More than three weeks ahead of its Jan. 21 North American release date, Iced Earth's album 'Plagues of Babylon' is available for streaming via Spotify (listen below). It's the follow-up to 2011's 'Dystopia.'

"This album is a bit more epic compared to 'Dystopia,'" says guitarist/composer Jon Schaffer, who also produced the album. "When I was working on the 'Dystopia' stuff I just felt that was the way to go, and I don't think 'Plagues of Babylon' is far off from that. I think this album has a couple more songs that are a bit more epic in terms of the writing. One of the things I wanted to do was make it heavier and give it a live feel. I wanted to make sure it wasn't overproduced."

Schaffer continues, "I got really good takes out of everybody but I wasn't so anal as to make sure that everything was 100% perfectly in tune and perfectly on time. I really wanted to capture the essence and energy of a band that has been touring its ass off. I think I accomplished that from a production standpoint."

'Plagues of Babylon' is the second Iced Earth album for vocalist Stu Block. "I felt more relaxed this time out because I'm not the new kid anymore," says Block. "When we first started writing 'Dystopia' I felt a bit nervous, but with this second record for me, both Jon and I knew what to expect from each other."

Iced Earth will be embarking on a North American headlining tour in April, with supporting bands Sabaton and Revamp.

Listen to Iced Earth - 'Plagues of Babylon' [via Spotify]: