Are you a fan of anthem heavy metal? Of bands that play songs rich in power, strength and glory? Of choruses youâ€™re compelled to sing along to? Of vocals that convey a real sense of skill and unity? Of bands such as Manowar or Iron Maiden?
If so, the recent release of Plagues of Babylon by Iced Earth will no doubt appeal to your anthem soul.
Plagues marks the eleventh studio release by Iced Earth since 1990. All are helmed by founder and lead guitarist, Jon Schaffer.
Without delving into the band’s entire catalog, my preference is to judge an album on its own merits. Often when being unfamiliar with a band’s material, I will not go immediately back to hear their entire repertoire. I focus on what is in front of me. Is this new release by Iced Earth better than the previous one? I have no idea. I am most interested in what Plagues is like standing on its own.
The best possible way to describe the album is heavy anthems! It is littered with them from beginning to end. From the first track, Plagues of Babylon, to the last track, Highwayman, it just doesn’t stop.
The music is heavy in every sense of the word. Guitars, bass, and double bass drums are combined with an abundance of harmonies and weighty vocals. Halford-type screams solidify a metal album that has everything you want in heavy metal music. This release has it all in spades. The music has a genuine depth. You will hear new things each time you listen as there are multiple interwoven layers and always moving.
The current line up of Iced Earth features Jon Schaffer on guitars (rhythm, acoustic and lead), Stu Block on vocals, Troy Steele on lead guitar, Luke Appleton on bass, and Raphael Saini on drums.
Over the years, there has been a revolving door of musicians with Schaffer being the one constant. This current lineup though is very strong. They play with a great sense of power and authority; one that conveys a sense of a truly unified and seasoned band.
With regard to the songs on the album, I feel they are all very solid. Each track could easily stand on its own merit. Democide opens with a very heavy riff and grows with a truly metallic intensity as it progresses. Schaffer is not the type to simply play a single heavy riff, particularly on this song. He likes to add a bit more over the main riffs, reminiscent of Judas Priest. It serves to add interest to the songs, all while keeping the crushing riff cranking underneath.
The Culling opens with an old Anthrax feel before shifting off in a different direction, once again adding riff over riff to make it even cooler and more complex.
Among the Living Dead takes this even further with the heavy riffs. The album seems to just get heavier, while still keeping it melodic, rather than brutal. Here again are those killer overdubs, this time done in harmony. At the same time all this is going on the vocals create an anthem feel. Stu Block sings with an aggressive and forceful voice, yet it is still very discernible.
The songs on Plagues of Babylon are full of distinct shifts and breaks, which makes for a truly intense listening experience. It is not often you will hear a new release where the music is heavy as hell, yet retain all of these qualities. Stu even does a bit of high register screaming. It all adds to a recording unlike many others and a sound all their own.
The song The End? begins with a sweet bass intro bringing to mind Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris. It maintains this quality until it really kicks in, ushering back to the familiar feel of the entire album.
A new shift comes in the way of a slow song entitled If I Could See You Now. Really great job on the proper singing, open drumming and, of course, their signature, amazing guitar work. For a song that follows familiar formulas, it retains its own identity and contributes nicely to the flow of the album.
Plagues Of Babylon is a metal masterpiece in a time of mostly mediocre releases from bands old and new. It is heavy, melodic, powerful, and full of twists. The album seems as though it was well thought out with a precision only heavy metal can deliver. GO BUY THIS NOW!
Plagues of Babylon – available at Amazon: