Review Summary: Iron Maiden sells out.
After dabbling with synths and proggy metal, No Prayer for the Dying
was supposed to be a return to Iron Maiden's grittier, punk influenced NWOBHM roots. But somewhere along the way the band seems to have lost focus, and rather than the straightforward metal ala Iron Maiden
that was promised, we get an agglomeration of 80s hard rock, and tepid Number of the Beast
The disappointing jaunt towards a dying breed of rock more suited to the AC/DCs and Def Leppards of the world is hardly No Prayer for the Dying
's greatest flaw, however. After all, Scorpions did have a decent enough record in Love at First Sting
, did they not? The record features a drop in the song writing quality, which itself seems inevitable given that it's the band's eighth album in ten years, but when the fall is at Avenged Sevenfold level proportions, there's hardly an excuse. "Tailgunner" is as average as Iron Maiden gets, recycling worn-out melodies and riffs. The song's central harmony is nauseatingly happy sounding and just isn't very much fun to listen to; a trait I don't often associate with an Iron Maiden song. Hit singles "Holy Smoke" and "Bring Your Daughter…To the Slaughter" are even worse offerings, the former emulating the goofy "Tailgunner" riff, while the latter suffers from the sterile hard rock grooves that dominate its build. Both songs are among Iron Maiden's weakest, only surpassed by the downright awful "From Here to Eternity", "Chains of Misery", and "Angel and the Gambler", later heard on Fear of the Dark
and Virtual XI
. Though perhaps not as outwardly exasperating, "Hooks in You" and "Public Enema Number One" are also plagued by lethargic chord progressions and generic soundscapes, which renders them rather unimaginative and uninteresting.
If the half-assed song writing wasn't bad enough, Bruce Dickinson takes a leaf out of Brian Johnson's vocal technique. Gone, for the most part, is the operatic singing style which soared through the likes of "Aces High" and "The Trooper". Instead his voice sounds scratchy and raspy, void of the qualities which made him one such a force to begin with. That isn't to say that Dickinson has abandoned his former style completely; in the chorus of "The Assassin" he lets loose a few wails, and in "Mother Russia" and the title track he actually sings. That those three songs are No Prayer for the Dying
's highlights is hardly coincidental; Dickinson's voice is grating enough to singlehandedly ruin halfway decent compositions, which he happens to do in Dave Murray's "Fates Warning" and Steve Harris' "Run Silent Run Deep".
Ultimately, though, it's a joint failure on Iron Maiden's part. Like the zombie Eddie that adorns the album's cover - stripped of the additions that came on previous covers – No Prayer for the Dying
is a plain, listless record that never really gets itself going. Though the album's worst tracks aren't as bad as the stinkers on Fear of the Dark
, at the same time, its best songs don't hold a candle to the likes of "Judas Be My Guide", "Wasting Love", or "Fear of the Dark" either. As such, No Prayer for the Dying
is Iron Maiden's most forgettable release overall; unless you're a completist with money to spend, it's best just to avoid this.