Iced Earth - Plagues of Babylon - (8.5/10)
Published on January 6, 2014
Label:Century Media Records
I am sure I am not the only one out there, who found that Dystopia had been an amazing comeback for Iced Earth after their much maligned ‘duology’ of Framing Armageddon and especially Crucible of Man, something that probably would have led many other bands to call it quits. Jon Schaffer, though, signed on Canadian vocalist Stu Block and led another successful attack. Two years after, the Americans are back with their eleventh full-length, titled Plagues of Babylon.
With a once more revamped line-up (they have yet another new bassist in Brit Luke Appleton and session drums by Brazilian wunderkind Raphael Saini, the two seats in the revolving door of the band almost since day one) Schaffer is throwing another slab of thrashing power metal at us and once more is mostly successful with it. Why mostly? I’ll get back to you on that. Stylistically nothing really has changed in Iced Earth land (fitting though, that they release this album in the middle of winter, lol), obviously they have found their style and don’t really have much of a reason to make any radical changes to it and it shows throughout big parts of Plagues of Babylon.
So the title track kicks things off with an ominous quasi-intro and develops into a dark, dynamic track, which really highlights the versatility of Stu as a vocalist, bringing us the usual tight riffing of Schaffer and well-placed tempo changes for a great opener that only has one flaw – towards the end it gets too drawn out (something that the Americans have done before and weakened their impact a little here and there) and could have benefitted from a few shaved off seconds or even a minute. But you won’t care about that once “Democide” hits you over the head in best aggressive Iced Earth fashion, love it!
I would have hoped for a few more tracks of its ilk and speed (there is a lot of mid-tempo on Plagues of Babylon), but the dark and eerie atmosphere of “Cthulhu” just cannot be beat (which also brings us the good old Iced Earth aggression and speed at times), while “Peacemaker” shows us a bit of a different side of the Floridians, with a Western twang that actually works. There is one relative dud to be found, though, which listens to the name of “Resistance”. While the chorus is good, the riff and the vocals in the verse are among the worst I have ever heard of Iced Earth, sounding utterly uninspired and dry and despite the chorus saving some of it, it definitely is not up to par!
Now Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian fame is guest vocalizing on five tracks, but to be honest, I have not been able to make him out even once, which makes me think that he is only used in the backing and that is nothing short of a waste of his talent, Schaffer and him had proven so masterfully on Demons & Wizards how he can be used to much more efficiently, but that is a minor qualm.
So all in all Plagues of Babylon shows the band continuing the high level of Dystopia and proves that their drought days are over and they have reestablished themselves on top of the US power metal scene once more. Fans of their earlier works will love their latest effort and despite a few flaws they still stand well above much of their competition.