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A grower; the best since 2000 - 90%

MaDTransilvanian, August 30th, 2010

This summer has seen the finalization of Iron Maiden’s fifteenth studio album, as well as the worldwide tour which came with it. The first sign of this album’s content came over two months before its release with the presentation of its first single, El Dorado, in a simple one-song format, which seems to have become the staple of many single releases for these past few years.

El Dorado is a pretty strange song in that, upon first listen, back in June, it was rather disappointing. It felt like it lacked that Iron Maiden feeling and gave off a very tired overall impression, without any of the catchiness and fun of the previous decade’s singles, such as The Wicker Man and Rainmaker, without even mentioning the brilliant 80s singles which largely made them famous. Then something strange happened. I’ve had the occasion to hear the song over a longer period of time, both the studio version and the live version. Twice. This has led me to a simple conclusion: this is a track destined first and foremost for the band’s live performances, and this realization has actually allowed me to enjoy it immensely more than before in all forms. In fact, it can safely be said that it beats anything released since the Brave New World singles, even if not necessarily by a very wide margin.

El Dorado is something of an acquired taste. Further listens will instill the lyrics in one’s mind, and from then on out it’s extremely enjoyable as a song along track, replacing that initial catchiness that was conspicuously absent upon first listen. It also seems to base itself a lot not on being an easy to like rocker but a more complex one, starting with a minute of instrumentals, including the first few seconds which sound exactly like the type of stuff a band plays when they end a concert. This in itself renders the song less accessible than pretty much all of their other singles. But even when the vocals kick in, El Dorado keeps on this very aggressive, very traditional guitar-based heavy metal path, compromising absolutely nothing for more catchiness. The riffs are intent on being almost crushing in nature, not necessarily memorable. However, this is a nice change from their usual material and the work here is flawless by the triad of guitarists. Even the bass is quite prominent, with a few sections where only it is heard. There are also considerable pace variations during the whole number, with a preference for slowness during the verses and some slightly faster choruses. Drumming is fairly standard if proficient and technical; it simply fits in with the rest of the music without being anything of exception (the bright side is that it’s not too loud, as often happens with modern metal releases).

Bruce’s vocal performance here is quite impressive. He doesn’t sound tired at all, possessing pretty much all the range and talent that he’s always had since the beginning of his career with the band. His work fits in perfectly with the considerably less catchy and commercial nature of this track, except during that chorus which is pretty hard to forget after a certain number of listens.

El Dorado is, in the end, an impressive representation of the similarly good The Final Frontier, and a good choice for a single. Curiously, the song sounds a lot more aggressive and powerful live than it does in its studio version. Either way, this, their best single in about a decade, proves that the band are in no way tired nor are they running out of ideas anytime soon; they’re still going strong with their post-2000 streak of solid material.