Iced Earth - ‘Plagues Of Babylon’ (Century Media) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Thursday, 16 January 2014 03:00

Iced Earth - Plagues Of Babylon ArtworkFor the last 25 years, Iced Earth have been as close as North America has come to having their own Iron Maiden, standing astride the US metal scene like behemoths, with founder Jon Schaffer very firmly at the helm and driving forward his vision for the band in much the same way as Steve Harris has held firm in his belief in his outfit. Where the similarities diverge, however, are in the relative levels of global success which the two bands have enjoyed and the stability (or otherwise) of their line-ups… Over the years, no fewer than 30 different musicians have played alongside Schaffer, and this 11th album shows no sign of that revolving door of membership stopping spinning, as drummer Raphael Saini (who himself replaced Brent Smedley around this time last year) has subsequently been replaced by former Slayer/Testament sticksman Jon Dette.


Despite the inconsistency of the band’s personnel, however, Iced Earth have consistently produced some of the best heavy metal albums released over the past two decades or so – and ‘Plagues Of Babylon’ is most certainly no exception, as it is yet another majestic, towering example of the genre at its finest.


The album heaves into sight in suitably epic style, with the slow opening call to arms of the title track, the lowing of battle horns and the thump of war drums building into a typically solid, straightforward main riff, before the main body of the song, led by Schaffer’s trademark guitar harmonies and Stu Block’s deep baritone battle cries rushes over your defences, sweeping all before them without corner or mercy. ‘Democide’ maintains the pound and ground approach, before developing into a speedy, outflanking cavalry charge, while ‘The Culling’ lives up to its title – a hard-hitting beatdown of the few survivors left within listening distance of its anthemic, destructive force.


‘Among The Living Dead’ initially slows the assault down for a few seconds, but quickly resumes at full ferocity, with a winding riff and speed changes which ensure that the now captive listener has no choice but to give in to its demonic hypnotism, so that by the time ‘Resistance’ demands you bow down before it you’ve already prostrated yourself in front of the altar of the false gods which the tune promptly proceeds to smash into tiny pieces, leaving you praying for ‘The End’ – which, when it comes, is suitably apocalyptically epic in its scale.


But, there is still plenty more action to come in the second half of the album, which – with the first six track concept section having clocked in at 35 minutes (longer than many bands commit to one release, never mind just the opening sextet of tunes) – could almost stand as a separate album in its own right. “Part Two” kicks off with the classic power metal of ‘If I Could See You’, which is an archetypal Iced Earth song, before ‘Cthulhu’ ploughs back into atmospherically mystical terror-tory, with its crunching riff and driving beat; ‘Peacemaker’ sees the band truly flexing their not inconsiderable muscles with its slightly mellower classic rock sound, while ‘Parasite’ is a galloping, if somewhat derivative romp, and the only disappointing ‘filler’ on this otherwise powerful and hard-hitting opus, which concludes with the melancholic optimism of ‘Spirit Of The Time’ and the rambunctious ‘Highwayman’, which is a wonderfully fun interpretation of the old swashbuckler country track.


‘Plagues Of Babylon’ is evidence, if any were needed, that Iced Earth are still very much a band at the top of their game, and their crusade to bring the best quality heavy fuckin’ metal to the subjugated masses continues with unabated pace. Embrace the infection.


To pick up your copy of 'Plagues Of Babylon' - CLICK HERE