ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: A Matter Of Life And Death
LABEL: EMI (UK), Sanctuary (USA)
SERIAL: 3 72321 2, 06076-84768-2
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Bruce Dickinson - vocals * Janick Gers - guitars * Dave Murray - guitars * Adrian Smith - guitars * Steve Harris - bass * Nicko McBrain - drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Different Worlds * 02 These Colours Don't Run * 03 Brighter Than A Thousand Suns * 04 The Pilgrim * 05 The Longest Day * 06 Out Of The Shadows * 07 The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg * 08 For The Greater Good Of God * 09 Lord Of Light * 10 The Legacy
Iron Maiden's ongoing foray into the world of progressive metal has spanned over a decade. Beginning in earnest back in 1995 with Blaze Bayley, and continuing with Bruce Dickinson. Since 2003's 'Dance Of Death', the band appeared to have taken the well worn formula to it's natural conclusion. Proving they are indeed a breed apart, Maiden have topped themselves with what is undoubtedly their finest effort of recent years, retaining the lengthy and ambitious arrangements but this time thankfully heavier than normal. There is an immediacy to this recording that did not exist with 'Dance Of Death', and while the slow intros and buildup require patient listening the payoff is worthwhile, always resulting in some mammoth instrumental escapades that befit the Maiden legend. This album came together in a short space of time in the recording studio which is evidence of how tightly knit and cohesive Maiden are as a unit. The results speak for themselves, clinical and thorough, Dickinson in particular at the top of his game.
As is the tradition, one of the few shorter minute tracks is the opener, 'Different Worlds' at four minutes a typically catchy piece, a ready made single that differs little from similar fare from 'Dance Of Death', namely 'New Frontier' or 'Wildest Dreams'. The melodic guitar lines are the highlight, as is the tailor made for radio chorus. Most of the content regards war and 'These Colours Don't Run' is a fiery track from the word go, the familiar bass gallop in full stride. 'Brighter Than A Thousand Suns' takes four minutes to reach a speedy crescendo reminiscent of 80's Maiden, with a full production from Kevin Shirley that gives Maiden their strongest and most complete sound in eons. Following past efforts such as 'The Nomad' and 'Journeyman' is 'The Pilgrim', which throws in some innovative Middle Eastern riffs amidst the bass heavy riffing, comparatively short at five minutes. D Day masterpiece 'The Longest Day' captures a modern vibe during the chorus, another carry over from 'Dance Of Death', but some monstrous riffing and soloing overshadow it, this album easily the highpoint of the guitar trio three albums in. More reserved is 'Out Of The Shadows', less complex and similar to the dreaded 'Wasting Love' from 1992. Lead single 'The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg' defines this epic fusion that Maiden have mastered, intricately building from slow and ominous to dense, riff heavy metal worthy of such a legend. One of two nine minute tracks is 'For The Greater Good of God', as epic as one could envision, with melodic shadings that are among the strongest the band have ever conjured. 'Lord Of Light' picks up the pace with impressive results, the band finally sounding like three guitarists are present, which hasn't always been the case. Another nine minute piece rounds things out, 'The Legacy', heavily orchestrated, with elements that convey every period of Maiden's history, three decades rolled into one lengthy package, part 'Killers', 'Piece Of Mind' and 'Brave New World'.
Traverse eleven years back to 1995's 'The X Factor' and you can hear the staggering progress Maiden have made in their reckless pursuit of their own progressive dream. From humble beginnings to outright perfection one must ask again how much further this direction can be taken. Apparently a long way. That the album charted in the US top ten is unbelievable given a decade ago Maiden were all but discounted as dinosaurs of heavy metal, yet are now enjoying popularity almost on a scale during their 80's heyday. More importantly Maiden are challenging themselves by continuing to produce thinking mans metal that remains unpredictable, despite containing traits we have come to expect. The only difference is Maiden make it sound fresh with every flick of the wrist.
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