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Epic space odyssey! - 97%

amiamok, April 16th, 2011

I am dumbfounded to say the least. My first thought upon hearing this album is that it sounds... "fresh". Iron Maiden have bounced back, and boy, do they deliver a roundhouse Norris kick to the butt with this release. It makes the previous album look like a product of writer's block. I feared that it would be their final album. With this fresh offering, we can clearly see the veterans show no signs of slowing down.

Where shall I start? I guess I'll start with the vocals. Bruce Dickinson's voice still sounds strong, yet stable (*cough, cough* Geoff Tate). I like vocalists' voices when they age a little and sound somewhat thicker. I find wailers very annoying. Dickinson sounds soft and controlled when needed, and we also hear furious belting in other places. Bottom line, Dickinson pulls off yet another fantastic vocal performance.

Now the guitars. Most of the songwriting is dominated by the pair of Adrian Smith and Steve Harris, with Dickinson co-writing some songs with them. Dave Murray is reduced to 1 song, The Man Who Would Be King, which is something of an oddball. The songwriting is more diverse (in a good way) on this release and sounds like Harris & Co. are more in control of the direction of the songs. The previous album was a disaster. The songs don't sound like anything the band have ever released before, deciding to tone down the over-used staples of galloping bass triplets and the same-old chord progressions and scales, which made a few of the band's recent efforts a pain to fully appreciate. The songs carry a nice atmosphere and feel to it - a really spacey, epic feel. I could vividly see endless stretches of celestial bodies as I closed my eyes and floated through the album. The lyrics and melodies complement each other amazingly well. There are some good riffs in some of the songs that are in odd timings in the vein of Rush, Yes, etc., which are a welcome surprise. And the guitar solos, they are from another world! Bottom line, the album sounds uncompromisingly fresh with an occasional touch of prog rock.

On to drums. Nicko McBrain has more room to play some different stuff, thanks to the diverse songwriting referred to above. He does a solid job behind the kit, as always.

A word or two about some individual songs. After a somewhat weak opening track, El Dorado sets the ball rolling for the epic journey that follows. Tracks like Coming Home, Isle of Avalon and Starblind show off some new songwriting ideas. Maiden have saved the best for last. The real treat is the closing track, When The Wild Wind Blows, which provides a very gratifying finish to the album with some kickass riffs and solos. 3 points shaved off due to the weak opening track.

Closing words: a must-buy for old fans and new. Here's hoping Iron Maiden continue to create more of the music that we have come to love and expect from this great band.