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Overhyped - 38%

holyrebels, July 13th, 2010

I bought this album when it was new because I was gullible enough to believe the hype. This album is still ridiculously overrated on Amazon.com and some of my fellow metalheads here seem to love it, but I got tired of "A Matter of Life and Death" and put it away after three listenings. It's on my mp3 player and the songs come up on shuffle, but they tend to get skipped. The sheer boredom I felt, and still feel, when I hear this record hasn't gone away and the widespread love for this CD still boggles my mind. "Dance of Death" was forgettable, but this album is flat-out boring to me, and I find it unforgivable that I can't listen to one of my top 3 all-time bands without shutting them off halfway through.

It is silly in my opinion to compare the current Iron Maiden to their heyday in the 80s and early 90s. This is a reformation of the band and needs to be treated as such, not unlike Deep Purple getitng back together in the 80s and having radically different output. That being said, I loved "Brave New World" and not just for the nostalgia. I thought the songs were unique and exciting and I was never bored listening to it. This album... ugh.

First and foremost, Bruce Dickinson spends way too much time singing in his highest register and he simply cannot stay there all the time. He sounds strained and I can't believe they allowed this to go on through most of the record. The first three tracks live off Bruce's straining voice and although he doesn't necessarily sound bad, he certainly doesn't sound good. At least there are decent multi-tracked harmonies on the third track "The Pilgrim", and his mid range sounds awesome as usual, but layed beneath (above?) the harmonized parts, there's the high notes again and they sound strained. It also seems to me that there are simply too much singing here in general, as if the verses and choruses had been extended to match the bloated nature of most songs on "A Matter of Life and Death".

I was going to complain about the lyrics being trite anti-war fodder, but I decided that's not fair. The lyrics are well written and very ambitious, although nothing to sing along with or get excited over. The issue I have more than anything is that I've heard these sentiments so many times (particularly in the last ten years) that it is meaningless to me. Obviously, this concept album is some sort of reaction to the Iraq/Afghan wars and the band goes into great lengths to condemn warfare in general. Fine. Bolt Thrower does it better. So does Motorhead. So did Creedence Clearwater Revival for that matter.

Musically, the familiar bass gallop is ever-present, however most of the musical passages are repeated much more than they should be and rarely kick into high gear. The album plods along for the most part, and even the very nice technical break during "The Longest Day" just doesn't hold my attention. You can see where a lot of care was put into crafting these songs, but Iron Maiden forgot the excitement and certainly forgot when to stop playing.

The instruments are crystal clear. If you like well-produced metal and appreciate near-perfect separation of sound, then this is your album. However, I would postulate that the clarity of sound works to the detriment of Maiden's current 3-guitar attack. I rarely hear anything being done here that couldn't be achieved with two guitars, so that gimmick is wasted for the third album in a row. The only time the three guitar sound jumps out at the listener is during "Out of the Shadows", but of course this same effect is easily accomplished with multi-tracking.

The two singles, "Different World" and "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" are an exercise in contrasts. "Different World" opens up the album and it is excellent, fast paced, and the 4:17 running time is just right. "Breeg", conversely, is a swollen tedious mess and should have been off-putting to potential buyers, but in hindsight it sums up the album well. It's the point where I completely start to lose interest in "A Matter of Life nd Death" that's for sure.

God is this album long. I'm forcing myself to listen to it for this review and I like it a bit more than I did before, but it's taking forever just to spin it a half dozen more times in order to properly review. 72 minutes? What for? I will hand it to Maiden for their ballsy move of playing this behemoth all the way through on their tour, but if I was a fan and didn't know beforehand I would have been pissed.

Don't believe the hype on this one.