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I've been on a diet of Dance of Death only since I got it, I've played it over and over again, and god knows I've tried so hard to like it. The long awaited follow-up to the reunion album Brave New World (which was quite a lame album, but that's beside the point) is released, and I've never experienced such a bad case of Maiden-hysteria.
But, to be frank with you, Dance of Death sucks, even more so than Brave New World. Iron Maiden are going downhill.
First of all, we have the production. The sound is pretty sharp, especially on the lead guitar, but the rhythm section sounds somehow watered out and shallow- and that is not only a production problem but also a lack of quality in the songwriting. We still have the obligatory killer leadwork and soloing of any Iron Maiden album, but the rhythm section is extremely weak and uninteresting. The riffs are boring and forgettable, and rarely add much to the song.
This is most notable in the huge amount of mindless filler found on the album. This category of songs consist of the tunes Rainmaker, Montségur, Gates of Tomorrow, New Frontier, Face in the Sand and Age of Innocence. Which is more than half of the entire album.
All these songs are boring, uninteresting and built open very weak rhythm foundations.
There is yet another huge disappointment with the album that is most notable on these songs- the vocals. Bruce Dickinson hasn't been near his top shape in more than ten years, but his performance on BNW still did the trick.
His performance on Dance of Death, though, does not. Most of the time he sounds like he's singing out of nose, or maybe like he's got a severe cold.
Also, the vocal melodies are extremely poorly written on the above mentioned songs. There are no memorable vocal lines whatsoever, no incredibly memorable parts that stand out, and there is barely any variation at all.
Montségur is the very weakest part of the entire album and one of the worst Maiden songs ever. This because of a weak vocal performance and poorly written vocal lines that don't work with the music at all, and also the horrible sound on the guitars under the vocal lines. Age of Innocence also has the dumbest and most annoying chorus the band has ever written, and is overall incredibly pathetic.
So these are the album's weaker points, my friend. But there is still some good shit to be found on here. The single, Wildest Dreams, has some pretty solid although slightly forgettable underlying riffwork, catchy vocal melodies and an extremely fun singalong chorus.
The first of three epics on here, No More Lies, is tied with Wildest Dreams for best song on the album. The intro is pretty much a straight ripoff from their own song The Clansman, but it's still very nice, and the song has some awesome melodies throughout of total Fear of the Dark (the song) quality, and a very big, dumb and powerful yet simplistic chorus.
Dance of Death is also pretty damn solid. It gradually builds up with some nice guitar melodies until it gets into this mesmerizing acoustic section at about 1:45. The song moves on, and goes into some killer keyboard part that sounds like a bloody orchestra; a truly overwhelming moment. It then goes on at about the same pace, reaching over 8 minutes without getting boring. They've still got it in them, even though it doesn't show very often.
Paschendale is the third and final epic on the album, and also by far the weakest. It still has some pretty cool and dark keyboard melodies in total X Factor style, and a truly powerful chorus.
The closing track Journeyman is also very nice, and (as you've probably figured by now) it's an entirely acoustic track. It's very well done, even though at 7 minutes it gets a bit overlong. It has a nice atmosphere overall though, and is definitely a highlight.
I tried, I really tried to like this. But it seems as though the band has completely forgotten how to write an entire good album, even though their fans continue to hail them endlessly. The album seems to please the majority, but I'm not one of them. I shouldn't really be too disappointed, as they haven't written anything really good since '88, but I still got my hopes up.
There is some great stuff on here, but not enough for you to waste your money on. Download Wildest Dreams, No More Lies and Dance of Death, and you'll be fine.
Oh yeah, and the cover art sucks ass.