Review Summary: Surprisingly excellent album considering how recent it is. I was expecting Iron Maiden's musical quality to have severly declined over the years. I was a fool to think so...Iron Maiden
Dance Of Death
The Band: Bruce Dickinson- Lead vocals
Dave Murray- Guitar
Janick Gers- Guitar
Adrian Smith- Guitar, backing vocals
Steve Harris- Bass, keyboard, backing vocals
Nicko McBrain- Drums
are on of the most well known and respected bands in the world of metal. After releasing their self titled album in 1981, Maiden became one of the leading proponents of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal
along side bands like Motorhead, Blitzkrieg, Angel Witch
and so forth. Maiden began to rise in popularity by opening for bands such ass KISS
(Yes, I was also saddened to hear that Maiden opened for those clowns) and the legendary Judas Priest
. From then on the band dove head first into massive heaps of unfathomable success, earning them a legacy paralleled by few other bands in existence. Their list of accomplishments and achievements seems endless. They’ve sold over seventy-million records worldwide, they won the Ivor Novello award for international achievement in 2002, they’ve headlined massive festivals such as “Rock In Rio” and “Ozzfest”, I could go on further but I think you all get the idea. My point is Iron Maiden
But in due time, all legends will fade. History is riddled with examples. Michael Jordan’s comeback, Madonna’s comeback and any of the newer three Star Wars movies. There’s an old saying Nothing gold can stay
and it seems to apply to any and all things. So, you can imagine why I’d be skeptical about listening to this album regardless of Maiden’s reputation. You see, up until a few days ago I was rather unfamiliar with the bands newer works and was only affiliated with their earlier efforts. Thus, before listening to this I was quite worried that they may have strolled down the same path as fellow metal giants Metallica
. In case you haven’t already guessed this by the rating at the top of the page, I was greatly surprised with what I heard. Admittedly, right from the get-go I noticed a few small things. Bruce Dickinson’s voice had a slight nasal pitch that wasn’t present before and where things previously trotted the now seemed to march. However, those small imperfections aside this album is almost parallel the statures of albums like Powerslave
and The Number Of The Beast
. So many great things that I recognize from their past albums are present. Fantastic from all guitarists, the classic clank of Steve’s bass and powerful (though slightly nasal) vocals. There were also some great things that weren’t quite as present in preceding albums. A lot of the vocal melodies seemed catchier and there was an acoustic track. I quite enjoyed these new aspects. In conclusion, after listening to this album I think it’s safe to say Iron Maiden
are aging gracefully.
You may be wondering “After roughly a quarter-century in the music industry, what new lyrical concepts have Maiden embarked upon”". Well, they’re pretty much right where they were two and half decades ago. They aren’t many new lyrical concepts to be seen here, but further exploration of concepts the band had already investigated. A portion of songs seem to be about war. Dickinson has sang of this subject matter before -in songs like Aces High
- but this time he seemed to go into more specifics. The track Paschendale
is about the Battle Of Passchendaele (that’s how it is actually spelled. I guess Bruce screwed up") also known as the Third Battle Of Ypres. It was one of the major battles of World War I. The British, Australians and Canadians fought the Germans for control of the village Passendale. The non-German countries intent was to capture the German’s submarine base. I’m not going to go into anymore detail about that, as the song didn’t really get into the events, or intents of the brawl. It spoke from the perspective of a man in the war. The man is clearly homesick and ends up critically injured, as exemplified by the line: Feel the blood run down my throat
Another lyrical concept that can be found within the album is sort of free-spirit type thing. A good example of this is the acoustic track Journeymen
. Bruce has said that the song is supposed to be about the process of songwriting and being a musician, but the lyrics seem to be more about appreciating life and living it to the fullest. For example, take this line from the song: I do what I want, I say what I want and no one can take it away
. This lyrical idea is seconded by the track Wildest Dreams
. It too seems to embody the idea of living life to the fullest, as can be seen with lines like: I’m on my way, out on my own again, I’m on my way, I’m gonna break away
. Clearly, neither of the lyrical ideas I mentioned are original. In fact, they’re extremely overdone. Although, the passion within Bruce’s seems to mask the cookie cutter, basic lyrics. Besides no one listens to metal for the lyrics anyways, right"
Now, let’s move on to the instrumentals. Starting with the guitar. As I inferred earlier it’s not as frantic as it used to be, but this slow in pace gave the album a melodic feel that I rather enjoyed. A keen exemplar of this is definitely the intro to The Age Of Innocence
. It, like several other tracks contained in the album, was harmonious a sort of quite, delicate ambiance. This aspect was a more than welcome addition to Maiden’s already powerful arsenal. That being said, don’t think this album didn’t have its powerful side. Dave and Adrian have certainly aged since the early days, but listening to this album you wouldn’t know it. Many tracks possess the same youthful buoyancy that the guitarists had when they had not yet seen the mark of middle age. Take as an example the intro in New Frontier
. While being on the simple side it has excellent presence and is well harmonized. There’s one other riff I feel compelled to mention; the intro riff to [/i]Paschendale[/i]. It falls under that category of melodic, but can’t really be compared to any of the others riffs on the album. It’s sort of a descending scale, tapping… thing. I’ve never heard anything else like it from this band, or any other band. It really set the tone for that song, which in its entirety was pretty epic. Moving right along let’s talk about the solos. They were, much like everything else in this album, phenomenal. Most were an even blend of scales and bends, giving them a sort of thrash-y feel while adding an emotional atmosphere to some songs. One thing I’ve always loved about this band is that the guitarists share the solos. Why am I so fond of this aspect" Well, because of the fact that both guitarists solo, there are more solos. In fact, they’re usually back to back. This constant array of duels makes each song a pleasure to listen to. In case you’re wondering, neither guitarist seems to be better than the other. They’re about even.
I was slightly disappointed with the showing from the bass. It was still audible, but didn’t have the presence it used to. This didn’t really make the listening experience any less enjoyable, but it didn’t enhance my enjoyment either. Anywho, the bass parts were all quite well written with the exception of a few that just played root notes. The main thing I liked about the bass, however, not what it was playing but how it sounded while playing it. Steve Harris’s tone is spectacular. I don’t think I can describe it any better than I did earlier; clanking. Said clanking is due, mostly, to Steve’s playing style. He plays with his fingers and not a pick. That, combined with his amp settings provide the clank. I’ve always had great respect for bassists who play with their fingers. I’m not sure why, but as a former bassist, using a pick seems almost like cheating.
Onto the vocals. As I mentioned they were a tad nasally. The nasal tone really wasn’t that noticeable, however. For the most part all I noticed was how extremely powerful Bruce’s voice is. The best example of this is the chorus in Paschendale
. The passion and strength in his voice is astounding. That’s just one example mind you. There are countless other examples scattered about the album. Overall, I’d say the vocals were the largest contributor to giving the album an emotional atmosphere.
Last, I’d like to talk about consistency. If an album has tracks that peril in comparison to other it can be difficult to listen through the entire album. Thankfully, this factor did not at all effect this album. Some tracks were
better than others, but none blew all the rest away or anything. Furthermore, all of were superb quality. If some songs would have been of lower quality it could have been somewhat tedious due to the album’s slower melodic parts. Luckily, this didn’t become a negative factor.
More melodic flair than usual
Acoustic track was a refreshing finish
Vocals were nasally at times
Bass could’ve been turned up some