CD Review: Iced Earth – “Plagues of Babylon”

Iced Earth Plagues of Babylon

Iced Earth Plagues of Babylon

Now, this might not do me any favours and will probably lose us a few readers, but I’m going to have to admit, I’m not the worlds biggest fan of traditional/power metal.  I’ve always appreciated and respected the legacy and i understand fans love for the likes of such bands, but its not something that’s always gripped me.

And yet, every now and again a release comes along and just hits all the right nails on the head.  Last year, it was Hell’s excellent “Curse And Chapter” that stoked the embers, and it got me quite excited about this, Iced Earth’s 11th full studio album, and it has to be said that on the the whole, “Plagues of Babylon” doesn’t disappoint.

Its been some time since i last got swept away by an Iced Earth album and in fact i think it was way back in 2004 with the release of “The Glorious Burden”, and while i know the band have had a fair few changes since then, the music here is not a million miles away and retains much of their trademark styling.  Because I’ve missed out on many of their subsequent albums, i hadn’t realised there was a concept running through them; so just for the record, the first half of the disk is still conceptually based on the “Something Wicked” story, while the later 7 tracks are stand-alone songs.

And here-in lies some of my grumblings with the album.  There seems to be a distinctive “quality” change in the later half of the album in terms of not only sound production, but also song writing.  Thats not to say its in any way bad, as it really isn’t, but it does go a long way to show just how good the first half is.

Iced Earth 2014

Iced Earth 2014

And so we start off with “Plagues of Babylon”; its a slow burner and in no hurry to get to the point, but the intro builds up the atmosphere nicely with its militaristic drumming and simple riff.  Its a couple of minutes in that the classic Iced Earth appears, and you’ll immediately feel at home once Stu Block’s vocals kick in, especially with the chorus.

“Democide” picks up the pace somewhat with its traditional heavy metal crossed with thrash sytle and “The Culling” has a really organic feel that brings back memories of an early metal ballads (yet it substitutes the  love song sensibilities with a tale of woe!)

There is a beguiling simplicity to many of the songs on offer here, but they benefit from having the room to breathe and they allow the listener to actually take in all music on offer.  This is something of a novelty to me as im more used to listening to far more chaotic styles, but its definitely a plus point.

And so, we get to the later part of the disk and its a bit more tricky to review as all the same ingredients are present and correct, and yet as i eluded to earlier, its almost as if the cake didnt quite rise…  “If I Could See You” is a good old fashioned song of loving and losing, and is probably one of the stronger tracks with its pulsing bass-line and drums, and the classic “galloping” guitar patterns.  Its at this point i realised that, while the album is fun, i just couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d heard it before somewhere, or that it perhaps wasn’t different enough to really make its mark.

For those more familiar with Iced Earth, you’ll already know if you’re going to enjoy this release or not, and if you are a fan you will of course find many things to love, but if this is your first encounter with the band, I’d be interest to know what you think!

RATING: 7 /10


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