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As many of you, this was the end of an era for Iron Maiden. Adrian Smith, my personal favorite member, would leave after this album. Does that mean his impact on the band was that great before and after he left? You better believe it was. Personally, I never liked the albums Adrian wasn't in that much. But that's another story. I think this album contains some of Adrian's best work, but that's not all. I think this is the best Iron Maiden album ever. No, it wasn't the album that made me a fan, or the first album I listened to but it's the album that no matter how many times I play it, it never gets old. I first listened to this album in 1997, when I was 14. 10 years later, it still doesn't get old. It truly does stand the test of time. Unfortunately, Maiden, while still a great band with H and Bruce back, has never been able to come close to this kind of perfection again. This is my perfect idea of heavy metal.
The perfection I speak of is in the music. This is their most mature album, almost progressive in nature. In this album, Bruce uses multiple singing styles and voices to keep the listener entertained. He can sing clean, hit the high notes or growl with the best of them. He sounds like he could be in Broadway. Adrian and Dave are using that guitar attack to its maximum. The guitars are very melodic in this album, even for Maiden's standards. Not to say that they haven't got times when they can just chug on palm mute notes but for the most part, there's a lot of combined lead/rhythm attacks on this album. The solos are perfect, and fit the music no more, no less. Adrian and Dave are truly in top shape for this album, and it paid off big time. Bass is alright, but I've never been too big on bass. The drumming is for the most part on time upon delivery, and doesn't get boring. You won't find any blast beats but there are a couple of double bass parts (especially in The Evil That Men Do). The synth, while present, doesn't hurt because it doesn't try to get in the front of the mix, it's for the most part just blended in with the guitars (like in Can I Play With Madness' chorus) or sometimes to add dramatic effect such as in the title track's angel choir part.
What can I say about album highlights? This album is perfect. To do a track by track review would be useless. But I must say that I think The Prophecy is the weakest among the 8, with Only the Good Die Young being a few notches above. My personal favorite is The Evil That Men Do, which is my favorite Maiden song ever (though not necessarily the greatest). The epic title track is good too, and although it (the epic track) is not in the end as in the previous 4 albums, I think it has a good place. Personally, I think the title track is the greatest song Steve has written. Can I Play With Madness, Infinite Dreams and Clairvoyant are all equal in my opinion, in that they are equally good, and to be honest fall only under The Evil. Moonchild and the title track are third tier, with Only and Prophecy being the last place. Personally I never understood why so many fans hated Can I Play With Madness. It's a great song.
Just as an added note, this is one of the few albums that debuted for Maiden at #1 in the UK charts. The Hype then must have been great, and I believe the fans weren't disappointed when they launched it to that accolade. Almost a decade later when I first heard it, I felt the true impact of Iron Maiden and this album made me a fan of theirs and heavy metal for life. Good music is timeless and last forever. Truly, The Evil That Men Do Lives On and On...