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Largely (and unjustly) unappreciated - 85%

Empyreal, February 14th, 2008

The newer Iron Maiden albums are always good for stirring up a bit of controversy, and while it's obvious that the band will never again produce songs as fine as "Aces High" or "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," they will keep coming really close. This is their second "comeback" album, Dance of Death, and while I might be in the minority on this one, I say it's much better than the overrated Brave New World.

This album showed Maiden spanning out a bit and introducing some progressive elements into the familiar galloping, air-raid siren Heavy Metal we all know and love, and I think it did them good, for they were already growing stagnant on the last album. The opening "Wildest Dreams" is a classic Maiden rocker, catchy as Hell and fun to boot, but the second song is where they really start to step things up. "Rainmaker" is a slightly Middle Eastern tinged tune, bringing to mind sandy, barren deserts with a bloodied, punishing sun overhead by utilizing mindblowingly cool guitar trills, along with a unique, fresh chorus melody that is quite unlike anything they've done before. The title track is also a great song, with oriental folk melodies creeping about in the shadows as Dickinson gives off a dark, reedy performance that sets the mood perfectly. Dickinson really has improved over the years rather than aging - his soft, balladesque voice was never this good.

"Gates of Tomorrow" and "New Frontier" are classic Maiden rockers in the style that we've come to appreciate from them, and albeit a bit slower than the classic Maiden hits, they are satisfying appetizers for the oncoming feast - and what a feast it is! "Paschendale" is one of the very best songs Iron Maiden has ever written, just as good as "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," and bar none the best song on this album. It's an epic 8 minute entourage of classic metal riffs and epic overtones the way only Maiden knows how to do it, and the vocal lines are stirring and riveting in their passionate, agonized delivery. Fantastic song. And it follows up with one that is almost as good, the highly overlooked "Face in the Sand," a midpaced quasi-epic with one of the best choruses the band has written in recent years. The album closes with the acoustic "Journeyman," which is not the best song, but it works well as a closer to this darker, sprawling, more progressive sound that Dance of Death flaunted so boldly.

This album doesn't get anywhere near the amount of credit it deserves. While it's not classic Maiden, it is a bold epic modern day Maiden that won't fail to please. Repeated listens do this one good. Recommended.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com