Iced Earth
Plagues of Babylon


2.5
average

Review

by Scott Murphy USER (14 Reviews)
January 5th, 2014 | 50 replies


Release Date: 01/06/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A glass of fresh ice but nothing good to fill it with.

It’s remarkable that almost thirty years after Iced Earth guitarist John Schaffer founded the band, he’s had just as many musicians fill each of the other instrumental roles. The reason why this is so noteworthy is due to the fact that the band’s newest album, Plagues of Babylon, sounds more like a group of five tired and uninspired veterans rather than a seasoned veteran inspired by new members and fresh ideas. For what could have been a bold statement from an established metal band is instead a somewhat passable example of genre blueprints.

None of this is meant to insinuate that Schaffer has enlisted bad musicians; the truth is quite the contrary. Iced Earth is staffed with technically capable members (particularly lead vocalist Stu Block) who all play their respective instruments well. Where the problem lies is with the band’s lack of engaging songwriting. Sure, songs such as “The Culling” and “Cthulhu” have triumphant choruses that will cause audiences to shout along with Block when the band embarks on an album release tour. But quite frankly, very few, if any, of these tracks sounds like a staple song that will make it onto future set lists.

The primary cause of this is a lack of quality composition; not a single riff truly sticks out nor serves a purpose other than giving the verses structure. Songs like “Resistance” demonstrate this perfectly, as a lazily basic riff does little more than burn run time before the chorus kicks in. And while the choruses are certainly melodic and distinct, they lack any extraordinary features and ultimately pale in comparison to past entries into the power metal and heavy metal genres. The nagging feeling of classic epics drags the guitars and vocals down no matter how high they attempt to soar.

However, no genre is more misrepresented than thrash metal. In revisiting the aforementioned lack of valuable riffs, the nigh abandonment of any true bite causes Plagues of Babylon to feel atonally melodic. While the record doesn’t necessarily require thrash influence, it would behoove of Iced Earth to avoid any reference of the genre if they don’t wish to properly incorporate it. “Democide” opens with a fairly promising thrash theme, but the song takes too long to commence and ultimately leaves the idea undeveloped. Various other moments see fleeting moments of thrash influence that similarly taper off before they achieve any sort of maturation.

The album reaches its ultimate demise with the final two tracks and their severely poor attempt at closing out the album. Schaffer for some reason takes up lead vocal duties for the penultimate track “Highwayman,” yet the absence of Block is much less bothersome than the aged rock sound that the song offers. Ending the album with an almost hair metal level track is tolerable in comparison to the twenty-five second outro however, which is comprised of drunken giggling and a declaration of “Argh! *** your couch! *** your couch mother***ers! Argh!” For a band that is known for well written and detailed lyrical concepts, this decision is akin to replacing the last page of a Shakespeare play with an ad for PBR.

Yet, in a way, it is refreshing to hear something surprising after an hour of largely unmoving music. While long time Iced Earth fans might find Plagues of Babylon enjoyable, it seems that Dystopia is the stronger entry from the Block era of the band thus far. Hopefully Schaffer will decide not to play it as safe on album twelve and prove that not all veteran bands have such a lop-sided discography.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
TheSpirit
January 5th 2014


17987 Comments


really good review. ive only ever listened to something wicked... by these guys and it was okay. wont check this out.

Digging: Volahn - Aq Ab Al

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
January 5th 2014


1914 Comments


Not expecting much from this album, since the one song that was released a while ago disappointed me somewhat. I really liked Dystopia, but from what this review says Plagues of Babylon seems to be more disappointing than it is gripping. I'll still give it a listen I guess. Good review by the way.

Digging: Obliterations - Poison Everything

rockandmetaljunkie
January 5th 2014


3696 Comments


Not expecting much from this album.

Necrotica
January 5th 2014


10062 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Jon Schaffer needs to get off his ass and give the band a fresh coat of paint

Multifarious
January 5th 2014


97 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

TheSpirit & linguist2011: Thanks for the kind words.

Necrotica
January 5th 2014


10062 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Oh yeah, really nice review btw

LilLioness
January 5th 2014


2727 Comments


They really should have kept Owens around. I haven't cared for any of the other vocalists.

Multifarious
January 5th 2014


97 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

FiveLeavesLeft: I appreciate that, thanks.

PsychicChris
January 5th 2014


217 Comments


I really liked Dystopia and gave this album a listen but it just hasn't grabbed me.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2014


6273 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Excellent review, pos, I agree with what you wrote.

Stu Block's vocals is one of the very few reasons (if not the only one) for somebody to revisit the album.

Digging: Varathron - Untrodden Corridors of Hades

Multifarious
January 5th 2014


97 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Voivod: Thanks a lot, and I completely agree.

Ending
January 5th 2014


1919 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Average is the perfect word to describe this album.

Wizard
January 5th 2014


19607 Comments


Welcome to the site dude. Well written and informed review.

I've never liked a single thing I've heard from Iced Earth and I will probably skip this.

Digging: Full Of Hell & Merzbow - Full Of Hell & Merzbow

Multifarious
January 5th 2014


97 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wizard: Thanks a lot, I'm glad to be able to review again.

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
January 5th 2014


3488 Comments


gratz on the feature, and welcome to sput! would you like some more detailed feedback tomorrow on your review (can't probably give it tonight)?

Digis
January 6th 2014


16 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Enjoyed tracks 1,6,7,8 and 11. Rest is pretty bad. From what i heard Stu´s vocals are not that good
but imo they are what keeps the record listenable. Cthulhu seems is the only track where the band
seems to work together and pull off something enjoyable

manosg
January 6th 2014


6519 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Damn, it's sad to read that Jon Schaffer's performance is uninspired and dull but to be honest I wasn't expecting much. I haven't listened to the album yet so I'll need to give it a spin. Your review is very well written so pos.

Digging: Witchfynde - Give 'em Hell

Crawl
January 6th 2014


1640 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The choruses are huge and the vocalist is awesome. I kinda can't hear the bass, though. And that outro is one of the dumbest and lamest things I've ever heard. Oh well, i still like this.

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

freedomofspeechnoway
January 6th 2014


418 Comments


I like a lot of Jon Schaffer's riffs but each of the last few albums makes me think he lives in a vacuum.

Antonius
January 6th 2014


243 Comments


Very well written review. Have my pos.
I'll have to check this out but I doubt that it will match Dystopia



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