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Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death

If there is one thing that can be said about the band Iron Maiden it would have to be about their consistency in delivering a solid plate of Metal for the contingent to enjoy. Fans of the band everywhere will definitely notice how fast the album came out after the recent product that the band had made available for them to enjoy. We had two live DVD's that followed studio albums as well as touring that included the much talked about Ozzfest and its "incident" on the closing night of the Maiden appearances. If this is news to you, I advise you look it up as we are focusing on the new album here. A Matter Of Life And Death was produced by Kevin Shirley who at present has worked on the last few studio and live concert DVD efforts so his hand enables this consistency I spoke of earlier to show a little more prevalently. Stylistically you will find a lot of the Iron Maiden you have come to love over the years, as well as a few subtle new feels and vibe tossed in for good measure. The album starts off strong with that familiar Maiden kick and actually reminded me a lot of how they came across back in the Piece Of Mind and Somewhere in Time days, with a youthful feel and energy. Those who have supported the band in album and concert know very well already that Maiden showcases more energy than bands half their age and it was nice to see a little bit of this early years feel happening. The album itself while tight as Nicko's drumheads did not strike me as overly produced or mixed down. Harris speaks on the album being recorded as all others are done by being in the same room together but for some reason this one just felt a little different on the first and second listen. There is one thing for certain and that is that the band clearly works well as a six-piece now and seems to also have caught its stride. Many remember that axe-slinger Janick Gers was added to the roster before Adrian Smith came back and was not asked to leave. The potential for great leads and melodic shredding was increased and it seems to work well across the album. The three axe men are on point so kudos to Smith, Murray and Gers for this effort. Harris is well, Harris; truly one of the best Heavy Metal bassists in the business and a player who is the measure for success in both up and coming bands as well as some seasoned players. The drummer in me has always enjoyed Nicko's playing and he does not disappoint on the record.

The theme of the recording is primarily based on War and its ramifications and ideals and politics around it. Leave it to Iron Maiden to give you a Metal album and always make you think about the subject matter. It's a refreshing change from a lot of the run of the mill stuff and of course from contemporary popular music which is all about American Idols and Rockstars in most cases. My favored tracks around the album fall with the two openers the most with the first one simply being a kick ass track while the second comes as a statement for ones own national pride in their country and their military. The guys are on track with this release and Bruce Dickinson continues to shine with his usual style. I have to admit that I also liked this album more than the previous effort Dance Of Death very simply that release did not catch me on more than a couple of songs while this one found repeat listens before I compiled my thoughts. I've always admired the bands ability to never deviate far from their original style and still be accepted by the fans. Especially in a musical world were some make changes that end the band entirely. When you come to think of it Iron Maiden is pretty much one of the rare exceptions in the eyes of their fans who want no such change or modification from them. The album comes out and the fan base eats it up with horns raised high and a hearty "UP THE IRONS". Why argue with a formula that works.


Track Listing
1. Different World
2. These Colours Don't Run
3. Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
4. The Pilgrim
5. The Longest Day
6. Out Of The Shadows
7. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
8. For The Greater Good Of God
9. Lord Of Light
10. The Legacy

Added: October 23rd 2006
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Score:
Related Link: Iron Maiden Website
Hits: 2531
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-10-23 11:05:48
My Score:

Every Iron Maiden album since Somewhere in Time initially received poor reviews and A Matter of Life and Death will be no different. It seems to me the Maiden albums, especially those with Bruce Dickinson on vocals, take a while to fully open up and envelop the listener if given repeat plays. Multiple listens can be utterly rewarding when listening to post-Blaze albums, as evidenced with the amazing Brave New World, one of the greatest comeback albums ever, and its heavy successor Dance of Death.

Speaking of the band's previous two discs with Dickinson at the helm, it is basically impossible not to compare them with A Matter of Life and Death, as Maiden have carved their own niche and created their unique sound years ago. It is daft to expect them to deviate from a sound they made their own through years and years of dedicated work and do "something different". Do not listen to this album if that's what you are anticipating. This album is still built around the ideas and themes we've come to love Maiden over the years. Steve Harris still lays down numerous galloping riffs and goes back to utilising enchanting keyboards much like the ones on Brave New World. While Dance of Death found Iron Maiden striving for heavier musical statements, their new album sees them going back to the highly gripping melodic-signature writing of Brave New World and injecting that sound with the production values of The X Factor from the Blaze era.

It is true that the mix and production of A Matter of Life and Death is no way similar to those heard on its predecessors. Kevin Shirley's engineering has rendered both Dickinson's vocals and the guitar team's tones several decibels lower than most CDs, but therefore, the music is not compressed the least bit and has more vivid dynamics. These mostly shine through during Harris and McBrain's rhythm arrangements, which are noticeably more natural sounding. Even though I'll take a better produced drum sound over this one any day of the week, for this particular disc, the human feel carried over is marvellous. McBrain plays in a relatively more straightforward style through most of the course of the album, but his time changes and crescendos are essential to the songs' flow.

What's best about the album is that one will feel he knows all the songs upon first listen, since they are all injected with the classic Maiden signature, but further listens will attest to its diversity. Each new spin warrants something new, as it's virtually impossible not recognize the energy, maturity, and brilliance of this band. On the Gers/Harris-penned "The Pilgrim" and the brilliant final track "The Legacy", the folky, upbeat acoustic guitar lines function perfectly underneath Harris' pronounced bass and Dickinson's melodic singing. The former has a subtle eastern feel to it; while "The Legacy" is a prime example of Iron Maiden's darker songwriting. Almost like a leftover from The X Factor, this song is epic in both its size and execution. Surrounded by claustrophobic, suffocating production elements, it flows seamlessly from ghostly acoustic passages to vital keyboard sequences and majestic fretwork.

As with some of their previous material, songs like "These Colours Don't Run" and "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" open up with Harris' slowly building bass arpeggios, only to develop into crushing soundscapes with the arrival of three-part guitar sections. Mind you, the guitar sound of this album is slightly behind those on the band's previous outputs, but there is still plenty of punch and melodic awareness present. The explosive riffs that come after Dickinson's lower register singing on "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" are amazing, not to mention Harris' bass solo in perfect harmony with acoustic chords. Adrian Smith also plays a fantastic guitar synth on this piece.

"The Longest Day" arguably features the guitar trio's finest soloing on this disc, as each one has enough space to highlight it with their own style and sound, but it is also the brilliant keyboards that elevate it to the next level. "Out of the Shadows" is the band's ballad-style number, while on "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Greeg" and the only Harris-penned "For the Greater Good of God" retreat the album's sound into darker territory, providing thought-provoking themes and lyrical concepts. Dickinson particularly shines on the former, which may be my personal favourite vocal delivery on the album, whilst the latter is defined by clever dynamic shifts and drawn-out guitar work.

This is a very solid album. Granted, it won't be in my top 10 of the year or anything, but it more than serves its purpose, and has incredible staying power. Though Brave New World will always be my favourite from the second Dickinson era, I can safely say this one's already surpassed Dance of Death for me.

Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-09-25 14:17:19
My Score:

Any new Iron Maiden album is usually a good time to celebrate, as perhaps like no other long-running metal band these guys just keep churning out quality product time and time again. This latest chapter in the career of this legendary metal ensemble sees things pretty much keeping in line with the style that the band has delivered over the last few albums. Both Brave New World and Dance of Death were solid examples of the more epic mix of power & progressive metal that Iron Maiden have been bringing to the table since regrouping a few years back. Relying less on the "heavier and faster is better" mentality, the band over the last few records has tried to really tell long and winding tales from a lyrical point of view, while musically the three guitar attack, coupled with Steve Harris' gymnastic bass lines and Nicko McBrain's solid drum work, methodically weaves some seriously intelligent and classy metal that is very epic sounding, and extremely progressive. Some of these characteristics have annoyed some ardent fans of the band, saying that the songs are too long, not heavy enough, and too involved. While the metalhead deep inside me sometimes wishes that the guitar team of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Jannick Gers would really deliver some solid CRUNCH, the prog guy who occupies the other half of my body simply loves the progressive nature of the modern day Maiden. This is a band that is no longer looking to write songs to get onto MTV or FM rock radio. This is a band that is firmly in the mode now to write and record challenging music-might it be too dense for some metal listeners? Could very well be. Nine of the ten songs here on A Matter of Life and Death exceed the five minute mark, and three are over eight, so there's lots of music to digest, and most of the tunes are mini-epics in themselves. Highlights? Well, there's no weak ones here, but the ones that stand out the most are the catchy and vibrant rocker (and shortest of the bunch) "Different World", the galloping metal piece "These Colours Don't Run", the adventurous prog of "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns", the outstanding extended prog-metal romp "For the Greater Good of God", the equally epic "The Legacy", and the super-charged "The Pilgrim".

It's one of those albums that really grows on you after multiple listens. Sure, it's a little longwinded at times, but honestly, Bruce Dickinson sings his heart out here, and the machine-like riffing from the guitar trio is so precise (some stretching out would have been a little nice, but that's not really Maiden's thing), that it's hard not to really give this album all the kudos it deserves. Is it as good as Piece of Mind or Number of the Beast? Well, of course not, but it doesn't pretend to be, and in reality, this band just operates on a different level these days. It's a very solid, and progressive, metal album, that sits quite nicely alongside the most recent studio efforts. I'm hoping the band continues along this line for many years to come...I'll still be listening.


» Reader Comments:

Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2006-09-12 10:43:39
My Score:

While you can find similarities between these songs and others they have done in the last couple of albums, there's enough twists and turns to grant excellent enjoyement throughout.With one exception being Out Of The Shadows that is too much a carbon copy of Wasting Love for it's own good.
Having said that, this Maiden banquet contains some of the band's more awesome material in years.
Personal favorites: For The Grater Good Of God and Lord Of Light.
Buy it without fears.





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