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Catch the Plague! - 77%

sadun_tryst, January 19th, 2014

Iced Earth or rather Jon Schaffer have brought us new Iced Earth record cheerfully named Plagues Of Babylon. Preceded by generally accepted Dystopia, which was definitely a step forward compared to the boring and annoying The Crucible Of Man, an album that may have sounded well in Jon’s head, but in practice the story was somewhat different.

Dystopia, with few average songs and with decent amount of decent songs and a moderate length, was rather enjoyable record. Plagues is quite bloated album, over an hour in length and well over 10 songs, does the bigger also means better at the same time? Yes and no. The Plagues’ sound is more coherent than its predecessor, or better yet, it sounds a bit less forced. Dystopia sounded like it was so desperately trying to move away from its bad predecessor unlike Plagues Of Babylon which has far more traces of the old IE. Even Stu Block sounds far more like Barlow, definitely more that he would (probably) be willing to admit. Also, he never sounded better, just for the record.

Reasons for this could probably be found in songwriting, with song structures giving more space for him to explore different singing styles. Not that he started to sing opera, but at least he’s not yelling all the time and sounds a lot more relaxed. A a little bit of this, a little bit of that and there you are – over an hour of material from which they could easily deduct 10-15 minutes. This way, album is packed with great moments, but at the same time is also plagued by average ones.

“Peacemaker” is one of the songs that quickly evaporates from the head despite the rapid pace and good solo, as well as two unnecessary cover songs that are closing the album. I mean, the man released cover of his own song and it doesn’t sound bad, but come on, who needs that? In fact, the first half of the album seen as a whole seems like A side of the record, while the other half seems like a B side. While listening it, you can simply feel the decline in the quality of the songs and I find it hard to believe that you will not use the repeat button when few songs ’till the end.

On the other hand, “Democide” sounds like it was dropped from Burnt Offerings album and it’s good enough that I don’t even mind the stupid name. “The Culling“, with its slow rhythm and brutal vocals pulls toward genius chorus and solo that eventually make it a very pleasant listening. And most importantly, Jon was able to write down riffs worthy of old IE, both here and on few other songs, partly because they so irresistibly reminiscent of some good old days. I will not describe all the songs, there is no need for that. Plagues Of Babylon sounds like a hybrid between the old and the new, and a good one too. Whether you are IE veteran or 15 year old school boy that just discovered this band, you will not be disappointed. Only problem is that very few people will be genuinely thrilled with this album. But, in the end, there’s enough quality material here to proclaim an album worthy representative of Iced Earth’s discography. If their sound continues to evolve in this direction I will not complain, just as long as they don’t return to the Crucible era. Year 2014 has started well, now we just need to hope it will continue in this direction.

Originally written by me for Worldwide Metal