Tuesday, September 19, 2006


(This one's for my IMOB brother, Learned Foot.)

The other day I went out and bought a copy of the new Iron Maiden CD, A Matter Of Life And Death. I have big a Maiden fan for over twenty years now, and one thing that I can say about the band is that it has stayed true to its metal roots while slightly altering its sound with each album release. In other words, Iron Maiden is quite the "progressive" metal band. Having listened to the new CD a few times, I'm not so sure that this is a good thing.

With a couple of exceptions, the songs begin with very slow, very drawn-out intros. "Plinky", "strumming", and "tinkly" are words that come to mind. The Irons are trying to sound more mature, and somehow it sounds like they are trying to turn into a chick band.

Here's the song-by-song analysis as seen through me. Keep in mind that my lyrical interpretation is based on first listen and I have tried not to be influenced by what the songwriters' actual meanings may have been.

"Different World" kicks in! Great hard-hitting sound to start the album. Bruce sounds good; his voice hasn't changed in the almost 25 years since he first joined the band. Lyrically, a kind of Everyman philosophy of life.

"These Colours Don’t Run" has a "plinky" intro. Very modern Maiden, which as I said above isn't necessarily a good thing. The lyrics are definitely not pro-war, but not radically anti-war either. It's more of a respectful tribute to those who fight and die.

"Brighter Than A Thousand Sons" has a sizzling-plinky intro leads into a killer heavy riff that, unfortunately, doesn’t last long enough. Nuclear warfare is the theme, in case the titular reference escapes you. The song references both Einstein and Oppenheimer. Religious overtones are evident throughout – though, given the subject matter, I would just as soon listen to Black Sabbath's ancient post-nuclear vision "Electric Funeral".

"The Pilgrim", as you might expect from the title, is also loaded with religious imagery – it's apocalyptic, but in a personal way. Good, but not exceptional.

"The Longest Day" begins with another slow-sizzle intro. Enough already! It’s about D-Day, of course. Maiden has always fallen back on World War II for material. Bonus points for throwing in references to Valhalla and valkyries, lest anyone forget that Maiden is an early 80s heavy metal band.

"Out of the Shadows" is obviously a tribute to Sir Cliff Richard! – no, not really. Seems to be about making an impact on the world before you die. The intro sounds like “Invaders” (1982) slowed down a few notches. Like playing a 45 RPM record at 33 1/3. The song slows down even more from there. Are the Irons getting old? At long last, are they slowing down?

"The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" is the song that has had a lot of people talking this past summer, partly due to the video being released early to You Tube, and partly due to the mysterious Benjamin Breeg web site. Whatever. Mainly about experiencing death in life, from what I can tell. Very introspective. And yes, there is another slow, long, drawn-out intro. Enough already! I’m tiring of the mood music. If IM is going to be a chick band, then just be a chick band, okay? To be fair, though, when the riff finally kicks in, it’s good headbanging shit.

"For The Greater Good Of God" gives us...another slow, boring intro. You don’t need to keep doing that to prove how sensitive you are, guys. We get it. The lyrics are about the role of religion in war. It would appeal more if the lyrics weren’t so vague. The only thing that reminds us in any way of Islam specifically is a line about “bodies in the sand”. Normally I prefer Maiden songs to be not so relevant; in this case, however, it’s not nearly relevant enough. Oh, and the slow outro reveals a Christian sentiment, for what that’s worth.

"Lord of Light" Tinkle, tinkle, strum…it’s like Maiden has forgotten how to do a proper HM intro! About Lucifer, the (former) bringer of light. The imagery is so dense as to be incomprehensible. Or am I reading too much into this? More introspection, I suppose.

"The Legacy" end the album. So…the inevitable result of the tinkly plinky intros is…lullaby music??? More than three minutes into the song, we finally get some kind of riff. And lots more religious imagery. I don’t recall an IM album that relied so much on religion for lyrical inspiration. Overall, it seems to be a “state of the world” address. And I’m not sure whose side Maiden is on.

My conclusion? This is not an album of just songs; it is a symphony in ten movements, performed on rock instruments by an experienced heavy metal band. It tries to be progressive, but simply shows the age of the band. The only reason that this is not a concept album is that the band probably could not find a way to link everything together like they did for Seventh Son. Good thing Maiden has so many older albums of classic material to fall back on, because I can't imagine that many people would be going to their shows to hear the new material.

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