Tampa-based metal band Iced Earth started 2014 off right when it released its 11th studio album, “Plagues of Babylon.”
“Plagues” sees the band’s one consistent member, rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist Jon Schaffer, lead the way on an uncompromising album embodied by tales of death, disease and a one-for-all attitude.
One look at the album cover might cause the casual listener to run for the hills screaming, while diehard fans will want to hear what they had just seen at deafening volumes through their speakers.
“Plagues” starts with a seven-minute opener that slowly builds from heart-paced rhythm accompanied by harmonic guitar before ascending into a metal storm. The complex musical structure, operatic vocals and sonic assault of screaming guitar solos are well defined and perfected throughout “Plagues,” not to mention plenty of melody.
Other standout tracks on the album include “The End?,” “Democide,” “Among The Living Dead” and “Peacemaker.” These songs, along with every track on “Plagues,” are what define a heavy metal record: an intense emphasis on volume, distortion and a complex rhythm section.
The slow, half-acoustic ballad “If I Could See You” does nothing to abate the power this album unleashes in the first half before neatly continuing on into “Cthulu,” which builds up to a neck-breaking tempo.
The album is also notable for its two covers, “Spirit of the Times,” originally performed by Sons of Liberty, and “Highwayman,” a Jimmy Webb classic.
Despite the musicianship of “Plagues,” don’t expect to hear any of it on commercial radio stations any time soon. This album is definitely a must-have for any metal head, or perhaps anyone who is sick of hearing Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber every three minutes.