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Maiden musically falls apart. - 41%

hells_unicorn, April 3rd, 2008

The Blaze Bayley years of Iron Maiden have always been a point of contention for most of the band’s older fan base. Blaze’s voice is simply not suited for NWOBHM music, because he doesn’t have the necessary range and the kind of power in the upper range that he does possess to match the arrangements. As best I can tell he would be most suited for a traditional doom outfit similar to Trouble or early 70s Black Sabbath. On the X Factor, some great songwriting helped to hide Blaze's limitations as a singer, but here we don't have nearly as much great music to smooth out this rather rough edge.

Although not nearly as long-winded as its predecessor, we have some rather long tracks in "The Angel and the Gambler" and "The Clansman", both of which break the 9 minute barrier. On previous Maiden albums the epic tracks would tend to battle each other for prominence, which as the reason why the better Maiden releases of the 80s usually had one dominant epic, while other longer numbers would be considerably shorter and less complex. Here, the former is an overly repetitive quasi-rock tune that has more in common musically with "From Here to Eternity" than the more anthem-based and complex epics that usually run this long. If 3 1/2 minutes of needless repeats of one part were taken out, I could actually listen to and enjoy this song. By complex contrast, "The Clansman" is the strongest track on here, containing the atmospheric elements that helped define classic epics such as "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" and "The Sign of the Cross".

Among the shorter tracks on here, the results range from adequate to pretty damned lousy. "Futureal" is a fast track with a catchy set of guitar riffs that almost sound like they were left over from the "Seventh Son" sessions, it’s fun but it doesn’t really stick with you. "Lightning Strikes Twice" is a shorter epic that contains some nice lead work by Dave Murray, but a rather poor vocal performance by Bayley, for some reason he can't hit that high B without his voice falling apart.

Of the remaining tracks, "Educated Fool" and "When Two Worlds Collide" have some decent moments, but way overlong and under-developed. "Como Estais Amigos" is a stupid ballad that I can't tolerate for more than a minute, as unfortunately Janick Gers' compositions are hit or miss, as is even the case with their post-90s releases. "Don't look to the Eyes of a Stranger" meanders like crazy, and the tempo drags so much that it makes 8 minutes seem like 30.

This is the weakest album Maiden has ever put out, and it is not merely Blaze’s fault, but a collective failure on all sides. Steve Harris managed to write one classic song and Dave Murray’s lead playing salvages some of the otherwise mediocre filler, aside from that there is basically nothing but unmemorable melodies and meandering interludes. If you really want to hear this for 1 great song and maybe 2 passable songs, I'd suggest looking for this release second hand at $5 or less.