2014, a brand new year, kicked into gear with a brand new Iced Earth album, Plagues Of Babylon, their 11th full length studio album with current vocalist Stu Block. Released on Jan.6th via Century Media it’s 60 minute running time containing 12 majestic metal tracks shows that founder member and guitarist Jon Schaffer still has the hunger for writing killer riffs and Plagues Of Babylon is full of them. He formed the band in Tampa, Florida in 1984 and will be leading them throughout a World tour this year from January till May.
Plagues Of Babylon is the 1st Iced Earth album to feature new bassist Luke Appleton and the 2nd with vocalist Stu Block following his debut on Dystopia in 2011 and he had big shoes to fill following previous vocalists Matt Barlow and Tim “Ripper” Owens but personally I prefer Stu’s lower vocal range as it gives Iced Earth’s songs a harder edge which is proven in album opener and title track, ‘Plagues Of Babylon’. At almost 8 minutes long it’s long thudding drum intro backed by regal sounding guitar lines give way to classic 80’s thrash but with one foot in the future. A strong way to open the album to say the least! Another drum heavy intro to ‘Democide’ speeds up to make it a sure fire pit opener. A breathtaking brace of opening songs.
The following 10 numbers are just as strong and Plagues Of Babylon is an early yardstick in 2014 for other metal bands to try and measure up to with other highlights being ‘The Culling, a heavy power ballad built around a catchy, sustained guitar riff and a huge chorus. ‘Among The Living Dead’ is full throttle thrash metal punctuated with melodic guitar hooks. The hard edged ‘Resistance’, surging in like Dio era Black Sabbath gives Stu Block a rein to show the higher end of his vocal range and another crowd pleaser, the 7 minute long ‘The End’ has epic written all over it. After a lilting intro a stabbing riff matching the vocal leads to another big chorus as an Iron Maiden like gallop precedes a sedate finish of an acoustic guitar over a tolling bell.
‘If I Could See You’ is another dynamic power ballad with a heartfelt vocal. The intro to ‘Peacemaker’ brings to mind ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Southern rock vibe is prevalent throughout as Stu delivers his finest vocal on the album. ‘Parasite’ is a crushing rocker with a looping main guitar riff and my personal favourite is album closer ‘Highwayman’. It’s crunching catchy riffs and high pitched melodic vocal has radio airplay written all over it.
Plagues Of Babylon comes in a fan friendly wide range of formats. There is a limited edition CD + DVD mediabook, a limited deluxe box set with media book, bandana, 6 artwork cards, embossed metal flask, fridge magnet and an embossed wrist band. A double LP vinyl, a limited edition triple 10″ box with booklet and poster. A jewel case CD and a digital download.
Jon Schaffer – Guitar.
Troy Seele – Guitar.
Luke Appleton – Bass guitar.
Jon Dette – Drums.
Stu Block – Vocals.
Plagues Of Babylon.
Among The Living Dead.
If I Could See You.
Spirit Of The Times.