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Ah, Iron Maiden. They are easily one of the most influential bands of all time, up there with Blind Guardian and Judas Priest. And like most early metal, they are from England, which again shows up the American music scene (but if that is a surprise to you, open your eyes!). This album is from when Iron Maiden showed back up on the radar with them bringing back vocalist Bruce Dickinson, a very important decision. This will help them phenomenally after fails like Virtual XI and others that are too horrible to mention. As the label says on the CD, welcome to 21st century Maiden.
The best way to look at this album is by dividing the songs into three groups, based on the length of the song. All of these songs contain that distinct Iron Maiden sound, and unlike some of their other works, this album just screams power metal. Soaring vocals, ripping guitars that chug and amaze, plus a drummer that can enter and leave his mark at will, all contribute to that delightful conclusion, as power metal is one of the most legendary genres.
So first, let us examine the short songs. These are Wicker Man, The Mercenary, and The Fallen Angel. This is the most underused style of song on the album and appeals directly to the mainstream radio metal. Most of the time I’m against this, but here it works beautifully. Solos are nice, sweet, technical, melodic, short and memorable, which really pulls the song together as it ends. These songs also make use of a very catchy chorus which really indicates the attempt at mainstream. However, when most of the time these annoy me, it works delightfully here. Occasionally with bands like Blind Guardian that might get overused, but with only three songs styled like that it is a welcome respite from the rest of the album.
Next on the table are the medium length songs which clock in at around six to seven minutes. These are Ghost of the Navigator, Brave New World, Blood Brothers, and Out of the Silent Planet. These songs differ from those aforementioned in that they all feature some type of intro or slowed down solo section (Blood Brothers is the only one). They might feature acoustic guitar (Brave New World), some folk elements (Blood Brothers), an epic buildup (Ghost of the Navigator), or maybe even a solo right in the beginning (Out of the Silent Planet).
As these songs progress, you can tell with relative that these are the star songs of the album, and it is where Iron Maiden is most comfortable overall, in my own amateur opinion. The song writing takes things much more complex and intricate than the shorter ones, and solos abound in much longer sessions, which defy the mind. The soloists could be any of the THREE guitarists, each with their own distinct style that comes through, although I have no clue who is who. It is also these three guitarists which I do not feel is utilized at every moment, but then again there is very little material out there which does exhibit that many. A missed opportunity, but still very good guitar work on these songs.
The last three songs to be mentioned are each about nine minutes long, and these are Dream of Mirrors, The Nomad, and The Thin Line between Love and Hate. These songs take it nice and slow with their interchanging tempos, which also keep me interested, especially on the repetitive speed demon Dream of Mirrors. I appreciate that they take these long songs slow, as they provide a good deal more imagery than other longer songs (Nile comes to mind as one who doesn’t, but they are a another story entirely, on the opposite end of the metal spectrum). These songs feature absolutely entrancing solos (The Thin Line between Love and Hate is great at that), which mesmerize the listener and shows us why this is Iron Maiden, capable of all this on a single album, not amateurs.
These long songs also feature the most interesting drumming on the album. There is interesting double bass pedal work throughout, but the real talent is shown on these longer and middle length songs. Here, intricate rhythms seamlessly intertwine with the leading melodies in an accomplishment of songwriting. Dickinson is also most at home when he sings here and the vocals are astonishingly clear and the story is keeping you on the edge of your seat almost as much as the song. OK, not really but the lyrics are interesting, despite their vague meanings.
I feel that this album was an instant classic, and shows us today with new Iron Maiden albums coming out, what the standard is for Iron Maiden, and it is very high. The legendary band shocks you with their recent return and how much they can pick up from their last album. Must buys; Ghost of the Navigator and The Thin Line between Love and Hate, but any of the middle length songs are also highly recommended. Actually, I love every song on here. But I’ve ranted enough. Good buy. God, I am make too many puns.