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I have no problem with old metal stars trying out something new and trying to sound modern but in the case of our frustrated and poor Paul Di'Anno that lives from his Iron Maiden past even if he blames the band for the decisions they had taken against him this is a very special file. At least, the positive point is that he is not doing another annoying copy or re-recording of the hits he had with Iron Maiden. Well, of course, that's not quite the truth as there are two live versions of two songs from that era on the disc that sound truly awful. "Wrathchild" is too fast and aggressive but the really fail comes with "Phantom of the opera" that has been cut down to a quite short version without the interesting instrumental part. The second disc of the special edition of this album included not only a good video clip but also a quite long interview about Paul Di'Anno's years in Iron Maiden. This is an interesting gem for any Iron Maiden fan without a doubt but I don't think that someone like Paul Di'Anno still deserves all that attention after all these years, all his stupid comments and all his mistakes.
But that should not be the content of this review, so let's rather talk about the music. In fact, this album is a re-recording of the album "Nomad" that Di'Anno had made under a slightly different name six years before the release of this one. This is already not a quite original idea and after copying Iron Maiden in live and studio versions, he simply copies himself instead of being finally innovating, original or at least entertaining. The only new tracks are the opener and title track, a quite atmospheric and dark gothic rock ballad that sounds really promising and the Megadeth cover "Symphony of destruction" that sounds less cool but much more emotional, crazy and driven as the original and I must say that I prefer this version to the original even if Megadeth fans will tell you the opposite so I think that this is a question of personal taste.
The problem is that Di'Anno tries to do some new trademarks and sings in a very modern hardcore style that sounds at least very particular and strange. He growls, pukes and screams like a wounded animal but it is at least emotional and fits to his somewhat crazy personality. A song like the fast head crusher "Mad man in the attic" works well in this style but the problem is that many songs on the record try to copy exactly this style and happen to sound quite similar and bore you. The only exception in the middle of the modern hardcore no man's land is the epic song "Nomad" where Paul Di'Anno sounds quite psychedelic and succeeds finally to unite his past and his present in over seven minutes. This song is a truly interesting gem to get discovered.
But in the end two brilliant songs ("The living dead" and "Nomad") plus one or two good average tracks can't excuse for many average and even at some point annoying songs and a terrible lack of creativity. Any Iron Maiden fan should really attentively listen to this album before purchasing it because Di'Anno really sounds different on this record but that's about to be the only positive point as he tries out something new even if he ultimately fails, sounds terribly and bores to death several times. But as there are at least a few well done efforts and a little glimpse of open minded structures, I still give an average rating to this.
This album is definitely a mixed bag, but at least he's trying here to do his own stuff, and not simply reliving the glory days of his brief time with Iron Maiden. Looking over his discography, Di'Anno has probably wrung enough juice out of the Maiden stuff, and here he tries to make his own voice heard.
Problem is, that voice hasn't really come very far since the old days, and inconsistency is definitely the name of the game on this record. The opening title track is promising enough, although there's way too much cheesy synthesizer on it. If they had dropped the synths and stuck with the basic guitars, drums and bass, it would sound pretty good. "Mad Man in the Attic" is pretty decent, as far as the instruments go, but the vocals are pretty raunchy. Nice rhythm parts, though. In fact, most of the rhythm playing is pretty good on the whole album. Crunchy and energetic guitars, with some pretty solid drums. The lead guitar is not great, but serviceable. The solo in "S.A.T.A.N." is enjoyable enough, but a tad generic in its style. (But this song has about the crappiest lyrics I've ever heard.) And I really like the playing in "Cold World": nice and heavy, with some pretty hard drums.
Overall, throughout the album, the band works hard and plays well, but the vocals are pretty dodgy. Paul tries a real tough growl, which works occasionally, and a loud scream, which also works sometimes, but when things start getting rough, they crank up the reverb, and things go to hell. The cover of Megadeth's "Symphony of Destruction" is particularly crappy. (You would think just about any vocalist worth his salt could beat Mustaine's whiny snarl, but Di'Anno just gets out of control, and extremely out of tune. Badly done, Paul.) Even the live version of "Wrathchild" is badly sung, and that's a tune that Di'Anno used to do better than anyone!
If you are really devoted to Paul Di'Anno, I suppose this is an interesting album to have in your collection. I may keep it around just for the occasional listen. But if you're a Maiden fan who remembers Di'Anno from his glory days, this may disappoint. (Maybe his band can find a new lead singer and reinvent themselves, the way Iron Maiden did...)
So, unless I'm wrong, most of this album was released under the name "Nomad" by "Di'Anno" (as opposed to "Paul Di'Anno?). I for one, frown on retitled reissues and the like, as they seem like another cheap way to get loyal fans to shell out twice for the same product, and given Di'anno's tendency to continually re-release his re-recordings of his maiden material (there are two Maiden covers on this record), I already have a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to writing this review.
Anyway, from a musical stand point, the majority of this release is simple, speed-bordering on thrash metal, a far cry from the technical material of his maiden days and the pop metal of some of his other albums. Seeing the amount of influence Paul's early recording had on legendary thrash vocalists like James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine and Tom Araya, you would think that a chance to hear Di'Anno's take on similar material would be a dream come true; unfortunately, this sounds better on paper than it does in reality
This is a fairly flawed release, aside from the reissue nonsense mentioned earlier. Many of the riffs are too formulaic and uninspired, and there isn't all that much variety from track to track (noticable exception being the phenomenal title track). The musical performance from the backing band, while technically proficient, is often very flat and doesn't have much bite. The solos aren't played with much feeling, and songs like "Mad Man in the Attic" suffer greatly from musical lethargy. A big name like Paul Di'anno should be able to attract players with much more passion for playing than the lame group of faceless members that form this "band".
The other major flaw in this album, is that the production is very bare bones, and while everything sounds clean and audible, it just doesn't pack much of a punch. The guitars buzz thinly, the drums click and sound robotic at points, and backing vocals are applied in the wrong places with not enough force. Some of these songs have potential, but this potential is squandered due to an overly clean and flat production job.
It's not all bad though. While maybe a third of the album (Dog Dead, Mad Man in the Attic) is lacking musically, beneath the shoddy musicianship and production, there are some scorching tracks on this disc. The title track is among the better songs I've heard in a while, with an interesting intro and a really catchy chorus. Several tracks are also well written thrashers that manage to make an impression in spite of it all. Di'Anno, in spite of years of substance abuse and touring, is in fine vocal shape, shifting from his trademark hard rasp, to a clean style, to some rather odd falsetto screaming with the greatest of ease. Some of his lyrics might be a little silly, but I don't think Paul's out to write anything else, so in that regard, the album is a triumphant success.
While far from perfect, and with a couple weak numbers (as well as a Megadeth cover, which is head scratchingly weird) and some lousy production, this album, in many ways, is a sign to the younger generations of heavy metal that not everyone from the good old days is afraid of tackling music with some kick to it. I for one, in spite of the flaws associated with this album, can take some solace that Di'Anno has an ear for what's good and what's not, unlike certain other NWOBHM heroes (Jeff Mantas's Dryll? No thank you). Maybe with a few more attempts, DiAnno can put out a heavy fuckin' album capable of standing alongside many younger groups.
If he actually decides to record some new material next time