Iced Earth - Plagues Of Babylon review
|Album:||Plagues Of Babylon|
|Release date:||January 2014|
01. Plagues Of Babylon
03. The Culling
04. Among The Living Dead
06. The End?
07. If I Could See You
11. Spirit Of The Times [Sons Of Liberty cover]
12. Highwayman [Jimmy Webb cover]
So, Jon Shaffer and his bunch of ever-changing musicians are back in town with release number eleven, after 2011's Dystopia that finally set the bar pretty high, after maybe too many years of... well, not mediocrity, but of music that didn't live up to Iced Earth standards.
The album cover artwork and title suggested it, and now the actual music confirms it: Plagues Of Babylon is the heaviest Iced Earth release in years. Every song here is permeated with a dark and somehow cruel ambience, achieved thanks to screaming, intricate riffing and Stu Block's most obscure performance to date.
Block deserves a separate mention: while in Dystopia his work, though being still too bound to Matt Barlow's heavy legacy, showed promising elements of personality, in this release his voice sounds like it's stuck in a mid range that this time really traces the much-loved former vocalist. As, for example, the amazing falsetto heard in songs like "Dystopia" here is only used as a mere metallic background in some choruses, the listener feels like Stu had to limit himself, probably following Shaffer's will. This, however, isn't totally negative, since the vocals here perfectly match with the album's atmosphere, sounding precisely incorporated, just like another instrument instead of an external being.
Plagues Of Babylon ranks among the less immediate Iced Earth efforts to date, in blatant contrast with the more easy-listening Dystopia. Almost no track here displays an easy sing-along chorus a la "Anthem", and this brings to the fact that initially this may seem like an incredibly weak and uninspired album: that's not true - at least not completely. Plagues Of Babylon, in fact, has as strength points not refrains, but mainly the rhythm sections, lead by chasing guitars, tasty little drum variations and Block's rage that, solemnly, overhangs the listener.
The album maintains in its majority his soul, but this can be a double-edged weapon: if by one side Plagues Of Babylon gains coherence and solidity, by the other every song ends up sounding pretty much one like the other. This said, this must be an extremely fun album to play live, due to its obscure epicness and its authoritative harshness.
As I said, this soul is maintained in the majority of the release, since tracks number 12 and 13 unfortunately ruin this. "Highwayman" is the Iced Earth version of an American classic, featuring on vocals Shaffer himself, Volbeat's Michael Poulsen and Symphony X's Russell Allen, and though being an overall good track it simply doesn't fit in the album's mood - and this isn't a fault of that all-American patriotism Iced Earth are not new to (see The Glorious Burden), while "Outro" is a completely useless 25-second piece of random shouting and drunken swearing: something you don't expect by an intelligent and dramatic band as this.
Overall, Plagues Of Babylon isn't that pile of crap some claim that it is: it simply returns to the levels of the not-so-memorable 2000's releases. Iced Earth are much more than this.
Written on 12.01.2014 by
Hopefully you won't agree with me, diversity of opinions is what makes metal so beautiful and varied.
So... critics and advices absolutely welcome.
|Let me start this review by saying that I really like this album. I even prefer it over Dystopia, which is pretty good album in my opinion.
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| Angelic Storm
| Tristus Scriptor
No, you don't
| Valentin B
Agent of Steel
From: New Zealand
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