Iron Maiden - Dance Of Death

Year of Release: 2003
Label: EMI
Catalog Number: 592340-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 66:39:00

Okay, let's get the first question out of the way: Why on earth is ProgressiveWorld reviewing Iron Maiden? Simple, but surprising: Dance Of Death is Progressive Metal. Okay, 25% progressive and 75% metal.

Dance Of Death is a far cry from the 1990s Maiden-in-the-dumps sludge with excessive bass, poor vocals and some pop-schlock thrown in for sales. Perhaps not coincidentally vocalist Bruce Dickinson launched a successful solo career in the 1990s and his excellent Chemical Wedding has been cynically called the best album Iron Maiden never made.

But 2000's Brave New World was an important return to form for Maiden with the re-formation of the classic lineup including guitarist Adrian Smith and frontman Bruce Dickinson. Add a third guitarist to the mix - Janick Gers, whose resume includes Fish, Gillan, a solo Bruce Dickinson, and some previous Iron Maiden work. There was a fatter overall guitar sound, and the rich keyboard tones alienated some hardcore Maiden fans.

With this new release band-boss Steve Harris finally allowed more creative input from the other band members, and that piqued enough interest for me to re-listen to their 1980s albums, especially 1988's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, the best album the band ever released. And the result? Dance Of Death is a perfect blend of old and new. It recaptures their best 1980s sounds and blends them with the proggy influences and melodies of Brave New World. The Dream Theater set will feel right at home, and classic Maiden fans will know that the kings of NWOBHM are back at their best.

Most of the lyrics are way better than on most progressive rock or metal albums, and "Dance Of Death" and ?Paschendale? are particularly poetic.

Heavy metal fans will be unhappy with the languid introductions and occasional slow endings, the 7-minute power ballad ?Journeyman?, and the frequent changes of pace. But for prog-metal fans those ingredients simply add a flavor of sophistication.

Bruce Dickinson's vocals are as good as ever, the guitar work is excellent, and for once the mix keeps Harris's bass where it belongs and not the in-your-face bass we have learned to expect. Production quality is far from the standard of previous albums, but in their defense, this is not one of your software-driven productions where layers are recorded separately and added like paint-by-numbers. The whole band actually plays each song in the studio, from beginning to end, no breaks, and only a few over-dubs in the vocal harmonies - and you can really feel that group dynamic.

The album kicks off with a cheesy one ?two ? one-two-three-four count that sounds like a clip from your neighbor's kid's garage band. That poor first impression lasts all of 4 seconds, and launches opener "Wildest Dreams" - a classic Maiden piece, but far from the best on the CD.

"Montsegur" is a song about an infamous massacre in thirteenth century France. Classic metal, well written, and brutally melodic. ?No More Lies? will be the heavy metal fan's favorite. After a gentle two minute intro it develops into a straight-ahead rocker with anthemic vocals and great melodic hooks. You can just see this one being a real crowd pleasing encore in live performances.

The best and most progressive track on this CD is another war inspired song "Paschendale", which tells the story of a WW I battle. It starts quietly with a tapping lead guitar motif, and with Bruce softly and poetically lamenting the loss of dead soldiers. The heavy metal breaks in with crunchy riffs, bass and drums and the song develops into a melodic metal classic. There's a nice break halfway through, where a lead guitar lick picks out a section of the melody, then all guitars, bass and the keyboards gradually enter with interpretations of the same piece - and Bruce picks up the vocals again. There's another break followed by classic solos - listen to the tradeoffs between the two lead guitarists. The tension eases and the song ends more or less as it started, quiet and emotional. Lots of breaks and changes, along with the mood and the melody and Bruce's raw emotion and the overall dynamics, make this a very moving progressive piece .

But the closing track "Journeyman" may be one of the more important songs on the album. It is a seven minute power ballad with an elegantly quiet tone, and as the acoustic guitars and lush keys fade out you're left with a new respect for the band's maturity and musicianship.

Traditional Maiden fans will hate the cover art, which has little resemblance to the Derek Riggs images that helped make Iron Maiden famous, along with bands like Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, and a solo Bruce Dickinson.

Dance Of Death is better than Brave New World, and the best thing they've done since Seventh Son - which is high praise indeed. Look out, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden may become the next kings of progressive metal.

Wildest Dreams (3:52) / Rainmaker (3:48) / No More Lies (7:21) / Monts?gur (5:50) / Dance of Death (8:36) / Gates Of Tomorrow (5:12) / New Frontier (5:04) / Paschendale (8:28) / Face In The Sand (6:31) / Age Of Innocence (6:10) / Journeyman (7:07)

Steve Harris - bass
Bruce Dickinson - vocals
Dave Murray - guitar
Adrian Smith - guitar
Janick Gers - guitars
Nicko McBrain - drums

Soundhouse Tapes (1979)
Iron Maiden (1980)
Killers (1981)
Number Of The Beast (1982)
Brain Damage Tour Of Europe (1983)
Piece Of Mind (1983)
Powerslave (1984/2002)
Live After Death (The World Slavery Tour) (1985/2002)
Somewhere In Time (1986/2002)
Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988/2002)
No Prayer For The Dying (1990/2002)
Wasted Years...Stranger In A Strange Land (1990)
Fear Of The Dark (1992/2002)
10 CD Box set (1992)
A Real Live One (1993/2002)
A Real Dead One (1993/2002)
Live At Donnington '92 (1994)
The First Ten Years (box set) (1994)
The X Factor (1995/2002)
The Best Of The Beast (1996)
The Best Of Iron Maiden (1996)
In Profile (1998)
A Real Live Dead One (1998)
Virtual XI (1998/2002)
Eddie's Head (1998)
Ed Hunter (1999)
Brave New World (2000)
Rock In Rio (2002)
Eddie's Archive (2002)
Edward The Great: Greatest Hits (2002)
Dance Of Death (2003)
No More Lies (ep) 2004)
Death On The Road (2005)
The Essential Iron Maiden (2005)
A Matter Of Life And Death (2006)
Somewhere Back In Time: The Best Of 1980-1989 (2008)
Flight 666 (2009)

Behind The Iron Curtain (VID/DVD) (1985)
Maiden England (VID/DVD) (1988)
Video Pieces (VHS) (1991)
Live After Death (1991/2008)
From There To Eternity (DVD) (1993)
Raising Hell (DVD) (1993)
Metal Hammer (DVD) (2000)
Number Of The Beast (VHS/DVD) (2001)
Rock In Rio (VHS/DVD) (2002)
Visions Of The Beast (DVD) (2003/2004)
Legacy Of The Beast (DVD) (2004)
The History Of Iron Maiden, Pt. 1: The Early Days (DVD) (2004)
Death On The Road (DVD) (2005/2006)
Different World (DVD) (2006)
The History Of Fear (DVD) (2007)
Rock Case Studies (DVD) (2007)
Critical Review: Iron Maiden Album (DVD) (2007)
World's Greatest Albums (DVD) (2007)
...And The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (DVD) (2008)
Castle Donington, England (DVD) (2008)
In Italy (DVD) (2008)
Live After Death (DVD) (2008)
Flight 666 (DVD/BR) (2009)
Dawn Of The Damned (DVD) (2009)

Genre: Traditional Metal

Origin UK

Added: October 5th 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 830
Language: english


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