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In the year 2000, Iron Maiden released what would easily be their best album. My assertion should by no means indicate to you the Maiden purist that I'm ignorant of the band's legacy preceding this album because as a matter of fact I am not. I have listened with much enthusiasm as the next metalhead to the albums from the glory days and although they contain certified classics, they are by and large inconsistent works but accepted for what they are as metal was in its formative stages.
"Piece Of Mind" for instance is prevented from flawlessness by the unnecessary "Quest For Fire" and rather bland "Die With Your Boots On" and "Suns And Steel". I have plenty of issues with "The Number Of The Beast" and "Somewhere In Time" that I won't expound on because this review isn't about them. The first two records were genius except for the fact that they lack Bruce Dickinson's voice (Di'Anno sounds a tad goofy and unconvincing in comparison) and Nicko McBrain's masterful pound. Only "Powerslave" comes close to perfection and should by all means continue to be heralded as a masterpiece of metal for years and years to come.
With "Brave New World" I feel the grandiose and expansive elements of "Powerslave:" and "Seventh son Of A Seventh Son" become more cohesive and due to the fact that the players have matured in age and experience since then, the songs here have a classier edge and although the brute force of spirit is alive and well, I feel it is well guided and applied carefully. Iron Maiden exercise restraint to such great extent on "Brave New World" that you feel no random notes were struck. Everything is served in the right doses and they manage to deliver a thoroughly complete work. The album boasts of ballsy, quickly memorable rockers like "The Wicker Man', "The Mercenary", "and "The Fallen Angel" that could easily stand neck to neck to the overly touted staples such as "Run To The Hills", "2 Minutes To Midnight" and "Can I Play With Madness".
"The Mercenary" in particular echoes the resounding spirit of "The Trooper" and though it might pale a tad in comparison it fits well in the flow of the album. It follows "Blood Brothers"-a great song to hear live-and precedes the lovably dramatic "Dream Of Mirrors" which was actually conceived before Bayley's exit but just wouldn't have worked as well with his voice on top of things.
What makes this album such a monument is because it is absolute Maiden. All the songs are quintessentially theirs - you don't get any sense that they're veering off the rails and trying "something new" yielding dubious results as is the case with "A Matter Of Life And Death" (fondly referred to as AMOLAD) and the severely bloated "The Final Frontier". They are in their element here a hundred percent and sometimes listening feels like walking into an Iron Maiden Museum.
"The Mercenary" pays light tribute to "The Trooper", the title track inspired by the Huxley tale resembles "Fear Of The Dark", "The Nomad" dares to reawaken the might of "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "The Thin Line Between Love And Hate" takes the emotional power first felt on "Hallowed Be Thy Name" to even deeper depths. Its like all the best features of Maiden are on display but given ultra brilliance from an entirely new light source.
Three guitarists are now in the fold for one as opposed to before and the riffs are more meatier this timer round. Steve Harris is as audible as usual and I've always said he plays the bass like a plant - you can hear it grow as the song progresses. The legato fuelled guitar solos are a highlight on each song. They range from distantly classical to faintly folky and never sound wasteful or random-they have character and serve the songs well.The harmony guitar interplay on "Out Of The Silent Planet" for instance embellishes what would have been a rather bland passage.
Nicko McBrain is the backbone - without him it wouldn't work as well as it does. Sometimes seeing only the front you forget what holds it in place. But he is content to man his fort in the back and what his trusty kit does more than anything is to give the songs presence as everything else then takes flight.
The lyrics that stood out for me were those of "Ghost Of The Navigator", "Blood Brothers" and "The Thin Line..." Bruce Almighty is in fine form from start to finish. I've always admired him but I always thought in the past there was a reckless edge about his voice. It is absent here and I instead find him graceful and seasoned.
I'll have to note in passing that the album is probably the logical bridge between Iron Maiden's glorious past and dubious future. But when you reach this here bridge I suggest you make the pace of your walk leisurely. It is most worthwhile.