Thursday, August 13, 2009

Iron Maiden in the New Millennium

Post #68
As the new millennium dawned in the year 2000, the Heavy Metal scene would be treated to perhaps the greatest band-reunion metal had ever seen: Bruce Dickinson returning to Iron Maiden. With Dickinson's creative genius reunited with that of Steve Harris, the formula from Maiden's golden era was reinstated, and great metal music was sure to be in store for us all...

With three studio albums and 2 double-live CD's (not to mention another Dickinson solo-album) released since this monumental reunion, the band has not disappointed. In fact they've probably raised their standard of quality beyond what it was in the mid-80's, as many songs from this new era show a grander ambition. However, Maiden are well equipped to deliver on such ambitious material, since along with Bruce Dickinson, guitarist Adrian Smith also rejoined the band, thus giving Iron Maiden a six-man lineup that includes three lead guitarists.

One might think that one band with such a surplus of talent and creativity would fall victim to personality clashes, but these are true veterans of heavy metal, and most of them have already traveled that road. With deep mutual respect at every corner of this heavy metal sextet, and a good ole' fashioned British attitude in their hearts, this band plows onward to further their already legendary legacy.

Brave New World ('00)
When I first heard this album, I instantly thought, "MASTERPIECE!", and today I still have no reason to withdraw that comment. With their first album back together, Maiden seem set to prove they are back, and ready to show the world of metal music that they haven't lost a beat. The album title begs to double as a mission statement of renewal. The songs on this album range from the fast-tempo thrashers, to melodic introspective pieces, to progressive-metal epics that rival the likes of Dream Theater. The three guitar attack of Murray/Smith/Gers translates so fluidly in the studio that you can hardly tell they're trading off from one solo to the next.
My recommended tracks:
-The Wicker Man
-Ghost of the Navigator
-Brave New World
-Dream of Mirrors
-The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Rock In Rio (Live-'02)
With much enthusiasm over their successful reunion, both among the band and the fans, Iron Maiden took this opportunity to document their tour with a live album available in either audio or video format. With Rock In Rio as the chosen venue, the insane fanaticism of South American heavy metal fans is captured in vivid clarity. You can hear them singing along at every opportunity, both with the lyrics and the guitar riffs!
My recommended tracks:
-Blood Brothers (Bruce dedicates this song to all heavy metal fans at the beginning)
-Sign of the Cross (Originally sung by Blaze Bayley, now we hear Bruce's vocals on it. An improvement I think- no offense to Blaze or his fans)
-The Trooper (Always a classic, and one of my favorites!)
-The Clansman (Again, hearing Bruce sing one from the Blaze Bayley era is a special treat)
-Fear of the Dark (Great crowd participation on this one!)

Dance of Death ('03)
For their 2nd effort with this lineup, Iron Maiden seem more confident. Their song composition and content take a more conceptual approach, and the progressive elements of their music are strengthened even more. This album is a perfect follow-up to one of the greatest come-back albums in the history of heavy metal. At this point it is as clear as ever that Maiden are on a roll, and bring new meaning to the word consistency.
My recommended tracks:
-No More Lies
-New Frontier

Death On The Road (Live-'05)
Again, Maiden wanted to capture the atmosphere of the supporting tour for "Dance of Death" with a live album (CD or DVD). Having watched this video, I'm very glad they did! They employed an elaborate stage set, an animatronic likeness of Eddie (of course!), and various props to enhance the theatrical elements of each song they performed. Bruce Dickinson frequently changes costumes to fit the context of different songs. If Rock in Rio was to display the commitment of Maiden's fans, then Death on the Road is the showcase for Maiden's performance and delivery at its most sophisticated!
My recommended tracks:
-Wrathchild (Again I'm drawn to the novelty of Bruce Dickinson singing a song he didn't voice the studio version of. He always does a great job.)
-Dance of Death (Bruce does some role-playing on stage during this number)
-Paschendale (Again, Bruce plays the role of a dying soldier in the battle of Paschendale. The recurring lead-guitar theme imitates Morse code. One of the most theatrical performances on this DVD)
-Hallowed Be Thy Name
-Iron Maiden (On the DVD, this is where the giant Eddie come out, pointing at the crowd while holding a sickle)

A Matter Of Life And Death ('06)
Do I dare say this is Iron Maiden's greatest album ever? Yes, I do! I know some of you might be saying I have the bias of this simply being their most recent work, but as much as I've listened to this album in almost 3 years since its release has only strengthened my stance on this opinion. I'm often skeptical of bands trying to outshine their own legacy when they seem to be past their prime, but believe me when I say that Iron Maiden are a true exception to the rule.

With A Matter of Life And Death, Iron Maiden give us a great concept-album that tackles the issues surrounding war. For the first time in a while, Maiden reflect on current events as an inspiration for many of the songs on this album. They manage to get several tough points across without having to be specific about international conflicts or political figures, but you can draw many of your own conclusions if you read between the lines. They also show a good variety of sounds throughout the album, but the prog elements are abundant once again.

A Matter of Life and Death is too good not to recommend the entire album! Here are the tracks:
-Different World
-These Colours Don't Run
-Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
-The Pilgrim
-The Longest Day (this one is my favorite from this album! It feels like I'm watching the opening of the film "Saving Private Ryan" every time I hear it.)
-Out of the Shadows
-The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
-For the Greater Good of God
-Lord of Light
-The Legacy

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