Nothing lasts forever. Anybody can tell you that. Just look back on history. Mighty empires rise and fall. Relationships begin and end. Seasons come and go. Prosperity soon turns to recession, which eventually reverts back to prosperity again. Human life is conceived and then disappears just as quickly as it came. In music, you have fad after fad after fad, discarded just as quickly as it is picked up. Nobody can escape this cycle, not even Iron Maiden. Seemingly on top of the metal world for the better part of ten years, the band was dealt a powerful blow when vocalist Bruce Dickinson left to pursue other interests in 1992. Over the next five years, Bruce would be a busy little singer, releasing 6 albums, 4 of them being studio albums. Attempting to distance himself from the band that made him so famous, or maybe just to try something new, Dickinson's first two albums after leaving the band were not in the same vein as Maiden's music, but more of the an experimental direction. But with 1997's Accident of Birth that all changed. Bruce joined forces with his buddies, Adrian Smith and Roy Z, and recorded one of his best efforts in years.
Accident of Birth has Bruce returning to the sound that fans were familiar with. Traditional heavy metal. However, this isn't a carbon copy of The Number of the Beast or Powerslave. No, with Accident of Birth Bruce goes with a heavier, chunkier sound. The opener, The Freak, is a perfect example of this direction. An aggressive, fast paced riff sets the mood, and when Bruce's familiar voice enters the mix, all hell breaks out. In a good way, of course. The intensity of the opener carries on and on throughout the album. The album's heavy feel is very satisfying, and definitely fills that void left by Maiden during the 90's (Not to say that The X-Factor or Virtual XI were bad, just not elite). Aside from the awkward sounding 9th track, The Magician, Accident of Birth is a very well written album which flows very well. Very rarely do any of the band members feel out of place. Musically, Bruce Dickinson definitely kicks things up a notch.
As this is Bruce's solo project, he is obviously the focus of the album. The Air Raid Siren does not fail in this role. Unlike his last two albums with Maiden, Bruce Dickinson sounds fantastic on Accident of Birth. The rough, scratchy vocals are nowhere to be found. Instead we have the familiar operatic style that he put to very good use throughout the 80's. While listening to the opening moments of The Freak, listeners may not recognize the album as one of Bruce's works, as it is much heavier than anything the man had written at that point in time, but with his memorable vocals, even those not totally familiar with his time with Maiden will recognize his unique screams and wails found here. Much like the musical aspect of the album, Bruce's vocals are top notch. Easily his best performance in years.
The only complaint I have with this album is the tone on the guitars. Yes, not a very major issue, but still important none the less. At times the down tuned (Am I right?) guitars sound slightly muddy at times. Adrian Smith's project, Psycho Motel has the same issues. Aside from Road to Hell, these tracks don't have that Maiden-ish feel in the guitars. Like I said, not that big of a deal, but it's a pet peeve of mine.
Bruce Dickinson's album is a very well crafted piece of music. Listening to it, there is virtually nothing to be disappointed with, save for The Magician. Superb song writing is evident in tracks such as Man of Sorrows and the title track. Throughout the album's nearly hour long run time, Bruce Dickinson shows listeners why he was such an important part of the musical machine that was 80's Iron Maiden: Excellent riffige. Deep, well thought out lyrics. Soaring vocals. There isn't really much wrong with Accident of Birth. Except the cover anyways. Bruce is weird…
Road to Hell
Man of Sorrows
Accident of Birth