So what more can be written about the greatest Heavy Metal band the world has ever known? From such lowly beginnings in London's East End to monumental global success much has been written and said both in praise and in scorn of a group of middle age fathers who to most outside their legions of fanatically loyal fans, should know better by now.
The first question on most people's lips will be: is it better than "Brave New World"? The answer is simply yes. Once again bucking all trends and fashions MAIDEN have managed to produce a body of work that harkens back to the halcyon early 1980's and at the same time incorporate much of the sounds and styles that have become synonymous in latter years.
There's an air of revitalisation on this album, the bands thirteenth studio offering and MAIDEN will be first to tell you that in the studio there has been a dedication and a willingness to succeed and to prove to those outside the world of IRON MAIDEN that MAIDEN are still relevant in the over commercialised music world and still capable of appealing to both old and new listeners.
The first single "Wildest Dreams" is the perfect start. A balls to the wall Metal racket that has a great chorus. Basically the kind of song MAIDEN excels at. "Rainmaker" follows suit and could easily have sat on "Brave New World". Another catchy intro followed by another fine chorus that is going to get the crowd singing when played live and believe it or not Davey Murray is the main songwriter!
"No More Lies" opens with a reminder to the "Nomad" from "Brave New World" with a strong Eastern feel that comes crashing down round about the chorus. There's not one hint of MAIDEN going soft in their old age. The first epic "Montsegur" starts with a driving heavy, heavy riff that will take you right back to the "Piece Of Mind" era and quickly introduces some fine and tricky guitar playing by Murray, Smith and Gers. Bruce's voice is in as fine a fickle as I can remember. And then onto the title track which is going to go down as a classic much like "Fear Of The Dark" and "The Clansman". Picking up all sorts of influence from Prog to Folk to Metal "Dance Of Death" is a twisting, intriguing and often beguiling track that could easily fit on the "Wicker Man" theme score. "Gates Of Tomorrow" has an opening structure harking back to "Judgement Of Heaven" from 95's "The X-Factor" it fairly cracks along in typical MAIDEN fashion. "New Frontier" re-visits the heady days of "Powerslave" and 1984. The rolling bass of Harris is supported with the classic MAIDEN guitar licks that work in tandem with Nicko's pulsating rhythm playing. Yet another war inspired epic "Paschendale" is MAIDEN at their Prog best. Perhaps having learnt from the likes of "Dream Of Mirrors" - dwelling too long on the same bit of the song - "Paschendale" starts quietly and effectively with Bruce lamenting the loss of dead soldiers and pulls out all the stops with some thrilling guitar interplay. "Face In The Sand" is instantly catchy with Harris's bass warming up to deliver a dose of classic MAIDEN. An all out assault from all concerned. "Age Of Innocence" is a steady rocker that has MAIDEN's foot firmly in the here and now and at the same time throwing more than a passing glance to former glories and that leaves the almost acoustic chill out of "Journeyman" which much like "Blood Brothers" is a massive deviation from the traditional MAIDEN sound and could easily mark the album's defining moment. "Journeyman" perhaps does more for IRON MAIDEN than all the other songs on the album. It shows a maturity and elegance that has rarely been seen with MAIDEN. When Bruce sings "I know what I want, and I say what I want" it is heart felt and a statement for all that MAIDEN have gone through over the years.
Many have been the changes to MAIDEN ever since their debut offering away back in 1980 but there is still a basic formula in the music that immediately tells you that this is IRON MAIDEN. The twin now triple of course! Guitar attack, the titanic galloping bass lines, the timed and intuitive drumming coupled with the strong power house vocals, the epic songs and boys on rockers with foot firmly on the monitor.
"Dance Of Death" has every MAIDEN ingredient and a few more added in. It will delight the hard core fan and dismay the critics who will still vilify it and denounce the band and wonder just why Harris and Co. have such staying power and longevity.
IRON MAIDEN is more relevant in today's music than they've ever been. They keep going from strength to strength producing quality and provoking music. So they might never sell as many records as METALLICA but what METALLICA has lost is their respect and that undying loyalty that is afforded to them by their fans. IRON MAIDEN will never lose that respect or credibility because Harris will not allow it and that is why MAIDEN is the truly greatest Metal band ever.
Are you gonna argue with Eddie? (Online September 7, 2003)