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"Dance of Death" is the 13th studio album by British heavy metal giants, Iron Maiden. It was released in 2003 on the EMI label and produced by Steve Harris & Kevin Shirley. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Janick Gers (guitar), Adrian Smith (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums).
As the follow-up to 2000's "Brave New World", Iron Maiden needed this album to be a big hit with the heavy metal listeners. The album cover once again features Eddie the Head dressed as the Grim Reaper, surrounded by strange people and creatures at what appears to be a ball. The album reached No.2 on the UK album charts and spawned two singles. "Wildest Dreams" peaked at No.6 in the UK, and "Rainmaker" entered at No.13. This was Iron Maiden's 13th album to come out of the studio; a number which is synonymous with bad luck. Was it unlucky for Maiden? Let's find out!
"Wildest Dreams" gets things off to a nervous start. Although it's a fast-paced song with a neat little guitar riff and hook in the pre-chorus, the chorus itself is dull and laborious. The song is catchy enough and is a good rocking number, but it's a little basic if I'm honest. Its one true saviour is a lightning quick solo that smacks of old school Maiden. So I guess the problem I have with it is the lyrics. Everything else sounds really good. Adrian Smith commented, "It's a very immediate, very instant and very in your face song. It's not one of our 9 minute jobs so it fits in well with our older, classic stuff which is why we chose to play it on the Give Me 'Ed festival tour. At the very first show we played, even by the second verse people were trying to sing along to words they'd never even heard before. But by the end of it loads more had learned the chorus and were singing too - for me that's the true sign of a great song."
"Rainmaker" opens up with a killer riff that I absolutely love, and for that alone it quickly became one my favourite songs off the album. It's the shortest song on the album and Bruce's vocals sound the business here as he gives it the beans. The harmony is a little like "Deja-Vu" from the band's 1986 offering, "Somewhere in Time", and I have no problem at all with that because it sounds right to do it. The chorus slightly lets the song down, but not enough to stop me calling it a good track. Dave Murray said "I had a few riffs and some chord progressions all worked out and then Steve added some melodies to it before Bruce wrote the lyrics. I remember Bruce saying in the rehearsal studio one day that the intro riffs inspired him to think of raindrops and that's where the rainmaker concept sprung from. In fact, you could almost see the light bulb going on in his head as he thought about it - it was very inspiring."
"No More Lies" turns full circle and gives us a taste of what Maiden was trying to accomplish on the previous album, with a dark and moody song that is quite lengthy. And again, there's something here that I have a problem with and have had a problem with for some time with Iron Maiden. The choruses just aren't good enough as far as lyrics go. It's almost as if the band puts every effort into everything else and then thinks "yeah, let's repeat one line on the chorus over and over. That's what the fans want to hear." Well sorry guys, that's really not what we want to hear. But where it lacks, it makes up in the amazing solo work from the guitarists which has classic Iron Maiden written all over it, and it's pretty easy for the trained ear to tell which guitarist plays which solo. Steve Harris noted, "This sounded amazing even in rehearsals for the album, so I think we all understood that it would be a strong live song - it's quite moody, like me! This isn't something I've mentioned often because people tend to get the wrong idea, but it has a lot to do with the Last Supper. It's also as if Jesus was going to make a comeback tomorrow and what that might have meant for him as an individual. I'm not religious at all but I do believe that people think more about stuff like this than they realise. It's something that's in everybody's lives on a day-to-day basis whether they admit it or not."
"Montségur" is a full-blooded Maiden track that means business from the get-go, and sounds like it could belong on the band's 1984 album, "Powerslave". It's heavy and raw, and it has all the ingredients of a really great Iron Maiden song. The perfect combination between the bass and guitars is ever-present here and that's something which has been missing from many a Maiden song since 1990. Sometimes a band seems to overdo things and sometimes a band seems to stick with what seems natural. Maiden went that extra mile for so long searching for something different that they'd forgot what they sounded like, but on this track it's almost as if they've come full circle and said to themselves: "Y'know what, we kinda miss making music like we used to. Let's do that again." This is easily my favourite song on the album. Bruce Dickinson said "Given the nature of Iron Maiden, in terms of sounds that we make and the songs that we do - and we do make a fair old racket when it comes to loud riffs - then songs about medieval battle and massive slaughter are a bit of a given, but really, there is so much great stuff and so many great stories throughout history that you can make parallels within the modern day, particularly when history repeats itself as often as it does, that it makes for some very colourful subject matter. The way I look at it is that if you're going to plunder something for the lyrical basis of a song then at least plunder something that has really happened rather than invent some crass sword and dorkery epic."
"Dance of Death" is a near 9-minute song that starts off acoustically in a slow build-up that Iron Maiden seems to like on a lot of long tracks. There's nothing wrong with this if you like that sort of thing, but it sounds too much like the same old that we've heard time and time again from Maiden when the songs are long. In fact, it actually sounds like the same intro to "Fear of the Dark", now I come to think of it, but in terms of brilliance, it's nowhere near what its counterpart was. The chorus is excellent, though, with some great guitar playing, especially the hook at the end of the riff. Bruce's vocals are put to the test here and he comes through with flying colours. Janick Gers commented, "The inspiration behind the title track came from a 1950s film called "The Seventh Seal". It's an old black and white Ingmar Bergman film which depicts a knight searching for reasons to live. What struck me was that he was looking around the world for something worth surviving and fighting for, but when the Grim Reaper finally came to claim him, the knight still wanted to survive long enough to find some faith in humanity in this world of plague and wars." Steve Harris also said "I tend to conjure up imagery within my own mind when I write lyrics. A lot of our songs have dark moods and are full of drama and I love all that epic film stuff. When you're searching for inspiration for lyrics, sometimes you do look towards certain sources like films or books and with the type of music that Maiden makes, then the moodier or the darker the subject matter, the better!"
"Gates of Tomorrow" begins with what sounds like a hashed guitar riff off of "From Here to Eternity", a single Maiden released in 1992 which appeared on their album, "Fear of the Dark", which leads into a riff that was once part of a solo from "The Number of the Beast", with the aforementioned playing behind it. Sadly, the song really doesn't have anything going for it and as it's right in the middle of the album, I'm going to assume it's filler. There's no thought gone into this song at all, save for some standard solos that are really good, and I just wish they'd saved them for another song and scrapped this one altogether.
Up next is an Iron Maiden song written by drummer, Nicko McBrain who explains "I had the lyrics and melodies all worked out but I took it to Adrian and we worked on the bridge and chorus together. The most nerve-wracking part was when it came to me playing the melody on the bass for the three guitarists to show them how I felt the song should go. After that, of course, you graduate to having to play it to Steve. He strapped on the black acoustic bass and he's like "go on then, show me what you've done." Then halfway through he asks me if I wanted to play bass on the song when we recorded it." Who said drummers can't write songs? "New Frontier" is a blindingly good tune and I especially like the chorus that has two rhythm guitars playing the main riff with a melodic riff in the forefront. Did Nicko play bass on the song? That's a question I don't know the answer to, but it does sound like Steve Harris.
"Paschendale" is a song that is based on the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917 during World War I, involving offensive manoeuvres by the British, French and Belgians, and with help by other nations against the German Empire. The content is a lot like what Motörhead did for their 1991 album and title track, "1916", but it obviously sounds a lot different. Once again, so often with this album, the lyrics just don't quite match the brilliance of the structure of the music. There are power chords-a-plenty here and some monstrous sounds coming from the drums and bass. While Bruce sings it well, the lyrics almost go by unnoticed because there's no poignancy at all, which is a real shame considering the historical significance of the song. Adrian Smith said "The music almost wrote itself and really suggested the theme for the song. While writing I could hear the different parts echoing the differing parts of a battle; a frantic part had to be about the conflict and another more relaxed section would definitely represent the calm before the storm or a lull before a counter attack. It's classic proggy Maiden territory for sure, but it's an area which I hadn't ever really attempted to write before. People usually associate me with our more commercial material like "Wasted Years" and "2 Minutes to Midnight", but I thought I'd have a go at writing a Maiden epic, and five days later I was still there writing it! I remember going to the library to get lyrical ideas and the very first book I saw was on the battle of Paschendale. The title alone just captured my imagination."
Right from the start, "Face in the Sand" immediately reminds me of the intro to "Blood Brothers" off Maiden's previous album, "Brave New World". As I mentioned earlier in this review that sometimes it's not a bad thing when the band takes influences from earlier work, but in this case it really is bad. Fair enough, take something from 20 years ago and change it a little, but when you're copying what you did just three years prior and passing it off as something new is just plain wrong and the fans would instantly recognise it for what it was. Vocally, I think Bruce is struggling here and maybe this was one of the last tracks to be recorded because he sounds a little strained. This isn't an enjoyable song at all, in my opinion. Bruce Dickinson noted "It's about modern world propaganda. It's about how we all think that we're so clever and how we imagine the things that we build to be timeless, but in reality they still all fade away in the end. The whole Iraq War thing was rearing its head at the time of writing the new album and I remember thinking about the desert sands as an image and how it moves and shifts with time. It doesn't matter whether you've built a Sphinx or a Pyramid and believe it to be a permanent reminder that you existed, because it'll still eventually fade away. Specifically what I was thinking was that whatever empires you attempt to build - whether they're British, American, Iraqi or whatever, they will all crumble and fade away into something else. To my mind the best thing you can ever hope for, if you were to leave anything behind, is just an imprint in the sand - and the image of a reverse face in the sand came to mind - and that's about the most permanence you'll ever get."
"Age of Innocence" is a solid Maiden song with some good guitar licks but the chorus completely ruins it. Are you noticing a pattern here, readers? The chorus just isn't good at all, almost cheesy and just plain wrong for the style of the song. I could go on writing about this track but truthfully, I've already said what needs to be said in the few words I've typed. Steve Harris said "This is me getting annoyed at the judicial system, or rather the complete lack of it today in Britain. People today just don't think that they're being protected by the law anymore and they certainly don't believe that justice is being done. Obviously I've got kids and as a father I don't think that my kids are as safe these days as what I was, growing up. We're not trying to be political, this is just a personal view only, but I think what I'm saying is what a lot of people are thinking. If you take the law into your own hands then they come down on you like a ton of bricks for being a vigilante, so I guess I'm letting my anger and frustrations out as an Englishman who doesn't feel that safe anymore."
"Journeyman" is one of those songs that you just know would have sounded better had two or three minutes been cut out of it. For instance, the first minute didn't need to be there as it's just a slow and soft build-up to the beginning of Bruce Dickinson's vocal harmony. The singing of "I know what I want, I say what I want, and no one can take it away" repeated four times for the chorus isn't good at all. I'm beginning to wonder if Maiden should have done away with choruses on this album! Bruce Dickinson said "This song started life as a chorus which we initially thought would turn into a big anthem affair. Then when we got our heads around it, we wondered what exactly we were going to do with it. We got quite trippy and dreamy with the verse and it worked. Lyrically, I had images of somebody making decisions with his heart regardless of where it was going to lead him in life, so it's about the journey that you're on and the chances that you have to make your choices and decisions. You can choose to rot away slowly or you can choose to go and do something mad and glorious - it's all up to you."
In summary, I'm not sure what the problem with Iron Maiden is on this album but it's almost as if they got lazy and wrote parts that sounded really good, then just threw choruses in and decided that this is what the fan wanted. If you're new to Iron Maiden you may like what you hear, but if you're a stalwart fan like me, then you're going to second-guess the band and wonder what possessed them to churn out an album like this. Yes there are some very good songs and some excellent music here, but there are some truly awful parts as well.
1. Wildest Dreams
3. No More Lies
5. Dance of Death
6. Gates of Tomorrow
7. New Frontier
9. Face in the Sand
10. Age of Innocence
My rating: 6/10
The build-up and the release of this, Iron Maiden's 2003 offering passed me by a bit, which is probably due to the fact that my then wife had given birth to our second child, Borgeth, and I was more concerned with nappies and such than Heavy Metal music! Nevertheless, after a few months I went out to purchase the album and promptly put it on my stereo. I had heard Wildest Dreams quite a lot on Kerrang TV, and I liked it a lot, so I suspected I wasn't going to be disappointed with this, their 13th album.
Bruce Dickinson - Vocals
Adrian Smith - Guitar
Steve Harris - Bass
Nicko McBrain - Drums
Dave Murray - Guitar
Janick Gerrs - Guitar
This, the second album to feature that line up, kicks off with the aforementioned Wildest Dream. It begins with an uplifting guitar riff and rolls on in a positive manner. It has everything you expect from a Maiden song and is a great start to the album, which continues with Rainmaker, which was another single. It has a twisting intro and pounds along in a classic metal way. It is quite commercial too, with a catchy chorus.
No More Lies is next up, a great Maiden song. It starts off all very gentle and relaxing, the intro is quite beautiful (if you can and are allowed to use such a word for a metal song!). Then 'No More Lies,' Bruce screams, and off we go, things merging into a kiss-ass riff. Montsegur is next, which is classic Maiden metal through and through. Then we have the title track Dance of Dance. This has a quiet beginning and slowly builds up and changes throughout, one of Maiden's epics.
Gates of Tomorrow is next. A great little riff and a nice build up to form an enjoyable song. This is followed by New Frontier, the only song to be co-written by McBrain until now. It is an all out toe-tapper of a song. Paschendale is next, an epic song based on the battle that took place during World War 1. This has some great riffs and instrumental bits, but I can't help thinking it is just too long (and that is coming from someone who likes long tracks).
We end the album with Face in the Sand, Age of Innocence and Journeyman. The first of this trio starts off quietly and builds up - there is some great guitar work in the build up with pounding machine-gun drums. The final song is a total acoustic song that drifts along in a dreamlike state, with some uplifting moment and ends in a positive mood, just as it began.
Full Track List:
1. "Wildest Dreams" Adrian Smith, Steve Harris 3:52
2. "Rainmaker" Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Harris 3:48
3. "No More Lies" Harris 7:22
4. "Montségur" Dickinson, Janick Gers, Harris 5:50
5. "Dance of Death" Gers, Harris 8:36
6. "Gates of Tomorrow" Dickinson, Gers, Harris 5:12
7. "New Frontier" Nicko McBrain, Smith, Dickinson 5:04
8. "Paschendale" Smith, Harris 8:28
9. "Face in the Sand" Dickinson, Smith, Harris 6:31
10. "Age of Innocence" Murray, Harris 6:10
11. "Journeyman" Dickinson, Smith, Harris 7:07
It's an Iron Maiden album, and with such you are not disappointed. I have said before that Maiden will never create another classic that will live with you until you die, but this is an album to keep you happy for a couple of months, where it will stay on your music machine, but then it may be forgotten. From this album, I will put No More Lies on my Ipod and listen to more, but rest with rarely see the light of day.
I am not going to end on a negative note, and will say the album is very 'together' and delivers the goods.
DANCE OF DEATH is Iron Maiden's 13th studio album and was released in September 2003.
Since their humble beginnings way back in 1975 the British heavy metal legends have gone on to sell well over 70 million albums worldwide and embarked on several monstrous world tours. All this has been achieved despite little recognition or support from mainstream media and radio.
In the early days they went through several personnel changes but stabilized in the 80's. Up until the turn of the century they had always functioned as a 5 piece but are now established as a 6 piece with a fearsome and versatile 3-pronged lead and rhythm guitar section.
Maiden are renowned for their explosive and energetic live performances that encompass stunning pyrotechnics and lighting visuals usually set to a themed backdrop. This dedication to showmanship as well as their obvious musical ability is what has always endeared them to their fans and secured their well deserved longevity. They never short change you live and would play with the same verve be it for 50 people or 50,000.
Their sound is distinctive, it is heavy and fast but at the same time wonderfully fluent and melodic. They can switch tempo and time signatures effortlessly and their songs have edges and stabs and are quite often characterized by what has become known as the 'galloping' effect (eighth notes followed by 2 sixteenth notes) although in recent times this is becoming less prevalent.
Harmonic guitar breaks have always been a strong feature of their music and can often turn into quite mellifluous sections against the engine room bass and drums of Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain who both have very busy styles. McBrain can throw some very detailed rolls and fills at you while Harris's fingers pound away with tremendous dexterity.
Vocalist Bruce Dickinson has an incredible vocal range and has been described as anything from operatic to an air raid siren. Each of the 3 guitarists (Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers) have their own solo styles too which can be a pretty potent mix.
The subject for the majority of their songs tend to be based largely around war, religion, afterlife, history and hell-fire destruction in general - the kind of stuff you chat about with your nan over a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit.
DANCE OF DEATH
The album itself is as impressive as you would expect from a band who have perfected thier craft over 4 decades. It has a more rounded sound than previous offerings with keyboards having more of an influence but not to the detriment of any of the songs in which they feature. Iron Maiden are experts at what they do and they are still at this stage in their illustrious careers striving to constantly better themselves.
The album kicks off in typical Maiden style with quick wham-bam opener WILDEST DREAMS. It's not too complex with its driving riffs and rousing chorus but lets you know you're going to be in safe hands for the next hour or so.
As with many albums it has its peaks and troughs but the dips are minimal and the overall standard is consistently high. The songs that may just limbo under the highly polished bar of excellence that Maiden set themselves are GATES OF TOMORROW, NEW FRONTIER and AGE OF INNOCENCE. All these are well performed - many bands would snatch these up if they were ever auctioned pre-release - but just don't grab you as the others do. AGE OF INNOCENCE is a rant about society and punishment and though the lyrical tirade is agreeable this is the weakest track on the album and certain sections of the song seem a little stultifying.
MONSTEGUR is an intriguing number. At first I found it quite a hard listen especially coming off the back of flowing numbers RAINMAKER and NO MORE LIES but the more I heard it the more it grew on me. I started noticing different touches and attributes - the triumphant medieval vibe that follows the chorus, the powerful story telling lyrics and the awesome vocal performance from Dickinson.
The title track DANCE OF DEATH is a great example of how the 3-pronged guitar attack can be so effective. The lyrics during the intro waltz have always sat a little uncomfortably with me, something misses somewhere with them but that is all forgiven as the song escalates into a Maiden classic. The music takes you there and takes over, you can see the dance in your mind's eye. It's pulsating, dynamic stuff, a song that only Maiden could produce.
FACE IN THE SAND sees a drop in tempo but at no expense of aggression. A song that is full of menace starts innocently enough before evolving into a brooding, sweeping, bubbling volcano of an intro complemented by a haunting orchestral string sound. The pounding bass drum guides us into the eruption and acts as a pulse throughout the song. Again, a phenomenal vocal by Bruce and a personal favourite of mine. Slow and steady throughout but full of fire and pugnacity.
The stand out track on the album is without doubt the brilliant PASCHENDALE. This is a true Maiden epic telling a tale of the famous and most gruesome First World War battle. The hi-hat count at the beginning of the song represents Morse code, the method of communication at the time. The belligerent way in which the riffs tumble at you makes you feel as though you're under attack from an onslaught of bombs, shrapnel and bullets, obviously a deliberate ploy and a feature of Maiden past and present to catapult you into the situation by the power of their music but one that works perfectly.
Mud blood rain sweat and tears, it's all here. The marching, fist raised chorus will make your neck hair stand to attention, the whole song is just an outpouring of raw emotion and energy. Note the great little 'fill and choke' run around 4:11 after the line "the human heart is hungry still". It might not sound much, but to me touches like this keep the intensity of the song and it shows you they care about what they put out.
File this one next to Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Powerslave album) in the 'Bloody Awesome' locker. I saw this live on the ensuing 'Death on the Road' tour complete with the breathtaking light show. It was one of the finest spectacles I've ever witnessed at a live performance.
The album ends with the acoustically inspired JOURNEYMAN, a rarity for Maiden but one that is welcomed by myself as I have wished over the years that they do more of this stuff. Strange World (Iron Maiden), Prodigal Son (Killers), and the mesmeric outro to The Prophecy (Seventh Son) are all great examples of what can be done while taking a step back from time to time. Yes, they are Heavy Metal, that's their trade and stock and we love it so, but personally I feel that there is always space for a track such as this, especially when they are more than capable of pulling it off.
1. WILDEST DREAMS (Smith/ Harris) 3:52
2. RAINMAKER (Murray/ Harris/ Dickinson) 3:48
3. NO MORE LIES (Harris) 7:21
4. MONTSEGUR (Gers/ Harris/ Dickinson) 5:50
5. DANCE OF DEATH (Gers/ Harris) 8:36
6. GATES OF TOMORROW (Gers/ Harris/ Dickinson) 5:12
7. NEW FRONTIER (McBrain/Smith/ Dickinson) 5:04
8. PASCHENDALE (Smith/ Harris) 8:27
9. FACE IN THE SAND (Smith/ Harris/ Dickinson) 6:31
10. AGE OF INNOCENCE (Murray/ Harris) 6:10
11. JOURNEYMAN (Smith/ Harris/ Dickinson) 7:06
BRUCE DICKINSON - vocals
STEVE HARRIS - bass guitar/keyboards
DAVE MURRAY - lead and rhythm guitars
ADRIAN SMITH - lead and rhythm guitars
JANICK GERS - lead and rhythm guitars
NICKO McBRAIN - drums.
Produced by Kevin Shirley and Steve Harris.
The most successful band to come out of what it often dubbed the NWOBHM, New Wave of British Heavy Metal - a term seldom used today mainly due to the innacuracy of the "new" part - Iron Maiden have been bringing out hard rocking songs that appeal to quite a wide range of people since their debut in 1980. Last year saw the release of Dance of Death, their thirteenth studio album, which is undeniable proof that Maiden never died. They just went worse during the 90s. The previous album released in 2000, Brave New World, won much acclaim for the reintroduction of frontman Bruce Dickinson and rhythm guitarist/sometime songwriter Adrian Smith and was certainly the band's best work for over a decade. The powerful choruses of their old work were back, while the progressive metal element of their past few albums still remained and worked in verying degrees of success. 2003's Dance of Death is not a return to Maiden's roots, but a clear and talented progression that results in what I consider to be one of the band's finest offerings. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- THE TRACKS: The album begins with the first released single, "WILDEST DREAMS." A great chorus and powerful guitar riffs make this an instant classic and an uplifting start to the album. Continuing in a similar vein is the second single to be released, "RAINMAKER," a slightly slower song with great lyrics and even better vocals from Bruce. These two songs are clearly Iron Maiden at their energetic best, but also have a very modern sound that shows band mastermind and bass virtuoso Steve Harris knows how t
o move with the times, however the third track is less enjoyable. Now released as a single as well, "NO MORE LIES" is another of the band's unnecessarily lengthy songs, and it also seems a little incoherent with the very heavy chorus and quiet, melodic opening. A bit of a throwback to the band's style during the 90s in my opinion. After the drawn-out third track, "MONTSEGUR" is an amazing track. One of my very favourites, this song is in the vein of all those heavy and complex tracks on the band's older albums that were never as recognised as the singles. The best chorus on the album with Bruce's amazing vocals and perfect use of the guitar threesome, this tale of Catholic oppression in bygone days manages to leave the listener wanting more after the 5:50 are up. "DANCE OF DEATH" is the title track which, with this band, usually means it's going to be great. A track you appreciate more with each listen, the first three minutes are a relatively unimpressive but atmospheric build-up to main riff of the songs, accompanied with violins, that is one of the stand out parts of this whole album. Very compelling lyrics concerning a man's wanderings in the Everglades leading him to a carnival of souls, all instruments are given their due time to shine in the latter half; true Seventh Son style! This is a great epic. After the intense title track comes the filler, but it's still good in its own right. "GATES OF TOMORROW" has a good chorus but Bruce's voice gets a little irritating in the rest of the song, and there's nothing too impressive here. "NEW FRONTIER" still does
n't measure up to some of the tracks but is another great and relatively short song with a fantastic chorus, also marking the song-writing debut of drummer Nikko McBrain. And it's about a Frankingstein so it can't be bad! This is another contender for release as a single. Just when you thought it was safe, another epic track looms, possibly the most complex on the entire album. "PASCHENDALE" is Adrian Smith and Steve Harris' take on poetry from the First World War, and a dying solider's tale. This track is great when it gets going, and there are some really interesting guitar solos, but I've had World War I overload with my English Literature course so I'm sure I'll listen to this more after the exams are over. I'll still try and slip some lyrics into my papers though! Very memorable choruses. "FACE IN THE SAND" is the only track, aside from "Gates of Tomorrow," that I would class as 'filler' in that it doesn't really offer anything new, but there is very good use of orchestration in a similar style to "Blood Brothers" from the previous album. It's this similarity that prevents this track from standing out, however. The penultimate track, "AGE OF INNOCENCE," is another of the great short songs with a chorus that could be mistaken for a cover of a pop song; this isn't to say it isn't true metal however, just look at the Darkness, commercial and widely appealing but still sticking to their roots. "Age of Innocence" is a message on current issues such as burglar protection and politicians, a far cry from th band's days singing about a monste
r going to get 'em. The album ends in a very untraditional way with Maiden's first solely acoustic song, "JOURNEYMAN." My least favourite track simply because I don't like acoustic songs that much, this still distinguishes itself and acts as a great and low-key ending to the album. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Many people will say that the band could never achieve the success or appeal of their classic 80s albums, but Dance of Death casts this into some doubt. I don't hold this album in the same light as "Powerslave" (1984) or "Somewhere in Time" (1986), and it's clearly not as influential or ground-breaking as "Number of the Beast" (1982) or "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" (1988), but I prefer it to both of these albums. Don't take this from a fan of this album, but from someone with a full knowledge of Maiden's discography. So whether you could be bothered to read my descriptions or not, this is Iron Maiden's most diverse album and contains songs to appeal to all fans of previous albums. Bruce Dickinson is clearly the necessary frontman to make the band achieve its success, while the three guitarists are also used to great effect on this album. It's great to know that, at last, it's the same Iron Maiden line-up they had from 1983 through to 1988. Oh, plus Janick Gers.
When this album came out on Monday of this week it was sitting on my doormat, as I had pre-ordered it from CD-WOW for only £8.99 (actually it was £8.49 as I had a 50p voucher!) :oP So far ( it is now Wednesday) I have listened to it 3 times, soon to be 4 as I write this review. I thought what better way of doing my first Album review. A brand new album, by one of my favourite bands. Let me tell you a bit about them first, as I am sure there must be a few people that haven't heard of them! Iron Maiden had their debut single released in 1980, yes they have been around for that long! But then it was a slightly different line up, with Paul Di'anno on vocals, Clive Burr on Drums, Dennis Stratton on guitar, and the only two remaining members Steve Harris on Bass and Dave Murray on guitar. They were louder, faster and more punk then, but still good. Over the years Dennis was replaced with Adrian Smith, then Paul by Bruce Dickenson, then Clive by Nicko McBrian. And we had the line up that would last the longest. And the unmistakable Iron Maiden sound was born. After several brilliant albums, horror of horrors Bruce left and was replaced by Blaze Bailey, then Adrian vanished, to be replaced by Janick Gers. Without Bruce singing it just didn't sound right to me anymore and I kind of gave up on them for a little while. Then Bruce came back and Blaze vanished.... Hurray! And so did Adrian, but Janick stayed, meaning there were now 3 guitarist. How twiddly could they get :o) They play heavy metal in their own unique way, no other band come close to their sound, though a few have tried. And they write all their own songs too. The whole band, not just one or two, they all have a go at writing. Oh yes, how could I forget, they have a mascot called Eddie, A tall zombie like long haired thing at the start, that has featured on every album sleeve and stage set they have ever done, slowly p
rogressing from sleeve to sleeve into his new guise of Death. On this new cover he just doesn't look the same. It was Derek Riggs's Eddie and covers that looked the best. It doesn't even mention who the new cover artist is anywhere that I can see, but it better than the cover of Edward the Great, their last Album. :o) Their CD's always come with lyrics and a list of thanks to various people. If you want to know anymore about them, their official web site is ironmaiden.com. ************************************ Right, the kids are at school, the house is quiet, for the first time in 6 ½ weeks, and I am ready to type. So on it goes, and I will type as I listen, only way I can think of doing this review, and also another excuse for me to listen to it again! ************************************* The album opens with Maidens newest single, Wildest Dreams. A fast track, but typically Maiden, pounding drums, twiddly guitar work and Bruce's unmistakable vocals that seem sound as fresh as when I first heard them in the early 80's. Rather useless piece of info for you, the video for the song is the first that hasn't actually had the band in. It is all computer generated. There, told you it was useless :oP This leads almost straight into Rainmaker (3.48), rather apt for the day I am writing this as it is pouring down outside, should I blame Bruce and the lads? No! This is about stopping the rain.. So maybe I should play it again! The song has a long musical break, between the choruses. Another song that could be off any of their earlier albums, not that is bad thing, just shows that Maiden haven't lost their original style. The slower, epic type start for No More Lies (7.21), almost reminiscent to Alexander the Great, from Somewhere in Time. Maiden to do the story songs so well. The pace picks up when the chorus starts, but it is still what I would call one of their slower
songs. In fact the music that is sort of theme through the song is very much like Alexander the Great. Saying this I am not moaning, far from it. It is one of my favourite tracks on the album. But I have always been a sucker for the longer tracks, and this isn't even the longest track yet! Montsegur (5.50) opens fast. Bruce is belting out the lyrics with gusto. A real bouncy track. The music break is so bouncy I almost stopped typing to have a headbang while typing this :oP Having three guitarists as well as bass hasn't stopped Maiden making the same sound as they used to 20 years ago. If anything it is even more twiddly than ever. Great stuff :o) The title track, Dance of Death (8.36) has another slow intro, like No More Lies, not that it sounds the same, just it is slow. Then Bruce wants to tell us a story to chill the bones... This could be likened to Rime of the Ancient Mariner of Powerslave. It is certainly long enough! The pace picks up slower than No More Lies, but when it gets to full speed it is certainly great. I am having trouble choosing just one favourite from this album as they all seem brilliant. Not a duff track so far. After the speed picks up, it slows back right down to the same tempo as the start, so Bruce can finish telling his tale. Gates of Tomorrow (5.12) starts with guitars , then drums , then more guitars and then it explodes into life. But when the vocals start it isn't Bruce alone. Makes it sound a bit odd, but I am sure I will get used to it. I am just not used to backing vocals I suppose! This doesn't last too long, and soon Bruce is belting it out by himself again. It is an extremely fast song, not Thrash metal type fast, but Iron Maiden fast. I can't compare them to other bands, because basically other bands don't sound like Iron Maiden, well apart from Papa Roach, for a short spell. New Frontier (5.04) just starts. No lead up, no intro, it just goes full speed into the
song. I would be amazed if this wasn't a single at some point! It is very hard to describe these songs with out making them all sound the same. They aren't! Each one is different. You just have to take my word for it, or go and get yourself the album :oP Excuse me while I bounce about to this track 'til it finishes :oD Another long song is Paschendale (8.27), Maiden give you your moneys worth when they make albums. This is a slow starter, just like any other story type Maiden song. But it quickly gets to the more frantic main theme, with what even seems like an orchestra in the background, but I am sure that is my imagination. As much as I like listening to this I can't think how to get it down on paper (or PC) so I will go and make a cup of coffee :oP It was my imagination, just looked at the booklet, must be the 3 guitars doing their stuff! Face in The Sand (6.38) starts with a lovely gentle solo riff, which gets louder and faster as more guitars and the drums join in. By the time Bruce starts it is at full speed. This one has probably the most catchy lyrics off the album. Sorry I can't tell you which guitarist does which twiddly bit, as they take it in turns to play lead. Apart from Steve as he is on bass :oP This has a great solo in it, very twiddly and Maiden. I know I sound repetitive, but Maiden do have a very distinct sound. And this is it :oP Almost at the end of the album now, don't give up! Another slow start for Age of Innocence (6.10), sounds wonderful with the cymbals swooshing away in the background. Then it all starts up. I can't see (or rather hear) a thing wrong with this album. I have liked every track so far, but then this is Maiden :oP This could almost be a Bond theme song, with the bass line in the background. Now that would be good. Maiden do Bond... Cool :o) Just at the end, it totally changes tempo back to how it started, I almost thought the next song
had started and had to check the number on the CD player to make sure it wasn't! OK here is the last one, Journeyman (7.06). Another slow soft start, very melodic and peaceful for Maiden. But seeing as this is a long song, you just know it is going to pick up. In fact it doesn't really, this is a swaying song. I hope it doesn't mean the lighters will be held up when they do this live! Maiden don't do love ballads, this is as close as they will get. And it isn't anything to do with love! I am sure I can hear strings in the background, I will have to check the booklet again...... No sign of anything string related, besides the guitars that is! So they must be doing some fancy stuff. You can take your hands off your ears now, the CD has finished :oP Overall I think this is a great album, by a great band. People that like Iron Maiden's old stuff will love it, and people that have just discovered the band and love this, will love their older stuff too. What is known as a win / win situation :o) Happy listening Sarah :o)
Well I'm glad to say the reviewers weren't wrong about this one - what a cracking album. For many people like myself Iron Maiden are a Great British institution but for a while they did lose their way particularly during the Blaze years and quite a lot of their fan base either drifted away or were just apathetic towards them. However after a triumphant live return at the Download festival they find themselves in a great position to please their fans and perhaps even attract a few new ones. The album contains catchy rockers like Rainmaker, Gates Of Tomorrow, New Frontier and the pounding Montsegur. Of course no Maiden album would be complete without an epic or two and this one has three, No More Lies, Paschendale and the sublime title track Dance Of Death. Not forgetting Journeyman, a haunting slow paced track which is a superb way to close a great record. I admit lyrically it does have it?s fair share of cheesy lines and I?m sure some people could have a field day with such classic lines as ?and I dance and I pranced? OK not everyone will get excited about this release but I honestly believe that it?s the best Maiden album for 13 years. If their last record Brave New World was a return to form then Dance Of Death is a genuine Maiden classic