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Iron Maiden - Dance of Death CD (album) cover


Iron Maiden


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3.58 | 433 ratings

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4 stars Released in 2003, "Dance of Death" is Iron Maiden's second studio album recorded as a six-piece and featuring the mighty, three-pronged guitar attack of Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. As in the case of its predecessor, 2000's "Brave New World", it shares quite a lot with the efforts of progressive metal bands such as Dream Theater and their ilk, while being at the same time rooted in the band's straighter heavy metal past.

The stylish, red-and-black cover and booklet contain some impressive pictures of the black-clad band members, shot at the historic English mansion of Luton Hoo With the sole exception of the two initial tracks, most of the songs are over the 5 minute mark, with epics "Paschendale" and "Dance of Death" clocking at almost 9 minutes. While retaining Maiden's signature rumbling, galloping bass lines and fast, furious riffing, the sound is distinctly mellower and more melodic; the influence of the historic prog bands beloved of both Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson is also clearly in evidence, especially in the longer tracks, with their complex, string- and keyboard-laden arrangements.

Opener "Wildest Dreams" and the following "Rainmaker" are both dynamic, textbook-Maiden songs with catchy choruses - good, though rather straightforward, classic metal tracks. Then the title-track comes in to prove how the band have continued to develop their trademark, metal-with-brains sound in the proggier direction already shown by the Bayley-era albums. Written by Steve Harris (who took the inspiration from one of his dreams) and guitarist Janick Gers, the song begins with a haunting acoustic melody, over which Dickinson's powerful, impassioned delivery soars; then develops into a majestic cavalcade, powered by dazzling solos by each of the three axemen. "No More Lies" starts in much the same restrained, almost wistful vein, climaxing in a full-blown, energetic romp; while "Montségur", dedicated to the 13th-century massacre of the Cathars in the south of France, is sharply reminiscent of vintage Maiden tunes such as "Run to the Hills".

For those more interested in Maiden's proggy side, the moody, atmospheric, World War I-themed "Paschendale", with its distinctive stop-start structure and a towering vocal performance by Dickinson, is without any doubt the album's pièce de resistance, together with the title-track and surprise closer "Journeyman" - a melancholy, completely acoustic, medieval-influenced ballad, in which Dickinson proves he is equally at ease as a sensitive interpreter of mood pieces as he is as the screamer idolised by millions of heavy metal fans.

Even though not always fully appreciated by Iron Maiden's loyal following, "Dance of Death" is a well-crafted, skilfully performed album by a band at the top of their game. Open-minded prog fans will find a lot to enjoy in this interesting record, which alternates high-energy moments with intricate, sprawling epics that could proudly stand beside the output of many celebrated prog-metal bands.

Raff | 4/5 |


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