Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dance of Death

Okay, so I've kinda liked Maiden's A Matter of Life and Death so far. I mean
it's not the greatest thing ever, but it's a pretty good album. But
with all the little things that bother me about it, the vocals, the
guitars constantly on the same note, the quality of the production in
general...well, for some reason I decided I wanted a little
perspective. Time to bust out Dance of Death!

Well, okay, my opinions on Dance of Death have been wide and varied. I
liked it okay, then I hated it, then I liked some songs and hated the
rest.....well, now that I listen to it again I think I made two
mistakes in approaching the album. First, I was disappointed it
wasn't Brave New World 2. My opinion of Brave New World has always
been, repetive choruses aside, that it's one of their three or four best
albums. Bruce sounds great, the lyrics are great (Even on The Nomad, fuck the haters!), the production is
immaculate. I love every little thing about it. With Dance of Death I was basically
looking at it (listening to it I should say) through the prism of Brave New World expecting at the
very least the same masterful vocal performance and the same crisp
production. Obviously neither happened. Hell, Maiden even went from
prog back to straight ahead metal. Basically, I shorted the album and concentrated on the few prog elements that were there eventually becoming disheartened because they didn't work as well together as I was wanting them to.

But now with A Matter of Life and Death I have the opportunity to have
a little more perspective. Life and Death suffers some of the same
flaws, mostly in the vocal department. It's 90% Bruce screaming his
head off. Lyrically it's a better album but Bruce still delivers them
too forcefully. The guitars are on the same
note throughout the entire album and the production is muddy. Hhhmmm...

Okay, taking all that into account I play Dance of Death again. And
now once again my opinion has changed. I used to say there were
only four good songs, and now I'll say there are only three bad ones.
Wildest Dreams, Dance of Death and Paschendale are probably the only
tracks that fall flat (for Wildest Dreams, however, I will say it was far too short by Maiden standards and maybe needed to be expanded upon musically). The others? Balls out metal. Okay, now I
think I can appreciate this album on its own terms. Not entirely though, I
still have to basically compare Dance of Death to another album (that being A Matter of Life and Death) but I
think I've finally come to terms with it. It still has its flaws. I'm
not entirely pleased with the vocals. The lyrics still sound very
first drafty and clumsy. Musically, however, it's a better album than I gave it credit
for. Montsegur is probably the song where Bruce has the hardest time
nailing the vocal delivery but musically it's a fairly crushing song. Gates of
Tomorrow is...well, lemme say that I always felt Montsegur and Gates
of Tomorrow have a very Bruce solo feel to them. They could almost
pass for unreleased b-sides for Skunkworks (Gates) and Accident or
Chemical Wedding (Montsegur). And let me say I certainly don't say that as a bad thing. The Nicko track, New Frontier, is
probably better lyrically then anything else but again it's one I feel
I don't need to skip over anymore. Ditto on Age of Innocence. To be sure I wanna sit with these songs a bit more (though I suppose it's not like I haven't had three years to do that).

So I was basically wanting to hear more of the progressive side of
Maiden and it didn't happen. It's not happening with A Matter of Life
and Death either (or not so much anyway) but I think I have finally
gotten over that. Proggy Maiden has probably ended with Brave New
World. I would like to hear their next album is a progressive album,
yes, but I think Maiden will want to end their career channeling the
New Wave of British Heavy Metal which I think is rather unfortunate.
I mean, I like me some balls out metal, but listening to Maiden push
bounderies is something to behold.

However, taking Dance of Death for what it is, I'll have to re-score
it. I used to say it was 4/10. Now? Mmmmmm, 7.5/10 or 8/10 on a
good day. Ranking Maiden's 14 albums, I would probably put it somewhere smack in the middle.

It's unfortunate that I had to compare this album to the flaws of its follow-up to really get an appreciation for it but then again it's not like I've enjoyed every album in my collection from first listen on. Dream Theater's Awake took me like four years to learn to like. Sometimes it just takes time. But honestly, I'm now glad to say that I think Dance of Death is indeed a very solid and enjoyable release from one of the best bands around.



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