Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death (2006, Sanctuary)
- Different World
- These Colours Don’t Run
- Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
- The Pilgrim
- The Longest Day
- Out Of The Shadows
- The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
- For The Greater Good Of God
- Lord Of Light
- The Legacy
- The making of The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg
- The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg video
- Studio performance footage of Different World
- Photo gallery
Total Time – 72:06
DVD Total Time – 46:12
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Steve Harris – Bass & Keyboards
Dave Murray – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Janick Gers – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Adrian Smith – Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Nicko McBrain – Drums
Released on September 5th, A Matter Of Life And Death, the new album by Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden has caused quite a bit of discussion among fans and critics around the world. The discussion centers around the length of each track, the epic songwriting, and the Progressive vibe the music contains. Many fans and critics are pointing to the length of each track, the writing of epics, as a disappointment. Many people want Maiden to revert back to the early 1980s and write songs that are more straight forward and shorter…..singles, if you will.
Since Iron Maiden re-emerged on the musical landscape in 1999, with vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith back in the fold, the band has gone in a more Progressive Metal direction while retaining it’s signature wall of sound. Previous albums with the reunited “classic” lineup, Brave New World (2000) and Dance Of Death (2003), each contained songs with a more Progressive flavor and an expanded length. Of the ten songs on Brave New World, seven were in excess of 6 minutes long. On Dance of Death, six out of ten were over 6 minutes long with a 7th, ‘Montsegur’ coming close at 5:50. On the current album, seven out of ten songs are in excess of 6 minutes. Obviously, the band has been leaning toward longer, more intricate songs for the last six years, making the length and style a non-issue. If we look back to previous albums, Maiden has crafted some of the best epics of the genre: ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ (1984), ‘Alexander The Great’ (1986), ‘The Clansman’ (1998) to name a few. So this is nothing new and I find it irrelevant. What matters most is the quality of each song.
High quality is what you get on A Matter Of Life And Death. The musicianship, especially the triple guitar attack of Murray/Smith/Gers, is top-notch and Dickinson’s voice sounds as powerful as it did on classic albums of yore. On the first few listens, Bruce’s performance stood out the most, his voice full and rich, able to maintain a healthy range from low to high without a drop in power. I compare it to his brilliant performance on his 1998 solo album, The Chemical Wedding. What else would you expect from a band as highly regarded as Iron Maiden? Each member an expert at their instrument and craft, the execution never an issue.
The first six songs on this new album absolutely smoke! They are by far the strongest on the album, my personal favorites being ‘Different World’, ‘These Colours Don’t Run’, and ‘Out Of The Shadows’. I don’t particularly care for the first single, ‘The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg’. Not sure why really, it’s a good song but it didn’t really grab me like the first six did.
The last four songs, including ‘Benjamin Breeg’, all clock in at over 7 minutes and are all quality epic compositions. If we were still in the vinyl/cassette days, these four songs would comprise Side 2 and I think it would require a more closer listen to absorb all the different aspects of each track. Of the last four songs, my favorite has to be ‘The Legacy’. It starts very slow and calm, and builds into a grand wall of sound. I really enjoy the acoustic guitars and bass in this song, that blend into the wall of electric, yet are always underneath keeping an even flow and contrast. ‘The Legacy’ is one of the strongest tracks on a very powerful album.
Iron Maiden has put out another classic album. An album that requires the listener to actually listen closely to take in the full scope of each song. It’s ambitious, grand, and fresh to my ears. It is also a continuation of Iron Maiden’s Progressive Metal direction they have leaned to thoughout their career but have really explored since their resurgence in 1999. At a time when popular music is a “cookie-cutter” industry, and many Metal bands in all genres try too hard to be seen as different, bands like Iron Maiden come in and just create music that is an extension of themselves and the music of their past. A Matter Of Life And Death is superb and will easily be at the top of my Best of 2006 list.