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Additional personnel: Jon Schaffer, Russell Allen, Michael Poulsen and Hansi Kürsch (additional vocals), Troy Seele (additional guitars). Touring lineup includes Luke Appleton (bass).
The 11th full length studio effort from Jon Schaffer's Iced Earth and with this release we're not really offered any groundbreaking things or any significant changes from the band's past work. The guitar play is accurate and awesome with its heavy and stylish riffs and elegant licks, just the way we're used to when it comes to Schaffer. Perhaps a little too typical or identical for him, since you can hear many similarities in his type of playing, which necessarily don't have to be negative, because after all Iced Earth never represented anything else than pure, chomping and pompous heavy metal.
Even if he does himself most justice as an artist on stage, lead vocalist Stu Block's voice is indeed suitable for the band. He attacks the lines with a charging appearance and he hits the notes to fulfill his duties, as a compliment to the band's compact sound. To me, Jon Dette's drum play is pulsating, round and striking with a touch that buries itself deep within and I believe Schaffer has made an excellent choice when recruiting his new kick-ass drummer.
Plagues Of Babylon contains a six track concept section and four separate songs, before finishing off with a re-worked version of the title track off Schaffer's Sons Of Liberty EP Spirit Of The Times and a cool cover of Highwayman with a few invited guest vocalists. A twenty-five second outro closes this record and that part definitely amuses the band more than the listeners, namely you and I.
Basically I think this album is a good one with songs pumping on a high level, but it lacks those smashing, infernal and decisive moments that set me in a state of enchantment. I don't know how many times I've listened to these sixty-two minutes, but it's more than thirty for sure. It was a long time ago I devoted myself to this kind of excessive listening to make an album rise to a highly satisfactory point and to be totally honest, the last twenty times haven't made the album improve from what I thought already was good.
We end up with a much valid outcome where I find the somewhat different track and cool approaching Peacemaker and the typical Iced Earth songs The Culling, The End? and Cthulhu as the album's absolute strongest moments. Iced Earth fans will most definitely recognize the band's efforts and perhaps also pick up this record's solid appearance with a strong passion.