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Good god. How can Maiden, after 13 albums and almost 25 years on the scene, STILL kick this much ass? Dance of Death is a freaking amazing record. This is like Brave New World crossed with bits and pieces of every classic Maiden album, making it one of their best. This record is 68 minutes long, and feels like it's about 40... the music is so enchanting, so enthralling, that you'll lose all track of time. The boys have proven once again that they are the ultimate metal band, and they still hold the torch that was passed to them way back in 1982 when they hit it big with NOTB. Let's get on with it.
We open the record with the fast-paced rocker single (as usual) "Wildest Dreams." The band wastes little time getting started, laying us into a nice rocking riff. The first thing you'll notice about the album is how solid the band sounds. The three guitars are now all audible, Harris' bass is a little more subdued than it was back in the 80's, but you still can tell he's there. Nicko McBrain proves that old men can still beat the tubs. Bruce sounds like he's 25 again, his voice still solid as ever. This track was penned by Adrian Smith, and just past the 2 minute mark, he nails us with an amazing solo. Great little atmospheric section with slow soloing (not unlike 2 Minutes To Midnight) follows, and then the band rocks us back up to pace, back into the chorus. This song is just plain rocking, total sing-a-long stuff. Nicko lays into some nice fast kick to power us through a final chorus, and we slam to a close.
Next up is a futuristic sounding riff that opens "Rainmaker." This is another no-nonsense rocker. Keyboards back up the guitars here and there, and Nicko lays down another fantastic rhythm. Great chorus here. Another improvement over the BNW songs is that the lyrics are much more varied and never get too repetitive. This one is a little more mid-paced than "Wildest Dreams," but still rocks nicely. 2 minutes in, we're treated to a blinding Dave Murray solo (he can still tap 'em out) followed by a trademark harmonic section. Back into the chorus riff for a couple more choruses, and then we ride the intro riff out to a finish.
Track 3 is a Steve Harris track called "No More Lies." Atmospheric bass and guitar intro (not unlike The Clansman) opens up this song. First use of symphonics on the album (they are extensive on the record) give a very nice accompanyment. Bruce sings us through a verse with the slow pace, some nice vocal harmonics are used as well. At the 2 minute mark, the drums and guitar slam out as Bruce yells "no more lies!" a few times, and the song takes off! Great rocking riff with the trademark Harris bass clanking away powers some raspy Bruce vocals. Little speed-up for another verse, and then another slamming chorus. 4 minutes in, we're treated to some lovely harmonics and then amazing triple solo section. Janick's first solo on the album is great, his playing in the studio is getting alot more controlled. Adrian takes the next solo, and he sounds amazing as always. Dave finishes off the section with another blinder of a solo. Couple more verse/chorus progressions, and we finish off with more wicked harmonics, then a couple bars of the slow bit from the beginning. Great song.
Track 4 is the hard-driving "Montsegur." Big, nasty riff opens things up. Total headbang stuff here. Great lyrics here, about a battle in France I believe... amazing chorus "at the gates, at the walls of Montsegur, blood on the stones of the citadel!" Bruce is going total over-the-top style on this one, raspy and operatic at the same time. Total rock-out section at 3 minutes, as the guitars warm up for another solo section. Adrian gets this one. Nice harmonics follow his solo, as Nicko pounds away on the ride cymbal. Big time double-guitar harmonic riff with the third guitar joining in for a bit. Tons and tons of orgasmic harmonics here, and a big messy crash to close.
Next up is the title track. Faint bass and guitarwork picks along to start us off, total Spinal Tap Stonehenge style! Great Celtic flavour to this song. Bruce hums us through a few verses, up to the 3 minute mark when this song finally takes off. A single guitar goes totally Stonehenge on everyone's ass before the rest follow in and build us up. Finally, the symphonics kick into the background. This song sounds very majestic, just big. Couple more verses, then some more tasty harmonics before Janick takes off on to a nice solo. We follow his solo up with, yes, more delicious harmonics. Now, it's Dave's turn for a solo, and of course, he rules with it. More great lyrics here, singing about a ritual dance that someone was lured into when walking in the woods. Lovely kick chops take us into another slow Stonehenge moment to close.
Track 6 is called "Gates Of Tomorrow." TXF style opening riff starts us off, giving way to a nice rocking section. Vocal harmonics take us through the first bit, then back into normal Bruce godliness. More subtle symphonics drag along in the background on this track. It just plods along until about 3 minutes when we're hit with another mind-bending harmonic and then a lovely solo, sounds like Dave Murray. Someone joins him in more harmonics afterward, then Janick rips in with a complete blinder of a quick solo. Another verse and chorus finishes it off. This is the first "regular" song on the album, not really mind-blowing, but still with lovely harmonics and solos.
Track 7 is a heavier number, and Nicko's first hand at songwriting called "New Frontier." Great drumming as always here, with a classic rolling-style Maiden riff. Great power-chord progression with nice drumming leads us into a great chorus with Adrian high-picking throughout. Nice riff change at 3 minutes as Adrian bites into another great solo. Very cool counter-point harmonic follows the solo. Another great rocking song.
Next is the pinnacle of the album. "Paschendale" is the best thing Iron Maiden has written since the Seventh Son album. Cool ticking hi-hats and keyboards take us through a quiet few lines, then full on ass kicking instrumentation bashes along, then drops back into the ticking and keyboards... then again, ass kicking! After that, we drop into a nice mid-paced verse. Big power chords drive us into another verse and chorus. Great mid-paced stuff here with the symphonics perfecting the mood. More bashing hits as Bruce hollers through another verse, then the instruments fade into the ticking hats. A lone guitar picks up, followed by Steve's bass and the symphonics. Add another guitar... total atmosphere here! Nicko tom-toms in, and we're into another tasty mid-paced riff out section. More great instrumentation, then at 4:30, a great bird of prey cry sound effect... perfectly fit. Time for solos! Janick starts us off with a fairly subdued solo. Adrian follows that up with a trademark solo. Another verse, then Dave rips through a solo. Another verse, then a soaring chorus section with some great vocal harmonies. The instruments fade, and we gently keyboard, hi-hat tick and sing our way out. Amazing... top 10 Maiden material, and we know that's saying alot.
Next up is another Adrian song called "Face In The Sand." Another great slow-moving intro leads into some heavy bass strumming with symphonics, total atmosphere. Great faint guitars, reminiscent of the middle of ROTAM. After about a minute here, Nicko lays into the double kick for the first time. Bruce goes over-the-top again here. Great atmosphere in this song, slow moving guitars with that pounding double rhythm throughout. Riff switch at 4 and a half, Adrian nails another amazing solo. Great keyboard and guitar section with Nicko going back to the regular beats. Great chanting part closes us down with the band fading out quietly.
Second to last is "Age Of Innocence." Another slow paced start here, leads into a nice mid-paced riff. This is a solid track, very inspirational type stuff. Of course, more tasty solos and harmonics in the middle, with a great beat from Nicko. We switch into a more menacing vocal tone and a bit of a heavier riff for a verse, then another soaring chorus. We close with some heaviness, a bit of a solo, then a quiet fade.
Closing out the album is an amazing ballad called "Journeyman." More flawless use of symphonics here with some great bass and guitarwork (do we ever expect any less?) open up the track. This one is slow paced, no solos, no flashiness, just a great Bruce solo style ballad. 7 minutes of completely gorgeous instrumentation with great lyrics. No better way to finish off a damn near flawless album.
It amazes me that the band can churn out such amazing material at this stage in their career. This album, as I said, is damn near flawless. Amazing work vocally, instrumentally, and lyrically. This is an improvement over BNW (a great album in its own right) in every way. The only flaws I can pick out here is the one song "Gates Of Tomorrow" is a little tedious, and some bits here and there sound like total re-hashing of ideas from FOTD, TXF and VXI... the three weakest Maiden albums. But thankfully those bits are used well and fit in nicely with the rest of the songs.
An absolutely incredible album from the world's best band. I can't wait to see this stuff live out on tour. The resurrection of Iron Maiden is complete... they're back, and they ain't messing around. UP THE IRONS!