while ago, a "patient" of mine had a thought. He suggested
that we both write separate reviews for the new Iron Maiden album,
"A Matter Of Life And Death," and see how our views and
opinions might compare and contrast. As my brilliant "patient"
Johan Copermans in Belgium finished his take on the disc, he sent
it to me as a Word document, as to not tarnish any original thoughts
I had of my own. As I finished up my summarization of the album,
only then did I open the file.
Here are the results.....
of the Shadows
Good of God
September 5, 2006
Iron Maiden A Matter Of Life And Death
10 fans for their favorite three Iron Maiden albums and chances
are that youll get ten different answers. Sure, The
Number Of The Beast will feature in all lists; but, next to
that classic album some will opt for the short and sharp albums
from the early years with Paul DiAnno as a singer, while others
will go for the futuristic themed Somewhere In Time,
or choose the recent returns to form such as Brave New World.
The new album A Matter Of Life And Death differentiates
itself from the rest as being clearly the most epic one, with the
majority of songs passing the seven minutes mark. Its also
tempting to view it as Maiden's most political work. The cover art
as well as almost every lyric seem to be a reflection on warfare,
and on the uselessness of it.
Is A Matter Of Life And Death a good album? Well, it
certainly is an album that asks for several spins; only then can
it be properly explored. I gotta admit that with Maiden's last two
albums, this wasnt the case. Within only one or two spins
you had the songs nailed and there was nothing new to be discovered.
Due to the epic structure of the new songs, this isnt the
case now. Thats the good part. The bad part is that some of
these epic songs just dont work. Let me prove my point by
taking you through each and every song, beginning with weakest ones.
Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg is a song that is done far
too much by the book to deserve its lengthy structure.
It drags itself past the seven minutes, while Dickinson has some
difficulties reaching the highest notes of the song. As well in
the lower regions of my personal chart is These Colours Dont
Run. It suffers from the same weaknesses: the chorus just
doesnt gel with the verses. These songs seem like a patchwork
of different tempos, as if the musicians had some good ideas for
riffs and quickly decided to cut and paste them together into a
XL-version of a song.
had the two weakest tracks, now lets move forward. First,
with For The Greater Good Of God, being only slightly
better. Its an overtly political statement, kicked of by a
tight, strong build-up. But is it just me who has trouble with what
is eventually, after four minutes, the chorus? Dickinson belting
out For the greater good, follow by the childish chant
of God it annoys me every time I hear it.
The uninspired Lord of Light is not much better, although
it starts off with a remarkable moody intro (that is repeated later
on in the song) and has a great instrumental part, including some
great drumming from Nicko McBrain. The two tracks in which Maiden
returns to an old school, more compact form, I leave
in the middle of my chart. Different World clearly aims
for the status as lead-off single, harboring a catchy
chorus and a pretty straightforward structure. The Pilgrim
is a dark, typical Middle Aged themed, of which the verses are somehow
reminiscent of Run To The Hills. Longest Day
could have easily made it into my personal top three. The song has
a menacing intro, from a vocal point of view, its arguably
Dickinsons strongest effort and it has a great great great
instrumental break, with fantastic chord changes and of course the
trademark dueling guitar parts. No one beats Maiden at this game.
Alas, the song still is somewhat hampered by the previously mentioned
cut and paste strategy. Once the chorus sets in, much
to my frustration the song shifts to a lower gear. Its a structure
which doesnt do the song justice.
This leaves, maybe surprising for all you hardcore Maiden fans out
there, Out of the shadows to enter in my personal top
three. It has an intro that time after time reminds me of Schenkers
guitar play in The Scorpions, it sounds almost nineties nu-metal
in its verses and makes a remarkable instrumental U-turn near the
end. Maiden in the mainstream? Sure, but I cant help but liking
it. However, without any competition and with no room for discussion,
my two favorite tracks are Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
and The Legacy. The latter kicks off as an almost Marillion-like
medieval childrens tale; a lengthy intro in which Dickinson
presents his most subtle voice, only to give way to a Kashmir
type of riff after three minutes. Here you hear an inspired group
talking chances, exploring new roads. The song also provides a welcome
antidote for the forced types of cut and paste songwriting
that had such a negative effect on the aforementioned epic songs
of the album. Listen to the most impressive instrumental part of
The Legacy kicking off at 5:30 with some galloping guitars,
and hear the way this part evolves, in the most natural way, back
into the last verse of the song. No hasty work here, but sheer brilliance.
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns is equally lengthy, but
a whole different type of song. Its, by far, the most ferocious
piece of work of the album. The song starts, strange but true, with
a riff that bears the echo of AC/DCs Hells Bells.
Dickinson is singing with a knife between the teeth and, especially
near the end, the band is living proof that they are in no way suffering
from any type of midlife crisis strong stuff.
Which leaves me to the conclusion that A Matter of Life and
Death although it falls short of being one of the best
Maiden albums of all time still manages to be the most interesting
one in a long, long time. Im curious as hell to read what
Dr. Music and my fellow weekly visitors of his excellent website
have to say about it.
OVERALL RATING: 7
Iron Maiden A Matter Of Life And Death
Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
lets see a show of hands
..How many want to see Maiden
change their style and do something completely different and groundbreaking?
Ah, there's one
.you in the back
..take your Coldplay
and your Radiohead collections and get the hell out of my world.
This is Iron Maiden, ladies and gentlemen. This is a band that has
always refused to cave in to the pressures of the current musical
trends, and has persistently pursued their trademark sound with
each and every release. The galloping bass lines, the numerous time
changes, and the shriek of singer Bruce Dickinson are all elements
of Iron Maiden music that fans come to expect and adore time and
time again. A Matter Of Life And Death is typical Iron
Maiden music, and its a good thing.
Iron Maiden is one of the rare acts that can depend solely on their
songwriting talent to carry them. Theres no new flashy image
for the band; no big surprises in style to report; these are just
new Iron Maiden songs, plain and simple. Let me preface this review
by saying that I am a huge fan of this band, but even I have found
some material to be less than worthy of the Maiden moniker. For
example, like most Maiden fans, I thought the albums made with singer
Blaze Bayley, after Dickinson left the band, were pretty inferior
and weak. I thought Fear Of The Dark was a bit of a
step down, and think of No Prayer For The Dying and
Dance Of Death as being no better than average efforts
either. But I would also say that all of these lesser albums each
have a few wonderful songs on them. Maiden is all about melody and
arrangements. They are going to do what they do best, and they dont
need to change their style to make great music. The thing that will
determine the quality of the album is going to be the writing and
arranging of all their talents. This record is one of their best
efforts in a good many years. I thought Brave New World
was very good, for the most part, and this release is just about
the same caliber.
The band returns to the epic format with 7 out of 10 of these songs
being over the 6:50 mark. Some work better than others, but most
everything here is very well written. For The Greater Good
Of God, which is the longest track on the disc coming in at
9:24, gets a bit uncomfortable with a repetitive refrain and some
awkwardly placed and extensive guitar solos, but its still
a good song. If it was cut down to six minutes it would be a great
song. Lord Of Light is another track that seems to run
a bit long at 7:23, again because of awkwardly placed solos and
a choppy arrangement. Most of the stuff works here, though. Brighter
Than A Thousand Suns, which rings in at 8:44 is a classic
Maiden song with seamless time changes, peaks and valleys of masterful
instrumentation, and an overly impressive vocal performance from
vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The Legacy, another tune weighing
in at over nine minutes, is stunning also. Although it takes a while
to get going, and it seems to take about two minutes too long to
fade out, the song has a regal majesty to it that demands your respect.
Out Of The Shadows is another song that is filled with
hearty amounts of that triumphant spirit. The verses of the song
find Dickinson spending an unusual amount of time in his low voice,
which is just as impressive as his high tone. The rousing chorus
is cloaked in a raised fist and eyes tightly shut bravado
that can be quite chilling. But lets talk about the best of
the bunch here, shall we? The Longest Day brings tears
to my eyes when I hear it. Dickinson is one of the best at chewing
up a lyric and turning a powerful phrase. He takes these verses
and spits them out between clenched teeth, just before he puts every
ounce of his heart and soul into the most uplifting chorus on the
record. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg is another
that has Dickinson turning a phrase or two, but this is a song that
is driven by a spectacular riff. The combination of the two is a
real thing of beauty. The track that opens the album, Different
World, is a fast-paced rocker, but has an unusually light
and catchy chorus reminiscent of something like the radio pop influence
of Can I Play With Madness from the bands Seventh
Son Of A Seventh Son album. These Colours Dont
Run is more of the traditional gallop with a slight keyboard
presence and a small chant thats sure to go over splendidly
in the live setting. Another of the more traditional gallops here
is The Pilgrim. Both of these being very typical Maiden
songs that lack originality, but theyre good songs regardless.
Besides having the best bass player in the history of metal music,
one of the most powerful things about Iron Maiden is their triple
guitar attack. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers take turns
throughout this record delivering complex solo after complex solo.
Most times, they play these wickedly enjoyable forays within the
boundaries of the songs. Not too many of these guitar parts feel
cramped or uncomfortable. There is one member of the band that is
not usually talked much about though, and thats drummer Nicko
McBrain. This guy has been laying down some of the most incredible
displays imaginable over the years, and his performance on this
record surpasses all of them. McBrain is the real hero of this album.
His drums are complex, precise, and perfectly arranged within the
bellies of all these songs.
Maiden fans, you have reason to rejoice, this is another great Iron
Maiden record that any true Maiden fan should enjoy. The casual
Iron Maiden fan (if there is such a thing) might find these songs
a bit tedious because of their length. If you are a Run To
The Hills or Can I Play With Madness fan, and
you know who you are, this ones a toss up. But Im a
guy that finds songs like Rime Of The Ancient Mariner,
Revelations, and To Tame A Land at the top
of my list of Maiden favorites. Over time, will any of these become
some of my favorite Iron Maiden songs? I wouldnt think so,
but they are all worthy of years of listening enjoyment.
OVERALL RATING: 7
find it remarkable that these reviews turned out to be so similar
in both size and opinion. We set no real boundaries when we discussed
this project, other than to go deep into the record and give our
views. We were excited to do this together, and we are even more
excited to hear your opinions of this disc.
I would like to send extra special thanks to Johan Copermans for
his wonderful idea and his intelligent and insightful writing style.
You rock, my friend!! Dr. Music
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