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I was too young to feel the blow to metalheads everywhere that was Bruce Dickinson leaving Iron Maiden in 1993, so I can't fully appreciate the comeback of Dickinson in 2000's “Brave New World”. However, that means I can review this album without bias. And it's a pretty damn good album.
I can see how old-school Maiden fans who grew up with the band can react unfavorably to the “new” Bruce. The vocals are soaring in this album, especially in songs such as “Out Of The Silent Planet” and “Dream Of Mirrors”, among others. Compared to the pre-Blaze, post-Di'anno era of Iron Maiden, the vocals are much more mature, much more “epic”, and much more technical. Every Maiden fan has heard Bruce sing “Aces High” on the “Live After Death” album/video, and I'm sure most of us cringed when we heard how Bruce half-assed it through parts of the song because he just couldn't hit those notes or hold them. That definitely isn't a problem on this album. This is probably the best Bruce's voice has been in any Maiden album, although it definitely took some time to get used to.
The songs themselves are mostly good. The Wicker Man is a great song; it harkens back to old, 80's-era Maiden. After that are a series of slower songs, but these are really where the band shines. “Ghost of the Navigator” and especially “Blood Brothers” are slower, but more epic-sounding than most anything else by Maiden up to that point. This is definitely a slow album (and long) but in the end, it works for the band. The songs “The Mercenary” and “The Wicker Man” are probably the fastest on this album, but once again, it's perfect for the mindset of this album. The only qualm is that “Out of the Silent Planet” really takes too long to get going, and “The Thin Line Between Love And Hate” is wholly forgettable.
As an Iron Maiden album, this is in the top half of albums. As one of the three albums Iron Maiden has made since the return of Bruce, this is probably right in the middle of the other two. It's a good album but it could have been better. But, damn, Bruce Dickinson sounds good here.