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"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.