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Review: Iron Maiden - Dance of Death
Iron Maiden
Dance of Death

Label: Sony
Year released: 2003
Duration: 68:01
Tracks: 11
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 3.25/5

Review online: December 12, 2003
Reviewed by: Pierre Bégin
Readers Rating
Dance of Death

Rated 3.79/5 (75.7%) (107 Votes)

"Dance Of Death" is Maiden's 13th studio album and successor of the excellent "Brave New World" released in 2000. My expectations were high for this CD. I anticipated an album as strong as "Brave New World", maybe even better… Alas, this CD is very disappointing in many aspects although there are very good moments.

First of all, the production by Kevin Shirley is AWFUL. I read that the band wanted to achieve a live sound, including not using a metronome to reproduce a more "live" feel. The result: It sounds buried like a tape played from under several pillows!! I don't understand that this great band and this producer recorded the very good sounding "Brave New World" three years ago, and ended up this time with this extremely weak production! It's a shame for an Iron Maiden record. The production can be compared to "The X Factor" in many aspects. The guitars and drums are thin in the final mix and the sound is overall flat and demo-like.

However, there are some great moments on this album, like the second single "Rainmaker", an excellent mid-tempo song with a great chorus, "Montségur", a solid track and probably the heaviest Iron Maiden song since "Piece Of Mind", the excellent "Paschendale" with its epic feel and the excellent use of keyboards, "Face In The Sand", which showcases for the first time some extensive use of double bass drum by Nicko, and the song is very well sung by Bruce. Also the final track, "Journeyman", the first all-acoustic piece by the band. My favourite song is the title track "Dance Of Death" which clocks in at over 8 minutes, with a very good Celtic rhythm and the best lead guitar solos of the entire album.

The other songs vary from good to filler. "Wildest Dreams" is a good mid-tempo track but a bit weak to be the opener and the first single off the album. "No More Lies" has good moments but the chorus is a bit repetitive and unexciting, and the beginning is too similar to "The Clansman". At 4:50 during the guitar lead, Nicko plays off-beat, which really doesn't fit at all in the song. "Gates Of Tomorrow" begins with a lame hard rock riff, and the verses are lame with the use of two line vocals like on "The Thin Line Between Love And Hate", and the song is the weakest of the entire CD along with "Age Of Innocence", a flat song without hooks. "New Frontier", the first song ever written by Nicko, is a well driven song but the beginning is a bit similar to "Never Say Die" by Black Sabbath.

Bruce Dickinson sadly uses some raspy vocals (thankfully not too much) like he used to do on "No Prayer For The Dying" and "Fear Of The Dark". I prefer when he uses his awesome high-pitched clean vocals. The guitar leads by the three amigos are generally not great either and some leads sound like filler material. However, there are some great memorable melodies, like in "Dance Of Death". By the way, I can't wait to hear the band play that song live. The lyrics are very good throughout the album. My only complaint about the lyrics is on "Face In The Sand", which sound too much like a newspaper editorial. The cover of the album could have been very good if they had removed the awful CGI characters surrounding Eddie, painted as a reaper. However, the booklet is excellent with nice shots of the band members.

This CD is copy-controlled, a system introduced to "prevent piracy". In short, they intentionally corrupt the CD to be make it difficult to read by PC and MP3 players, but it can also not be read by some standard players. This also makes the quality of the sound degrade quicker as the disc gets older (and the sound of this CD is already poor). (-; This is my first CD with this shit and it's annoyed me a lot. I cannot play the original on half of my CD players (including my main sound system). >-: I was forced to burn a CD-R out of this "copy-controlled CD" to finally be able to listen to it everywhere. It was very easy to bypass the protection. What a bunch of morons these record labels; This penalises those who BUY the CDs instead of stopping the piracy itself! I buy all my CDs and don't rip them; I support the music I love. Let's hope they will try other solutions, such as reducing the price of CDs.

Overall, a decent/okay metal album, but not great for the mighty Iron Maiden. It can't be compared to the quality of the greatest Iron Maiden albums. It's deceiving since their latest album was so great and consequently the expectations were high. But the worst aspect of this album is the poor production, which ruined it, even the best tunes. This production is unworthy for an established band like Iron Maiden. The latest productions of Rage, HammerFall, Helloween, King Diamond, U.D.O. and many other metal bands far surpass what Iron Maiden achieved on "Dance Of Death" while being budget-constrained compared to the Irons. Put five recent metal CDs in random mode with this one and you'll get the point. On "Dance Of Death", there are excellent songs, but they are surrounded by okay to filler songs. Iron Maiden is still a great band and has definitely much other great stuff coming out, but they need to improve their production and songwriting on future releases. Recommended only to the die-hard fans.

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