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Iron Maiden - Brave New World CD (album) cover


Iron Maiden


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3.97 | 522 ratings

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RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars Bruce Dickinson's comeback album ranks among Iron Maiden's best efforts ever, and is probably their most progressive - even more so than the celebrated "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". While it is not a concept album, it does feature numerous progressive elements, which mingle with the underlying metal structure of the compositions to create a very intriguing, complex sound. Those who still think Maiden are nothing but purveyors of mindless bludgeoning would do better to listen to the band's whole output with an open mind - they might be surprised. Though they might not be considered as fully prog, their relation to our beloved genre is nowhere more evident than on this album.

"Brave New World" boasts at least four songs of almost epic length, with frequent time signature shifts, complex arrangements, keyboards galore, and a monstrous, three-pronged guitar attack which provides melodic texture as well as aggression. However, the real stars here are Bruce's commanding vocals, richer and more expressive, matured by years of experience beyond his former screamer persona; and Steve Harris's powerful yet fluid bass, whose, deep rumbling sound has become the band's trademark over the years. Kevin Shirley's excellent, crisp production pushes both features to the fore, though without overwhelming the other elements in the band's music.

In particular, the role of the three guitarists is the polar opposite of the trite guitar hero antics that many have come to associate with heavy metal. Smith, Murray and Gers have different styles that nevertheless complement each other, their solos forming an essential part of the songs, and never feeling like sterile exercises in one-upmanship. In my opinion, Smith's return to the fold, even more than Dickinson's, is what really makes the difference on this album. Adrian is indeed a technically excellent guitarist, with a fluid, melodic style, and his contribution to the band's songwriting has always been essential - even if his erstwhile replacement Janick Gers often gives him a run for his money in the compositional stakes.

As a matter of fact, Gers is responsible (together with the omnipresent Harris) for what I consider to be the album's highpoint, the 9-minute-plus "Dream of Mirrors", an epic tour de force chock-full of time signature changes, galloping bass lines, dynamic riffing and sweeping keyboards, masterfully conducted by Dickinson's consummate vocal skill. "The Nomad" is another interesting song, rich in Middle-Eastern influences and spiced up by the presence of synthesisers - as is the melodic, occasionally ballady "Blood Brothers". On the other hand, album closer "The Thin Line Between Love and Hate", all too often overlooked in favour of other tracks, s a lively, variegated song which combines a hard edge with a beautiful, atmospheric close, dominated by Dickinson's unusually sensitive vocals.

Fans of Maiden's more metallic side will find a lot to appreciate in the double punch of opener "The Wicker Man," and its follow-up, "Ghost of the Navigator", which feature fast and furious riffing alongside more than a touch of melody, the catchy, energetic "The Mercenary", or the anthemic title-track. What all those songs have in common, though, is that none of them is a 'simple', standard heavy metal song. Iron Maiden have grown and matured in the course of their long career, and their never-disguised interest in progressive rock now shows as a clear influence on their songwriting.

While obviously not a masterpiece of progressive music in the strict sense of the word, "Brave New World" is nevertheless more than worthy of attention from all those prog fans who can look beyond labels and stereotypes. Almost thirty years after their inception, Iron Maiden are still at the top of their game, and they have been capable of evolving and progressing beyond their rough'n'ready, punk-metal roots. Approach with an open mind, and enjoy.

Raff | 5/5 |


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