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Iron Maiden - "Dance Of Death" (CD)

Iron Maiden - "Dance Of Death" CD cover image

"Dance Of Death" track listing:

1. Wildest Dreams
2. Rainmaker
3. No More Lies
4. Montségur
5. Dance Of Death
6. Gates Of Tomorrow
7. New Frontier
8. Paschendale
9. Face In The Sand
10. Age Of Innocence
11. Journeyman

Reviewed by on December 11, 2009

"Good thing this album is not judged solely on its cover, because 'Dance of Death' is one of the better Iron Maiden albums."

With a solid comeback album in “Brave New World,” the band tried their luck at another studio release in 2003. When picking this album up, I could not help but notice the artwork. Iron Maiden hired David Patchett to create the art with CGI. Apparently, his time cost the band enough money; the band stopped him because they thought the work was good enough as is, which the artist claimed was still in its prototype stages. You can tell that Patchett was not happy because he inquired that his name be left out of the credits for artwork.

Indeed, the infamous CGI cover is that bad. There are a ton of CGI errors in the background that defy the laws of physics. The most noticeable error is a dwarf that is stepping through the side of the wolf, as if the limbs of the wolf are ethereal and transparent. The artwork would be notorious for its epic fail among the metal community and placed on some worst artwork lists of metal fans. Good thing this album is not judged solely on its cover, because “Dance of Death” is one of the better Iron Maiden albums.

The album leads off with the first single “Wildest Dreams.” This song evokes a lot of imagery with its theme of adventure and being true to yourself. It has a really catchy chorus ("I’m on my way! Out on my own again!"); however, you can tell that Bruce Dickinson is aging because he cannot hit the high notes like he used to. Though, the solo in this song is incredibly amazing. The solo is better than any one on “Brave New World,” which is a good thing. “Rainmaker” is another catchy song, but the riffs are not that memorable. “No More Lies” has a pretty captivating chorus, but the song is way too long and the chorus becomes redundant throughout its seven-minute. The album rebounds with the highlight of the album: “Montségur.” This song is the heaviest song on the album that has a fast thrash riff, which was way overdue.

“Paschendale” is an incredible song about a soldier who is dying in a WWI battle. This song has one of the best intros ever, one that rivals “Aces High” and “ The Trooper.” The initial little tap on the hi-hat by drummer Nicko McBrain signifies the S.O.S. tapping in Morse code. An incredible riff that almost sounds like a synthesizer follows this. I am guessing that this was created by all “pull-offs” and “hammer-ons” because I did not hear any picking (even in the beginning). “The Journeyman” is another good song. This is the slowest song on the album and marks one of the first all acoustic guitar song of the band in almost 20 years.

Unfortunately, a string of filler songs follow. “Gates of Tomorrow,” “Face in the Sand” and “The Age of Innocence” do not do this album justice. The riffs are not memorable enough and the choruses are not as catchy as the other songs. It seems that Dickinson’s voice is incredibly linear in these songs without much vocal variety, almost like some of the songs off “Fear of the Dark.”

The album returns to glory with the title track, “Dance of Death.” This song is one of the most original Iron Maiden songs ever recorded. The song plays like a story about a man who literally has a brush with death. He is enlisted in an endless dance macabre of death that the cover of the album shows. The guitar riff plays almost like a Pied Piper, music that puts you in a trance like the tale unfolding in this song.

I can appreciate how the tempo and vocal style shifts in the song. The beginning is almost spoken but quickly diverts when the guitars start getting faster. The guitars and vocals perfectly are in sync with the story of the guy in the song. When he eventually gets summoned to this place, the guitars become faster, bringing about the chaos of the dance. Dickinson transitions from almost talking to yelping out, as if he was the person in this unholy ritual.

Aside from the artwork, the 13th album by Iron Maiden is still a solid listen. After listening to “Brave New World” though, this album had to top the most successful album since 1988. Although it does not succeed in usurping that magnum opus, Iron Maiden proved that they still had a lot of energy left to write good music.

Highs: "Montségur" is one of the most heaviest Iron Maiden tracks to date.

Lows: The artwork. A couple of filler tracks like "Face in the Sand."

Bottom line: Great Iron Maiden album. Just ignore the atrocious artwork.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)