Review Summary: Straightforward and inferior, but an enjoyable album nonetheless.
Generally speaking, Iron Maiden fans cringe at any mentioning of No Prayer for the Dying
. If the X albums aren't shortcomings in themselves, then clearly the aforementioned is. After all, what does the album truly have going for it? The songs are basic and almost completely uninteresting, Dickinson lacks the passionate singing he normally exhibits and the lyrics hit an all-time low for the band. However, if there's anything an album can muster to save itself from utter infamy, it would be just how good the music sounds. And for this album and listener, that happens to be perfectly adequate.
Opening track "Tailgunner" alone shows that this is a huge divergence from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
. Longer and more intricate song structures have all but been abandoned along with the band's usual power metal sound in exchange for a simple heavy metal experiment. Even the longest and closing track (usually an indication of excellence for the band), "Mother Russia," falls short of this standard being only five and a half minutes long with unimposing results. Indeed, going directly from what is arguably the band's best studio effort to this can be hard to swallow given the shift.
There are some bands, however, who manage to make their songs (usually) work just by making them sound good or giving them an entertaining vibe. While "fun" and "upbeat" might not be the most immediate terms to come to mind when thinking of Maiden tracks and themes, this doesn't mean the band is restricted to such expectations. As a mother tells their child "you won’t know if you’ll like it or not until you try it," I feel a band can only know whether or not they should tackle a sound or style until they actually do so. Technically speaking, No Prayer for the Dying
was intended as a return to the band's roots a la Iron Maiden
. But the reality is that this album has more in-common with a Judas Priest release, if anything.
Admittedly, this take on traditional metal is far from what the band have put out previously (and subsequently). However, this doesn't deter from the fact that there is some enjoyable material present. "Public Enema Number One," despite its title, is a surprisingly fun track once past the intro; with enough charisma from the guitar playing alone giving it some points. Speaking of guitar playing, there are some nice solo moments to be found by the always great Dave Murray and Janick Gers. Another aspect to the album, which has been frequently noted, is Dickinson's change of vocal style. Instead of his more customary singing voice, raspier vocals made their way out to dominate this record. Although this is definitely a noticeable trait, I myself was not bothered by it since, ultimately, it's still the Bruce I know and enjoy hearing. The rugged style isn't preferred, but it's not detrimental.
No Prayer for the Dying
is an interesting release to look at, both in regards to the band and for myself as an aspiring entertainment critic. It might live almost entirely in the shadow of the rest of the band's material, but it's far from horrible or even bad. I’ll say I enjoy most of the material here more than all but a few tracks off its immediate successor and even parts from The Number of the Beast
(*gulp*). Regardless, this is an obviously flawed album, but it's one that I can kick back and enjoy for having a relatively easygoing sound.