Although Iced Earth are veterans of the metal genre, Plagues of Babylon is the first time I've stumbled across them. There's often a dearth of releases in the first few months of the year, and so sometimes you notice stuff you otherwise wouldn't have.
Recent years have seen old-school acts like Testament and Overkill produce some of the best material of their careers. It hasn't been a fluke in either case. Testament followed up the relentless aggression of The Formation of Damnation with the powerful and melodic Dark Roots of Earth. Overkill had the progressive heaviness of Ironbound and then the full-on energy of The Electric Age.
However, the unfortunate thing about Plagues of Babylon is that even without prior experience of this band, to me it just sounds like a seasoned act going through the motions. It's a solid enough metal record, it just doesn't have anything to get particularly excited about. It's exactly what you'd expect to hear from a band described as heavy metal with power and thrash influences. Even one of its better moments, Among the Living Dead, pales in comparison to Anthrax's Fight Em Till You Can't in the recent-thrash-metal-songs-about-zombies stakes. And while Cthulhu is also one of the highlights, it's certainly not the best thrash metal song with that name and god knows there have been a few.
Democide, and The End? both show the sort of promise that would've made for a good album if it could have been sustained across the rest of the tracks - incorporating progressive elements and some good dynamic shifts. The problem is that the four tracks I've named are really all this album has to recommend it and the rest is largely filler.
Most likely this is one for fans of the band only. Solid enough, just not really anything amazing.