Released by: Century Media
Release Date: January 21st, 2014
Genre: Heavy Metal
Jon Schaffer – Rhythm & Lead Guitar, Vocals
Stu Block – Lead Vocals
Troy Seele – Lead Guitar
Luke Appleton – Bass Guitar
Raphael Saini – Drums
Notable Special Guests:
Russell Allen (Symphony X) – Lead & Backing Vocals on ‘Highwayman”
1. Plagues Of Babylon
3. The Culling
4. Among The Living Dead
6. The End?
7. If I Could See You
11. Spirit Of The Times
On their second outing with lead vocalist STU BLOCK, you get a sense that ICED EARTH are firing on every bloody, visceral heavy metal cylinder they’ve got for the first time in a very long time. Because while I was quite warm to most of 2011’s ‘Dystopia’, there was a song here and there that felt hastily done or seemed phoned in to fill the running time. Thankfully, this is not the case with ‘Plagues Of Babylon’, their 11th studio outing in a career full of intriguing twists, turns and lineup changes that have dogged this classic act since the late 80’s. This, ladies and gents, is the kind of album I’ve been hoping to hear from these boys since the classic Barlow era of the mid to late 90’s…and it’s been a long time in coming.
Part of the appeal may be a new found sense of purpose in the playing and songwriting here. The first half of the album is story driven, dealing with mankind’s ancient origins and its bid to conquer the ruling Setian race. Thousands of years after the human race comes to prominence and belief systems like Christianity hold sway, however, the shadow of our predecessors still remain…and they are pissed. And did I mention the Setians have a messiah of their own who wants to cleanse mankind from the face of the Earth? Pretty radical tale all n’ all, and the music has the chops to back it up!
Back when I was a teenager, some of the metalheads I used to bomb around town with assured me that Iced Earth was a more “modern” version of IRON MAIDEN. And this was back in the early 2000’s when RIPPER OWENS took up the mic after his stint in JUDAS PRIEST. While my old posse’s opinion is only partly correct, starting from the nu-thrash pummeling of the opening title track here on ‘Plagues Of Babylon’, I find myself in agreement. This sucker gallops like a horse out of Hades, and its distinct Eastern chord progression is enough to give one déjà vu. As fun as that is though, it’s the reallllly fast cuts like ‘Among The Living Dead’ and longer, more progressive excursions such as ‘The End?” and ‘Cthulhu’ where ICED EARTH shine best.
In conclusion: this has always been a band that straddle the line between every classic metal “style” under the sun and still have managed to build a unique audience over two decades now who love the tapestries they weave, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the diversity present on this album doesn’t prove to be both an excellent place for new fans to jump in whilst simultaneously being difficult to market to people who love their labels.
2014 is going to have a helluva lot of great rock and metal, but I don’t think we could have asked for a better release to kick it off.
Written by Derek