I have never been that big a fan of Iced Earth. Every time I heard them, I enjoyed it but it never really grabbed me. Their brand of traditional metal has always been well executed and main man/guitarist Jon Schaffer seems like a cool guy. I remember reading interviews over his frustrations of being a metal band with Korn and Limp Bizkit being called “metal”. He wasn’t bitter or angry just adamant about his love for metal. Plus he’s a history geek and as a history major myself, GO COOGS!, I have to appreciate that.
Regardless of my previous indifference, Iced Earth has returned with a new offering in Plagues of Babylon. It is chock full of what has brought them this far, good ole metal and some above average lyrics. The title track starts us off with galloping guitars and some tasty duel playing between Schaffer and lead guitarist Troy Seele. With a lyrical theme that continues from the “Something Wicked” album, it tales a lovely tale of the ruling class suppressing the masses by unleashing deadly viruses. Several of the songs convey a deep hatred for the way society has gone but is done in such an open ended way that it allows the listener to draw on their own feelings.
The conveyor of said lyrics is vocalist Stu Block . His voice is pretty nondescript and average. He has a touch of gruffness but it is almost always mid-tone. He doesn’t get really high and subsequently his sound gets swallowed up by the music. And it’s not a mixing problem as the album sounds terrific. To be fair, on “Cthulu” and “Spirit of the Times” he sounds awesome. Those two tracks do have a ballad feel, “Cthulu” end up pretty heavy though, and his softer delivery works perfectly. Hansi Kursch takes the mic on “Among The Living” but you can’t really tell. I didn’t know it till I read the notes. Most surprisingly, Jon Schaffer takes his turn on the just as surprising cover of “Highwayman”. Cool idea but to “metal” that song up comes across as silly.
Plagues of Babylon is not a bad album. Good writing, great playing, terrific production, passable singing, but it just seems eh. I know that Iced Earth is a popular band but it just doesn’t click with me for some reason. I want to like them but just don’t.
It’s like a George Costanza break-up, its not you it’s me.
Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space