Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death

2006-11-02 11:38
Metal fans will probably be dying to love this album, especially as Iron Maiden are as popular and influential as ever, being the one band that hasn't bowed to any trend or sold out to some stupid TV show. Their last 2 albums (Dance of Death, Brave New World) re-established Maiden as a force to be reckoned with - singer Bruce Dickinson rejoined after releasing a slew of drab solo albums.

Those aforementioned 2 albums had everything that made Maiden great - amazing riffs, majestic epic songs, and Bruce's soaring vocals, with hooks aplenty, as well as their charmingly cheesy lyrics about war, mysticism, and all manner of silly topics. They have been doing this since the late 70s, and doing it damned well, their balls and enthusiasm making up for the lack of musical progress over the years. A matter of life and death has their trademark duel guitar harmonies, and pretty epic songs about the usual themes, but it is lacking vitality present in almost all of their previous work.

The album kicks off with “Different World”, which is the shortest track, that recalls “The Wicker Man” (the opening track from Brave New World) only with far less of a hook. Seeing that on average the rest of the songs are about 2 minutes longer than “Different World”, as well as slower, it really starts to drag around the middle. The best song is “These Colours Don't Run”, which is another Maiden tribute to the fighting man that comes across as alarmingly right wing in today's global situation. It still manages to get the head nodding with the feeling of guts and glory that the band is known for, although next to classics like “The Trooper”, “Die With Your Boots On”, and “Aces High”, it comes across as rather plodding.

The rest of the songs are up and down, mostly being retreads of previous Maiden songs, but mostly lacking drive. “Out of the Shadows” reprises “Children of the Damned”, and “The Pilgrim” sounds a lot like “The Nomad”. Maiden have their sound, and if repetition were really such a big problem, they would have lost many of their fans by now. It is saddening however that each time there is a grand build up or galloping bass riff, there is no accompanying moneyshot by the way of anthemic choruses, twin axe harmonies that stick in your head, or the band just letting rip. Perhaps the only exception is “For the Greater Good of God”, which is what we expect from Maiden - epic, stuffed with everything but the kitchen sink, and featuring all things that have made this band such a crowd pleaser.

A Matter of Life and Death is not terrible, but people looking to get into Maiden would do well to pick up something they released in the 80s (preferably from their first 5 albums), and old fans (like myself) have heard all of this many times before, only better and far more rocking. Their previous 2 albums surprised everyone with their quality, and hopefully they will be able to recapture the magic again before they call it a day.

I have no doubt they have more quality albums in them, and that they will still kick arse live, but this one will be remembered as a rather embarrassing dip in their career. At least the cover art is better than Dance of Death.

- Ivan Sadler
One of metal's greatest bands start to show their age with their most contemplative and introspective album to date. Maturity and Iron Maiden are mutually exclusive, so this is a very bad thing. Never before have they sounded so lacklustre, and after the fantastic Dance of Death and Brave New World, fans will run to the hills when they hear this.

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