Review Summary: Aria tires to see how many Iron Maiden riffs they can copy and get away with it.
In the mid-1980’s, Communism started to fall in the Soviet Union, and with the decline of socialism, came the increase of foreign music. In came the cassettes from the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Metallica, introducing the nation to a genre that they had never before heard: heavy metal. With all this new music, Russian musicians did what they did best: plagiarize. Just about every single worthwhile song (metal or not) that entered the country was replicated time and time again (today, the music scene fortunately relies less on imitation). This plagiarism, however, was especially apparent in the metal genre: Metal Corrosion’s death-thrash was more than slightly reminiscent of Slayer, Amatory was a bit too similar to Killswitch Engage, and Aria sounded very much like Iron Maiden. There’s a difference between these three bands, although: Aria is actually good.
It’s undeniable from the very first notes that Aria is made up of skilled musicians: the vocals soar, the guitars scorch, and the bass gallops while the drums provide a steady rhythm. This talent doesn’t, unfortunately, entirely excuse the fact that quite a bit of Playing With Fire
’s best material isn’t very original; in fact, after a few listens, I started to wonder if what I was listening to was actually a well-veiled cover album. Certain portions of the album were incredibly addicting, such as The Battle Continues’ main riff and the title track melodic acoustic interlude, but when revisiting Iron Maiden’s discography, it became evident that the former was lifted from Deja Vu , while the latter could be found in To Tame A Land.
This copying is especially annoying because it is entirely superfluous: even without it, Playing With Fire
would be filled with enough interesting material to justify the listener’s attention, but, as it stands, one can’t help getting the impression that the band imitates in order to mask their (inexistent) songwriting deficiencies. What separates Aria from the other plagiarizers is that Aria actually manages to reach the level of their role models. Aside from the relatively tepid, though still good, To Shake The World, any song from this album could have found it’s way onto Iron Maiden’s best albums, and if the title track had been written by Dickinson and co, it would have had the potential to reach the same level of acclaim as the likes of Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner.
And so here we have an interesting dilemma: what should one think of Playing With Fire
? On the one hand, the album is written and performed excellently, and Aria was largely responsible for teaching the USSR’s youth about heavy metal, and is therefore one of Russia’s most important bands. On the other, the album can be seen as nothing more than Iron Maiden worship (with four or five riffs crossing the line into Iron Maiden plagiarism). Iron Maiden worship this may be, but it’s Iron Maiden worship at its finest.
Playing With Fire
The Battle Continues
What Happened To Your Dreams