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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Iron Maiden: A Matter Of Life And Death

Genre: Heavy Metal
Year released: 2006
Label: EMI
Official Website: www.ironmaiden.com


1. Different World [4:19]

2. These Colours Don't Run [6:52]

3. Brighter Than A Thousand Suns [8:46]

4. The Pilgrim [5:08]

5. The Longest Day [7:48]

6. Out Of The Shadows [5:37]

7. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg [7:22]

8. For The Greater Good Of God [9:25]

9. Lord Of Light [7:25]

10. The Legacy [9:23]


One of the biggest metal giants on Earth, Iron Maiden, may perhaps remain the spiritual leader of NWOBHM (Short for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) for as long as they shall roam the planet. Specifically looking at their influence on the mainstream metal scene however, this metal beast's days may be numbered.

Much as yours Truly revere non-mainstream metal over mainstream metal, I have no choice but to put up with such unimpressive mainstream albums once in a while, don't I? (Ah, the practicality of unknown music reviewers). Now, I've really got to get this out of my system: Just what's up with this hype over long and draggy albums?! For over the past half year, I have been seeing looooooooong mainstream metal albums frequently, and 99% of the time, they are from a well-known band hailing from the antediluvian '70s and '80s. Not that this album belongs to that category, I mean it was released 2 years ago! But still, it is one of the more recent metal albums by a famed metal artiste, out there sitting in stacks at mainstream CD stores. In fact, this is the first Iron Maiden album to clock over one hour of album track time.

Alright, I shall continue my complaints in the later part of review. For now, the good news first. (If I don't do this, none of you valuable readers would probably even bother to read this in the first place :-) )

Now, Iron Maiden makes music that is very friendly on the casual listener's ear, and for those of you who want to convert your rockish and poppish friends over to the Metal Side, they would be the perfect metal band to start with (Though better don't try this on Grandpa or Grandma, ABBA will forever be in their hearts). As usual, this most recent album by them has that trademark high-pitched voice of Bruce Dickinson, the polymath of a vocalist of Iron Maiden since the '80s. There is not much musical intricacy as usual on their songs, they are one of those bands who put more focus on the vocals and the draggy guitar solos. However, being an album with a theme on war, it is a rather appropriate tone to adopt I presume. The songs crawl by with a calmness not really befitting of metal, and occasionally ignites musical interest with a few catchy guitar melodies in some songs, one of which being “These Colours Don't Run” which also happens to be my personal favourite track from A Matter Of Life And Death. If you are one of those metalheads looking for energy everytime you listen to metal, this is not the album for you, or in fact, the artiste for you for that matter as well. A Matter Of Life And Death is the kind of metal album that is surprisingly soothing and pleasing to hear, unlike the aggressive, dark, and raunchy metal albums that dominate the American metal scene today. Maybe it is because Iron Maiden tries to spread a new message with every new album released, but if you are someone who likes to find meaning in songs, this might be the album for you.

Iron Men: From left to right – Adrian Smith (Guitar), Janick Gers (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums), Bruce Dickinson (Vocalist), Steve Harris (Bassist), Dave Murray (Lead Guitar)

With that, I shall move on to the bad news. Now, going back to the point about the draggy guitar solos, they are nothing short of old and boring. Iron Maiden should take a leaf out of the book of younger metal bands such as Children Of Bodom and Between The Buried And Me; include more musically profound and fresh instrumentals dammit! Of course, they would have to do that while retaining their original flavour so as to ensure a stable fan base of course. Not only is this album extremely long, it is frustrating to plod through the typically 6 minutes-and-over songs that seems to recycle guitar riffs and solos from the previous tracks. In fact, if you happen to listen to this album in a rather bad and picky mood, don't blame yourself if you give in to temptation and recycle the songs themselves in the Pit 'O Fire for songs. [Read: Recycle Bin]

In the early part of this album, it sounded good. It was engaging up until the 4th track, “The Pilgrim”. Starting from the 5th track onwards, it went downhill, and the initiating track for this downslope ride was aptly named as well, being “The Longest Day”. As mentioned in one of my earlier reviews on this site, no one is complaining about long albums. Let's face it, us poor folks want value for our money! But, like I have said before, if you want listeners to listen beyond the 3-minute mark, you have to give them incentive to want to continue listening to your songs. Maybe it is because I was not born early enough to appreciate the style of old metal bands, and maybe it is because I am more of a non-mainstream metal fan, but even then, it is an undeniable fact that musicians want to be heard. Therefore Iron Maiden, if you want to continue expanding your fan base, especially with new-age non-mainstream advocates such as yours Truly, I strongly and humbly advise you to move with the times and make more fresh, inspiring, and truly breath-taking metal songs that will capture an audience on the second or third listen, or in the best-case scenario, perhaps even during the first listen.

Iron Maiden - These Colours Don't Run (the only song that caught my attention)

Iron Maiden - Different World

Even as I am speaking [or typing] now, A Matter Of Life And Death is still on the last few minutes of “Lord Of Light”. I am someone who typically takes great care in sculpting a good read, and needless to say, I take a significant amount of time to accomplish that. Rather than trying to describe the extent of the lengthiness in lengthy sentences, I have decided to let you be the judge and decide from that example, whether or not it is really good for an album to be that lengthy while not being very engaging.

All in all, if you are a hardcore Iron Maiden fan, you should not pass up on this album. If you are someone constantly looking for fresh metal music however, this is a mediocre album that should only be worth your attention when you have exhausted all possible alternative metal options and have spare cash left.

Metal music may be timeless, but the musicians associated with them are not. There is definitely a clear line between having had made classics and making classics.

Verdict: 6.5 / 10

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