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Expectations were high before the release of “Brave New World”. First of all, because Bruce Dickinson returned to the band and many people wanted to see if he was able to transform the band into the heavy metal machine that it once was. Adrian Smith also returned, forming a trio of guitarists together with David Murray and Janick Gers. In the end, “Brave New World” turned out to be a fascinating album, much better than anything the band released since “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. Allow me to explain why...
First of all, in a compositional level, all the songs are fantastic. Really. It's like the band spent lots and lots of time composing the record. They are extremely varied, from straight-forward, catchy tunes, like the opener, to more progressive, complex epics like “Dream of Mirrors”. There are lots of mellow, soft parts within the songs and they all sound amazingly well, inspired and heartfelt (check out the beautiful “Blood Brothers”). There's also an inclusion of some keyboard lines here and there, mainly during that afore mentioned calm parts, and that really gives an amazing (and special) atmosphere to the album.
This atmosphere is also highlighted because of the excellent production, which is reminiscent of the one on “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. Everything is audible, with the vocals assuming the main role; the bass is always there to give an extra groove to the songs and the guitars sound awesome, blending perfectly with the keyboards. The drums are extremely well mixed too, finally we can hear the bass drums of Mr. Nicko McBrain, who seems to get better over the time, since his performance here is very very good, not overplaying anything yet delivering a relatively technical performance. His tone is great too, in my opinion.
Bruce Dickinson's amazing vocal performance is another essential ingredient of “Brave New World”, his screams and wails are reminiscent of the band's past efforts, and that's saying something. He doesn't rasp anymore, like he did on “Fear of the Dark” and thank God for that! He also brought a lot of energy to the band, a thing that everyone can notice by hearing one or two songs of “Virtual XI” and then listening to “Wicker Man” or “Ghost of the Navigator”. Really, he is essential to Iron Maiden.
So, there's lots of highlights here and, most of all, there's NO FILLERS, which is something remarkable, since Iron Maiden is a band that can't deliver records without fillers (“Powerslave”, my favourite album ever, being a notable exception). The journey begins with “Wicker Man”, an energic track, featuring a great guitar performance. Its chorus is also anthemic (“Your time will cooooome!!”); in fact, all the songs are pretty catchy, which is a plus. “Ghost of the Navigator” is another highlight, I just love the amazing, soft beginning and how the song then turns into a relatively fast heavy metal number... great! One of the best songs of the bunch.
Then, there's the title track, another great song, beginning, again, calmly, evolving later to heavier parts, where Bruce screams the catchy chorus. “Blood Brothers” is another favourite, a soft song with awesome keyboard melodies. “The Mercenary” is faster and more aggressive, leading the way to “Dream of Mirrors”, a song composed during the “Virtual XI” sessions, which absolutely kicks ass. Great great epic. “The Fallen Angel” is another straight-forward rocker, a bit weak but worth listening. The record ends with three long songs, the first one being “Nomad”, a song that I don't like that much (I can't get into it), “Out of the Silent Planet”,a decent tune, a bit overlong, and “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, this one being an excellent closer.
So, looking to “Dance of Death” and “A Matter of Life and Death”, the two albums that were released by the band after this one, I conclude that “Brave New World” somewhat mixes the simple structures of the majority of the songs on “Dance of Death” with the exaggerated complexity of “A Matter of Life and Death”... And guess what, in the end, “Brave New World” is much better than those two records. It loses a bit of power near the end (“Fallen Angel”, “Nomad” and “Out of the Silent Planet” are a bit weak, unfortunately) but it still is a great album, one of the most melodic records Iron Maiden ever recorded. Better than the majority of the 80's catalogue of the band? Hmm... Am I blaspheming if I say so?
Best Moments of the CD:
-the ending of “Wicker Man”.
-the crescendo of “Ghost of the Navigator”.
-the part of “Blood Brothers” where a beautiful keyboard riff picks up.
-the beginning of “Dream of Mirrors”.