Iron Maiden studio album 17 rumours and speculations

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JudasMyGuide

the Office Block Persecution Affinity CEO
No Prayer was both a misguided attempt to go back to the roots (do something à la the Di'Anno era) and a similarly misguided attempt to catch the Zeitgeist that seemed to move away from synths and to the four chords and the truth and the down 'n' gritty (glam and the 80's in general -> grunge and the whole "woe is me" "Reality Bites" Gen X BS).

Both are a totaly expected move by pretty much any metal band and something for which other artists have been praised. (just look at how Cash has been beloved for his American recordings)

Thing is, Maiden lose their appeal when they "keep it simple" and "down 'n' gritty". Maiden are primarily a melodic band that also can really easily tap into that epic, significant, larger-than-life feel. Any time they try to remember their "club beginnings" I just hope they get over it soon, because they're trying to revive and reanimate the wrong corpse.

It's as if a stellar athlete was suddenly taken aback by nostalgia and decided to "go back" and compete with the high school kids behind the town stadium, where he cut his teeth all the years ago. It's awkward, to say the least, and positively embarassing just as often. And the people who gather 'round to watch high school kids-types compete won't be crazy about that, either.

It was different with FotD, because they at least remembered to write the melodies + the crazy kaleidoscope of styles gave it variety and actually even some edge. And it has a lot of the Romantic, larger-than-life, epic feel on tracks like ATSS, The Fugitive, Childhood's End, the title track etc.

Mind you, I'm definitely not the world's biggest fan of SSOASS. But at least it shows a band that knows what it's doing. Mostly.
 

Zare

Uniformly distributed hostility
I do not share hard-line thinking about NPFTD. I like the album, it is flawed, and I already wrote what I believe to be the truth. That is, in late 1989 and early 1990, things were not yet black and white when it comes to tides of change in metal and rock. With Seventh Son, Maiden has touched both warring sides, mainly the hard rocking/glamish tendencies of The Evil That Men Do and the commercial sounding Can I Play With Madness on one, and the all-out metal of the opening and eponymous track on the other. All married in grand production with some sort of a 'concept' going on. There are three venues to go from here, if you intend to take the leap of faith and try to remain #1 metal band in the world for the next decade...forward with another grand concept and bigger production, requiring the band to go even wider in the shades of rock present on the album, spearheading the fresh subgenre of progressive metal who Maiden has always been associated with, or pick either of the shades (glam/thrash), and go with it.

Steve, actually, skipped the choice altogether. They went for a 'run of the mill' Maiden record, a fun collection of songs in classic Maiden format they can take on the road and play nice theater/arena gigs at home or in Europe. 1990/1 were pretty monumental years in the sense of marking the times to come, just like 80/81 was with first IM,British Steel,Killers,both Sabbath/Dio records, and so on. Up to that point, Maiden was the biggest metal band in the world, and people were obviously expecting a statement of an album. They got just an album.

I think the main error with NPFTD isn't stylistic, what I outlined above isn't my view of the album but my impression of the things around the album that could affect the way it was done. The main error is ill development of the songs and bad studio work. Janick brought a lot of energy in and it wasn't really captured well. The drums sound like 80s cardboard drums which quickly became haram for the 90s soundscape.

The serious lyrical themes return after a few years of hiatus. They are not a nod to new generation like look at us we're still cool. Maiden just did not utilize that kind of writing for 2-3 albums.
 
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srfc

Ancient Mariner
It's a fine album, no airs and graces, I wouldn't recommend it for introducing a casual fan to the band, but any time I listen to it's enjoyable. Nothing particularly great, and a few duds, but ultimately harmless. A better album than Fear of the Dark and Virtual XI.
 

Perun

Περούν Παντοκράτωρ
Staff member
People keep talking about NPFTD as if it were some disfigured freak in the attic whose true personality needs to be appreciated or a well-meaning but crazy experiment resulting in a nuclear meltdown. I sometimes wonder if people really listened to the album. It's not the 180° turn or bare-to-the-bones rock 'n' roll strip people keep making it out to be. Just because Maiden used amp stacks for stage backdrops during the tour doesn't mean this is what the album really is like.

Let's take a close look at what is "different" with NPFTD:

1. Bruce has a raspier singing style on most songs. Okay, it makes for a different sound on the surface. However, if you're being really honest, the difference is not as pronounced between SSOASS and NPFTD than between NPFTD and FOTD. The latter is the one where we really lose Bruce on a few tracks.

2. The synths are toned down. Now, let's take a long, good look at this one. Maiden were never a "synth" band. Synths were an eleventh-hour addition to SIT, and they make absolutely no difference in the songwriting there. They add to the flavour of the album, but that's it. Nowhere are they actually integral to the songs there. Except, maybe, on Sea of Madness. On SSOASS, it's actually much of the same. The only two songs that make heavy use of the keyboards are Moonchild and the title track, and only the title track really puts them in prominent focus throughout. That's it. NPFTD also has synths, as people like to overlook. FFS, listen to Fates Warning or Mother Russia and tell me these songs doesn't feed off synths or studio magic.

3. A lot of people claim the album has a different or "back to the roots" approach to songwriting. I strongly contest this. Fates Warning sounds like it was written for SSOASS and it probably was. Run Silent Run Deep is a confirmed Bruce track from the SIT sessions and it shows. Public Enema Number One would be a good fit on either album, probably even more on SIT. The Assassin takes a few cues from the Di'anno era in the intro and song structure, but if you listen to the instrumental section, you can hear a lot of SSOASS on there as well. The guitars underneath the verses are bona fide SSOASS minus the echo effect. The only difference between Mother Russia and the Maiden epics on preceding albums is that it's played faster and is thus shorter; the Russian march tune is something entirely new but recalls similar experiments from Alexander the Great. BYDTTS is a different avenue that Bruce explored and has nothing to do with the Di'anno era IMO. Hooks in You is an AOR song as Adrian wrote for ASAP. Again, listen to the guitars in the chorus. Or the chorus overall. Holy Smoke sounds more like Can I Play With Madness than most people would care to admit. It's in the interplay of bass and guitars. Tailgunner is just about the only song that sounds like nothing they did in the preceding five years, and it has some cues from Killers, the song. The chorus on the other hand is a completely new beast. Not to mention the instrumental section has so much from the SIT and SSOASS era that it's not funny anymore. This isn't POTO or Wrathchild guys, no matter how much you want to believe it.
So what do we have from the songwriting: The intro of the Assassin and some parts of Tailgunner that are direct callbacks to the Di'anno era, some AOR in Hooks in You, and a sidestep with BYDTTS, and the rest really sounds like a progression from SSOASS if you care to pay actual attention to the music.

4. The lyrics: I'll be brief about this, because they have no consequence for the music and don't actually matter. If you switched the lyrics of Mother Russia and Alexander the Great, both would still be the same songs. People argue NPFTD is a more "serious" or "political" or whatever album. Again, I call bullshit on this. There are exactly three topical songs on NPFTD: Holy Smoke, Public Enema Number One and Mother Russia. This is more than on all preceding albums, I agree, but it's still only three of ten songs. The title track and Fates Warning are of the same introspective theme as the whole SIT album. Arguably, The Assassin, Hooks in You and BYDTTS are callbacks to the general vibes of the Di'anno era (sex, violence, horror), but of these, I think only The Assassin really goes down to the simplicity and naivety of that time. The other two are clear and unmistakable Bruce lyrics, going down whatever avenues he wishes to explore. Read his Iffy Boatrace books if you think this is the first time he came up with this sort of stuff. Finally, we have Tailgunner and Run Silent Run Deep, which on the one hand deal with the WW2 topic that Maiden have done before, but at least in the case of the former give it a new and critical spin that goes very far from the glorifying storytelling approach of previous war songs.

5. Sound and production: This is where I see the only really great departure from previous albums. It's a big issue obviously, because what else is music if not sound, but I think it has led to great misjudgements about the songs, their writing and their influences. I'll say it how I see it: The production sucks and NPFTD sounds bad when compared to the preceding Martin Birch albums (This is my opinion. I am not saying it should be yours). There are a lot of poor calls here, most importantly the volume of individual instruments in the mix and the speed with which everything is played. Both are characteristic features of live performances and mix, so yeah, the decision to give it a "live sound" is where you could argue the album falls apart if you want to make this argument (if you do not think the album falls apart, I am not here to tell you it does, and I am not saying you should think it does). If it were not played as breathlessly and was given the same sound as SSOASS (I'm not an engineer or producer, I don't know the proper terminology), we'd probably be wondering what all the fuss is about.

Now, in my very own personal opinion that I do not ask you to share or agree with, NPFTD is a below-average Maiden album. I personally think it has a few poor songs and the production harms it a lot, but I do not think it is a bad album. However, whether we agree or not on it's quality, let's stop fantasising about what it is and isn't, and just actually listen to the music.
 
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srfc

Ancient Mariner
Great post.

The main throw back to the likes of Killers is the cutting down on the running time of the songs. The "epic" on this album is shorter than the lead single from Powerslave.
 

Perun

Περούν Παντοκράτωρ
Staff member
Great post.

The main throw back to the likes of Killers is the cutting down on the running time of the songs. The "epic" on this album is shorter than the lead single from Powerslave.

Agreed, although as I said with Mother Russia, I think it's because it is played with a speed pedal. If it were given more breathing space, it could have been 7+ minutes long.
 

Diesel 11

As you scream into the web of silence...
@Perun firstly, great post. I think I came to a slightly different conclusion about NPFTD than you did while reading it? What really makes the album so different from the early years is that it’s the post-Seventh Son Maiden that’s writing it. Hence things have been simplified, but don’t sound raw at all, making for a weird conundrum of a record. And I like it a lot, but it’s definitely one of the lower tier albums of theirs.
 

Perun

Περούν Παντοκράτωρ
Staff member
I really don't think the songwriting was simplified, it's pretty much as complex as it always was. It just seems to be harder to hear that because of the sound and speed.
 

srfc

Ancient Mariner
Some of the rhythm guitar parts during solos are way busier than the past, Tailgunner and The Assassin are two off the top of my head, but there's probably more.
 
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nuno_c

A hollow universe in space
I think the move towards a more "street" sound on NPFTD was much more inspired by the Appetite For Destruction-era Guns N' Roses than by grunge. Grunge hit big at the end of 91/beginning of 92, and NPFTD was released in 1990. Even Bruce's raspier singing style was, in my opinion, a way of getting closer to Axl's style. The "street" thing was what most rock bands were trying to achieve at the time post-Guns.
 

Whooten

Ancient Mariner
No Prayer is easily in my top 16 favorite Iron Maiden albums.

To Perun's point about "back to roots"--this is exactly what Maiden were saying at the time. They were hugely inspired (intimidated) by Guns n Roses' success. They had no interest in speeding up further than they already did on the 7th Tour of a 7th Tour to compete with thrash, speed and death metal that had been gaining in popularity but were still leagues behind in stature and sales, so that wasn't an option.

The path they took was to try and compete with the likes of GnR, Poison, etc. A little more sleazy (Bring Your Daughter...) a little more tongue in cheek (Public Enema...)--at least in song titles. They likely thought they could blow these guys out of the water because of their skill as songwriters, playing chops and live show. It wasn't truly simplified (that would likely be impossible given the band's skill and compositional tendencies), but it was a purposeful return to the earlier, simpler times. The repetitive epics were gone, Bruce changed his singing style and Adrian freaking left the band, citing his disagreement with this "stripped down" approach.

Maybe that line was all just bollocks and Rod's way of justifying the greatly reduced size (cost) of the stage show, but it was clear at the time--from the album cover to the stage set to the shorter songs--that they were feeling nostalgic for the past when sales (of tickets and albums) kept increasing every year. At the time, I could see the merit in taking this approach. The problem was that it seemed forced, reactionary to the scene around them (rather than doing their own thing and leading the genre) and I didn't like any of the songs.

(I was writing this while Nuno's post came in--great minds think alike!)
 

Zare

Uniformly distributed hostility
1. Bruce has a raspier singing style on most songs. Okay, it makes for a different sound on the surface. However, if you're being really honest, the difference is not as pronounced between SSOASS and NPFTD than between NPFTD and FOTD. The latter is the one where we really lose Bruce on a few tracks.

Moonchild verses, Prowler '88 and CTH '88. The 'scream' from Prowler 88 is 'raspier' than anything on NPFTD.
 
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