Iron Maiden [UK]
Dance of Death
Unlike most longtime diehard Iron Maiden fans, my very first exposure to them came in the form of Dance of Death. Admittedly, not the best album to start off with to learn about the illustrious history of the band, but nonetheless a masterpiece. Being a newbie to metal (at that point in time), Iron Maiden’s music certainly came as a surprise. Like most ignorant fools who think that all metal are just mindless screaming, that had been my initial expectation and was I surprised when I found out how wrong I was.
While my current preferences for music tend to be towards tracks that are 4 minutes or shorter due to my lack of patience, it was perhaps a blessing that I was into bands such as Pagan’s Mind and Circus Maximus at that time and hence the long songs on this album did nothing to faze me. Instead, I was more than ready to open my mind and explore what Maiden had in place for me.
With Nicko’s counting at the background, the album opens with Wildest Dreams. To be honest, never in my wildest dreams (pun intended) would I have expected back then that this album would eventually become one of my all time favourite. Songs such as Rainmaker keeps things interesting and keeps the listener engaged through infectious guitar lines that remain fresh in the mind hours after listening to the song, even after numerous listens. Unlike the “classic” records (such as Powerslave and The Number of the Beast), Maiden takes the more progressive route this time round. Besides the long running times, various experimentations are prominent, such as the ballad-like introduction to the first climax of the album, Dance of Death where Bruce sings “let me tell you a story to chill the bones…” with a haunting atmosphere in the background before breaking into the main guitar lines of the song.
The band also seems to have focussed more on the atmosphere and the mood of the songs through inclusion of other instruments such as strings. While most bands struggle to include such orchestrations into their music, often ending with disastrous results, Maiden seems to do it well as evident on tracks such as Paschendale and Face in the Sand, where there is a strong strings section constantly at the background to emphasise the emotions of the songs.
The inclusion of Janick Gers (yes, I know this is not the first album that he has played in) has also expanded the possibilities of the music of the band. Being one of the most prominent bands that often include twin lead harmonised guitars, Maiden push the limits by having yet another guitar playing a harmonised lead, making it three and definitely making the songs sound much fuller than before. Janick Gers also brings in a new edge to the music, incorporating his unique style in addition to the technical style of Adrian Smith and the melodic style of Dave Murray. Also, while Bruce Dickinson is no longer the air raid siren that he is famous for, he still manages to hit notes that most singers find difficult, all the while matching the emotion that is required for the songs. Of course, all these are not complete without Nicko McBrain’s complex style of drumming and Steve Harris’ galloping bass riffs.
While this might not be the best output of Maiden, it certainly marks a return to form for the band after both Adrian Smith’s and Bruce Dickinson’s return to the band, and has the makings of a classic in the years to come.