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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.