Dance of Death: individual album judgement by yours truly

Murder of Rue Morgue

Educated Fool
Wildest Dreams 4.5 - works better live, +0.5 due to the post solo section
Rainmaker 8+ - best shorter since Judas Be My Guide
No More Lies 7- - aka The Clansman pt. 2, awesome slow intro, but repetitive overall
Montsegur 7/8 - bloody hell
Dance of Death 10 cum laude - no words needed
Gates of Tomorrow 5+ - filler, horrible chorus
New Frontier 6.5 - interesting
Paschendale 6/7 - needs the live vibe
Face in the Sand 7.5 - pointless double bass, gets better and better after the solo
Age of Innocence 6.5 - good pop song
Journeyman 7 - interesting experiment, teenage lyrics in the chorus

Overall: 7.5
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
IRON MAIDEN - DANCE OF DEATH (re-listening 2020)

1- Wildest Dreams:
After a bizarre gimmick to start a Maiden album (Nicko giving the tempo) this simple, easy listening yet engaging short heavy rocker makes way with fairly interesting (although a bit generic) guitar hooks and great singing by Mr. Dickinson. I really like the pre-chorus (especially the guitar licks) but the song asked for a more ambitious refrain. Solos are good enough, lyrics are solid and quite uplifting. But undeniably the best part of the track is that excellent pause where both the voice and lead guitar shine, as the drums start gathering balance towards a great syncopated guitar riff that flows into the chorus for a last go. While good as it is I believe this song would benefit a lot if started with some sort of intro based upon the middle part melody and the chorus could also be a bit more polished. 7.75/10

2- Rainmaker:
The second single out of the album starts with this really cool guitar harmony as it unfolds into an equally great verse section. The pre-chorus is simply beautiful as is the refrain. Absolutely catchy and infectious stuff full of delicious details reflecting yet another really positive message . The only problem with this song is that not only the band never return again to the verse section: instead it keeps on alternating between the pre-chorus and chorus with the solo section (also top notch) eventually placed in between. And as I commented in the Brave New World re-listening (where this kind of merry-go-round 2 part repetition happens systematically) this is far from being a good structure as far as I'm concerned. But hey... since the song is really short and all the sections are absolutely gorgeous that irritating aspect is easily bearable and the song ends up working superbly. Excellent track and tailor made to be a single. 8.75/10

3- No More Lies:
The initial sequence of this tune (although featuring some lines that reminds me of other songs such as The Clansman and The Educated Fool) is absolutely stunning. The way everything converges to create a certain atmosphere of melancholy, acceptance and yet with a bit of hope in the mix is 100% achieved (and the way the keyboards are used is also masterful). As if the hour grows near for the narrator to meet his fate the song is disrupted into his last plead that gives name to the song and composes the somewhat rash yet totally contextualized with the remainder of the track. Nevertheless I find the vocals a bit "samey" on the studio version: I pretty much prefer the 2nd voice inflections Bruce does on the fifth go round along with the slight shift on the last one, giving a certain dynamic while the rest of the band does the simple yet effective work they're supposed to do. As the gets going at full power we have the same melodies involved. And if the verses and chorus take do the same work , the very first melodies end up revealing themselves to be exceptional bridges that make everything flow in stellar fashion throughout its almost seven and a half minutes length. Simple, atmospheric and melodic while having lots of energy. Plus really works well live. 8.75/10

4- Montségur:
Now THIS is what I'm talking about! After Seventh Son, Maiden managed to continue to pull out great epic songs and great fast/ heavy songs. But never again did they manage to combine those two aspects like they did several times in the 80's. So this is the type of song post reunion Maiden lacked and boy did they nailed it here! With lyrics inspired by the medieval Cathar massacre by the Templars on the Montségur stronghold, this thing starts with a beast of a riff (that somehow reminds me of a way heavier version of Losfer Words) that simply smashes everything on its way. The verses are intense and wicked as well and the second time round the additional guitar chords on the back take that intensity even further. And perhaps the following pre-chorus could be played half the times but screw it: this damned thing is so epic I could listen to it 20 times more in a row (just kidding of course... but man this is top stuff). And speaking of epic what to say about that monster of a chorus? Largely based in medieval folk melodies (rightfully so) the main guitar melody and vocals start going hand in hand (something that usually bothers me when overused) but at the second half of the chorus Bruce starts making the 2nd voice and the harmonizing effect is stunning. Plus the solos are on point, and both guitar harmonies after are equally excellent. After a last go on the refrain the band make an excellent revamping of the pre-chorus and there's still room for a crushing coda. Wow... just fuckin' wow! Masterful! 10/10

5- Dance Of Death:
Inspired by The Seventh Seal, an old Ingmar Bergman movie where a knight disenchanted with his life finally comes to fear his death, while mixing it with the description of participating in a Voodoo ritual, the title track is a really curious one. There are some resemblances here and there with Fear Of The Dark and curiously enough those similitudes also transpire in both songs working extremely well live with the audience interaction. But Dance Of Death is absolutely based in celtic folk melodies, in a truly Jethro Tull fashion. It starts really slow but soon it really goes boom with the band making an excellent use of the guitar trio. Overall the majority of the melodies are quite nice (Maiden can't go wrong when they go folk) and once again the keyboards enhance whole experience. The structure is a bit labyrinthine but since all the parts are exciting and musically rich, the song never gets lost within itself. Perhaps it's a bit too long but I think that's just me being picky by now. Great track with great harmonies and another assured high moment when played live. 8.5/10

6- Gates Of Tomorrow:
This track starts with an intro similar to Lord Of The Flies but even more cacophonous. It then gets to the verses, an ok-ish section with doubled voice. And if up till now things are quite meh, we're off to a surprise when the pre-chorus begins. Bruce sounds stunning, there are some sweet variations on the drums and Steve's licks are a blessing in an age when his playing became much more strumming prone. After a strong pre-chorus the refrain is also really intense bearing that galloping Maiden trademark while the vocals once again sound great, especially when the 2nd higher voice is added. The following harmonizer is quite simple but makes a great passage to the absolutely rock n' roll soloing display. So there you have it: although some sections are far from being something special this song really has a pre-chous, chorus and guitar harmonizer that truly compensates the rest of the track and ends up being a really cool listening experience 7.25/10

7- New Frontier:
And at his 10th studio album with the band we finally have a Nicko composed tune... hooray! And although it's always nice to see a new member coming with something of his own to the table for the first time fact is New Frontier is little more than a fast paced metal filler. And that's not entirely Nicko's fault. dealing with Mr. McBrain's contrary view on human cloning due to ethical and religious beliefs of view the initial riff and guitar lead are really cool and although the verses are also decent I really think Bruce's voice doesn't fit the energetic nature and pace of the song. The pre-chorus is absolutely mundane and the chorus, although a bit better is also nothing special. Good try Nicko and if it counts as something, although being a filler there are various far worst Maiden compositions than yours (and one of them is still to come on this very record). 5.75/10

8- Paschendale:
Based upon the nightmarish horrors on the trenches during WWI's battle of Pascendale this is a huge and dramatic somber Maiden epic with a really dark feeling to it. The guitar harmonies on the intro give a false sense of serenity, but all of the sudden a violent bridge breaks the stillness and this oppressive megalith starts its march forward. The orchestral arrangemnts during the verses also help the cohesiveness of the whole and the termination of each segment in this section has this suspending sense of dire that really works out. Eventually we end up reaching the chorus, dramatic and good enough to keep pace with the overall quality of the composition but one of my favorite parts in the song is precisely the following bridge, with once again the orchestrations really on point, culminating with Bruce's agonizing long note "into jaws of death we goooooo!". Really impressive stuff that invokes the pre chorus once again before the song comes to a brief alt. A new orchestral bridge kicks in followed by a variation on the main verses with Nicko pulling some interesting rabbits out of his long hat that really work wonders. A new riff makes the song stop (once again) as it grows to give space to the soloing section and another couple of verses. we return to the pre-chorus/ chorus and the second go round on the refrain when Bruce's 2nd voice reverbs with a mix of pain and reverence increasing dramaticly the obscure belicose epic atmosphere. It then stops once again and returns to the intro to close circle. Overall this epic is filled with excellent deatils and awesome passages. Less stoppages and a couple of minutes would make it a bit less tiring but nonetheless Paschendale is yet another excellent Maiden epic tune. 8.25/10

9- Face In The Sand:
Starting with a guitar line that somehow reminds Blood Brothers this also waltzy 3 by 4 composition with some folk undertones quickly starts to get darker and darker as some keyboards sneak their way into the background and the guitars start to rev portraying some sort of incoming disaster like the paranoia described on the lyrics. And then the whole thing gets in motion on board of Nicko's double kick (yup... props to the old dog trying to pull some new tricks!). And man... the majestic grandeur of this coloss of a song increases from section to section. The strings reverb powerfully during the heavy and dramatic verses, and the pre chorus takes the all around sense of antecipation to a even higher degree as the band smartly returns to the verses and after the second go round my jaw is left open with an utterly majestic, epic and pompous refrain. Bruce sounds absolutely brutal here, the guitars hold the background like anchors and the second part of the chorus is as stunning as the previous one. The bridge that follow works 100% while making the intensity of the song breathe and the guitar melodies are Maiden 101 at its best. The soloing action doesn't disappoint the slightest and the way the guitar and keyboards combine on the bridge before the last chorus is absolutely marvelous. The chorus is then recycled to be filled with the "oh oh oh" choirs and this time this old trick seems to be more effective than ever with the backup of the gorgeous orchestrations and 2nd voice. As the first line comes to close this masterpiece I'm still absolutely petrified with the absolute majesty of what I've listened to: pulling some new tricks (like double kick filled sections and orchestration keyboards on a level never heard before) Maiden just left me KO on this one. One of those tracks that every time I listen to I'm unable to do it just once. 10/10

10- Age Of Innocence:
Not that this song is absolutely devoid of good moments. The intro is good, the verses decent and the bridge is really top notch Maiden stuff. But the cringe worth poor lyrics, that joke of a poppy chorus and termination after the heavy bridges really sabbotage what could be a decent track. Not to mention that obviously the good and bad musical parts are like water and olive oil. Awufully put together and absolutelly unnecessary. 4.75/10

11- Journeyman:
Maiden end the album with their first full acoustic track. Not that the band is entirely strange to this format since Killers' Prodigal Son majority was already done this way. And although the guys kinda cheat since they use orchestrations on the background I must say that, apart from the merely okay chorus, the rest of the song is quite soothing and beautiful. Overall it really stand its ground when compared with the majority of the songs here, being a really unconventional way for the band to close the album with another relly uplifting message, a serene and hopeful epilogue. 7.5/10

Bonus tracks/ original B' sides:

More Tea Vicar? -
Oh man did I laughed with this one! the song is a messy jam but Bruce's rambling is absolutely hilarious, from the Bee Gees vocal like dude getting on the wrong studio to the very misadventures of Vicar Reginald... "Pass the soap? What kind of...? I'm not down with that at all!". The ratting goes entirely to the comical relief. 5.5/10

Pass The Jam -
Kind the same as the last one but less funny. 4.75/10

Dance Of Death is IMO a better put together album than its predecessor. It's a pity it features a filler and a really stinker and that downgrades the album as a whole but other than that the rest of the songs are really good with some really strong tunes here and there. Speaking of stinkers... THAT COVER. God... appart from the reaper Eddie and the misty monks in the back (the only stuff David Patchett said was finallized) what is that lousy use of poser software?! It's so awful Patchet refuse himself to be quoted on the album credits. Rod sometimes has some crazy ass decisions. Nevertheless the production is decent enough and musically the band experimented a bit here and thereand overall it paid off. While not quite on the same level than their best albums Dance Of Death surely is a great record that can hold his own firm as steel and reinforced the notion that these veterans still had a lot to give. 8/10
 
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