In a career fast approaching 25 years, amazingly this marks Iced Earth’s 11th studio record. The band’s new-found activity saw them release “Plagues Of Babylon” mere 13 months after their previous studio album “Dystopia.” Plus a full live album and DVD were also issued in between, there is much to be happy about if like myself, you are a long time follower of the band.
Tittle track opens the proceedings and is somewhat a departure for the group, at least compared to previous Iced Earth openers which have all been rather fast belters. “Plagues Of Babylon” builds up the momentum slowly and steadily until the faster mid-part eventually arrives. The classic sounding Iced Earth returns for the chorus, which is suitably majestic in nature. A song previously heard on radio, and more than solid starter for the record.
The first six songs apparently form a loose concept on the future attack of zombies and the devastation brought to mankind. Rest of the material moves towards different territories, exploring western mythology and ancient beasts while the core of the music retains band’s now familiar aspects.”The Culling” has an excellent chorus melody, although instantly recognisable as Iced Earth, is a fitting anthem in its own right. Same goes for “The End” while offering nothing new, all that is well tested and great about this band can be found here.
The arrangements and sounds of this enduring band are right there in place. Schaeffer’s trademark riffs are there in abundance and on lead guitar the ever faithful Troy Seele cranks out the usual supplement of guitar solos. Line-up is completed a new guys Luke Appleton on bass and Raphael Saini on drums. All do fine work supporting Schaeffer and Block in the frontline. Vocalist Stu Block with his second outing with the band, is getting more and more comfortable in his role. He is capable of being both emotional when needed in slow burning “If I Could See You,” and belting out stratospheric screams in “Ctulhu”. The former in many was is a sequel to band’s biggest hits (if you can say so) “I Died For You”. Anyhow “If I Could See You” has grown to become my favourite slow Iced Earth number since “The Horror Show’s” “Ghost Of Freedom” more than ten years ago.
Inevitably there are also some mediocre tracks such as “Resistance” and “Parasite” but then the band rolls out heavier than hell riffs in “Ctulhu” and another killer ballad in “Spirit Of The Times” to make you forget about the less than impressive moments. “Spirit Of The Times” was first released on Jon Schaeffer’s Sons Of Liberty project, but has now been completely re-recorded.
Stu Block’s “Peacemaker” is one of the most melodic songs Iced Earth have ever done and with its slight country and western feel, does stand out as the odd number. I guess it will divide the fans somewhat, you either love it or hate it. Myself, hate might be too strong a word but it’s not among my favourites either.
Final cut is an old country song originally from the 1970’s and probably most known as the title track from an album released in 1985 by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristoffersson, called “Highwayman.” Schaeffer sings this number along with Russell Allen and Volbeat’s Michael Paulsen and while it’s certainly an odd pick, it carries a certain charm. The limited edition bonus DVD contains no less than three audio versions of the album plus over an hour of documentary from the recording sessions. A cool addition to listening experience. After “Plagues Of Babylon” finishes, the feeling of satisfaction is apparent. Overall this album betters “Dystopia” as it really should, with the band now growing together as a unit and moving forward. It’s a great thing they continue to be this productive and long may they reign!
1.Plagues Of Babylon
4.Among The Living Dead
7.If I Could See You
11.Spirit Of The Times
Steel Mill judgment
Overall this album betters “Dystopia” as it really should, with the band now growing together as a unit and moving forward. It’s a great thing they continue to be this productive and long may they reign!