Iron Maiden - Dance of Death 3/5

Reviewed: 11-26-04





Tracklist:

1. Wildest dreams
2. Rainmaker
3. No more lies
4. Montsegur
5. Dance of death
6. Gates of tomorrow
7. New frontier
8. Paschendale
9. Face in the sand
10. Age of innocence
11. Journeyman


Let's face it. The glory days of Iron Maiden are long behind us. This band has been past its prime for quite a long time now. The Blaze Bayley era reached an embarrassing low point with 'Virtual XI'. It was with much wisdom that Steve Harris re-recruited Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith back into the fold. The first reunion CD 'Brave new world' didn't set the world on fire, but at least it was a very good CD. No, Maiden hadn't returned to the glorious heights of their 80s material, but at least they became relevant again.

With that, we come to their (lucky) 13th studio album, 'Dance of death'. On the whole, I would say this is about on par with or maybe slightly below the quality of 'Brave new world'. None of the songs on here are going to make you forget about their greatest songs, but on the whole they're all pretty good. Unfortunately, the band opted to open the CD with the worst track, "Wildest dreams". They also made this fairly generic sounding track their first single. Thankfully, things get much better right away with "Rainmaker", which would have been a much better choice for both a CD opener and first single. (It ended up being the 2nd single).

One of the problems with the more recent Maiden offerings is the bloat that seems to creep into the songs. Too many songs are long for no good reason caused mainly by excessive repetition of choruses or riffs. Well, I'm not going to tell you the problem is gone from this CD, but it seems to be reigned in slightly. I would prefer Maiden limit the long songs to 2-3 per CD, allowing only the epic tracks to exceed the 5 minute mark. One long, (but thankfully epic) track that stands out is "Paschendale". I tend to enjoy latter day Maiden epics a lot, and this one is just fantastic. One noticeable trait of this CD is that the trademark Maiden gallop is almost completely gone. It's either a much missed omission or a mark of freshness I'll let each listener decide. Thankfully, as with 'Brave new world' the band has embraced harmony guitars, something that they (inexplicably) underplayed during most of the 90s. However, the band still hasn't really done anything truly exciting in this area that takes advantage of having 3 lead guitarists.

One other track of note, is the CDs closer "Journeyman". Apparently, the version offered here was originally going to be a B-side, acoustic only version of the album version. But, the band ended up preferring this version, so we end up with what is quite possibly the only Iron Maiden track with no electric guitar. I find this track to be quite a moving, powerful song, but ballad haters may find themselves wishing for the original version instead.

'Dance of death' ends up being another worthy offering from this classic band. No it won't live up to expectations if you are hoping for competition to 'Number of the beast' or 'Powerslave'. But, it's solid new material from a legendary band. I'll enjoy new material from them while I still can. Now, if they would just hurry up with the next Bruce Dickinson solo CD, then we'd truly have something to get excited about!



JOHN




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