Stu Block is the lead singer of the heavy metal band Iced Earth. The group is set to release their 11th studio album via Century Media titled “Plagues of Babylon” in January and will be hitting the roads here in the States starting in April. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Stu about the creation of the new album, its guest performers and how it fits in to the “Something Wicked” saga, An ongoing story spanning the groups last few albums.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the new album?
Stu Block: This album is a pretty dark and heavy album. The first half has sort of a concept that follows a zombie apocalypse type story while the other half of the album features more standalone songs. It kind of reminds me of an old Rush record where you get half concept and half standalone material. There is something for everybody on this record and it takes the listener on an emotional rollercoaster. We are really proud of this record.
AL: Where does the concept portion of the new record fit in with the “Something Wicked” saga?
SB: That really is those first six songs. You can take any period in time or history and apply it to the “Something Wicked” universe. This is something people can really read in to and we are very aware of that.
AL: Did the 3 year gap between this album and the previous affect the creative process at all?
SB: No not at all. Our creative process has always been the same. Jon and I have good creativity together and we both had input towards the record. Jon keeps his big toe on this type of thing because there is a standard for Iced Earth records and he is the man with the vision. Both this album and the previous one are really great heavy metal albums that were very proud of.
AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest appearances on the album?
SB: The song “Highwayman” was an awesome thing to do and it was really a lot of fun. We were able to do that song with some of our best friends. Russell Allen is a vocalist who I have looked up to for many years and we became friends through touring together so that brotherhood was something that was already in place. We also had Michael Poulsen of Volbeat who we just finished a tour with and have all become friends with. This song was sort of a brain child of Jon’s and it’s been a song he has been mentioning wanting to cover for a few years now. Everything worked to where we could finally get it done and it turned out great. I think this song shows the uniqueness of everyone’s voice. We also had Hansi Kursch from the band Blind Guardian and Demons and Wizards sing on a track as well. He and Jon have been friends for a really long time and for me it was an honor to get to sing along side of him. Hansi is a really great guy to be around.
AL: The album is going to be released in a number of different formats. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
SB: I know the album has been mastered in a couple different formats. One of those will be a vinyl format with no compression. I can’t wait to hear that version as I hear it sounds amazing. These different mixes are something that people will really enjoy. There is a mix for people who listen to their music on ear buds and there is a mix for people with high end stereos and then the vinyl format as well. There is a box set that is going to be available also which includes an hour long DVD and some other really cool things that I think fans will like.
AL: Can you tell us about the tour which was announced recently?
SB: This tour is going to be a long one. We are currently rehearsing for the tour as we speak. We start in January over in Europe and from there head to Australia and New Zealand. From there I believe we will be hitting Canada and the United States before heading down to South America. For all the dates fans can go to www.icedearth.com .
AL: You mentioned that you are rehearsing for the tour as we speak. How does the band go about selecting which songs will make it into the set list?
SB: It’s funny that you ask that because this last set was something that came out of our tour with Volbeat. Michael is such a big fan that towards the end of the tour he handed Jon a list of songs he wanted us to do on the next tour. I think the list had almost 40 songs on it. We narrowed it down to around 20 or 25 with some of them being songs we have done before and some of them we hadn’t done before. The set list for this upcoming tour kind of came from Michael. (Laughs) Generally Jon and Luke our bass player put the set lists together and if there is a song I want to do that gets throw in as well. I am excited as there is some really cool stuff we are going to be doing on this run.