Review Summary: Iron Maiden kick off the new millennium with their best album in more than a decade.Iron Maiden
Brave New World
It was the dawn of a new millennium. There could be no better time for a band to turn over a new leaf, begin a new chapter of their career. Iron Maiden were swift to seize this opportunity. Going into this new era of music I don’t think anyone was quite sure what to expect. The age of grunge was fading away and it was unclear what new trends would be spawned, what bands would explode onto the scene, or really what was going to happen in general. But even in this stage of uncertainty I don’t think anyone could have guessed that Iron Maiden were about to make a major comeback…
Maiden’s twelfth studio album, suitably entitled, Brave New World
marked the return of lead singer, Bruce Dickinson and guitarist, Adrian Smith. It immediately hit home with fans because after a decade of inferior releases the band finally managed recapture the sound they had going in the 80’s. Naturally, it doesn’t fully embody the atmosphere they had going in the 80’s, however. There are some obvious changes, most noteworthy points being the addition of clean tone and the slowed pace. Regardless, this album firmly represents many of the features that made Maiden so popular in the first place; Excellent riffs, dueling solos, the unwavering presence of Steve Harris’s bass work and of course Bruce Dickinson’s powerful, melodious vocals. Indeed, it’s rare a band manages to successfully recapture the essence of their early works, but Maiden have done so here.
However, this album didn’t have a whole lot to offer in a lyrical sense. Dickinson’s voice may have held up well over the years, but his lyric writing ability has decreased significantly. Uninspired would be the best word for it. The track Out Of The Silent Planet
is actually based sci-fi flick “The Forbidden Planet”. The lyrics don’t coincide perfectly with the movie, but pretty much the same idea. In a nutshell, aliens destroy their home planet, so they some to take over ours. The rest of the album’s lyrics run in the same farfetched vein. There’s a lot of assorted talk involving death, demons, mythological creatures of sorts. Pretty much a lot of short stories that wouldn’t seem too out of place in a book of Greek myths.
Fortunately, where the lyrics failed to deliver the instrumentals picked up the slack. The guitar work in particular was top notch. I was quite impressed with the quality of riffs displayed throughout the album. The intro riff to Out Of The Silent Planet
is a great example of this. It was more melodic than most other riffs in the album, but fantastic none the less. Some sort of FX were used that gave it a sci-fi feel, suiting the song perfectly. Much like the riffs, this album had splendid rhythm guitar work. Perhaps the best I’ve heard from Maiden. This is most likely due the addition of a third guitarist. Adding a third guitarist gave the rhythm guitar work much more presence and allowed for more complex progressions to be written. Another stupendous aspect of the guitar work was the diversity. In the early days hearing clean toned guitar grace your speakers was a rarity. In this album it is evident in almost every track. Check out the intro to Ghost Of The Navigator
for a good example of this. The addition of clean tone played a big role in assuring that songs didn’t sound same-y. I’ve mentioned a couple of times already that this is Maiden’s first album with a third guitarist. So, you’re probably wondering what effect this had on the solo department. Honestly, it didn’t really have much impact on them. That’s not to say they weren’t great, however. Certainly parallel to stuff from the earlier days. Most were an even blend of varied scales and bends. Some wah was used in select tracks. On top of all that, there was a lot of dueling as well. For the best example of this listen to the title track Brave New World
Not to be outdone by the three guitarists, Steve Harris put forth a great effort too. The vast majority of his bass work was exceptionally well written, although at times it wasn’t. There were times when Steve just played root notes, but this didn’t bother me in the least. Why? Well, partially because whether or not the bass plays root notes has little effect on how the album sounds, but mostly because of how marvelous the bass sounded regardless of what he was playing. Harris definitely has the most enjoyable tone I’ve ever heard anyone get out of a bass. It has this sort of metallic clank to it that really makes songs gallop. A prime example of this is the intro to The Thin Line Between Love And Hate
. In that track (like in all others) the bass is really easy to hear. This was great, as usually bass’s audibility is an issue for me. Like the guitar, the bass also had its softer points. This helped add to the album’s melodious atmosphere. To hear said melodic bass, listen to Blood Brothers
Bruce Dickinson was perhaps the greatest contributor to the album’s atmosphere. His tendency to stretch out notes in the choruses was the chief contributor to the album’s melodious ambiance. I’ve always enjoyed Bruce’s voice, but I think he was at his best here. In the early days his voice wasn’t quite fully developed, so he’d briefly wander out of key on occasion. But, in albums released after this Bruce’s voice begins to become a tad nasal. This album was Bruce’s pinnacle, in terms of vocals. The power and passion in his voice was quite moving (even despite the lyrics meaning nothing). Listen to chorus in The Wicker Man
for evidence of this.
One this that bothered me about this album, was the bad choice of song length. Some songs should have been longer, some shorter. Dream Of Mirrors
was one the tracks that stretched on for too long. It was a solid song, one of the weaker in comparison to others, but still quite good. However, it wasn’t so good that it needed to be an excess of nine minutes. At the same time some of the songs highlight tracks were too short. Wickerman
was indisputably the album’s best track, but it wasn’t even five minutes long. I would’ve liked to see that stretched out to about six and a half minutes. All that being sad, at least there wasn’t any filler. Regardless of issues with length all songs met a certain standard.
In conclusion, this is an extremely solid release from Maiden. It was slower paced and not as in your face as their early works, but definitely more diverse. With Bruce Dickinson in his prime, the addition of a third guitarist and the unfaltering presence of Steve Harris’s bass this album is certainly worth checking out.
Dickinson was superb
Third guitar gave the rhythm guitar work more presence
Harris was awesome
Song length issues
Parts of The Nomad were annoying