By Jason Wellwood
Apparently Dystopia was a hard act to follow for Jon Schaffer and company if the reviews I’ve seen are to be believed. And I can believe it: Dystopia was a solid album and featured some of the best songs and performances from Iced Earth in over a decade. However, that shouldn’t overshadow what the band has created on Plagues of Babylon, which is a dark, almost nasty feeling album. This second outing to feature the vocals of Stu Block finds the singer even more comfortable in his role. From his powerful straight-up vocal to his animal-like roar and his falsetto, Block owns this record and fits his vocal to what each angry, cruel-feeling song needs. Unfortunately, songs are really the problem here. While “Plagues of Babylon” and “Democide” are incredible, classic sounding tracks, “Among The Living Dead” and “Resistance” just don’t live up to the predecessors and spoil the feel of the album a little (despite the background vocal talents of the awesome Hansi Kursch). The album follows an up and down unevenness until the end where “Parasite” ends off strong, but then (on the deluxe edition) it runs into some ill-chosen, ill-fitting covers. Those, combined with the profanity-filled giggle fest of “Outro” really end the album with a fizzle.
As I said, it’s the songs that are the problem here, not the performances, as each member of the band turns in some stellar work. It just doesn’t make up for weak songs.