IRON MAIDEN - A Matter of Life And Death
A rich sense of power and depth is a hallmark of the finest heavy metal music. Few bands conjure this feeling more masterfully than British titans Iron Maiden, and few Maiden albums reflect this better than their latest release, A Matter of Life And Death
. Here, the band combines previously-unreached extremes in power and heaviness with subtler, more progressive touches, creating a release that is sure to get the attention of fans of conventional metal and cerebral rock alike.
The record is pervaded by weighty musings on war, death and divinity, with the beautiful yet desolate lyrics supported by similarly textured music. The instrumental work is stunningly wrought and excitingly diverse, ranging from the Jethro Tull-influenced stylings of "The Legacy" to the beautiful melodic progressions of "Out of the Shadows"; from the dramatic metal ballad "The Pilgrim" to the rocking anthem "Different World". Each song is jam-packed with evocative lyrics and memorable grooves. The attempted synthesis of various styles sometimes falls short of ideal coherency, but for the most part, the Maiden boys keep things very interesting.
Make no mistake, though; for all its alternative stylings, A Matter of Life And Death
is still very much an Iron Maiden album, with savage riffs and a classic melodramatic ambiance. The heavy metal institution that is Bruce "Air-raid siren" Dickinson's voice, while slightly off-target at times, still resonates with all the keening power of his namesake, and dips into some subtler shades on "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" and "Lord of Light". The three-pronged guitar attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers gives air-guitar enthusiasts plenty to rock out to, with solos that range from soaring melodiousness to explosive, blues-based virtuosity.
In my view, this album is a step forward for Maiden and for metal in general, although fans of the band's classic works may not be taken with the new, heavier and more drawn-out approach to songwriting. Be warned that this album is very much a "grower" - it took me three listens before I began to really enjoy some of the tracks. However, the standout track, "The Longest Day", is almost worth the price of the album by itself! If you're a fan of dramatic, intelligent music with a hard-hitting edge, I strongly recommend A Matter of Life and Death