Released: 2003, EMI
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
I really liked Iron Maiden’s last album, BRAVE NEW WORLD. In fact, I would put it among my top 5 Maiden albums EVER, so DANCE OF DEATH had a tough act to follow for me. On the new album, the band has presented us with a fresh, modern sound while still maintaining that classic, instantly recognizable Maiden sound. It did take me several listens to really get into the album, though. It didn’t grab me right away and I actually didn’t care for it at all on my first listen. There are only two songs under five minutes in length on the album, which may have left a bad taste in my mouth but overall, I just feel that DANCE OF DEATH is not an especially memorable album.
Iron Maiden are still able to write a catchy song and the first single, “Wildest Dreams” as well as “New Frontier” (featuring the first ever writing credit on an Iron Maiden album for Nicko McBrain) are perfect examples of this. Both songs stick in your head long after listening to the album with their great choruses. No Maiden album would be complete without a didactic epic from Steve Harris. On DANCE OF DEATH, we are treated to 2 songs: “Montsegur” and “Paschendale”. “Montsegur” tells of a religious massacre and has an excellent vocal performance from Bruce Dickinson. This is a great song! Instead of relying on traditional keyboards, “Paschendale” opens with a midi track coupled with a drum machine that leads into the expected bombast and melodrama only to come full circle and close on the same simplistic note. There are a lot of tempo changes in this song and it seems destined to be among the great Maiden epics with “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. “No More Lies” is easily the worst song on this album. It starts out well, but Bruce’s bellowing chorus is awful. The title track is another long song but it has a cool guitar solo and some impressive production. There is a string section and parts of it strike me as something that would not be out of place on a Blind Guardian album. “Gates of Tomorrow” has a cool intro and is one of my favorite tracks. “Face in the Sand” has an intro VERY similar to “Blood Brothers” from 2000’s BRAVE NEW WORLD album. “Age of Innocence” has a very catchy chorus but the album’s closer, “Journeyman”, left me disappointed.
The cover art is also not quite up to snuff with most Iron Maiden albums. It is eye-catching but not in the same way that albums like SOMEWHERE IN TIME or even BRAVE NEW WORLD are. It is like something out of the orgy scene in the Stanley Kubrick film, EYES WIDE SHUT, with half-dressed people frolicking about in masks.
Another negative for DANCE OF DEATH is the revolutionary “copy controlled” format they have chosen. The CD freezes up my computer after the first 7 seconds of every song when played in Windows Media Player, Winamp or Real Player! It works fine on my home system and in the car but it’s a little frustrating trying to type a CD review when the CD itself regularly locks up my system!
DANCE OF DEATH didn’t exactly rattle my cage. As with any huge release, I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed since my expectations were raised so high. This won’t be anyone’s favorite Iron Maiden album but people won’t hate it either. It will be one of those albums like 1992’s FEAR OF THE DARK that just kind of exists in the band’s catalogue. The band has given us an album of new songs that for the most part do not offer anything interesting. There are some excellent tracks here but nothing to get overly excited about.