Monday 17 February 2014

Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 6/1/2014
Label : Century Media Records

Plagues of Babylon, album track listing :

1. Plagues Of Babylon 07:48
2. Democide 05:22
3. The Culling 04:27
4. Among The Living Dead 05:14
5. Resistance 04:59
6. The End? 07:14
7. If I Could See You 03:56
8. Cthulhu 06:04
9. Peacemaker 05:02
10. Parasite 03:30
11. Spirit Of The Times 05:06
12. Highwayman 03:13

Bio :

Iced Earth's tenth album Dystopia, released in 2011, marked the beginning of a new
chapter in the band's career with the entrance of former Into Eternity vocalist Stu Block.
Their new album Plagues Of Babylon is volatile proof the accolades Iced Earth received for
Dystopia weren't a case of beginner's luck. Then again, guitarist/founder Jon Schaffer has
trusted his blood, sweat and steel hard conviction rather than luck over the last 24 years
to get the band to the level they're at now.

Plagues Of Babylon is arguably the strongest Iced Earth album since Something Wicked This
Way Comes from 1998, which yielded fan favorites such as 'Burning Times', 'The Coming
Curse', 'Blessed Are You' and 'Disciples Of The Lie'. It hits hard and fast with the title track
(almost 8 minutes in length), quickly pulling the listener into a fast moving six-song
horror/science fiction tale (in classic Iced Earth concept fashion) before launching into five
stand-alone songs and an unexpected cover to cap things off. It's the logical in-your-face
follow-up to Dystopia, but darker, heavier and bigger overall.

The Band :

Jon Schaffer | Guitars
Stu Block | Vocals
Troy Seele | Guitars
Luke Appleton | Bass
Jon Dette | Drums

Review :

Album number 11 sees the Floridian veterans firing on all cylinders, albeit in a somewhat predictable fashion. Their first output since Stu Block’s debut on 2011’s Dystopia, and the first to feature Mancunian Luke Appleton (ex-Fury UK) on bass, replacing Freddie Vidales it’s an album that will very much delight the diehards.

While the formula is as you'd expect, galloping rhythms, duelling harmonies and choruses bigger than the metropolis from which the album’s got its title, it is a great record. But their lack of ambition to stretch themselves musically stops it being anything more. Within the borders of what they do best however, few can rival them.

Their revolving door policy regarding vocalists has been well documented over their 29 year history. In Stu Block however, they have, musically at least, a singer comfortable and competent when delivering a host of styles, from the aggressive (Democide), to the delicate (Peacemaker) via an endless array of soaring choruses (Plagues of Babylon, The Culling, Among The Living Dead) for which they have shamelessly looked to their love of Iron Maiden for influence as ever. But, executed with a heap of charisma, their niche sound comes shining through. That, in the end, is all that will matter for most people.

Yes, you could argue their music has become ever so slightly formulaic and may sound startlingly similar, simply put them in league with the likes of AC/DC, Slayer and Motörhead and you’ll find that their sound doesn’t need altering or maturing, it is already perfectly established. In fact, it is this timelessness, much like the aforementioned artists that has made them mainstays in the metal world for approaching three decades now. No band can last as long as Iced Earth have, and remain at their size and popularity without some seriously good songs.

On Plagues of Babylon, there are plenty. From the title tracks cinematic opening, which drags you into a glorious NWOBHM crescendo, to Highwayman, a cover of an old Jimmy Webb song, sung by Jon Schaffer, this album hits the intended spots.

Back to back, Cthulu and Peacemaker see the band venturing to their oft frequented progressive side, with clean cut guitars and silky lead harmonies soon giving way for crushing guitars and a pulverising rhythm section. The band has been around for long enough to be classed as veterans now and it is moments such as these which prove they have a time-wizened expertise to be admired.   

The battle march of Among The Living Dead and its enormous chorus help thrust it into the top few tracks of the record along with Democide and Resistance which come armed to the teeth with Schafferian riffs and chord progressions. The latter includes the solo of the record, with Schaffer’s tone rich in clarity without losing any of its face-scrunching nastiness. Try not head band to this.

It may not be anything ground-breaking, but it as a self-assured, powerful record that justifies this bands place in the upper regions of the heavy metal hierarchy.

Words by : Phil Weller

You can get it here