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Just like "Virtual XI", "No Prayer for the Dying" belongs to the outsiders of the Maiden discography. And that's no wonder. The album is a collection of ten more or less smooth, almost harmless songs that have ordinary structures and avoid stylistic experiments. A certain lack of creativity cannot be ignored in view of the very typical and slightly outmoded melody lines of songs such as the title track. This does not mean that the output is filled to the brim with songs that suck. Maiden's enormous musical skills avoid shitty albums per se. Yet the degree of excitement does not achieve previously unknown levels. The opposite is true. Already the opener "Tailgunner" shows that Maiden were running out of ideas while penning this work.
Its lyrics stand in the tradition of "Where Eagles Dare" and "Aces High", to say it politely. Differently expressed: we have heard this kind of lyrics before. They deliver another contribution about air raids and bombardments. How thrilling! Honestly, I have never understood this almost romantic scenario of the seemingly boundless freedom of the pilots and their divine power to sentence (innocent) civilians to death from above. Yet in terms of music, the "Tailgunner" does not miss his goal. The lively guitars and the catchy chorus characterize this track. It reflects the then new attitude of Iron Maiden. The band has reduced its sound to the essentials, bombastic, nearly overloaded songs do not occur, maybe with the exception of some parts of the final track. Progressive elements are also ostracized. Thus, the quality of the album very much depends on the effectiveness of the guitars. Sometimes it takes just one great riff to produce a good piece of music. But - and that's the other side of the coin - without this riff, everything is lost. "No Prayer for the Dying" holds songs of both categories. From my point of view, its hidden champion is called "Run Silent, Run Deep". Why? Well, very simple, it houses the best guitar lines. Apart from that, it emanates a gloomy atmosphere - too bad, that many of its comrades fail in this regard. For example, its direct neighbour "Hooks in You" remains almost completely expressionless (and its riffing sounds poor). The same applies for faceless tunes such as "Fates Warning" or "The Assassin".
Lean songs are often created in order to give the music an earthy feeling, to bring more or less pompous or overly complex metal back to the unpretentious roots. Good approach, but bands that have this vision should not forget to keep an eye on the production in order to make their idea come true. Five or ten percent filth can be very helpful in this context. But "No Prayer for the Dying" is free from dirt. Aggravating this situation, its production totally lacks of individual features. It is neither sterile or clinically clean nor does it possess this little yet necessary amount of filth. In short, this technically proper yet somewhat lukewarm sound matches the pretty flat tunes excellently. Indeed, this is not the highest compliment. But it is true. Just take "Holy Smoke". Its winsome flow and the acceptable lines cannot hide that one is listening to a painfully simple number which is actually beneath the dignity of Harris and his band mates. "Bring Your Daughter..." was a commercial success, but we all know that this does not mean much. Therefore, I rather recommend to lend an ear to fairly vehement tracks such as "Public Enema Number One". Anyway, one will not find many jewels while giving "No Prayer for the Dying" a chance.
In spite of what their first seven albums would imply, not even the mighty Iron Maiden are infallible, and actually weathered out the '90s with very little of their musical worth or dignity intact. While Blaze Bayley is rightfully singled out as the worst thing about the Iron Maiden albums of this time period, don't think that the two Bruce Dickinson fronted albums from the earlier half of the decade were much better. Far from it in fact; while I'm not too fond of this band's 2nd Dickinson era albums, it's also pretty obvious to me that a release like No Prayer for the Dying is a far less creative and (quite amazingly) a more musically stagnant and tired-sounding effort. It represents the band quickly losing creative steam and poorly integrating some outside influence to the proceedings as well. This is easily one of the weakest Maiden albums, as well their most annoying.
The music isn't especially far removed from their '80s albums, but the songs nevertheless lack the larger-than-life quality presented on the 5 albums that came before this one; it was a mood achieved through complex songwriting and intelligent riff construction built around the omnipresent guitar harmonies. This is a considerably more stripped back, rock-infused album, and while this regression alone doesn't make it a write-off the depths the band have plumbed is truly stunning. There are holdovers from their better days such as Steve Harris' highly intricate and prominent bass, and in spite of the loss of Adrian Smith the lead work is still up to par as well, and in fact several of the guitar melodies are at least a little memorable. The riffs though simplistic are adequate, and most of the songs move along with enough energy. The instruments are technically proficient for sure, but the rock inflection leads to oversimplification in this case. It's very run of the mill and forgettable music, nice while it's on but out of one's memory a short while after the album has finished.
To make matters worse, Bruce Dickinson puts forward one his most irritating performances. His voice retains its range but he too has taken on board some hard rock influence, resulting in a gravelly inflection to his singing. Along with this though, the vocal lines he sings are sub-par and in most cases he doesn't sing in a tune, instead shouting all over the album with no restraint at all. He fares a little better in the title track because there's a discernible tune to his performance but for the most part he falls flat. The relatively banal music no longer accommodates for any gravitas or passion Bruce might have been able to put into his singing, and the music's lack of intrigue also makes this a more vocally oriented effort, further exacerbating issues.
However, in spite of the mediocrity of the instruments and the bad vocals in front of them the real killer here is the songwriting, which is both a very large step down from before and bad even when this album is viewed in its own microcosm. The songs are largely flat and unengaging; there's very little in the way of intelligence or nuance in the structuring of a lot of these songs. They all have a tendency to repeat themselves a lot and not go anywhere. There is a clear lack of focus and development in the musical ideas used in each track, and despite the relatively short lengths of all of these tracks they tend to meander and ride off one idea like a strong intro (you need look no further than 'Tailgunner' for an example of this.) There's very little depth to the compositions or any sort of atmosphere. Few winners emerge from this album as a result; just about everything is simply too dull and shallow - certainly the title track is a decent half-ballad but everything else is either textbook rockametal or a song with promise that goes nowhere, aside from the hilariously bad 'Holy Smoke' which sounds like an overly punkish commercial track gone very wrong.
The repetitious nature of the songs does mean a few hooks are catchy (there's a good reason 'Bring Your Daughter...' is a live staple and it isn't the music) but this can be said of any piece of music, memorability derived from good craftsmanship is a far more meaningful indicator of quality. The lyrics on this album are very poor, especially considering the poetry and epic stories Iron Maiden had delivered in the past. The aforementioned pseudo-classic is one case, but the incoherent ramblings of 'Tailgunner' or the mindless tripe of 'Holy Smoke' will serve as equally apt examples of their failure on the lyrical front - in fact only the title track and 'Mother Russia' have decent lyrics. And as a final insult even the production is a step down, with the drums having a dry sound to them and everything else sounding decidedly lifeless and tired. Quite how a band who were a bastion of excellence that redefined metal could crash and burn like this remains something of a mystery. It's a tragic album this; the downfall of a heavy metal legend. Do not seek this out unless you wish to be irritated or saddened.
In many ways “No Prayer for the Dying”, which was fraught with the unenviable burden of being the follow-up to the monumental “Seventh Son of the Seventh Son”, has never gotten a fair shake. First of all, writing an album that would match the sheer genius of its predecessor was probably a hopeless endeavor right from the start, particularly considering that Adrian Smith, the band’s talented second guitarist and an integral part of Maiden’s songwriting team since “Killers”, had just left the line-up and been replaced with Janick Gers, who was a competent substitute but couldn’t match Smith’s songwriting prowess. The fact that Steve Harris insisted on recording the album “live”, effectively curtailing Martin Birch’s influence on the production process and resulting in a rather substandard overall sound, certainly didn’t help matters.
To this day, “No Prayer for the Dying” is still the one Iron Maiden album – perhaps excluding Blaze Bayley’s ill-fated stint behind the mic – that is most maligned by fans and critics alike. Even band mastermind Steve Harris has often stated that the album was a mistake and that the band had gone in the wrong direction, mentioning Queensryche’s epoch-making “Operation: Mindcrime”, which had made a huge impact on the metal scene just two years earlier, as the album the band should have used as a model and blueprint instead. Then again, we’re talking about the same guy who has repeatedly admitted to not being fond of “Somewhere in Time”, one of the band’s most revered and perhaps best albums, because of (among other things) its supposedly “dated” sound. That just goes to show that a band’s opinion of a certain album does not always coincide with that of the fans, although in the case of “No Prayer for the Dying”, it mostly does.
As far as the actual music on “No Prayer for the Dying” is concerned, there isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been mentioned a thousand times. It is undeniably different from most of Maiden’s other albums, opting for a far less epic and much more direct, “hard-rocking” approach, but comparing it to some of the milestones in Maiden’s discography is the wrong premise anyway. To those who can keep an open mind, however, “No Prayer for the Dying” may turn out to be a surprisingly entertaining and rewarding affair. It’s true that the lyrics are probably the corniest and most clichéd Maiden have ever written: you usually don’t expect profanities (such as the infamous “flies around shit, bees around honey” line in “Holy Smoke”), hilarious song titles (“Bring Your Daughter … to the Slaughter”) or satirical excursions into the field of sadomasochism (“Hooks in You”) on an Iron Maiden album. At the same time, these lyrics fit the hard-rocking vibe of the songs while Bruce Dickinson’s altered singing style – his vocals are decidedly harsher, raspier and less operatic than usual – is the perfect way to present them.
In the relatively epic “Mother Russia”, there is only one song longer than five minutes on this album, and even it is a far cry from such monumental, grandiose compositions like “Alexander the Great” or “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”. Then again, who cares when the songs on offer rock as hard and are as much fun to sing along to as, to name just a few, “Public Enema Number One” with its intricate and melodic soloing, the galloping “Fates Warning” with its very heavy riffing or the aforementioned “Bring Your Daughter …” with its amusing yet amazing “wohohoho” choir. Further songs deserving special mention are the thoughtful title track and the opening “Tailgunner”, which is definitely an inferior “Aces High” rehash but a very good song nonetheless. It sometimes seems like those dismissing “No Prayer for the Dying” as bland and unimaginative are the same ones constantly criticizing the band for its cerebral and progressive leanings of more recent years. You just can’t have it both ways, and while “No Prayer for the Dying” is hardly Iron Maiden’s most original effort, it’s hard to find too much fault with an album as consistent and entertaining as this.
Even twenty years after its publication, “No Prayer for the Dying” is still being analyzed way too much when in fact it’s just a no-frills metal record that doesn’t claim to be or pose as anything else. While it should in no way be counted among the band’s best efforts and may not be what most of us expect from an Iron Maiden record, that certainly doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed for what it is or that it doesn’t have its rightful place in Maiden’s exquisite discography. On the contrary, it adds another interesting facet and is therefore an asset to Maiden’s extensive catalog, which would not be quite as fascinating without it.
Choicest cuts: “No Prayer for the Dying”, “Public Enema Number One”, “Fates Warning”, “Bring Your Daughter … to the Slaughter”
"No prayer for the dying" is considered as one of the weakest albums of Iron Maiden and I must agree that it is in my bottom top three as I exceptionally agree with the majority. There are multiple reasons why fans criticized this album. For the first time the band didn't develop further and created something new but focussed on their initial sound of the early years. There is no brilliant epic track on the record that crowned the previous albums. There is no clear guiding line within the record. The vocals are darker, harsher and less technical then before. There are no truly outstanding and emotional instrumental passages on the record. Many associate this with the departure of Adrian Smith that got replaced by the technically less impressive Janick Gers. The sound and production of the recording aren't as majestic and authentic as on the last and very atmospheric albums.
But the main reasons why one tends to dislike this record is that it has the style of a compilation album where old ideas are rehashed. "Tailgunner" sounds like a weaker version of "Aces high". "Holy smoke" and "Hooks in you" could be b-sides from the first solo album of Bruce Dickinson just like the very successful but overrated "Bring your daughter... to the slaughter" with a little touch of the first two Iron Maiden records when Paul Di'Anno was still in it.. "No prayer for the dying", "Public enema number one", "Run silent run deep" and "Mother Russia" copy the style of the two previous records. My favourite tracks from those ones are the really beautifully sung and underrated title track "No prayer for the dying" that easily happens to be the best song on this album and that would have merited a place on the last two records as well as the atmospheric "Run silent run deep" that would be my hidden gem on this record and a song worth to get discovered over and over again by anyone that hasn't listened to this record for a while.
"Fates warning" and "The assassin" try to be a little bit darker and experimental and are the only tracks that present us something new. The first one is quite atmospheric and indicates the way that the band would take on the next two records and after a while I happened to like this song. The only thing that misses is a truly catchy chorus or addicting instrumental part. The second song has another interesting and atmospheric introduction and remind of the sound of the great "Powerslave" album. The verses are interesting, mysterious and atmospheric but the chorus turns out to be amongst the most horrible ones the band has ever written. The vocals are really annoying and weird and the whole thing is repeated too much. The guitar solo is just shitty shredding. But at least the band tries out something new.
This record has the style of a compilation album and that's why it is difficult to get compared to the seven previous albums that all had a certain style and clear direction. The band seems to have wanted to satisfy all their fans by getting inspired by anything they have done before including songs in the key of the earliest works with Bruce Dickinson on the vocals this time. The problem is that the band wanted to spread in too many directions and styles and focussed on quantity instead of the quality and most people simply get lost on this record. Another problem is that the songs that try to connect to the previous styles simply aren't as hooky, fresh and passionate. There are three great songs on the record with "No prayer for the dying", "Fates warning" and "Run silent run deep" and I also happen to like rock party tracks like the funny and energizing "Holy smoke" but half of the album is rather weak and simply doesn't touch me.
I still think this is album is more than just ordinary, it's actually rather good but by considering the high quality of the band's records a pretty good album isn't just great enough. I would like to add that the recent "The final frontier" is even weaker than this record and gets completely lost while this album is at least short and sweat and leaded to a new style that the band developed further and better on the upcoming two records. That's why this record was still an important step in the band's career.
After a string of seven albums often regarded to be masterpieces, Iron Maiden released their eighth album, “No Prayer for the Dying,” and ever since it has received mostly negative to lukewarm reviews. To me, the oddest part is the conditions of the complaints. While most bands generally get a lot of shit from the metal fan base for changing their style, Iron Maiden receives mostly praise for changing their style throughout the past seven albums, and instead the fans were disappointed in this, a release that sounds almost like Maiden pushed a musical reset button and attempted to go back to square one. So, why is this album often considered to be the beginning of what would be a four string of albums considered to be Maiden’s low point?
I think the first complaint many people would make would be Bruce’s vocals. He has a raspier voice and isn’t hitting the high notes like he used to. There were times he’d do this on “Seventh Son,” but it’s much more prevalent here. The production is often brought up, as it is somewhat back to the roots and straightforward itself.
Another reason may be that several of the songs seem to be rehashes of old ideas. I’ve always referred to “Tailgunner” as the song that wishes it was “Aces High.” “Public Enema Number One” features some of those dual harmonies Maiden is known for and some classic sounding riffing, but the song just doesn’t stick with you like the classics. After a melodic intro, we get a classic gallop bass riff from Steve Harris on “Fate’s Warning.” But the bass almost seems more interesting than the guitar riff. “The Assassin” is an attempt to write a bit of a darker, more menacing song, feeling a bit like a Seventh Son reject, guitars replacing synth, but just never living up to the greatness of Seventh Son.
On the other hand, some songs sound more like a classic rock song than a Maiden tune. “Holy Smoke” has been compared to AC/DC and that sounds pretty accurate, and “Hooks in You” has a similar feel. The intro guitar riff to “No Prayer” feels almost as if you could sing “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” right along with it. “Bring Your Daughter… To the Slaughter,” the most successful song on the album, has a somewhat dark atmospheric verse, with a classic rock-ish, and very catchy chorus, with a climax of Bruce chanting “Bring me your daughter, bring me your daughter…”
Another odd thing about this album is it’s the only one not to feature one of Maiden’s epic songs. Besides Killers, every maiden album up to this point (and every one after) had that epic feeling 7 minute or longer song (Some more than one), though “Prodigal Son” can be considered the epic for that one. The closest this album offers us is “Mother Russia,” the only song breaking 5 minutes, though it feels rather epic compared to the rest of the album.
So all in all it seems that the problem with this album is, for the most part, the fact that it’s a very average album released by a band the fans hold a higher standard to. Everything about this album is average. The song writing, Bruce’s new, raspier singing style, much of the instrumental work, and especially the lyrics, are all decent enough to make a listenable album, but all pale in comparison to the things maiden had accomplished in the past. It feels like they went from attempting to make progressive music, to wanting to make safe music. It’s not that this album is particularly bad. It’s just particularly forgettable. And at least you remember a bad album.
The ‘80s were a great time to be a fan of heavy metal and definitely a perfect time to be an Iron Maiden fan. From Killers on up to Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, fans were given albums ranging from good to genre masterpieces. Hell, the happiest people must have been the Maiden guys themselves, as they were pretty much on top of the world by the time Somewhere In Time became part of human history. Eclectic leads and riffs, jovial bass rhythm, usually upbeat songs, and vocals that aligned with the epic nature of the music towered above the heavy metal spectrum – Iron Maiden were the shit. Now fast forward to… now, and I’m stuck in a rut with Maiden’s No Prayer For The Dying, an album I knew would be a step down from the previous releases.
Now at the core it’s still Maiden, but the idea of starting anew sort of got to the band’s head in the wrong way. While each album has an engaging theme stuck to it like rubber glue, this one ends up with Elmer’s Glue, already making it a dull affair. The band doesn’t really go above and beyond like they did with most of their albums by that point, and while this isn’t a necessity, it does show the band getting a bit lazy ahead of their game. On laziness, Dickinson is the wailing ace no higher and more up-close than before; he’s had some fair performances before, but most of these tracks show us just how annoying his voice can get. Make way for out-of-touch (“Run Silent Run Deep” and “The Assassin”), overly-loud (the title track and “The Assassin”), wide shouting (“Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter” and “The Assassin”) before you get to hear the skillful eruption of stomach power manipulated into sympathetic singing and howling.
The first to get hit is the production; starting over shouldn’t always mean going for a straightforward sound again. No more profound, ethereal atmosphere or sonic soundscapes jolting like active particles in the air. No Prayer For The Dying goes for a cross between Powerslave (loosely) and Piece Of Mind (yeah, not much of that old school vibe), which is killer in theory but executed with the desire for mediocrity. While sensibly dissimilar to the debut album (the direction the band wanted to go back to, if I remember correctly), the dreariness of that particular album is reflected onto this one. However, the disjointed tracklist of the self-titled debut is cleansed in favor of a dry, level playing field; no track on No Prayer For The Dying truly trumps another. At the highest we get good tracks and at the worst we get pitiful ones; on average, though, it’s a logically stable endeavor.
Referring back to the production right quick, it isn’t abysmal in the sense of absolute abhorrence. Coming off the ‘80s ride, anyone will surely be disappointed. Personally, I think Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son has an infuriatingly monotonous production job, so No Prayer For The Dying falls in the crevice above it; non-echoed and neutral, yet properly mixed and obviously well-refined (money makes a big difference). For the first five varied songs (and with a lot of proper listens), I looked past these setbacks, but by the fifth track there’s a huge slump (likely because “The Assassin” itself is an atrocious song). The album goes from a set of only good to average tracks and then dips into an abyss of hopelessness; I could tell the band gave up with that song. The next album, Fear Of The Dark, would be chalked full of these filler, emotionless tracks, but this is the album where each one literally eats away at your intelligence.
By that point, I remember my first journey or two through this album; I remember how the band took a turn for less compelling riffs and songs altogether. Maiden still puts forth rationally fun riffs and infuses realistic songwriting to create ambitious or amusing tracks like “Tailgunner,” “Holy Smoke,” the title track, “Fates Warning,” and “Hooks In You.” As cool as these tracks are, the bar has been lowered drastically to accommodate the passing rate. Think of it like the current American education system – students basically having to suck up to decreased passing standards across the board, or else only a few would make it out unscathed. Maiden had set the standard during the ‘80s, but one step into the ‘90s and they already failed to meet their own benchmark.
The other half of this album, made up of lackluster or annoying tracks, drags what competence was agreed upon into the depths of degradation. Some decent riffs and solos manage to subsist in scattered forms, but not enough trust is mustered to join forces with other riffs, rhythms, and vocals to create another decent track. One major disappointment comes from a lack of organization – no track wants to work with another. No Prayer For The Dying offers a bit of variety, but every song is independent of one another in a whole effect sort of way. I jump from one track to the next, but any feelings built from the last song I heard evaporates like some scared apparition. Even at the core, Steve Harris can’t unify anything; his blubbery, autonomous bass lines trudge with the main rhythm or harmony of every track like a good parent looking out for their child. For this album he tries to be a shitty parent, letting his children run amok how they see fit – everyone wants a piece of their own action (yes, I know he didn’t write every song).
The guitar duo switch-up, then consisting of Murray and Gers, isn’t as memorable as Murray and Smith; the margin is beyond comparison. The fault is with the songs, of course, and even with this drawback the two are still able to utilize the rougher production – which doesn’t exactly emphasize the crisp guitar tone – to create blasts of harmony and heavy metal temperament (or lack thereof). Once more, they never blow your mind even passively (i.e. atmospherically), but they do pull it off with candid intentions. On the battery, coworker Nicko never projects himself in front of the band, always maintaining steady beats to compliment the rest of the gang. He knows them well enough to implement a good dose of cymbal / hat tatters and cut-off snare hits in a manner that’ll work around the music. Thankfully, the desiccated production does away with cold snares, although the double bass sounds like dead fish getting clobbered by a wooden club.
Overall, this one is dead weight resting on Maiden’s established career then and today. This is hardly a keeper, serving only as a dud looking to get laid like the previous hot streak of ‘80s albums. There are some nice songs to be heard here, but remember that just because this bears the Iron Maiden name, doesn’t mean you need to check this out. Nothing here will change your outlook on the band in a more positive light than say Powerslave or something. I know that’s pretty high competition to also live up to, but not every album deserves a chance. In the end, I can honestly say to skip over this one not because it flat out sucks, but because it’ll steer you away from that which has truly contributed to Iron Maiden and heavy metal.
The 1980s are widely considered to be the decade of glory for Iron Maiden; seven albums of varied brilliance, the last of which, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, was arguably the most epic and progressive. However, the arrival of the 1990s also saw a complete shift in Iron Maiden’s career: Adrian Smith left, the keyboard-based atmosphere was essentially thrown out the window, and the whole epic side of the band essentially disappeared. In the midst of all these changes is No Prayer for the Dying, the first of the widely-considered “decline” albums of Iron Maiden, and while such statements might be correct for the filler-happy Fear of the Dark, this here album is very solid heavy metal with three essential qualities: consistency, purpose and style.
No Prayer for the Dying is essentially a back-to-the-beginning effort from the band, having similar songwriting to the two Paul Di'Anno albums: this album is dirty and rocking, with perhaps even a slight punk influence; it’s a complete reversal of the previous five albums’ evolution. Such a shift in direction is highly commendable because it’s what the band desired, and they followed their artistic wishes to fruition. All the signs are there: the songs are relatively similar in terms of tempo variation as well as length: there are virtually no epics in the vein of the 1980s ones; even Mother Russia is a relatively brief (5:31) song which only has the vaguest resemblance to an Iron Maiden epic.
This album combines the three virtues of traditional heavy metal with surprising talent: catchiness is balanced very well with technical prowess and aggression. The former element is reduced when comparing this to the band’s earlier albums, and that’s essentially what makes No Prayer for the Dying such an externally unattractive album: there are relatively few individual moments that jump to attention here; this is an album that’s truly meant to be listened to as a whole. Its core is the very high quality of the guitar riffs: despite Adrian Smith’s departure, Dave Murray and the newly arrived Janick Gers work wonders with their instruments. Memorably riffs can be found on essentially all tracks, but particular highlights would have to be the title track, The Assassin and the especially the unforgettable Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter (including the superb mid-time solo).
Whereas the previous decade’s Iron Maiden albums relied on increasingly grandiose effects for atmosphere, No Prayer for the Dying sees a return to the dark basics that made the band great in the first place. The atmosphere is sombre and gritty, both musically and lyrically, while the impressive-as-usual artwork follows a similarly refreshing direction. One notable moment is the previously mentioned Mother Russia. Here, the guitars are used to great effect to create a strong atmosphere revolving around the theme of Russia, and the whole effort is a crowning success, despite not being an epic in the traditional sense for the band.
In the end, No Prayer for the Dying’s greatest quality is its consistency. Unlike many other Iron Maiden albums, there are absolutely no abominable tracks here, not a single one which I’d skip. Beginning with the “raw version of Aces High” that is the cool Tailgunner, everything is damn solid here, including a title track which just screams Iron Maiden due to the very recognizable riffs; this might even be called the stereotypical Iron Maiden track, the impressive and memorable (if oddly titled) Public Enema Number One to the addictively catchy Hooks in You (which I kind of hated at first... it’s something of a grower).
No Prayer for the Dying is Iron Maiden’s most underrated album, by a pretty damn wide margin. It simply rocks, having all the qualities that make Iron Maiden great. Many of these songs should by all rights be considered Iron Maiden classics and it’s a shame that they’re usually overlooked. The 1990s might not have been the band’s best decade, what with the terribly inconsistent Fear of the Dark (whose best tracks do however rival and even surpass this album’s) and the two others, but this album certainly isn’t at fault in any way. I strongly suggest this be approached with an open mind, for it’s a magnificently solid Iron Maiden album. It’s not their best, but is pretty much essential.
Iron Maiden hit a brick wall when they released their 8th full-length No Prayer for the Dying, because the world was moving on and it was pretty obvious that the boys had no intention of keeping up with it. And should they have even tried? Part of me wants to say, fuck no. Granted, this was the same year Judas Priest released Painkiller, which I would argue did in fact 'keep up with it'. Yet, rather than a heavier, more forceful Maiden, they kept the status quo. I had already mentioned that I felt Iron's 'dating' had begun with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and this album furthers that theory, but regardless of what I or anyone else might say about its lack of wall to wall arena-stunning anthems, the fact is that No Prayer for the Dying is not really a 'bad' entry into their catalog. It comes and goes, with a few pretty good songs (some of which even entered their live program), and doesn't necessarily leave a foul aftertaste in the mouth. Only a craving for more, and better...
But the advent of Viagra aside, just how many bands could 'keep it up' as long as Maiden did in the 80s? I think it's asking a little much, but since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was so loved, expectations were huge for this, and honestly it just wasn't bound for success in a metal scene that was producing efforts like Painkiller or Rust in Peace in the very same year. Though I have my doubts that it might have turned out much differently, this is the first album on which Janick Gers (White Spirit) had joined the band, being asked to replace the departing Adrian Smith, after he had worked with Dickinson on his first solo album. I honestly didn't notice a different, though clearly Gers and Dave Murray in tandem had a more driving rhythm than past (and future) Maiden albums.
"Tailgunner" is a strong opener to the album, in part because it's one of those soaring rhythmic tracks that feels like a natural spiritul sequel to something like "Aces High", "2 Minutes to Midnight" or "Where Eagles Dare". The bridge is quite good, with crashing grooves beneath the racing dual melodies, and it's honestly one of Maiden's heavier tracks of the 90s. I'm not entirely fond of "Holy Smoke", though its got a more barroom brawl mentality than many of the band's other songs, and there are still a few worthwhile melodies in there, plus a filthy delivery courtesy of Dickinson. The title track only skirts on being memorable, due to the light synth melody that slowly builds to the climax. It's the type that you'll remember as you're listening, but simply not wish to listen to independently of its environs. I really enjoy the little guitar melody right around the minute mark of "Public Enema Number One", and the entire song delivers more than several others you'll find here, with a little choppy guitar harmony section that introduces the fairly scathing lead guitar.
"Fates Warning" is not a song I think much about, partly because the guitar rhythm reminds me much of "Chains of Misery" from the following album Fear of the Dark, and I liked that one a little more. However, the vocal performance is pretty passionate, and it's not unpleasant to sit through by any means. Though "The Assassin" is plucky and keeps a busy rhythm due to the little guitars that grind off to counter the central rhythm, the chorus is somewhat underwhelming and it's not a favorite here. Ditto for "Run Silent Run Deep", though it has a nice savage pace and a song about submarines was probably inevitable for Iron Maiden.
As mixed as my feelings may be for much of the album thus far, I actually really enjoyed the final three tracks on No Prayer for the Dying, all of which stand out the most to me after two decades. "Hooks in You" is pure kickass rock & roll, with a nice jangling rhythm around the verse, and a really killer chorus that you simply can't ignore...for both Dick's fun delivery and the actual lyrics themselves:
'Hooks in you, hooks in me, hooks in the ceiling for that well hung feeling
No big deal, no big sin, strung up on love I got the hooks screwed in'
I appreciate the duality here, between the smutty S&M and the wider implications of any relationship. I also love the ringing, old school guitar on the bridge over Dickinson's moodier vocals, took me right back to Somewhere in Time. "Bring Your Daughter...to the Slaughter" needs little introduction, as it wound up the most successful song on the album, worming its way into the hearts of fans and a staple in Maiden's live rotation for many years. And for good reason...the vocals are extremely infectious, as is the moody, Billy Idol-like gothic rock atmosphere of the verse, and the big R&B-gone metal chorus. It's like the next best thing to "White Wedding". And though it's the most 'far out' track on the album, "Mother Russia" does much to evoke the natural, hammer and sickle rhythms of that territory, and it's great that Dickinson and crew aren't trying to totally take the piss out of the formerly 'feared' capital nation of Soviet Union, but celebrating the chance it now had to return to its roots.
As you can see, No Prayer for the Dying does deliver...it's just that the milkman has brought you skim since they were all out of whole milk. Tasty, refreshing and light, but it's not going to fill your belly or satisfy that craving alongside those chocolate chip cookies. There's no reason to dwell on it or direct much dissatisfaction when there are such staggering disappointments on the late 90s horizon.
Highlights: Tailgunner, Hooks in You, Bring Your Daughter...to the Slaughter, Mother Russia
Widely considered a letdown after the popular Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, No Prayer for the Dying often gets dismissed as a lackluster album. Partly it is a return to root, of sorts. It's not a return to the musical roots of the band itself - there are no traces of the punky aggression of the first two albums here - but to the roots of the members' musical influences. In contrast to the soaring metalness and over-reaching theme of Seventh Son, on No Prayer for the Dying we find the band going for a more rockier sound with a jumble of songs with no real links to each other. It is funny that Adrian Smith left the band prior to this album to record hard rock with his own project, A.S.A.P., while Maiden moved towards that direction as well.
This is very evident with songs like Holy Smoke and Hooks in You (written by the aforementioned Smith prior to his departure and finished by Dickinson). While they don't sound rooted in their time, it's clear with the rise of grunge that this kind of change of pace wasn't the right one if Maiden were looking to score big sales. Both of the aforementioned tracks are simplistic hard rock songs, but the single, Holy Smoke, is pretty much the epitome of that. It's got about three riffs, four if you count the intro melody as one, and two of them, chorus AND verse, are primitive, a chord per bar wallflowers. Fortunately Dickinson's gruff vocals, catchy lines and biting lyrics more than make up for the insipidity of the riffs. You won't even notice it, unless you pay particular attention.
The song also clearly exhibits the greatest downfall of this album: lazy songwriting. The band lost a member who used to write a great deal for them, especially lately, and now they are throwing everything they got into this album (hell, Bruce had to sacrifice one of his solo songs for it) and sometimes it shows. The song structures are uniform except for the title track and Harris's usual epic closer, Mother Russia. The choruses rely strongly on repetition and the songs on Dickinson's vocal lines to move the songs forward and keep the listener interested. Of course, there's a catchy riff or two for a song, maybe substituted for a lead in some and while they make the songs easier to differentiate from each other, they don't bring enough variation and the songs end up being quite samey. With almost all of them being just a tad longer than four minutes doesn't help.
Maiden seem to have taken an interest in social matters with the lyrics dealing with matters like Televangelism, things (metal) getting scapegoated to gloss over more important matters, religion, the fall of Soviet Union. Of course, they always write from their own bias and point of view that may end up being rather silly, but you take things as they come. The vitriol that Dickinson eschews in Holy Smoke is tangible as is the desperation in the title track and the want to fight even in face of certain defeat that is present in Public Enema Number One. So the shift from Fates Warning to The Assassin seems rather off. After four songs with emotional delivery and lyrics that seem more or less passionate, we get a cheesy rocker about a killer for hire that Dickinson sings with the conviction of a first time karaoke participant. It is followed by three songs with little seriousness to them, but at least Dickinson's performance picks up on Run Silent, Run Deep and Bring Your Daughter. It feels like the band was going through the motions in a hurry. Not much thought went into the arranging of the album nor into the songwriting itself so it is no surprise listeners feel a little letdown by it. But songs like No Prayer for the Dying, Public Enema Number One or Mother Russia makes this album worth a spin every now and then.
This album has been panned quite a bit by Maiden fans, citing lacklustre songs and poor vocals from Bruce Dickinson (A phrase I never thought I'd hear). Rarely any of the songs are ever included in the modern-day setlists, same as the next 3 albums, but does it really deserve to be shunned so much? Is it actually quite good?
Well, on first impressions, not really. Tailgunner is not bad, but could be better. I was expecting a galloping headbanger like Aces High or Where Eagles Dare, but what I got instead was an odd beast, which was as Prog as can be, without actually Progressive at all. The riffs reek of Genesis or Yes, but in a very bland way. It is good, but nowhere near as good as I thought it could be. Holy Smoke is reeeeally fucking bad. Absolutely terrible. I forgot just how poor this song sounded until I listened to it again. Christ, it is bad. This is Pop Metal, lacklustre rock riffs, Maidenized. So generic, and bland. It basically consists of Bruce ranting over riffs which AC/DC rejected.
No Prayer for the Dying is actually a really fucking epic song, or it could've been. It is way too short, and shows oodles of potential, but it just slithers away until you've noticed it's gone and you think "Fuck, that was quick, a bit TOO quick". This should've been another Hallowed Be Thy Name-style sing-along. 7 minutes long and drenched in darkness, a true classic. But it's not. It really isn't. It's way too short and just makes you think how amazing it could have been. Public Enema Number One has a horrific title. Who actually thought that was a good title? This too is a great song, I really like it. Nothing can save it from that wretched title though. I don't even think I could put this in a Dream Setlist if I wanted to, because of that title. It's embarassing, but good nonetheless.
Nooooow we're talking! The air siren's back and in force! Bruce goes back to his high vocals on Fates Warning. This suffers from the same syndrome as No Prayer for The Dying. This should be 15 minutes long, and in the vein of Rime of The Ancient Mariner. Nonetheless, it is a really good song, which could be better. The Assassin isn't too bad, just quite boring to start with, but the Chorus is quite good. Once again, this doesn't sound like it should. It should be in the vein of The Trooper or something like that. But it isn't. It does get repetitive after a while though. Starts out boring, ends boring, with an interesting bit in the middle.
Run Silent, Run Deep is actually really quite good. It restores us to the generic Maiden fare of old. You know, the filler tracks you never bothered about... Ganglands, Quest For Fire, Back In The Village. But on this album, sounds really good compared to the rest. It's nice to be comforted by familiarity once in a while. Hooks In You has cowbell. and a chorus that goes on forever, and is terribly "alternative" with Bruce does his boring "spoken-word" vocals.It had outstayed it's welcome by the second chorus, but continues to go on and on and on.
Then it all picks up on the last two songs. Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter has taken a lot of stick over the years from the Maiden elite, citing it as being "too popular" due to appearing in A Nightmare on Elm Street. The stick got so bad that Maiden dropped it from their setlist, saying that the fans were bored by it. And it's a shame, as it is an amazing song, a true anthem and one of Maiden's best songs ever. Bruce's vocals are at a peak on this track, truly the best vocal performance he's ever done... on this album. This is the song where they take all the elements panned on this album (the "Pop Metalness", the odd vocals) and makes them work. It's a song where the songwriting truly shines out, they got it right on the money with this. Mother Russia is another highlight, where they finally realise their ambition of writing an epic song. This is epic, but as highlighted in other reviews, it pales in comparison to Maiden's other great epics such as Hallowed Be Thy Name and Children of The Damned. Nonetheless, it is still a great song, and the nods to traditional Russian music are a great touch.
In conclusion, this album is OK, a bit mediocre. The problems on this album are endless. Songs are either too long, outstaying their welcome or waaay too short. There should be 7 minute epics but there's not. It seems Steve said "Right lads, on this album. every song should be under 4 and a half minutes long" and then told them to go "Let their hair down" on Mother Russia, but not too much mind. Although i can see that maybe they wanted to distance themself from the Prog of Seventh Son, it seems that they just tried to capitalise on the success of that album's singles, and tried to keep up the momentum by trying to make every song a hit single, and failing miserably.
This album also has another big fat dog turd in the form of Bruce's vocals. They are terrible, I don't know what happened since Seventh Son but he just lost the inability to do any Clean vocals whatsoever, and adopted a strange voice, which make him sound like he has a chest infection. He also likes to do a lot of the songs in an odd spoken-word style, that doesn't really work. And although it works on Bring Your Daughter,,,, it fails practically everywhere else. Every other member is putting a hardly-groundbreaking yet commendable performance, but the vocals drags everything down. And this pisses me off, because it's the biggest reason why this record is so panned. There are songs which would work really well live today, now that Bruce has had his Lemsip and has his voice back, but because the album was panned, due to the vocals, they refuse to play any of it today.
If this album had better vocals and songs were allowed to flow past 4 and a half minutes, this would be in the high 90s in terms of rating. There is some songs which sound different from what they should, and epic tunes which should be twice their length, and if they WERE twice their length, this would be a masterpiece. Despite this, it is a not bad performance. There is some good tunes on this, but nothing too major (Bar the final 2 tracks) as well as a lot of filler material. You should probably put this near the bottom of your Maiden shopping list, but buy it anyway, if not for completion, but also due to the presence of a couple of a good songs.
After 12 years of owning this, Maiden’s 8th studio effort, I still have a hard time believing that this album has 4 out of the 5 same guys that gave us "Somewhere in Time" and "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". There are a few good songs on here, but the vast majority of the songs are completely uninspired. In some cases the music kills the song, in other cases the lyrics do, and in the case of "Holy Smoke", you reach for the CD player and fling it clear out the window. The production is not up to par with previous efforts, as it lacks the punch of the earlier stuff, and also the luster of the more epic music that followed.
As far as the various members pulling their share, it should be noted that Janick Gers is an excellent guitar player, technically he is probably better than Adrian Smith was, however he doesn’t write songs nearly as well. He and Dave Murray get the job done as far as leads go, but, regardless to what Kurt Cobain may have said, solos do not alone make a song good metal. Steve Harris’ bass playing is still as technically intricate as ever, but unfortunately his songwriting is not as consistent on this album. Nicko’s drumming is pretty much par for the course, although the dry, dead sounding production drags the sound of his kit down severely.
The overriding problem with this release is even more overt than the lack of songwriting prowess, and that is Bruce Dickinson’s vocals. They are extremely scratchy and inconsistent, at times becoming almost unbearable. The worst case is probably “Holy Smoke”, although even a good song like the title track suffers from Bruce’s seeming inability to hit a clean note. “Mother Russia” escapes much of this because Bruce is barely singing, and when singing he is doing so with a voice that you can discern some actual pitch quality from.
The lyrics also do their share to drag this troubled opus down. With perhaps the exceptions of the title track and Mother Russia, the best route is to not think about what you're singing along with, particularly if you are a Maiden fan that feels obligated to own and regularly play their entire catalog. Amongst the worst offenders in the lyrical department, "Holy Smoke", "Tail Gunner" and "Public Enema Number One" take the cake, with the misfire of a 3rd part to the Charlotte the Harlot series "Hooks in You" not far behind.
The music behind the antics masquerading as words and singing is mostly a mixed bag. Songs like "Fates Warning" and "Run Silent, Run Deep" have several inspired moments, but they don't cross over into being spectacular. "The Assassin" has some interesting riffs but it gets repetitive after the first 2 minutes. "Tail Gunner" and "Public Enema Number One" both have pretty good intros, but don't really go anywhere. "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter" sounds like a knockoff of an AC/DC song from the early 80s. I don't loathe it quite as much as most others do, but it doesn't fit into the Maiden sound. And as far as "Holy Smoke" goes, unless you like bad, quasi-punk pop mixed with 80s metal, hit the skip button.
If the goal was to bring their music to a younger audience that wanted a dry sound with half-assed socially conscious lyrics, Maiden succeeded royally here. Musically, it’s a collective failure for all in congress, as even Adrian Smith’s lone compositional offering before jumping ship “Hooks in You” reeks of rock/metal mediocrity. This album sold well, and it featured the band’s only number one single. It is a testament to what the mainstream was demanding of metal at the time and why it ultimately went back underground. If you are someone who likes buying albums for two decent songs tracks, some mediocre filler, and a fair amount of crap, or if you worship Iron Maiden blindly and think they can do no wrong, I would recommend looking for a copy at $4 max
After the fans had become used to getting improvingly epic albums from Iron Maiden with equally improving productions, the band for some reason decided to release a back-to-the-roots kind of album as they were drifting at that point and looking for a way to be reborn. Dickinson had already tried some things solo and he brought in new guy Janick Gers to replace the unreplacable Adrian Smith.
This resulted in the ‘No Prayer For The Dying’ album on which Dickinson sung far less theatrical and more like a regular rock vocalist. To be honoust, this was of course beneath him and nobody saw the use of this. Neither did he in the end, seeing he’s back to square one these days and remembering his stroingpoints. Also the songmaterial was more compact and – except for maybe ‘Mother Russia’ - there were no epic songs to be found this time. Finishing it up was the very basic and dull straight forward production.
The titletrack would have been an instant classic if it had had the production of – let’s say – Seventh Son or Somewhere in Time. Try to imagine that and then tell me what you think! It is really a great song. Same goes for ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’. And how about ‘Fates Warning’ which still gives me goosebumps to this day when I hear the guitars interact while Dickinson sings the verses. If I would make a greatest hits collection, these songs would definitely be on it. ‘Tailgunner’ was a great uptempo opener by the way, but lyrically too much of an ‘Aces High part 2’.
The only thing I can complain about are - as said - the production and some of the songmaterial. ‘Holy smoke’ and ‘Bring Your daughter’ are both funny in their own way but not suit the album at all. I do not care if 'Bring Your Daughter' was a hit somewhere, it just did not fit the album. ‘Hooks in You’, ‘The Assassin’ and ‘Public Enema nr One’ are bearable and adequate at most. ‘Mother Russia’ surely does have its moments but never really reaches the magnificence of earlier epics.
I didn’t care they released an album without epics. They’d done that before on ‘Killers’. So what! I rather hear this than an album with only epics (boring!) If I say Iron Maiden, I say eighties. 'No Prayer...' did not come close to all their pervious work but it did have its moments. Enough moments actually to make this a decent album.
One of Maiden’s more widely panned albums, No Prayer for the Dying presented a stylistic alteration that tested the loyalty of their fan base. The atmospheric and synthesized elements of the previous two albums were gone and the songwriting had returned to a simpler form, often compared to the sound of the band’s early work with Paul Di’anno. Surely Iron Maiden didn’t need a slew of complex, progressive arrangements to write killer songs, did they? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be yes. While the resulting album isn’t nearly as bad as it is notorious for, it’s certainly Iron Maiden at their least ambitious and NPftD is one of their weakest albums overall.
The songwriting is definitely simpler than it has ever been. Only one song breaks the five minute mark (Mother Russia), the song structures tend to adhere to a generic verse-chorus formula, and the focus is on catchiness of riffs and vocal melodies rather than on atmosphere or lyrical content. Everything sounds much less like heavy metal and much more like 80’s hard rock, making the album sound quite similar to Bruce Dickinson’s early solo work than any Maiden release (perhaps due to Janick Gers, a far inferior player and writer to Adrian Smith). Even so, there are some good songs here, which is the reason my rating is so generous. There are some solid rockers on here, such as “Tailgunner” and “Holy Smoke,” that while adding nothing particularly new, still carry with them an admirable sense of fun. This is not an album to really take seriously lyrically, as much of it is either typical of hard rock or just somewhat lighthearted. This is true especially when compared to the last few Maiden albums. The songs that absolutely make this release are “Hooks in You” and the title track. The former is pretty much the catchiest song the band has ever released to date (and a personal favorite among their more straightforward tracks) while the latter is a very mellow half-ballad, mixing expressive clean tones with heavier riffing towards the end. The rest of the songs range from mediocre subject attempts to poor filler and are otherwise forgettable.
One of the reasons the songwriting here suffers is the band’s playing, not just their arranging or writing. Bruce’s voice is a lot raspier and generally sucks through much of the album. This is also the only Maiden album where the lead work actually fails to impress me. Not a single solo stands out here, with many of them sounding sloppy and rushed and others are out of place entirely. Steve Harris actually sounds pretty good here. His bass lines come through nicely without overpowering and they’re usually well thought out. Unfortunately, no one else seems to make the effort, leaving the album feeling weak and incomplete.
Despite all these problems, the few good songs and some otherwise nice riffing makes this worthwhile at the end of the day. But fans of Iron Maiden be warned: this may not earn the same respect of you. With the good songs come the bad and it’s still the weakest Iron Maiden with Bruce Dickinson as vocalist (the Bailey ones are worse). I still recommend giving it a shot, but I can’t promise much.
Nobody in their wildest dreams expected this after the marvelous 7th Son Of A 7th Son.
It is impossible to know what the band was actually aiming for in making such a release.
They dropped all the synths, dropped even the Maiden tradition of having a song of long (sic) duration, heck – they dropped almost everything they developed with NoTB and went for this watered-down pseudo Killers sound. I mention watered-down and pseudo here because frankly, judging by this release – it seems that the band just doesn’t have the energy to go back and play such stuff again. Another thing’s missing – ADRIAN SMITH. His immensely cool guitar licks are sorely missed throught this release. Newcomer Janick Gers isn’t exactly a bad guitarist but he isn’t an Adrian Smith. The album sounds quite uninspired (Bruce being the lone exception to this) and the energy and fun of Killers is totally missing. Also several songs sound like needless rehashes of older material and others sound like directionless fillers added in just to increase the album length. Lots of half-baked, sometimes horrendous ideas with even worse execution are to be found on these fillers.
Bruce adopts a rasp on the album to try and fit in with its ‘aggressiveness’. Sometimes, he sounds totally off-place needlessly overdoing the rasp while at other times he sounds energetic, fresh and menacing. The problem here is – the only one who seems to be ‘into’ the record is Bruce as he tries a variety of different styles here and always performs with inspiration and energy despite not always hitting the mark. We get the usual excellent soloing that all Maiden albums have but the riffing is totally off-mark and sounds rather odd. Its like they thought of a melody and poured it all over a standard riff instantly without thinking of how bad it actually sounded or the context in which they play it. Nicko doesn’t have much of a role to play here and neither does Steve. The underperformance here definitely shows how much the band actually relies on Adrian.
‘Tailgunner’ starts the album off decently. It sounds like a bastardization of the classic ‘Aces High’ but I’d pick this any day over a ‘Run Silent, Run Deep’ or a ‘Fates Warning’. ‘Holy Smoke’ is probably the best song on here, its fairly catchy with a nice vocal performance by Bruce (He really hits the right notes here), the soloing is particularly good here. The lyrics of the song are a satire on Bible-bashers and the lyrics contain a rather un-Maidenish line in the form of ‘Flies around shit, bees around honey’. Its just out of place for a band as honoured and hmmm, dignified as Maiden? Well, can’t explain why I think so. ‘No Prayer For The Dying’ then sounds rather puny at times and the main melody sounds like a bastardized ‘Infinite Dreams’. The song itself is fun, they actually sound better when they keep it slow than try oh-so-hard to go thrashing about and failing. The hilariously titled ‘Public Enema Number One’ is just decent, there’s nothing differing from the album’s norms to be seen here. ‘Fates Warning’ builds up well but then becomes completely directionless with a nice but totally out of place chorus. ‘The Assassin’ is actually quite decent – it’s amazing in that it manages to sound excessively cheesy and somewhat menacing at the same time. The atmosphere around the song is excellent, but Bruce goes on and off – he sometimes sounds rather vicious and at other times his vocals sound cheesy beyond cheesy. That chorus manages to be cheesy and hypnotically evil at the same time. It’s hard to say what exactly works (or doesn’t) about this song. ‘Hooks In You’ is a try at an 80’s anthem and although it sounds overtly silly, its decent – although like the rest of the album, it sounds tired and uninspired. ‘Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter’ is different from the rest of the album (finally), it rules with killer melodies and a killer (pun intended) performance by Bruce who sounds viciously evil and horny at the same time. ‘Mother Russia’ is possibly the best song on the album although it cannot for a minute compare with the rest of Maiden’s epics. The keyboards are back and Bruce sings normally through the song (he actually shuts up for most part of the song). There isn’t really a problem with the song, its like all of Iron Maiden woke up all of a sudden after playing asleep all the while and say ‘It’s the end of the album, Golly!’ and throw up whatever remnants of 7th Son they could muster.
All in all, this is one of Maiden’s worst albums – although it isn’t quite their worst (the follow-up ‘Fear Of The Dark’ is). The album is recommended only for die-hard Maiden fans, others can stay content with downloading ‘Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter’, ‘Holy Smoke’ and maybe ‘Holy Smoke’, ‘Tailgunner’ and the title track. The rest of the album should be left to the dogs.
Iron Maiden had an unusual amount of success when being compared to most bands. During the 1980's, Iron Maiden released seven excellent studio albums that were perfect from beginning to end. The song writing was incredible, the lyrics were poetic, and everything flowed together perfectly, but this kind of perfection couldn't last forever. The 1980's had ended and the golden years Iron Maiden once had came to an end with there first lackluster release of the new decade, "No Prayer For The Dying."
Iron Maiden's guitar attack has severely downsized on "No Prayer For The Dying." Most of Maiden's material on the first seven albums contained a decent amount of speed in the riffs; the speed element on "No Prayer For The Dying" has basically vanished. Songs like "Tailgunner" and "Public Enema Number One" lack the speedy guitar work that was once a key factor in Iron Maiden's music, and it makes the songs seem really boring. Repetition of the riffs doesn't help the already lame guitar work. Most of the songs have one riff that repeats until the song ends. This repetitiveness obviously makes the music seem extremely dull. The only positive factor about the guitar work is the solos. The solos seem to be much more technical then on previous albums. This does add a little comfort, but the overall guitar work is terrible.
Bruce Dickinson changed his vocal style on "No Prayer For The Dying," and it really drags the album down. Instead of that high flying voice he had on previous albums, Bruce now has a raspy voice. His new gritty voice doesn't fit the usual Maiden tone. There are hardly any good singing moments by Bruce, just the annoying voice that sounds like someone dying.
Not every song on "No Prayer For The Dying" is bad. "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter" has become a Maiden classic with the thumping bass lines, the numerous amount of solos, and the famous raunchy lyrics. The title track is probably the best track on the album. The title track is filled with soft guitar notes and catchy leads. There is also a nice speed metal burst in the middle, which seems to regress that old Maiden sound. These two tracks are the only songs that stand out on this mistake of an album.
I've been very fond of most of Maiden's material, but this album is truly terrible. "No Prayer For The Dying" was the first album of Maiden's decline, which ultimately led to the departure of Bruce Dickinson. Without a shadow of a doubt, "No Prayer For The Dying" is Iron Maiden's worst album. I doubt they'll make something as bad as this again. Unless you're a Maiden superfan, I suggest you stay away from this one.
This review was orginally written for: http://www.Thrashpit.com.
In 1988, Maiden released their mellowest, most epic and most transcendent album in Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. But instead of giving fans another dose of the same medicine, the band threw their keyboards into the fire and got back to the gritty basics. The result is one of the best albums in heavy metal: "No Prayer for the Dying."
The album sound is dirty. Bruce replaces his comfortable clean voice with his best impression of a bat getting raped by UDO. Musicially, the songs are stripped-down and not as epic. Even the closer Mother Russia isn't really an epic by Maiden standards. This would be a problem.... if not for the fact that the songs fucking rock. This album is the perfect blend of mandatory Maiden metal and down-and-dirty hard rock. The songs stick to a verse-chorus, verse-chorus format, but who cares? The verses fucking rule and the choruses will have even mutes singing in the shower.
You don't have to sift too deep through the dirt to find Maiden's trademark sound. The band's twin guitar harmonies rear their heads in tracks like "No Prayer for the Dying" and midway through "Fates Warning." The title track appears surprisingly early and is refleshingly concise: it's a rare example of Maiden in ballad form, with Bruce crooning his way through each sorrowful verse. "Assassin" has an "I'm Watching You" vibe that will make you get up and close the curtains. "Bring Your Daughter..." sounds much better here than on the Nightmare on Elmstreet 5 soundtrack. Martin Birch strips the track down, taking away the B-horror production and cheesy backing vocals.
"Mother Russia" marks the first time that Maiden experimented with the sounds of a foreign country (they would later tackle the Middle East with Nomad and achieve equal success). Female backing vocals build a misty mood, before heavier guitars implore the listener to dance Russian-style---don't spill the vodka. Lyrically, you can expect more profanity and anger, with politicians and TV evangelists falling prey to the beast. Anger carries the vocal-driven "Holy Smoke," until Jannick introduces himself with a scorching solo.
With "No Prayer," Maiden took a gamble that paid off a millionfold. Sure they lost some fans ("Boo hoo! This is too raw. Where's the cleanliness of Seventh Son?"), but these people are pussies that are better off listening to Michael Bolton records on their parents dusty turntables. Painkiller? Rust in Peace? These albums have their supporters, but "No Prayer for the Dying" is the true hero of 1990.
Wow, does this suck or what? After the awesome Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, you'd think that they'd put out something good. Instead, they put out the worst piece of shit in their entire career. On this album, the songwriting just went to hell. The songs come off as really forced and generic, and nothing really works. This is evident right from the opening song Tail Gunner- a balls-out rocker that has no balls. The opening riff is too simplistic, and the production makes it way too clean and harmless for it's own good. The verses are too happy, and the chorus is dead cool but really fucking repetitive- "Climb into the sky, never wonder why" x 4. It really gets old.
Many of the songs give a vibe of lack of inspiration, in that they all seem to be trying to recreate old classics instead of creating new and fresh heavy metal. The previously mentioned Tail Gunner sounds like a really weak Aces High clone, the lead-based title track which speeds up later on is what Infinite Dreams would be if it sucked goat balls. The so-called 'epic' Mother Russia is weak as all fucking hell, and one of the worst Maiden songs ever. The keyboards that give the impression of some huge melodic backing choir were already used in a much better way on the Seventh Son title track, and the whole song seems really watered out. They just suddenly forgot how to write really good songs.
Musically, the album is more riff-based than the previous two- construction-wise pretty similar to The Number of the Beast, only much simpler, and completely lacking a sense of punch or decent riffwork. The leads are also over-happy and give a watered-out feeling for the most part, most notably in the title track, which I believe is the worst Iron Maiden song of all time. What must also be mentioned is the completely atrocious opening riff to Holy Smoke- I can't describe the godawfulness of it. It's really fucking horrible.
But, one thing that you can always count on when it comes down to Iron Maiden is that you get some really fucking good soloing. Cause that's the only thing that the album doesn't fuck up. We get some awesome solos in pretty much all of the tracks, with Holy Smoke standing out on that point. But good solos can't save this album; it'd take alot more to redeem this steaming pile of goo. I thought it was impossible to have this huge amount of bad songs on the same Iron Maiden album. Fates Warning- the supposedly introspective lyrics are just really fucking generic and dull, the vocals go nowhere and the chorus bores me to death. The Assassin actually has one cool melodic riff coming in at about 0:22, but aside from that it's just over-atmospheric and a failed attempt of making something dark. Hooks In You has that catchy 80's styled intro riff but then gets really fucking generic, boring and completely forgettable. Tail Gunner, Holy Smoke, Run Silent Run Deep, it all sucks.
Fact remains though, that there is one real fucking classic on the album, which totally kicks the shit out of anything else on the album. Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the song rules. One of the most wicked sex songs ever, with that incredibly catchy chorus, the devastating midpaced basslines, the badass solo and the atmospheric "aahaah" middle part with that sinister melodic riff underneath it. Yes, that song fucking rocks.
But, with Bring Your Daughter being the one and only exception, this album infinitely sucks goat balls, and has no place at all in the Maiden discography.
So this is what happens when you decide you no longer want to make epic masterpieces, but really have forgotten what the general mood of the Killers album that you are so trying to imitate was actually like.
The problem with the album is that there are no really overwhelmingly great tracks, and some of them are just all-out horrible, and even among the good ones, some stuff seems to be overtly recycled. Example: Tailgunner. Nice speed metal, but didn't they have a song called Aces High, that did the same thing, only better?
Holy Smoke is probably the best song on here, though it features the quite out of place line "flies around shit, bees around honey" - somehow, when I think of Iron Maiden, I don't think of them spouting off random obscenities. Maybe that's just me.
Other okay songs include the hilariously titled Public Enema Number One, and even Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter (it's not a great song, but far better than some others I'll mention in a second) and also Mother Russia, which is decent, but nowhere close to the real epic numbers they had been able to come up with. Oh and Hooks in You is fun and catchy, despite the overwhelmingly silly lyrics.
Boring: No Prayer for the Dying. Nice, pleasant, but a bit too elevator-music for my tastes. Fates Warning, I cannot remember this song right now, seeing as I haven't listened to this album in a few months. The Assassin is pretty terrible. Really, enough dissecting this album - it lacks the overwhelmingly cool guitar work of Adrian Smith (okay it lacks EVERYTHING of Adrian Smith ... he's gone. Janick Gers is okay, but just not a guitar legend). Oh and the album cover is silly.