Top critical review
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Fabulous Songs, atrocious sound
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.