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Probably the most overrated album in all of heavy metal - 25%

Ziomaletto, May 19th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, EMI

I'm not gonna give some peptalks here, let's just get into this.

If you think it's a bold title for a review, I suppose it is. After all, on this record Maiden are allegedly stronger than ever, Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith are back, baby! And Janick Gers get to actually stay, creating one of the not-so-many sestets in popular music. And it really shouldn't.

First thing out of the way - the songwriting is atrocious. Most of the songs are monotone and unless they get some cool riffs you can bang your head to, they will bore you to death because Iron Maiden thinks progressive metal is all about repeats. And believe me, most of those song have so many riffs repeated it's like relieving the 'Groundhog Day' in form of music. From 'The Wicker Man' up until 'The Thin Line Between Love and Hate' you'll be left wondering why does this album takes up to 67 minutes, when it could've been reduced to 52 or so and lose... nothing, really.

Like, is there a reason 'Dream of Mirrors' is so long? Not only after "heavy" intro does the song soften up a lot for over 3 minutes, it doesn't get any better than this. While it's nice that the songs speeds up only 6th minute in (it's something after all, I guess), it couldn't also last long without those repeats. And since there is no good riffs to support it, and what's worse - no good melodies to support it - you'll just ask for this shitshow to end. The same with 'The Nomad', despite the effort to achieve this cool 'oriental' atmosphere, the fact that this song is kept at the same pace throughout its runtime of 9 minutes is just ridiculous. I mean, 'Dream of Mirrors' at least attempted to spice things up. Sure, its slows down after a 4 or 5 minutes. Too bad that this moment is also dragged down to hell. 'The Thin Line Between Love and Hate' is downright forgettable and only the end is worth listening to. 'The Wicker Man', 'Blood Brother' and 'Out of the Silent Planet' are plagued by both boring repeats of choruses/instrumental sections that lead nowhere and some of the worst and most cringe-inducing melodies ever recorded by Maiden. This trademark guitar play was always somewhere between great and not great (for every 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' we got fucking 'Can I Play With Madness'), but those are easily the worst IM harmonies ever.

Not that there are no good songs on this album... Or rather - almost succeded attempts at making those. 'Ghost of the Navigator' wouldn't be so bad, if its main riff wouldn't be a straight rip-off of 'Don't Talk to Strangers' from Ronnie James Dio's solo career. It's not even the first time, since 'Stand Up and Shout' riff was used for '2 Minutes to Midnight', although that riff was created even ealier than these two. Anyway, it's almost hilarious how Maiden had to look up to Dio's solo career to get good riffs. Title track seem to be rather okay, even with the fact that chorus could've been axed in half and only benefit from this process. 'The Mercenary' could be a good heavy metal attack, if it actually stayed in the fast pace for longer than 20 seconds. Seriously, the amount of times the songs slows down kills all the momentum this song is going for. Both 'Dream of Mirrors' and 'The Nomad' have some good ideas, and with few cuts here and there, they would be worth praising they receive.

What also bothers me is the whole 3 guitars thing. I guess Harris didn't have a gut to let go of a man who has been a part of Iron Maiden for almost a decade. But it would be far better for both IM and Janick Gers if he left and join a band where they would actually put his skills to use. Iron Maiden doesn't seem to grasp the concept of utilizing 3 guitarists, because not only the Kevin Shirley's absolutely dismal production gives them no chance to shine (and of course Steve has to go overboard with his bass, as if it would kill him if he didn't have a spotlight right on him for 5 fucking minutes), but also riffs, harmonies and solos are mostly uninspired, they lack catchiness. And when they're attempting at doing so, we end up getting 'The Wicker Man' which is the worst Iron Maiden opening song so far. I don't mind cheesy material if it's done right, like 'Army of Darkness'. But this beats 'Can I Play with Madness' in terms of being straight up appalling, which is something I didn't thought I would ever say. I really don't think having 3 guitars benefited Iron Maiden in anyway - in fact, it's exactly opposite. You can hear it well on concerts, where Janick's renditions of oher guitarists' solos are absolutely the worst - especially 'The Trooper', that song didn't had a dual lead for a reason!

But even if you would do all the necessary cuts and tweaks, there's one other problem - Bruce Dickinson. I have no idea how come he could have fallen so low from great 'The Chemical Wedding' into this nonsense. Not only he's wailing pathetically to the point where he ends up being a self-parody, like in 'Brave New World' (the song), 'Blood Brothers' or 'The Wicker Man', he's very often sounds like he's running out of breath. Sometime it really feels like he's trying to keep up with the rest of the band, but can't by any means. I mean, it's a studio performance, how could anyone allow that to happen? Ronnie James Dio managed to keep his voice mostly intact over his entire career. Erik A.K. Kutson from Flotsam And Jetsam, despite going through notable downgrade in voice scale, sounds amazing on latest 'Blood in the Water' singles. I don't know if it's a matter of practice, or Bruce being such a busy man in both music and all the other shit he's doing, but those pipes of his are rusted and ironically, Blaze Bayley's more restrained and lower pitched perfomance would actually work much, much better. I'm not sure if Iron Maiden should get a new vocalist, since they probably won't bother with making new albums, but this shit shouldn't be acceptable. It's been a problem since long time, but IM fanboys being IM fanboys, decided to deny reality and keep thinking Bruce Dickinson is and always will be the best vocalist of all time.

The same goes for this god-awful album. Was the homecoming of fan favorites' band members enough to fool everybody to think this record is any good? With all those unncessary drawn-out moments, horribly cringe-inducing melodies and painful vocal perfomance this should never get the rating of over 80%. This album sits around with the worsts, along side 'Virtual XI', 'Book of Souls' and 'A Matter of Life and Death' which I still can't finish to this day. Iron Maiden can do better, but because people didn't want them to improve upon this, is why this reunion mostly sucked balls.