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Okay, I like certain aspects of this album and I would not call it an over all horrible release but I will start by immediately pointing out the weaknesses. On this album it becomes very clear that Dickinson is getting older. When hearing him sing higher pitched vocals one can hear his voice struggling all the time. It’s not that natural sounding anymore as it did on Seventh Son. This of course is logical since many years have past but it really is something that tempers the enthusiasm about some songs.
Secondly the guitar sound is more messy and blurry than on Brave New World. I’m really missing that old staccato sound on some songs. Remember the days of Aces High and Flight Of Icarus? Well SOMEONE on this album is playing his parts to pretty sloppy. SOMEONE doesn’t have that metal staccato feeling and is playing certain riffs with a hardrockish right hand. This once again is a bummer. I'm getting annoyed.
Thirdly Steve Harris is relying on bass power chords too much instead of those galloping parts he was once famous for. A lot of songs feature him stroking his bass instead of truly playing it. At certain point we can even call it a lazy performance. This will not do! since I looked up to that man when I was a jong boy.
Last but not least the album is very inconsistent. I’m not talking stylewise here like Fear Of The Dark but in terms of quality.
Now for some positive aspects. The albums opens with 5 good or decent songs in a row. “Wildest Dream” isn’t as good as earlier Smith singles, but it is an enjoyable rocking tune with a sleazy chorus but would’ve been a B-side in the eighties. “Rainmaker” has a good drive, sweet melodies and a catchy chorus in the “No Prayer for the Dying” album sense. Fourth song “Montsegur” is equally strong yet has a slightly better chorus.
“No More Lies” however is a real masterpiece. Now this is Maiden. A strong epic filled with changes in pace and Dickinson performs rather well here. The title track is majestic as well. It combines the folky touch of the earlier Blood Brothers (from BraveNewWorld) with the epic approach of eighties Maiden and a touch of “Fear Of The Dark”.
Only two songs from the rest of the album are good. “Paschendale” is another epic that does well live especially and has a very catchy beautiful intro. Closing song “Journeyman” can be considered a ballad but because of its folky vocal lines it is never cheesy. A good tune with a very good Dickinson!
The remaining songs is were it all goes horribly wrong. “Gates of Tomorrow” has a hair metal intro that is even weaker than Lord Of The Flies (X-Factor, 1995). “New Frontier”? Just dull. “Face in the Sand” and “Age of Innocence” are both songs that have some nice ideas but fail to deliver as a whole. The lack of a strong chorus in both cases makes these songs fail in the end.
So you see, there is a lot to complain about concerning “Dance Of The Dead”. The album however features 7 songs that are worthwhile from which 3 can really be considered really excellent. 7 out of 11 is pretty lacking though. This would result in giving the album 64 points. The sloppy rhythm performance of a certain guitarist, the laziness with which Harris plays some basslines and the decreasing quality of Dickinson’s voice however do drag it down to 55 points.
It’s because of this album I’ve concluded having three guitarist is unnecessary, makes it even sound sloppy and Dickinson is really getting old. They should be grateful I’m not deducting more points for the second rate cover art.