I remember the days before the release of Iron Maiden's "Bruce reunion" album, "Brave New World", in the summer of 2000. Everybody was happy Blaze Bayley had disappeared, and the album contained some classic Maiden. The album was probably universally overrated because of the "Bruce is back in the fold!" euphoria. When I listen to the album now there are rather a few mediocre tracks, and some of the better tracks have mediocre parts. Personally, I only think "Blood Brothers" aged well. That's not a whole lot.

Before the release of "Dance of Death", their latest, there was a fair bit of hullaballoo with regard to the cover art. Nobody believed the cover artwork preview that circulated on the web could possibly be the real thing. If so, everyone opined, it was going to be the crappiest looking Iron Maiden cover ever, by far. Well, unfortunately the preview was the real thing, and indeed it is the crappiest Iron Maiden cover ever. By far. It does not leave a good first impression.

The album kicks off with "Wildest Dream", the single cut, previewed by audiences all over the world last summer when Maiden played a variety of festivals. It is the most straighforward track, a typical hardrock anthem kind of track. Nothing special about it. "Rainmaker" comes hot on its heels, a classic Maiden track. Bruce's voice has aged very well, though this particular song does contain rather too many high notes that Bruce strains a little to reach.

"No More Lies" is the first of four songs on this album that start off and ends with threadbare bass-accompanied-by-clean-guitar parts, like "The Clansman" and "Sign of the Cross". It's the Iron Maiden "look, this is a serious and seriously long song" sign. "No More Lies" is further marred by a horribly repetitive chorus and a mix that seems to favour the word "more" rather too much. This is one of the worst tracks on the album, and unfortunately the one that most persistently lodges itself between your ears.

"Montségur" has another repetitive chorus, and too many of the almost-faltering high-pitched vocals, though the post-chorus parts are pretty good. The title track is another one of those "look here's another serious long song" songs, though this one is actually quite good. The best on the album, though not as good as "Blood Brothers" for example. "Paschendale" and "Face in the Sand" are two other "long and serious" tracks, the latter of which is decidedly so-so. "Paschendale" makes good use of orchestral elements and is the second good track on this album. The album is wrapped up by "Age of Innocence" (sounding very familiar, by another band somewhere) and the repetitive-chorus, pretty cheesy "Journeyman".

You get good value for money with "Dance of Death" on account of it being rather long. But I had expected something a lot better. Since I've already sold my Blaze Bayley Maiden albums, I think this might be the worst Iron Maiden album I own.

"Dance of Death" is another one of those CDs carrying the "Copy Control" logo, by the way. The company that markets this 'copy protection' recently threatened to sue a student who had published on his web site that this 'copy protection' could be 'broken' by keeping the SHIFT key pressed when you insert such a CD (or, alternatively, changing a value in the registry). This would have been a very interesting lawsuit to follow, however the company decided not to pursue this legal course. The company's stock dropped drastically after the news of the fallibility of their 'copy protection' became public. Well, hey, a 'copy protection' that literally anyone with basic knowledge of "Windows" can 'break' isn't much of a copy protection, right? Silly buggers.



Written October 2003


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