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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.