on 2 April 2007
And God it's good! Not just good, it's flippin' awesome! As a die-hard Maiden fan from Powerslave - Fear of the Dark, I lost interest after Bruce left. I tried out the Blaze material (was a Wolfsbane fan back in the day), but couldn't get into it. Brave New World and Dance of Death were excellent, but not enough to draw me back into my frenzied old state! A Matter of Life and Death is a whole different beast. I bought it last week after reading the wealth of reviews here. I had to hear the album that some claim is better than 7th Son (my favourite album). While I can't be sure of that bold statement (THAT album is, after all a legend for many of us), I will say that it is better than all of the others! (Deep breath!) Ok, so most of the others had legendary songs on them but the consistency of this album makes it a winner (every song on 7th Son was excellent too). I have listened to this album over and over more than 10 times in the past four or five days. I have also listened to individual tracks when I have had a spare minute or 8!! I can't find a poor track and love listening to the whole CD. I can't believe it, having lost interest in "long" songs years ago. The truth is, these songs just do not feel long, even at 8-9 mins I'm not bored. I am a Maiden fan again!! Well and truly!! Just wish I'd bought this before the tour coz I NEED to see them again!! Still evolving and re-inventing (as reviewed above) this has got to be the coup that no other band approaching middle-age has EVER pulled off! It makes me feel 16 again and my sons (1 and 6 years old) move to it like maniacs. It may grow on me to be their best ever, we'll see! UP THE IRONS!!
After a come back which no-one honestly expected, Maiden had nothing left to prove; fans, critics, and band members were happy. Rather than stopping, taking it easy, or releasing a half hearted attempt the band would unleash what is possibly their most critically popular album maybe overshadowing the once insurmountable Number Of The Beast. The album went number 1 throughout the world and set a new benchmark for metal. The music, lyrics, imagery, tone, are all pure, classic Maiden but with a modern , darker, more world weary flavour. Not strictly a concept album we have the usually debates on war, life, religion but never before have the band sounded so vicious, vibrant, and vital- these songs need to be heard. It was the band's longest album at the time- no 3 minute pop jobs here, and every song is a masterpiece of thoughtful construction and ingenuity. Thankfully the guitars are as fast as ever, the melodies and choruses still as strong, while Bruce is singing with a more strained, scratchy voice and still reaching the peaks.
`Different World' opens with a familiar voice before a blistering riff kicks things off. This was one of the singles from the album and as has been the recent tradition features a fast pace, is heavily melodic, and is accompanied by a nutty, animated video. In many ways it sets out the major themes of the album, begging all the different people of the world to embrace and understand their differences instead of destroying each other. This is as light as the album gets as the rest has a much darker tone, but this is as ferocious as everything else- they like to get their point across by stomping so hard on your head that it leaves an imprint.
`These Colours Don't Run' introduces the more sombre and very dark nature of the album, with softer, building riffs which merge into heavier, quicker central sections. War and pride are key here as the lyrics discuss youngsters going off to fight for a war full of love for their country, knowing that they will probably die but not realizing that those who send them will never care for or understand their sacrifice. Dickinson sounds as strong as ever, the chorus is huge, and there are some excellent guitar parts. The stand out here, as it is for much of the album is the rhythm section, including all the backing music which stretch the songs to over 5 minutes and prevent them becoming anything less than urgent and vibrant.
`Brighter Than 1000 Suns' has one of the band's best riffs, starting quietly then blasting your face off and continuing through various sections of the track. The verses are full of threat, the lyrics are cutting and effective, and the chorus is as explosive as anything they have recorded. This track perhaps more than any other shows how rejuvenated the band are. We then move into a slower section, before some vitriolic soloing and a classic gallop section. It does however have the terrible `E=MC2, you can relate' lyric. Everything else is perfection.
`The Pilgrim' slows the pace marginally for a few seconds and then we get another high paced commercial style track. It is short, dark, and to the point although they manage to squeeze in varying phases and sections. It has an Eastern feel thanks to the riffs but it can easily be forgotten under the considerable weight of the album's epics.
`The Longest Day' brings us back to the quiet, ominous introductions. We get swirling riffs and low vocals which gradually get more forceful. The song builds continuously for the first couple of minutes as the lyrics get increasingly grim and angry until the darkness breaks with a chorus. This is the stuff of stadiums and was written surely in the hope that the audience would shriek along. The themes are obviously once again based around war (D-Day in particular) and in typically Maiden fashion the name is taken from a classic film. Suffice to say the playing is flawless and inspired.
`Out Of The Shadows' harkens back to earlier moody Maiden tracks like Stranger World. The pace is slow, we have soft guitars and steady vocals with the occasional electric blast in the background. The chorus tries to be epic but it lacks the melodic quality of the other tracks. This is probably the weakest song here.
`The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Brigg' is the main single from the album, but because Britain is a very silly place it was ineligible for chart release (anything over 3 minutes is a big no-no). We get distant guitars playing moodily far beyond the horizon before Bruce chimes in with whispery and shadowy vocals. At around two minutes the main part of the song begins, with progressing crushing chords. The lyrics follow the death and reincarnation of a soldier and are amongst the best story based ones that the band has written. Naturally we get a few shifts in pace and focus before the track ends.
`For The Greater Good Of God' is the longest track on the album (by one second) and has yet another sublimely dark introductory riff. This makes way for an extraordinary opening section with wonderful melodies and lyrics. The guitars are never far behind and once they come in we're throwing ourselves off the walls. Another epic chorus pre-empts kicking the walls in. Soon we have massive string sections adding to the overall epic feel and you get the sense that Maiden are the biggest band in the world and want everyone to know it.
`Lord Of Light' is another one which opens softly- the band clearly know they are on to a winner with this format as it never gets tired thanks to the power of their invention. The opening melodies are played at a quiet level but are then repeated at full tilt and with Dickinson straining himself as much as possible. The chorus is not as strong as others but does a good job of changing the pace and tone of the song. We then move back to the same tone as the introduction for the last half of the song, with the odd loud part interspersed.
`The Legacy' has an acoustic introduction with a string section which reminds me instantly of The Four Tops (and others) Reach Out I'll Be There. This goes on for over three minutes before the band go all out at creating another ear destroying monster. Unfortunately the pace never really picks up and it feels like a Blaze era song with a stop start up down rhythm. The melodies get strong as the song goes on, but it is the acoustics and strings which make this so good.
Maiden show no signs of slowing down, giving up, losing their gift, or losing touch with the scene. This could well be their most accomplished album and it has won them a tonne of accolades. Touching on themes of War is not new, not even new for Maiden but rarely have they or any other band captured the fear, disbelief, and anger that a person or nation can feel. Each song here is incredibly complex which may turn away casual or new listeners, but hardened fans and anyone with a true love for music should be awed by this achievement.
I'm writing this review, not as a Maiden devotee, but as a recent convert. I managed to get to 40 years of age without owning a Maiden album, thinking they were too over the top, and preferring 'classic' rock such as Led Zep, Tull and so on. Oh my, I have been missing out BIG TIME. Perhaps strangely for some, I chose to get into Maiden by way of their more recent output, one day coming across their latest album, The Final Frontier and instantly liking it. This album, A Matter of Life and Death, is often considered one of their best, or at least the best of the last 10 years. I can see why. The musicianship is superb - it sounds like the band were just on fire when recording this album and it all gels together superbly - the drumming is complex, fast, masterful, the guitar work just perfect. And let's not forget Bruce's vocals - varied and powerful - very, very good. As I listened to each track I thought, oh wow, this is great, there must be a duffer coming up soon. Nope, each track is great - I can't believe how many great riffs they came up with on this album. I can understand why some say it's dark - after all, it's about war, including the nuclear variety, but the songs have majesty and power and the musicianship makes me smile, even if the themes are very dark. To me, this is as good as metal or hard rock gets - forget Metallica, nu-metal, prog-metal - this album kicks those groups and genres into touch. Brilliant. I'm struggling to find anything negative to say about this album. The songs are epic sounding, and I suppose if you like short, sharp 4-minute rock songs you are going to be in for a shock. But if you like long, epic tracks with great musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics, then do listen to this album. Seriously, I am a big Rush fan, and you don't get better lyrics and musicianship than Rush, but with this album I think Maiden match the Canadian trio on both scores.
on 17 August 2007
It must be said that Maiden have been on something of a creative roll since the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith.....deservedly so! "Brave New World" and "Dance of Death", were both outstanding albums/tours and better than anything the band had done since 1988. AMOLAD, however, significantly "under-whelmed" me for a long time. I have to say that I didn't like this album when I first bought it, I initially found it to be weak in comparison with DOD. But, after absorbing it for the best part of a year, I'm converted. I find myself listening to it more and more. This is an outstandingly strong, complex, intelligent and ambitious Maiden album. It doesn't have the technical flair and instantly standout tracks of DOD/BNW but, as a whole, it is a much more cohesive work. Of course it has the trademark Maiden sound, why wouldn't it?? Maiden have been guilty of being formulaic in the past, most notably towards the end of Bruce's first tenure, but certainly not on this album. AMOLAD has more twists, turns and pace changes that the Paris to Dakar Rally. The progressive influences are getting stronger, as is the song writing and the musicianship. And how many other 30-year old bands could do a tour and get away with playing little else but their latest album in its entirety? I'd say they were in a class of one on that, which says a lot about the strength of the material and their fans. In summary, AMOALD is latest in a trilogy of outstanding Maiden albums....just give it a few spins and you'll be hooked. Nobody else in their genre or vintage is still making albums this good! Where next?
on 23 July 2010
Once again Maiden have come up with the goods. This marks the 3rd 'new' classic since the return of Bruce. And it is a very different beast from the 2 that preceded; it's still unmistakably Maiden but the tone is more thoughtful, as opposed to the frivolity of Dance of Death, or the monster that was Brave New World.
From the excellent opener they maintain the quality throughout easily. 'These Colours...' and'Brighter...' have already become classics and the lesser played tracks, eg 'Longest Day', 'Lord of Light' are still jaw-dropping gems. 'The Pilgrim' is a grower but, after a few spins, does become something wonderful. 'Out of the Shadows' and 'For the Greater Good...' are the only 2 tracks that are not quite as interesting. Some may not like 'The Reincarnation..,' but it is truly great Maiden dirge, solid and thumping and riffs a-plenty, although I've still no idea what it is about. The closing track shows the band at their epic best. It is not as good as some of their older classic longer songs but has a ghostly essence that drives it on.
Not my personal Maiden favourite but it is hard to choose, from their recent 3 releases, which is better? They are all so different while keeping the classic Maiden sound, but the quality is equal.
If you like heavy metal, rock or are a fan of the band, this is no less than essential.
on 17 December 2006
Having been a fan of Maiden since their first album I had long ago written them off as being in terminal decline. They had reached the point where much of the music was terrible and most of the lyrics were worse. There's no doubt that the previous two studio albums were a much needed improvement, with some great material, but they still had some really second rate songs too.
This is a very long album and yet there is not one filler. It's their most thoughtful, progressive and mature work to date and I think it's their most consistently good album. Even the old "classic" albums have some mediocre songs but not this one. And the more I listen to it the better it gets. I have some personal favourites but the whole album is superb. More please.
on 4 October 2006
Many reviews I have read have highlighted this album as Iron Maiden's finest work since `Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'. Believe me, this time, the reviews are correct.
Steve Harris writes some wonderful riffs such as `The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg', `The Pilgrim', and the supreme `For The Greater Good Of God'. Bruce Dickinson is brilliant as always, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are both excellent, as are Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain.
It is a `complete' album in the sense that all the band members are on top form, and even though some fans may be disappointed to see that there are only 10 tracks, they couldn't fit many more, and more importantly, there is no filler material.
It opens up with the raucous `Different World'- which is relatively short by Maiden standards, at four minutes 18 seconds. Here, we have a relatively high-tempo, riff-laden track, not too dissimilar to `Wildest Dreams' on 2003's `Dance of Death'. Then things get a whole lot better. 9/10.
In my opinion, it is the weakest track on the album, and it is in fact very good. That shows the standard of the album as a whole. Then we open up into `These Colours Don't Run', an epic seven-minute journey about war, and leaving home to fight for your country. This is where the album really gets going. And how. `For the passion, for the glory, for the memories, for the memory- you're a soldier for your country.' Dickinson sings. Definitely one of many excellent tracks heard here. 10/10.
Track three is called `Brighter Than A Thousand Suns'. And yes, you guessed it. Another Maiden epic. Clocking in at eight minutes and 46 seconds, it flies by as you're captivated by the musical and vocal talents of Britain's finest ever Metal band. Slow to start, like the previous track, but well worth the wait. `Out of the darkness, brighter than a thousand suns!' Dickinson bellows. Again, as pretty much the whole album, it is all about war (as the front cover would suggest). The solos are exemplary by Murray, Smith and Harris. McBrain's drumming is sharp and tight, and above all, brilliant. Maiden are confident and have a new-found vigour in their style of music and riffs. The riffs are raw, punchy and less sophisticated than on previous efforts. 10/10.
Track four, `The Pilgrim' is one of my favourites and it's easy to hear why. The opening riff is instantly stuck in your head, and the chorus riffs and Arabian-style riffs are just unlike anything I've heard in a long time. Unbelievable. Clocking in at five minutes and 7 seconds, believe it or not, this is the second shortest song on the album. But what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in quality. Superb. `Raise me up, take me home' Dickinson sings full power in his distinctive style. 10/10.
Track five, `The Longest Day' clocks in at seven minutes and 47 seconds- but the opening couple of minutes are excellent just in the fact that if you listen to the lyrics, they are telling you a story- `to turn men of flesh and blood to steel' as Dickinson grits through his teeth. Musically, it is faultless, and what is even more remarkable is that this entire album- 73 minutes of it was recorded in an entire live state. This song has a raw, punchy feel to it as well. Typical Maiden- anthemic, epic, everything you would expect. `The water is red with the blood of the dead,' Dickinson sings. `How long is this longest day, `til we finally make it through?' He questions continually. The twin guitaring is superb, as is the timing of the music with the drums. Probably the second weakest song on the album- but still merits a 9/10.
Track six, is what might be considered a ballad by Iron Maiden's standards. `Out Of The Shadows' contains excellent lyrics as always, and a softer, mellower approach to the song. Harris's guitaring especially is excellent, as is his solo. A lovely `melody', if you like. 10/10.
Track seven, and the first release off the album- the curiously named `The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg' (Only Iron Maiden would get away with calling a song by such a ridiculous name), and they also get away with it because it is absolutely brilliant. It returns to the raw, punchy edge seen in a few songs already, and has a few excellent solos. Yes it is slow to begin, but we all know how Iron Maiden songs are by now. The musical chemistry is second to none. A deserved 10/10.
Track eight is called `For The Greater Good Of God' and let me tell you something. This is in a league of its own- you can split this album into three categories. At the bottom you have `Different World' and `The Longest Day'. In the middle you have the rest of the songs and at the songs you have this song. It takes a while to get going, but what a song. The chorus is up there with the best in their career- I'm off to see them in December and I sincerely hope they play this live- it will be a highlight. Even though Dickinson just repeats `For the greater good of God'- the song has such an `anthem' feel to it- and seriously is up there with `Number of the Beast', `Two Minutes To Midnight', `The Evil That Men Do', `Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter', and all the other real classics. People will look back on this in twenty years or more and say- this was one of the classics of Iron Maiden's career, even though it clocks in at nine minutes and 24 seconds. Brilliant. 10/10.
Track nine then, is a bit of an anti-climax. `Lord Of Light' starts slowly, and rather disappointingly, but builds up nicely into a decent chorus and solo. One of the weaker efforts, but still merits 9/10 due to the overall quality of the album.
And finally, we have track ten- `The Legacy'. Five minutes goes by and you might think `What's the point? Are Steve Harris's hands getting tired?' Rather unsurprising to be honest. The trademark Maiden riff kicks in though and the song bursts into life. The song finishes in a rather creepy fashion but there are a few epic bits thrown in for good measure. Maybe if you're a pessimist you could say that it's a `bits and pieces' song, but even if it is, it's miles better than what most other bands could hope to do. 9.5/10.
So the verdict overall? 9.5/10, but it really is a five star performance by this amazing band. And yes, it is the best Maiden album since `Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'. If you don't believe me, go ahead and buy it- then come to your decision.
Definitely the album of 2006, and it has been a good year for music this year. Rock on!
on 18 December 2006
Some of the reviews here have surprised me greatly. This album is about as good as metal gets. The acid test is how it translates on a live platform and, having just seen Maiden play this album in its entirety on their tour, I can confirm that it was awesome. I am also convinced that not many Maiden fans would disagree. Sure there are those who remain rooted in the past wanting only to hear the Maiden classics, but the guys themselves sent a signal about how they regard this album by playing it all. Having myself looked forward to hearing the old favorites I came away firmly of the belief that the new songs are even stronger. A great album - Maiden get better with age.
on 29 July 2006
When 'Brave New world' was released, the majority of people claimed it to be Maiden's best work since 'Seventh Son'..same again with 'Dance Of Death' in 2003. Now here we are in 2006 with their latest opus - A Matter Of Life And Death...and do you know what, this really is their best work since 'Seventh Son'. In fact, i'd go further and say that it is every bit the equal of the 1988 concept album. Whilst the two records are very different musically, they do share a common trait that very few other Iron Maiden albums have enjoyed - absolutely no filler tracks. AMOLAD is jam packed with 10 songs that are so brilliant, you'll be struggling to pick out clear favourites after the first couple of spins.
The album kicks off perfectly with the one-two punch of the 'Different Worlds' (infectiously melodic) and 'These Colours Don't Run' (semi-epic yet pure grandiose Maiden) - both of which are certain to be a part of their live set when they tour later this year. Following that is another tune that's a good contender for a live appearance - the utterly sensational 'Brighter Than A Thousand Suns'. This is one of several multi-layered epics on the album that will have you discovering new things with each subsequent listen - brilliant Maiden, simply brilliant. Other standout songs worthy of note (to be fair they are all 'standout' tracks) - 'The Longest Day' (Harris excels on bass here), 'Out Of The Shadows'(beautifully melancholic)..and 'The Pilgrim' & 'The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg' that have Maiden getting all riffy on us.
A Matter Of Life And Death isn't just a step-up from BNW & DOD, it's in a completely different league. It's almost as if the band were just teasing us on the previous two records, hinting a truly great things but not quite delivering. Well here they are with one of the greatest records they've ever made. This is what we've all been waiting for - Iron Maiden firing on all cylinders...and isn't it just a spectale to behold.
on 29 September 2006
I was thrilled to see that Iron Maiden offered their new album as a limited edition, vinyl picture disc. I have a number of other Maiden albums on vinyl and have always thought that their crisp sounding heavy metal lended itself very well to the vinyl format. In general, this is a great album; the best of their recent offerings (post Seventh Son) in my opinion. A bit darker perhaps then other Maiden albums - almost a continuation from Dance of Death - but then again even more progressive and in-depth. Some people might not like the "non-mastered" sound of this recording though.
The 3-star rating however is also based on a number of problems with the two copies of the vinyl edition I've had the chance to listen to. It is well known that picture discs might have somewhat higher surface noise than ordinary vinyl pressings, but both versions I've listened to have had extreme surface noise to the point of actually drowning out the music in quiet parts. Also, both version have had off-center holes, resulting in "warbled" sound and distortion.
In short, love the album, shame about the vinyl edition. Hopefully, this will only apply to a small number of albums, but buyers should be aware of these problems.