix in some parts. The drums are causing earth quakes, the vocals are so ‘in your face’ the vocalist might be sitting on your lap and giving you a brutal serenade. The harmonized lead guitar parts sing and scream as well. The rhythm guitars can give a very solid foundation at this point, but sadly they get drowned out at some points in various songs. It’s a subtle difference, but I think it would make these songs even more crushing.
The guitar tone itself is phenomenal, so there’s no need to hide it in the mix.
Iced Earth have a large fanbase and I’m sure any longtime fan will greatly appreciate the band’s latest effort. In case you’re new to the band and their music, I highly recommend checking this album. Some bands aren’t easy to get into. This is where fans will recommend you to check specific albums first, before getting into something more recent.
All I can say is: go for it. Buy this album, support the band. If you’re into Power Metal, and you dig this aggressive thrash metal edge, this album is for you.
I was unexpectedly blown away by this album, so don’t wait any longer. This band has a story to tell, so sit back and listen. You don’t get to say a word, or interrupt in any other way. Once you press play, this band owns you for the next hour.