A Matter Of Life And Death
It is a matter of life and death. It honestly and truly is a matter of life and death. New Iron Maiden is as mandatory as a turtleneck sweater in the heart of a Maine winter. Sure we have all said it time and time again, maybe...just maybe....the "Up The Irons" from old may have adjusted themselves into more of a holding pattern than a productive, though provoking metal machine that spits forth lead, rivets, and iron. Yes, Maiden may be a stranger in a strange land, inhabiting vehicles like "Dances Of Death" and "Brave New World" that don't necessarily rumble and roar like the flamed black steel machine that invaded every summer driveway and lonely avenue through the 80s.
But this time....oh yes....this time something has changed. Something deep beneath that polished hood lies a metallic beast bursting under pressure. With pistons pumping, fans turning, and a fuel injector pumping in gallon after gallon of adrenaline, energy, and an almost endless supply of brand new ideas, this IRON MAIDEN, this Eddie driven beast of both road, studio and stage has sparked once more. This is a brand new Maiden, with an engine that roars with power, smokin' clones and completely dissolving all critics and nay Sayers in one huge cloud of asphalt, dust, and scorched rubber. "A Matter Of Life And Death". Don't you forget it.
Kevin Shirley himself writes in the liner notes about Maiden's intensity in the studio. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Janick Gers, Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, and Nicko combine on what I would consider their best album since "Seventh Son..." and what could grow into one of my favorite Maiden records of all time. Yes, I enjoy it that much. Yes, I find it uplifting and inspiring. Yes, I do believe that this is the Iron Maiden that we have been waiting on. Yes, this is a rejuvenated Maiden, completely hell-bent on purpose and the drive and desire to be the very best metal band on Earth. They are. They prove that with this album. "A Matter Of Life And Death" lives up to its album cover. This is a tank riding, gun firing, metallic beast that clangs in the night as it marches the lonely battle lines back to the front.
After what I consider a very lack-luster ball with "Dance Of Death", Eddie and company return to songs and arrangements that harken back to retro, new wave Maiden while still incorporating a more mature, seasoned approach to make things different. Sure, I hear people bitch and moan that this album doesn't have any cuts like "The Trooper". Why would you want to hear Maiden do another song like that?? Why would you want that when SO MANY bands create their whole sound and persona on that type of songwriting? If you want "The Trooper Part 456" pick up a Wolf, Steel Prophet, or Cellador album. Not that those are bad choices but they simply don't climb out of the trenches to fight any new wars. This new Maiden inspires the down trodden and rallies those lost in the wastelands. This is a Maiden record like no other, smoothly caressing the "Seventh Son..." era while still burning a torch for something uplifting and refreshing. That is what quality bands do, and that is what makes Maiden so damn good!
Shirley's production here is much, much better than before. I believe he is feeding off of the band's energy and motivation, really giving this album plenty of bombastic kick with the drums and the guitars. The production is thick, reminding me of a much more metallic and sophisticated working of "Brave New World". Dickinson is at his absolute best here given his age. Sure he can't hit those high notes like before, but tell me if the lead singers of Hate Breed or All That Remains will be singing those ear piercing screeches twenty years from now? Dickinson remains one of the true metal icons in our industry, and backed by these amazing band members and the production efforts by Shirley, the whole band will go down in history as simply the best of all time.
Maiden gets back to the war-torn epic with the D-Day tale "The Longest Day", a building march that is just breath taking and awe inspiring, giving plenty of time to digest those horrible events years past. The chorus explodes with Dickinson and Harris' bass lines just drilling the orders. This is quite possibly one of the best Maiden songs to date. Another war inspired cut is "These Colours Don't Run", a great patriotic cut that really talks about the horrors of war waiting each soldier when he leaves his country to fight. The main riff is very melodic, really soaking up the vocal melodies and catchy songwriting. The band starts off with a great opener in "Different World", an uplifting ray of light that begs listeners to enjoy today. This cut is really in the style of the previous two album openers, "Wicker Man" and "Wildest Dreams". Many people have really rallied behind the band's single, a great groove mesh called "The Reincarnation Of Benjamim Breeg". At first the song didn't really hit me, but after spinning it a few times I can really here so many things going on. Gers checks in with his usual abstract melodies, this time really writing a fantastic tune with "The Pilgrim" and its melody change about halfway through. Amazing effort from Gers as always! Fans of "Piece Of Mind's" "Revelations" should enjoy "Out Of The Shadows" and anyone into Sabbath's "Heaven And Hell" album or Priest's "Sad Wings Of Destiny" should take note of album closer "The Legacy".
Bottom Line - One of the finest metal moments of all time. This is absolute mandatory metal and easily one of Maiden's finest moments. A rare rating system indeed from me, but 10 out of 10 is in order for this.
The masters of melodic metal have returned and much to the discernment of my co-reviewers who are fairly enamored with this new effort, I'm a bit more disagreable with A Matter of Life or Death.
Maiden's discography can largely be placed into various groupings: Early/Raw, High Success, Bloat, Blaze and Mature Years. The new AMOLAD fits right into a triumvirate along with Brave New World and Dance of Death that is characteristic of a band that has reached the pinacle of success and needs to answer to nothing but their own passions. Musically, the band is middle-aged yet as strong as any patriarcs could be putting together hefty song arrangements with flowing, organic riffs and melodies that blur the lines of traditional and progessive metal. Bruce Dickinson can still outsing 90 percent of vocalists young and old with his usual touch of dramatic flair (Ronnie Dio may be the only one from the traditional era that could be called better). Together they all sound as tight as the superior rhythms coming from skinbeater Nikko McBrain and founder Steve Harris.
Frankly, the song lengths and lyrics have become a bloat and hinderance for me. I'm weary of elongated songs about war and the exploration of death. Epics are great, but MY ideal Maiden only drops at most two of those within and half dozen hooked burners. There is really none the obvious clunkers on AMOLAD that you would find on albums like No Prayer for the Dying, but you're also not going to get the single-friendly, concert wind-up tracks from Piece of Mind and Number of the Beast. Like the last two releases, it's only a matter of whether you like and can get into the songs. It beats Dance of Death, but so far I'm more apt to spin Brave New World.
Bottom Line: I'd like to see Maiden break this three record formula, but if you love the last 2 Maiden CDs, you'll love this one.