IRON MAIDEN — Dance Of Death (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Dance Of Death album cover Album · 2003 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
Conor Fynes
'Dance Of Death' - Iron Maiden (7/10)

'Dance Of Death' marks the second chapter in Iron Maiden's six-piece lineup. Although changes within the ranks and the addition of a third guitarist would normally be something only fans would be interested in, it did mark a musical shift for the band. Starting with 'Brave New World'- an album that's been since considered one of the greatest metal albums of the new millennium- Iron Maiden brought their distinctive style back to the forefront, and haven't looked back since. Most notably, singer Bruce Dickinson was back with them, but there is also a progressive edge to the songwriting that makes this period in Iron Maiden's history arguably their most exciting. 'Dance Of Death' balances out between their classic style and more intricate composition, and despite the relatively weak album art, Maiden makes it clear that they are far from exhausting their artistic spirit.

There will certainly be those who argue that Iron Maiden have 'barely' changed their sound over the decades, but comparing their early, punk-infused energy to the symphonic grandeur of the title track on 'Death Of Death', it's undeniable that Iron Maiden have picked up some new tricks. Perhaps moreso than 'Brave New World', Iron Maiden balances two distinct approaches on this album. The first is their classic brand of songwriting, one that often uses the signature 'guitar gallop', biting solos and choruses that could get a stadium's worth of metalheads singing along. 'Rainmaker' stands out particularly in this regard, with a futuristic main riff and pleasant vocal leads from Dickinson. 'Montsegur' is arguably the most traditional Maiden track here, a song somewhat reminiscent of 'The Trooper' that could have snuck onto an earlier Maiden album without arousing much suspicion.

As many of Maiden's fans might agree however, the highlight of Iron Maiden's recent work lies in the 'epic' songs they have been focusing on. Although they flirted with longer song structures as far back as their debut album, 'Dance Of Death' truly indicates their recent preference for involving, progressive composition. Without the slightest doubt, the two highlights on 'Dance Of Death' are the occult-themed title track, and the cinematic 'Paschendale'. The first of these sees Iron Maiden going down a familiar route of storytelling, about a man abducted and taken to an undead ritual. 'Paschendale' is a tribute to the eponymous battle in WWI, attempting to give the same sense of grim reality that 'The Trooper' gave the Crimean War. Musically, both tracks represent some of the most powerful songwriting I've ever heard Iron Maiden do, opening gracefully, and dramatically building to something powerful and even symphonic. As has become the standard for Maiden, the lyrics are handled with sophistication, generally falling upon history or philosophy for inspiration.

'Dance Of Death's weakness comes in the form of songs that come close to being called 'filler'. 'No More Lies', 'Gates Of Tomorrow' and 'New Frontier' are all pleasant enough Maiden tracks, but even after giving 'Dance Of Death' many enjoyed listens, I found nothing stirring about them. Thankfully, the is more excellence than disappoint on 'Dance Of Death', and while I could have asked for a greater consistency and flow, Iron Maiden's progressive material here is some of the best work I've heard them play.
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