With Iced Earth‘s Plagues of Babylon screaming in my ears, I was taken back in time to my cousins’ bedroom, lying underneath posters of muscle cars and Heather Thomas as we listened to tape cassettes of Megadeth and Dio.
Plagues of Babylon is scheduled for release on Tuesday, January 21st, and it will mark the band’s 11th studio album since forming in 1985. (Century Media announced that 500 hand-numbered, bootleg copies of the LP are available today, Jan. 14 at select record stores.) Guitarist and song writer, Jon Schaffer, has been with the band since the very beginning, and that early day influence is ever-present in the music.
Today, metal plays in an underground environment and has more in common with college radio than Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Countdown. But, speak to anyone in heavy metal, and he or she is likely to reminisce over the heyday of the 80s and early 90s, when the genre had a voice on MTV, and shared play time across the nation’s Top 40 stations. Iced Earth retains the very signature of what made the sound so popular back then: Melodic lyrics, precision guitar play, epic solos – all of which seem to be forgotten in today’s core mentality.
Plagues of Babylon is the follow up to the band’s 2011 album Dystopia, and is the first to feature both bassist Luke Appleton and drummer Raphael Saini.
Saini puts on a textbook display of how to play drums, which his abilities seem to shine the most on the CD’s fifth track, “Resistance”, where the song transitions between classic, military marching style to a full-out, heavy metal solo.
Frontman Stu Block returns as the band’s lead vocalist, after making his debut under Dystopia. His succinct delivery of each lyric, with an embellishment you’d come to recognize, perfectly compliments the overall sound of the band.
As mentioned before, Iced Earth has a sound that now contrasts with the contemporary scene, and that is defined mainly due to the band’s two guitarists. Schaffer and Appleton do not thrash, but play precisely and cleanly. And, of course, I welcome the always appropriate guitar solo. “Cthulhu” (not to be confused with Metallica), was a quick favorite because of all these reasons.
Iced Earth has amassed a strong following over the nearly 30 years of their collective lives. Those souls are destined to purchase the album next week; however, for those of you not familiar, or are just getting into the music, you are obligated to listen. Whether you’re of Generation X or younger, Plagues of Babylon is the very definition of heavy metal.
Iced Earth is to launch a two-month, North American tour in April, along with Sabaton and Revamp; details are below.
04: Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
05: Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
06: Chicago, IL – House Of Blues
07: Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
09: Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
10: Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall
11: Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom
12: Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
14: Toronto, ONT – Phoenix Concert Theatre
15: Quebec City, QC – Imperial Theater
16: Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre
17: Philadelphia, PA – The Trocadero
18: New York, NY – Best Buy Theater
19: Worcester, MA – The Palladium
21: West Springfield, VA – Empire