We open up with "Great Heathen Army" and we're greeted with a very appropriately sounding, battle march...as if in preparation for war...the simplistic pounding of the drums coupled with chanting and almost viking horns adds to the theme here very well and already, we have the makings of a story, before out of nowhere the band bursts into life with a surging metal onslaught...the double kick drums, the classic riffs and sometimes screeched, power-metal vocals; it's all very traditional, all sounding very epic and it serves well as an opener. "Black Flag" follows up and has a theme of it's own...it's set within old pirate lore and speaks of the governing of the seas, the historical relationship between these pirates and their battles with the law, for the black flag itself is an old signal for parley; the act of looking to find democratic resolution; backed by some more traditional metal it's combined very well.
There's more to these veterans than meets the eye however, as they do mix it up just a little to keep interest peaked throughout the record..."Raven Wing" utilizes a soft acoustic lead introduction which for all intents and purposes, is really rather sweet the way everything sounds poetic before it spreads it's wings so to speak...that solo too, it's so 80's it's brilliant...on occasion galloping along with the Maiden influence clear for all to see. Speaking of influence, album highlight "Seven Headed Whore" is a faster, far more aggressive offering and it's style originates from more of a thrash-inspired background; the riff-work is very SLAYER.
Elsewhere, highlights include "The Relic (Part 1)" which is an incredibly melodic hard-rock based track, it flows wonderfully and really is equal parts dramatic and catchy, however there is no sign of part 2 here....(Did they forget it? Or is it a spoiler for the next album?)...and also "Ghost Dance (Awaken The Ancestors)"...an unexpected near 7 minute instrumental, bar the sparse tribal incantations...the pan pipes add they're own unique flavour and amidst the metal there's a strong ritualistic feeling which they've pulled off well. The rest of the album is what it is essentially; you either really love this classic style, or you can have too much of a good thing...some of it can't help but sound generic after all these years, however closing track "Clear The Way" is one for the history buffs...it's a concept piece on the Battle Of Fredericksburg...at over nine minutes, it's a battle indeed. Overall it's a solid, proper metal album and in 2017 it's great to see that the principles remain generally unchanged and that bands like Iced Earth still follow the old blue print...incorruptible? I'd say so...