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Iced Earth: Plaques Of Babylon

Iced Earth have taken a Zombie theme on-board for their latest album Plagues Of Babylon creating a wonderful horror/metal musical release. Not all of this new album takes on the Zombiefied storyline that is part of Iced Earth's continuing 'Something Wicked' universe, just the first six songs belong to the album's theme as the rest are individual Iced Earth tracks. Besides the great artwork the limited deluxe edition has a DVD that features a making of video amongst other extras. Watching this leaves little wonder why Plagues Of Babylon is so good, given the time and attention to detail applied to get this album to the release stage.

There is no mistaking the sound of Iced Earth created by Jon Schaffer who also took care of the production of this album, he knows how to deliver some of the most adductive metal riffs. Surely one of the most consistent metal groups as every time they release an album Iced Earth never fail to impress. Dystopia their last killer studio recording featured a new vocalist and one with an amazing range who has it all covered namely Stu Block of Into Eternity, Stu left no one in doubt that he was up to the task. I have never really had a favourite Iced Earth vocalist I always enjoyed what Matt Barlow and Tim 'Ripper' Owens brought to the band and Stu is no exception and he truly complements that fantastic music. This time amongst those extra participants Blind Guardian's talented vocalist Hansi Kursch appears on the almighty track as the zombies rise hungry for flesh on "Among The Living Dead", of course Hansi paired up with Jon previously for the excellent Demons and Wizards project.

One word best describes the powerful title track "Plaques Of Babylon" and that is "addictive" when the plaque is released, Iced Earth know how to write songs that bring so much joy to metal fans. "Democide" lifts the pace substantially as Iced Earth are in full flight and Stu Block's hardened vocals are unleashed, while "The Culling" is slower yet still packs an almighty punch. Over the years Iced Earth has featured some impressive drum work and Plagues Of Babylon continues that trend thanks to Raphael Saini he really impresses on tracks like "Among The Living Dead" and the riveting "The End?". The lightweight intro to "Cthulhu" builds into something much heavier and one of Plagues Of Babylon best tracks. "Peacemaker" has a familiar Iced Earth sound that brings back memories of the excellent "Declaration Day" from The Glorious Burden. An interesting or should I say unexpected inclusion is "Highwayman" the popular country song is a surprising conclusion to this new album and Iced Earth's take gives it a harder edge that works well, thanks in part to vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X) who also appears on this version.

There is plenty for the fans to get excited about on Plagues Of Babylon, Iced Earth have shown once again why they are one of the best.

Track Listing
1. Plagues Of Babylon
2. Democide
3. The Culling
4. Among The Living Dead
5. Resistance
6. The End?
7. If I Could See You
8. Cthulhu
9. Peacemaker
10. Parasite
11. Spirit Of The Times
12. Highwayman

Added: January 25th 2014
Reviewer: Scott Jessup
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2722
Language: english

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Iced Earth: Plaques Of Babylon
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-01-25 11:10:12
My Score:

Having released their debut album over twenty years ago, Iced Earth can rightly be viewed as veterans of the US Power Metal circuit. That they are producing albums with as much verve and bite as Plagues Of Babylon at this stage of their career, really has to be seen as a mighty achievement and one not to be taken lightly.

As you'd expect from an outfit of this vintage, band members have come and gone over the years, guitarist Jon Schaffer being the one constant. However Iced Earth circa 2014 may well be the best yet, with the introduction of singer Stu Block for 2011's Dystopia release reinvigorating things considerably, while the more recent addition of Luke Appleton (ex-Fury UK on bass) certainly hasn't hurt either. Interim and now departed drummer Raphael Saini is also phenomenal throughout.

At first glance Iced Earth show similarities to many Metal bands of Power; galloping kick drums, dramatic riffs, vocals which spit, snarl and soar and bass work which roams and parries. However for followers of the genre, there's no mistaking the drama and controlled aggression of Schaffer's style of both writing songs and playing guitar. Vocally Block is his perfect foil, and while I don't want to get involved in any "who's better?" debates, it is fair to say that neither Tim "Ripper" Owens nor Matt Barlow would be able to improve upon the mixture of punchy anger drenched howls, or pinpoint clean throated excursions Block displays here.

As ever from Iced Earth the album art is excellent and it ties in neatly with a concept which runs through, some, not all, of this album. This adds a narrative and focus many bands in this style lack and brings a real authenticity to the uncompromisingly in your face nature of most of what this band do. However through clever gang vocals, the odd well placed guest vocal appearance and ever altering dynamics, Plagues Of Babylon not only contains a collection of top notch tracks, it also works remarkably well as a whole. Repeat listens are required to truly appreciate the complexity of much of this album, but then it is always that way with Iced Earth and their efforts are always all the better for it.

Striding comfortably into their third decade, it is no exaggeration to suggest Iced Earth have never been as relevant and impressive as they are right now. That in itself is reason to celebrate and so is Plagues Of Babylon.

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