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Sweden Welcomes A Matter of Life and Death

on August 30, 2006 @ 15:39


With a fool’s stubbornness the band follows every album up with a tour based on new material. There’s been a few blanks, but the around 50,000 Swedes who have got tickets for the concerts in November can breathe again. While A Matter of Life and Death isn’t as amazing as Iron Maiden’s PR machine has made us believe, they haven’t done this well in a long time.

After Bruce Dickinson’s comeback it’s been turgid and progressive. What separates this record from its predecessors is the drama and enterprise. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns is a nervy mastodon piece of almost nine minutes that contains everything. With Tool as starting point Iron Maiden throws themselves into a wasp’s nest that pokes a whole on the conservatism attributed to the band.

Neither is this a one-time stroke of luck. Despite the songs often being very long and winding through a myriad of time changes they arrive at nice, carrying choruses. There are some exceptions, like the rusty single The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg and the pompous The Legacy.

Iron Maiden can to battle with credit.


Let’s not pretend here. Iron Maiden IS an institution and could record an album consisting of noise - and still have their slightly fanatic fans praise it like a masterpiece.

But… no.

26 years after the debut the British perpetual motion machine is the strongest they’ve been for many years, and to say that A Matter of Life and Death contains the band’s strongest song collection since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) is not an exaggeration. Just an assertion.

Where Dance of Death clefted a bit too much Iron Maiden’s 14th studio work is remarkably consistent, and in reality it’s just the opening Thin Lizzy-like Different World that stands out. Beyond that the sextet paints with palette covering the whole colour scale and all moods that can be imagined. For the Greater Good of God offers beautiful The Clairvoyant-chills. These Colours Don’t Run already feels like a classic and in context even the top-charting single The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg feels completely natural. All in all it’s a powerful suite of songs not even the bad sound - so fragile it in itself almost renders a lower rating - can ruin.

It’s for real. Honest metal ethics in fashionable velvet, soiled camouflage and black skin at the same time. It’s a matter of life and death.

Best track: The Longest Day.

Svenska Dagbladet

I don’t want to go as far as saying I started to doubt Iron Maiden’s ability ro make good albums, but Dance of Death wasn’t really much to write home about. Its predecessor Brave New World with Bruce Dickinson back on vocals was an enormous advance for the band and with A Matter of Life and Death in hand the just mentioned failure can be seen as an exception. Iron Maiden are great.

You know they are, your grandmother likes Eddie, your little sister thinks Dickinson is good-looking and your three-year-old son can sing along with Fear of the Dark. Iron Maiden is metal for the big masses. That’s why A Matter of Life and Death might disappoint the singalong-addicts a little. On this albium there is no The Trooper nor straight riff-based rockers like 2 Minutes to Midnight.

The closing number The Legacy for example impresses with acoustic guitars and folk music vibes. But misinterpret me correctly, you can’t blame the Brits for being anything than melodic and there are enough tracks here that fits as a soundtrack for a Globe filled with raised fists.

Dagens Nyheter

Finally the reunited Iron Maiden make an album that matches the onstage competence.

When Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band in 1999 Iron Maiden reclaimed their place on the hard rock throne fast as lighting. But neither of the two studio albums Brave New World and Dance of Death have been as impressive as they’ve been live. Both records were uneven and suffered from constant repetitions.

No one even dares to hope for a new The Number of the Beast or Piece of Mind from Maiden. But there is no lack of ambition or self insight. It’s the long, winding songs like Dream of Mirrors and Paschendale that’s been the highlights recently and on studo effort number 14 there are only 10 songs in more than 70 minutes of space.

Maiden have never been known for giant experiments, but they still manage some surprises. The otherwise so cheerful Englishmen have gone for a darker, more moody approach. The recurring theme is war, a topic now treated more seriously than in their earlier storybook adventures. There are no potential hits - the opening Different World tries a little half-heartedly but is too quiet - and the measured against Maiden standards unusually intricate compositions take time to stick completely.

The nearest comparision is The X Factor. But this time there’s no misplaced Blaze Bayley singing but everyone’s favourite fencer/pilot/documentary maker/and so on Bruce Dickinson. He still has an impressive voice and natural charisma at the microphone, but has not fully realised his limitations at the age of 48 and therefore sounds a bit strained on the loudest air raid sirens.

Apart from the frontman Iron Maiden isn’t really any super musicians, but they have a certain tightness and thought in their music few possess which makes up for the lack of young enthusiasm. This is a product from a mature band with an extreme confidence.

When it succeeds the result is simply brilliant. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns and For the Greater Good of God are Maiden in top shape, varied, powerful, grand, modulated and dramatic at the same time. Despite the fact that they’re both more than eight and nine minutes long respectively they don’t have a dead second. The level is generally both even and high, but the thumb rule for the record seems to be “the longer, the better”. The cool The Pilgrim, at “just” a bit more than five minutes is the only track that breaks the pattern.

Some of the sins of later days can sadly be found on A Matter of Life and Death as well. Producer Kevin Shirley manages for the third time in a row create a dry sound that sounds so weird for a band that’s so energetic live. Some choruses are killed from repetitions and calm intros can be effectful, but not when each and every song has one.

But all that can be forgiven when the band has finally decided to leave the dull safety behind and wake the ambitions up again.

The heirs will have to wait for another while, Maiden still rules.


Anonymous said:

It's been a while since I read so many excellent reviews for Maiden from all around the world. Love that sentence: "The heirs will have to wait for another while, Maiden still rules."

#12765, August 30, 2006 @ 17:07

Anonymous said:

i readed that from dagens nyheter and i' think it's verry great.


#12771, August 31, 2006 @ 13:23

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