on 25 January 2011
I bought this when it first came out and am posting a very long term review here now mostly because it still infuriates me that such a wonderful album of, in my opinion, Maiden's best songs since they reformed, is so badly let down by the production.
Clearly the songs and great performances have shone through as most of the reviews are very positive but I wanted to add this for people who care...if you don't there are 100s of other reviews to read ;o)
In my opinion the worst thing Maiden did was to get Kevin Shirley and the worst thing Kevin Shirley did was to allow Steve Harris to push him in a direction that made what was once a huge arena-sound into recordings that sound like they were done in a small dead room. I know 'arry is the boss but producers are there to stand up to them on occasion.
I've noticed many posts (of Shirly-era Maiden) where fans have commented that Bruce's vocals sound strained (etc.) these days. Well, Bruce may be having a harder time, but I doubt it. It's Shirely's and Harris's unsympathetic dry production. When I first heard the album it sounded like it was mixed with all of the EQ and FX in bypass and the compressors on full!
Now Shirley has a penchant for this style but, in fairness, when left alone and not pushed to extremes, can do a good job - Shirley's work with Dream Theater springs to mind.
And Shirley did bring a nice bit of weight to the Harris's bass which I felt was the only area somewhat lacking in the Martin Birch productions.
Now Shirley can make Maiden sound good, very good, his live mixes of Flight 666 were superb (unlike Death on the Road which looked wonderful...) and that's how Maiden is meant to sound. Big.
But for some reason, on recent albums, this being the worst, corners are cut. I'm not convinced the band playing live in the studio (unlike the Birch overdub approach) gives us a better product. Harris's instructions to Shirley to not bother with mastering (this album) and to use the studio monitor mixes (AMOLAD) beggar belief.
I notice in a recent of Shirley's blogs, he alludes to Adrian Smith not being too keen on the mixes for The Final Frontier...but Harris overruled him every time.
For a modern style, Brave New World wasn't bad...maybe Shirley was treading carefully back then but Dance of Death, full of Maiden's most catchy songs in recent times, deserves to be remixed (or at the very least remastered - I made my own version just so I could listen to it!) so Maiden fans can appreciate it in all its glory.
on 12 September 2003
Firstly brave new world was a massively improved progression from the 90's material and the epicness was undoubted, but where was the maiden hallmarks? The harmonies, the trading solos between smith and murray. I must say that the whole album seemed (dare i say it, a little too epic). Not to mention the repetitive choruses.
Dance of death is a different matter altogether. This is rawer, more fundamentally maiden. There are harmonies gallops better solos and the synthed ambience on some tracks is mind blowing.
1) WILDEST DREAMS - You can tell they wanted a touring anthem here its all about being back together and on the road. It starts with a blistering rhythm part and continues at a good speed. The air raid siren vocals return. Stunning.
2) RAINMAKER - Starts with a twin guitar harmony and has a chorus thats catchy as hell. A good continuation, and it contains more harmonies later and some BNW esque soloing.
3) NO MORE LIES - Starts off a cross between The Clansman and Sign of The Cross. this doesnt last as sustained barrage of guitars soon kicks in. The first epic of the album.
4) MONTSEGUR - Aggressive with another catchy chorus. All guitar parts work well with bruce dickinson's vocals here. More harmonies...Lovely
5) DANCE OF DEATH - Musically it starts off where blaze bayley left off, although lyrically its very descriptive, a very vivid tale of consequence. It sounds like the x factor, although i liked that album so im biased and it is better cause blaze didnt sing it. A good title track.
6) GATES OF TOMORROW - Again, starts off very blaze era but with more guitar oomph. Vocally, the album starts to get interesting. A nod back to no prayer for the dying, mr Dickinson? I think so me hearties.
7) NEW FRONTIER - A solid and fast rocker penned by songwriting virgin Nicko Mcbrain, And it's a damn good track. Another one of those really catchy choruses, a middle with a chugging, almost thrashy riff played without drums. And also the solos, AHHHH one of the best on the cd.
8) Paschendale Another epic questioning the justification and morality of war (sound familiar). Even though this song describes a battle past, it keeps a relevance. Theres a definate heaviness to the guitars here too. Very melancholy.
9) FACE IN THE SAND - Another epic, with almost a swing to it's rhythm, nothing special to write home about. Solid at best.
10) AGE OF INNOCENCE - A brooding, heavy little number. This is the sound of Iron Maiden acknowleging that time is getting on, and they are no longer young and naive. This instills a felling within me that it has crossed the bands mind that this may well be the very last Maiden album. Another catchy chorus and come good tight rhythm her. A good song.
11) JOURNEYMAN - Purely acoustic this one, with a chorus, that'll get ya singin! Ive not heard maiden try something this radical before but it works well.
Overall its the best maiden album since seventh son... And a worthy addition to the record collections of fans and newcomers alike. BLINDING MY SON!!
on 15 August 2003
After three years of waiting, the loyal fans of Iron Maiden have been rewarded with a cracking studio album from the UK based sextet. Dance of Death, their 13th studio opus, is as hard hitting as earlier releases such as Powerslave, but combines a beauty so far unheard of on Maiden albums. Much more varied songwriting, past and present influences abound through this album and these show up most in the latter stages of the tracks. Speaking personally, I did approach this album with a fair degree of anxiety after I found that Brave New World marginally failed to deliver to my huge expectations. And I was stunned...
1. Wildest Dreams. The first single from the album, is a catchy little rocker, taking the listener back somewhere between Somewhere in Time, and relatively recent Bruce solo work on his experimental album Skunkworks. Penned by the flawless and criminally underated Adrian Smith, it is a single which will be likely to make a massive indent into the UK charts come September 1st. I urge you all to buy this now!! Already a live favourite on the Give Me Ed...Til I'm Dead tour, it's the shape of things to come on Dance of Death.
2. Rainmaker is a stunningly melodic penned track by Dave Murray. His songwriting always seems to be discarded for some strange reason (nods in the direction of Deja Vu and Judas be my Guide) but hopefully this melancholic yet beautiful use of the three guitars will find it's way into the live set on the Dance of Death tour. Bruce Dickinson delivers his first, but not last, blistering vocal performance on this track.
3. No More Lies is the first of the mid-range to long songs on this album and the mood turns markedly dark (reflecting perhaps the title of the album). A cracking performance by Nicko McBrain and Steve Harris forming that tightly bound rhythm section of this band. This Harris only penned epic will surely replace a similar track (The Clansman) as another live favourite. A superb, triple guitar assault midway through the album speaks volumes for the more tightly woven triumvirate of Janick Gers, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. A main theme of this album in fact, and whereas you could argue the three guitars weren't used to their greatest effect on Brave New World, they are certainly on show on Dance of Death which spells good times ahead for the boys.
4. Montsegur. Ah, Montsegur! Quite possibly the most unique sounding track Iron Maiden have written. Janick has really come on as a songwriter in recent times and this odd blend of crushing heavy major riff into minor riff really works to my ears. The chorus is somewhat reminiscent of heavy metal for the new millenium, as seen on The Chemical Wedding by Bruce's solo band. Excellent vocals, excellent vocal harmonies, cleverly stacked guitar layers and a chilling ambience. Superb stuff.
5. Dance of Death - the darkness continues. After the staggeringly heavy Montsegur, it seems difficult to complete the aesthetic. But the theme of the album, to some extent, is played out to its fullest in this track. 8 and a half minutes of some shattering different guitar work. Another Janick penned track, the three pronged guitar assault is in abundance throughout this song, especially during an arrangement which is the centre point of the latter stages here.
6. Gates of Tomorrow. A decidedly more upbeat track ofsets the mood a little bit. A more midpaced rocker is a well earnt break from the previous 20 minutes of darkness.
7. New Frontier. Well well well. Here's a first! Who would have thought that Nicko McBrain, the veteran drummer of 51 years, would finally deliver a brutal selfpenned track worthy of a place on a Iron Maiden studio album! Not I. Really quick, another classic rocker with a superb solo by, once again, Adrian. This song sets up the last chapter of the album perfectly....
8. Paschendale. Adrian's mournful tale of the 3rd Battle of Ypres is harrowing, stunning and blistering all in the space of 8.5 minutes. He's never written an epic of such proportions before and I hope that he will do from now on. This song is destined for instant success. I don't think I could ever describe it's majesty that accurately, so just buy this album and witness it for yourself!
9. Face the Sand. And another track from Adrian, this time evoking some of the progressive aspects of earlier releases, such as 2 Minutes to Midnight. This progressive element is another theme to take in on this fantastic album, running through the last three tracks. It is complex but sounds as though it could become a live track if manipulated correctly.
10. Age of Innocence. A lovely sweeping intro into a strangely heavy track, this one by Dave. The album is peaking in quality at the right time, towards the end. More progression here and changes in rhythm abound. Hints of 70s influences run through this song.
11. Journeyman. Oh wow! This just gets better. After so many themes, progression, uniqueness, variety of writing styles, darkness, bleak tales, upbeat rockers, Iron Maiden surprise us all with a totally acoustic, ambient yet bitter tale. Beautifully sung by Bruce, superbly written by Adrian, this track is just the icing on the cake of what will surely be one of Iron Maiden's most loved studio album.
The elements combined to make this album all work. The topics covered, musicianship, lyrical content and delivery is such a staggering step up from Brave New World it's frightening. Just buy Dance of Death - it's a true return to form.
on 10 March 2004
After a 2 year hiatus Iron Maiden returned in September 2003 to retain their rightful crown as the greatest Rock band of the day
The album opens with the catchy 70's style rocker Wildest Dreams' and is of course unmistakably Iron Maiden. This leads straight into track 2, which has one foot firmly in the Euro Metal sound which they themselves along with Manowar influenced heavily. Track 3 is the first of the three seven plus minuet epics and the only to be penned singel handedly by bassist and lead song writer Steve Harris. Tracks 4 to 7 are all classic Maiden tracks which all have leanings to the prog metal sound first used by Maiden on 2000's Brave New World. The title track Dance Of Death based on Edgar Allan Poe's novel The Masque Of The Red Death, is another stunning epic made even better by Bruce Dickinson's voice that seems to improve with every album. Track 8 is the 8 minuet long Paschendale which blows away ever other war song Iron Maiden have ever produced (and they've done a few)
The album ends with the song that has been the most anticipated of all. The first all (gasp) acoustic Iron Maiden song, which somehow doesn't sound out of place on the album and manages to complement the rest of the tracks on the album. It's not the typical album finisher but at least it stop anyone complaining that Iron Maiden always sound the same.
So, After all the hype does DoD live up to it? Well in a sort answer yes. It's without a doubt Maiden finest album since 1988's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, and heavily improves on 2000 Brave new World. The newly placed 3rd guitar does not sound as wasted, Adrian
Smith once again is pulling out the same quality of solos that made him such a guitar god back in the 80's. Janick Gers has also found a style of playing that now compliment rather than copies Dave Murry's style of soloing. Which of course still sound like a pure explosion of energy. Steve Harris (bass) and Niko McBrain (drums) show once again why Maiden have the best rhythm section of all metal bands, while Bruce Dickinson(vocals) adds the 'Spinal Tap' to the songs which make what they are, pure classic Iron Maiden heavy metal, which is still as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
Many will argue that reviewing an Iron Maiden album is largely pointless. Their loyal fans are going to buy it anyway (and that millions of sales) while the rest of the world shrug and say, "well, it's just another Maiden album, isn't it?" However, they're ignoring the fact that fans had to sit through a very rocky patch in the nineties where Maiden albums that excelled were not the expectation, let alone assured. The X-Factor and Virtual XI of the Blaze Bayley era are rarely looked back on fondly, save a few superbly written tracks, while No Prayer for the Dying and Fear of the Dark (the single notwithstanding) lacked that truly "Maiden" spark. Brave New World brought a hugely powerful comeback with the reunion of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith with the band, but could they really pull that off again?
I don't mind admitting that when I first heard "Wildest Dreams" I was distinctly unimpressed. Although it swiftly grew on me, I was very apprehensive about this new album, not least because of the artwork cover that seemed only half-finished (okay, that's growing on me a little too, but I'm still not happy!). Well, "Wildest Dreams", it turns out, is only an introduction. It makes sense as a first single, as a reminder to the rest of the rock world, "oh, that's how you do it..." Then suddenly "Rainmaker" kicks in, one of the finest shorter tunes the band have written yet with its triple-guitar harmonies. I'm quite sure something must have lit up in my eyes the moment the song started. I smiled, settled down comfortably with the sure knowledge that Maiden are back!
"No More Lies" is the kind of track the Blaze Bayley albums tried to produce, with a soft opening breaking out into a punchy, progressive seven-minute long piece that destroys the memory of those two albums singlehandedly. "Montségur" is the heaviest track on the album, and indeed, this melodic anthem of religious martyrdom is heaviest since the early Piece of Mind days. Few drummers could chase guitars at that speed! The titular "Dance of Death" is a Harris-penned epic of death and horror. The instrumentation reflects the storytelling, with truely chilling cybals. "Gates of Tomorrow" and "New Frontier" (with Nicko McBrain's first writing credit) bring back the old speed, surgingly powerful with occassional mid-tempo melody.
And then the war song. No one bar no one does war like Maiden. "Paschendale" is poignantly sombre and aggressive and filled with lyrical imagery and utterly epic and quite simply the finest piece here. Eight minutes of structural brilliance with the most incredible galloping twin guitar attack for a long, long time. The song most bands would finish with, in fact. But not Maiden. "Face in the Sand" spins round suddenly with slow, stately elegance fuelled by constant kick of the double bass drum, accompanied by an understated orchestra. "Age of Innocence" is lyrically somewhat cliché, but the clashing and wailing guitar sound lets them get away with it. And finally, the closing "Journeyman" is a spiralling swirl of soulful strings, a heartwrenching lament from Bruce, filled with woe. A masterfully understated closing to an album of blinding brilliance.
Producer Kevin Shirley has described Maiden as "the last of the naturally moving rock bands" and the reason is simple. These days, most bands use guitars to fill space around vocals, heavily distorted sounds that can provide fury, but little else. Maiden's clean guitars positively sing, terrifying or heartbreaking as the song requires, soaring alongside Bruce's operatic vocals in a way that must make The Darkness question themselves.
In Brave New World Maiden showed they still had it in them, with the exquisite songwriting skills of Harris and Smith reunited once more. In Dance of Death they've cut out any longwinded rambling, rekindling the old magic. And now that the fans can stop worrying about those bad albums of the past, long may they continue...
I like many people have numerous CD's that I've collected over the years, most of which are competant and not always listened to after a few weeks. There have been some gems that have rocked me back on my feet though - music that really has been a cut above and as you progress through the album for the first time you know that you are hearing something extraordinary. Back in Black, Number of the Beast, Dark Side of the Moon to name a few. Well, Iron Maiden have done the double. They really did peak with Number of the Beast - or at least I thought so. However I can now add to the list of "Great" albums. To have come up with a piece of music after so many years of pushing out good competant rock, but not inspired is almost too good to be true. The production of this album is over the top in the same kind of way the Queen produced Night at the Opera - overdone, large and better for it. The songs are complicated and as per normal for IM slightly overblown, but by Christ, the guitar, rhythm, drums and singing are the best that Maiden have ever done. Even after a couple of spins, I still sit with awe at just how damn good this record is - easily superior to the previous Brave New World, which was much talked about as a return to form. It's not even close. Fantastic album. Buy it if you are a Maiden fan and buy it if you like well produced and well played music even if you aren't a fan of heavy rock.
on 14 March 2011
I have been a fan of Iron Maiden for a long time now and it can be said that this album is one of the better ones. However, this is very much down to personal opinion. There are a few outstanding tracks on this record, with a couple of averagey songs as well. My personal fav is the title track, 'Dance Of Death' followed closely by 'Paschendale'. Both these songs are excellent in their own way. The title track starts slowly with a medieval kind of theme, but it quickly builds in stages with quickening vocals and rythem. Paschendale is a long song with well written lyrics and is one of those which you just keep listening to over and over again and yet it never loses its edge. I wont go into detail about the other songs as there are many many reviews on this album already but i will say that the majority of the songs on this album are all exceptional especially the journeyman which sees Iron Maiden take a different approach to the norm.
One final and very important word of advice here i must point out though! If you like good quality music and are aware of such things like the 'loudness war' then i would strongly advise you buy the DVD-A format version if you have compatible hardware to play it back on! The mastering and quality is unmatched on the 2-channel downmix on this and when compared to the cd verion you seriously wonder how wth went wrong in mastering that version. If you have a PC and Foobar you can actually rip the full stereo 24/88khz Audio_TS files directly to your hard disk too.
To conclude then, an excellent album but i would reccomend buying the dvd-a version which has a very clear dynamic range as it is far superior to the cd master which is unfortunatly terrible in comparison due to it being squeezed to death for loudness.
on 15 September 2003
For all you doubters, nu metal-freaks and especially METALLICA: This is what a great, intense, innovative and therefore classic album must sound like! Metallica, you especially should shiver and kneel when listening to DANCE OF DEATH! These guys put out their 13th release, are all older then you guys and sound so much more new fresh and cool! Why all the anger about METALLICA and this fuss: Because MAIDEN simply have outdone themselves. DANCE OF DEATH seems like a review of 25 years of MAIDEN history with the best this band has ever produced in this time combined and outlayered in 11 songs. All the major masterpieces of MAIDEN are revisited in DANCE OF DEATH, the wonderful keyboard atmospheres of "Seventh Son...", the power and wrath of "The Trooper" or "Number of the beast" in DOD's track 4, the wildness and rock that always classified MAIDEN in the opener WILDEST DREAMS, which being a straight rocker, though not too original is certainly an energetic piece to set the pace for the rest of the album. And after the opener DOD gets better with every track to culminate in the wonderful final song which is more or less a wonderfully thoughful ballad. I never expected MAIDEN to reinvent the wheel, I never expected them to totally sound different...they don't on DOD and that is certainly not bad. But I am so surprised they managed to write 11 songs of such great quality. This is perhaps AIDEN's best album. Don't dare to download that! It is worth every penny!!! Great record, not only for MAIDEN-fans! Buy it!
on 7 September 2003
The BBC called it 'a wonderful new album'.
Metal Hammer called it 'a superlative Maiden album'.
Kerrang! called it 'Maiden's best album since 7th Son'.
I call it absolutely fantastic! Right from the blistering opener 'Wildest Dreams' to the soft, acoustical and beautiful 'Journeyman', this album will grip you by the throat and not let you go until you've digested it in all its glory, which takes some time. This is not an album that you can listen to once and fully appreciate. That said, it doesn't take many listens to get into. It gets the balance between accessibility and complexity just right. I won't do a track-by-track because I think almost everyone else will do that. However I will say that for me the standout tracks are 'Rainmaker' and 'Paschendale'. Two very different song, but both excellent in their own right. This album puts Brave New World to shame.
Why? The repetetive choruses that plagued BNW no longer exist (with the exception of No More Lies, which isn't overly repetetive). This album is heavier and darker than Brave New World too, thanks to an excellent production job from Kevin Shirley. The songs make more use of the three 'amigoes' (Davey, Adrian and Yanick!). Oh and for the Yanick bashers- he is much better on this album. I'm sure you'll agree.
Anyway, without rambling on too much, this album rivals ANYTHING put out in the 80s. That's not to say it's the best album ever or anything. Also... if you're expecting Powerslave part II then don't get this. This, as all Maiden albums are, is a very unique album. That little something is still there, though. The little piece of inspiration throughout the album that tells you this is Maiden, and they're truly back!
on 3 October 2003
I agree with both the positive and the negative reviews of this album. The positive reviews say that this is Maiden back to what they do best - and that is definitely the case. The negative reviews say this is Maiden continuing to do what they have been doing since 1984 - and that is definitely the case. This is Iron Maiden for God's sake. What do you expect?
Melodic intros, galloping bass lines, mad soloing guitars, powerful drumming, over the top theatrical lyrics. They've been doing it since Bruce joined the band, and they'll carry on doing it. If you like Maiden, you'll love it. If you don't like Maiden you'll hate it. That's all you need to know.
I don't think there's a bad song on this album. One of my fellow reviewers says that No More Lies and Gates Of Tomorrow are fillers - pretty bloody good fillers then. The title track is pure Stonehenge by Spinal Tap - as the mandolin-like acoustics kick in, you can almose imagine the dwarf kicking the 18-inch monument over. The lyrics are so gloriously over-the-top you can't help but smile. But I repeat, that's what Iron Maiden are all about. Steve Harris wouldn't have it any other way. I think it's brilliant. A million times better than Brave New World anyway!