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Iron Maiden. How much can a person say about Iron Maiden that every other respectable metal head doesn’t already know? And if you are a metal head and you haven’t listened to A Matter of Life and Death then maybe you should – right now. Because this is one of the best albums of the year, even if it doesn’t sound like the Iron Maiden many of use grew up listening to.
A Matter of Life and Death is down-right progressive in nature, including songs with length and multiple time and rhythm changes. The album is epic but not forcibly epic as was the case with most of Dance of Death. The songs are written in that progressive/epic manner and are likely played as such. For fans of the older Iron Maiden style (fast melodies and shorter songs) then this album may not sit well with you. As a fan of the older Iron Maiden I know at first this album didn’t digest well in my head. But as a fan of Iron Maiden I know that this is how they are now and not much is going to change that.
When a person first throws in the album, they are going to hear the first track, “Different World”, which is definitely the most radio friendly and older styled song on the album. This is also by far my favorite track because it is a little speedier and upbeat. The rest of the album is a lot slower (about mid-paced) and full of soaring melodies and galloping beats. The guitar work (despite having three full time guitarists now) is simplified on this album and the melodies are a focusing element on the entire song, rather than being the main part. I don’t really understand why when a band has three extremely talents guitarists they don’t use them to their full potential – but it doesn’t detract from the music at all.
The bass work (oh – how Steve Harris is a badass) is once again his stylized galloping riffs which help keep the songs from slowing too much. His bass is a little loud in comparison to the guitars but Iron Maiden has always had a very forward bass sound so it doesn’t bother me that much. The drumming is simplistic but very effective in creating a structure for the progressive stylings in the music. The drums are unique in the writing with lots of great cymbal work.
Bruce Dickinson is at the top of his game on A Matter of Life and Death. The longer and more epic songs allow him to really throw his operatic vocal style out and give it his entire heart. His solo career seems to be the place for the shorter faster songs anymore – and this really shows what a great big voice he has.
The album itself is seamless in its presentation. Songs flow very well and even though it has a more progressive feel to it – there are none of those sudden time changes that sometimes discourage me from listening. Most of the time changes are gradual and the listener can follow at ease. The lyrics of the album help to give it an overall epic feeling with songs about understanding, World War II (I love the historical aspects of Iron Maiden), and even the sacrifices one makes in the name of God. One of the most interesting lyrical albums released in the last few years it’s nice to hear a song that supports the idea of dying for ones country for honor (in the context of World War II, I would assume).
Overall, A Matter of Life and Death is a massive achievement for Iron Maiden. It may not be a Powerslave in its conception but its delivery as a progressive metal album is superb. Fans of the faster and to-the-point Iron Maiden probably won’t love this as much but in the end this is by far one of the most brilliantly made albums I’ve heard.
Songs to check out: Different World, Brighter than a Thousand Suns, For the Greater Good of God, The Longest Day.