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3.87 | 111 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2006

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Different World (4:18)
2. These Colours Don't Run (6:52)
3. Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (8:46)
4. The Pilgrim (5:07)
5. The Longest Day (7:47)
6. Out Of The Shadows (5:36)
7. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg (7:22)
8. For The Greater Good Of God (9:24)
9. Lord Of Light (7:24)
10. The Legacy (9:22)

Total Time 72:04


- Bruce Dickinson / vocals
- Dave Murray / guitar
- Janick Gers / guitar
- Adrian Smith / guitar, vocals, guitar synth
- Steve Harris / bass guitar, vocals, keyboard
- Nicko McBrain / drums

About this release

25 August 2006

iTunes Edition has the following bonus track:

11. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Radio 1 Legends Session) (7:11)

Thanks to Stooge, [email protected], Lynx33 for the updates


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Ever since the Dickenson/Smith reunion album “Brave New World”, Iron Maiden albums seem to have had some... I hate to say gimmick but some selling point, as if they needed that. Of course the return of Bruce Dickenson on vocals was the greatest thing that could have happened to Iron Maiden, and with Adrian Smith back in the line-up as well things couldn’t have looked better as the band opened the new millennium. In 2003, “Dance of Death” was recorded all on analogue tape, and “A Matter of Life and Death”, according to the Wiki article, was not mastered but just put straight to disc to give it that “what you hear in the studio” sound. Later came “The Final Frontier”, which many thought might be the final Iron Maiden album, and then in 2015 we had Maiden’s longest album yet with an epic song that featured Bruce on piano.

From my perspective, Iron Maiden spent the first four albums perfecting their sound. What we hear on “Piece of Mind” is THE Iron Maiden sound. They added a long composition for their fifth album “Powerslave”, guitar synthesizers for “Somewhere in Time” and a concept album for “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. After that, I don’t know where they went, though I know many felt “No Prayer for the Dying” was substandard and “Fear of the Dark” was an attempt to keep Iron Maiden in vogue with the grunge scene happening all around. The Blaze Bailey albums, I don’t know about. Perhaps I’ll find out one day. I think many people agree, however, that from “Brave New World” Iron Maiden were back in their soundscope and playing what us old fans love to hear.

Now honestly, I was not thinking to give this album four stars. After “The Book of Souls” came out, I was impressed enough to buy the four albums from “Brave New World” and on because I hadn’t bought anything since “Seventh Son”. Each album had some excellent songs with all the trademarks of excellent Iron Maiden songs. For a couple of weeks I listened to almost nothing but new Iron Maiden with a bit of the old classics thrown in for enjoyment’s sake. But as months passed and loads of new music came to me, the thrill of many of the songs on this album faded. Recently I put some songs on mixed playlists and I found that I was not as impressed. The sound was too muddy. Dickenson’s vocals were not clear and even sounded weak in parts, like he was straining his voice to keep the notes. When a song from this album followed a song from “Powerslave” I really noticed the difference in recording clarity; “Powerslave” sounded just so much better!

So tonight I cued up “A Matter of Life and Death” and let it run through my ear buds and I found myself once more pleasantly surprised. The sound is a bit thick or muddy at first. I did feel that Bruce Dickenson’s vocals don’t stand out in the mix as they should. The band rocks out with the opening track “Different World” and “These Colours Don’t Run” is slower but heavy as a Maiden song should be. Neither of them warmed my feelings toward the album though because of the recording quality.

So I notched the volume up one.

That made a big difference. From here on in, each song delivered things to impress. Some featured excellent heavy riffing like “Brighter than a Thousand Suns” and “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”. And many songs include what I call the Maiden musical journey. This is where the band go into an extended instrumental segment that is only partly devoted to guitar solos but is otherwise used for adding in new rhythms and riffs and changing tempo and meter. In a couple of tracks there were some surprise heavy riff parts like in “The Longest Day” that don’t crop up anywhere else in the songs. And in “Lord of Light” I was surprised to hear a high wailing sound that turned out to be an electric guitar played in a way I’ve never heard done on a Maiden album. “The Legacy” has an acoustic guitar and electric bass intro that I swear touches on renaissance music though I am no expert there at all. Bruce Dickenson still delivers his powerful vocals, and song after song just seems to sound great, some more so than others.

Where I feel there might be any reason to be disappointed other than the sound which could have been clearer is basically in the Iron Maiden formula approach to the song writing. I mean, Maiden established their sound and style over the first four albums and I feel that “A Matter of Life a Death” treads barely any discernable new territory. Why should no mastering of the recording be a big selling point? This album is the same as the previous two with some long songs over seven or eight minutes and some shorter ones under six minutes. There’s a standard approach of intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, repeat, instrumental journey interlude, pre-chorus, chorus, repeat the song title 8 to 12 times, and return to the intro to wind the song down. Six of the ten songs begin with a slower intro of clean electric guitars and bass and most of those end the same way, sometimes seemingly unnecessarily so. “Let’s just play the slow intro for the last few bars, gentleman, after the big thundering finish, you know, to make it all tie together”. The beginning of “Out of the Shadows” harkens back to “Revelations” from “Piece of Mind”. And some of the drum rhythms are the same, in particular the “ONE... two... three... ONE... two... three” approach that’s in “The Pilgrim” and “For the Greater Good of God”, which is also in songs on their other recent albums.

In a way, Iron Maiden have what I call AC/DC syndrome, which is where the band basically follows the same approach album after album, musically and lyrically, and every album has its great songs that typify the band’s ability and style but also have some songs that just seem to rely so heavily on that formula that they sound redundant.

Okay, that sounds like some harsh criticism and a reason to not buy this album. But as I mentioned earlier, once I started listening to this album all the way through, there were great moments in every song with some being greater than others. I was feeling really good about the songs and believing the album to be actually worthy of four stars after all.

Yes, I guess it is too late in Iron Maiden’s career for them to pull an Opeth and go off in a very different direction and I think no one would want them to. Their fans know what they’re going to get on an Iron Maiden LP and that’s what the band is expected to deliver. And they do. Very well. And this album is no exception.
With their last two albums Brave New World and Dance of Death Iron Maiden were on a much needed new high after the disappointing and patchy nineties efforts. Despite the massive hype I remember for this one at the time though I actually think it represents a small step down for the band, but we're still dealing with massively superior work to anything released in the nineties.

The average track running time is quite long on this one with only single Different World under the five minute mark. Most songs tend to be approaching or over seven minutes making A Matter of Life and Death a much less direct Iron Maiden album even when put up next to the previous two albums which also had many long songs. It works very well when taken in one listen but individually there just aren't so many standout tracks that make me get addicted to them the way a lot of their eighties work does. My favourites are easily These Colours Don't Run and The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg. To say it isn't a very creative album, especially for a band who've been going so long, would be wrong though.

The third in Iron Maiden's extremely consistent run of albums to follow their reunion with Bruce Dickinson finds the band continuing to explore the matured post-Seventh Son of a Seventh Son sound they have pursued from Brave New World onwards. It's expansive and veers mainly towards Iron Maiden's long-standing tradition of songs about war, but it doesn't outstay its welcome thanks to the now traditional high standard of performance and the powerful songwriting involved. Bruce Dickinson's vocal delivery is particularly emotive, perhaps because he's singing about real, timely subject matter which is close to his heart and to the bands' own concerns.
For me this is an improvement over "Dance of Death" the previous album. Especially the cover art which more than makes up for the lame cover of "Dance Of Death". Highlights for me are first of all the track "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns". Now the two songs before it are great as well but this one has some killer sections in it. I like they way they contrast the heavy parts with the more laid back ones. And check out Harris on bass ! Another highlight is "Lord Of Light" which starts off slowly before all hell breaks loose. Great track ! My other top three is "The Legacy" which is relaxed early on before that excellent rhythm section comes to the fore as it picks up. There are many highlights on this record and I like they way they mix things up. An impressive release.
Time Signature
The legacy...

Genre: heavy metal

"A Matter of Life and Death" is, to my ears, a really great and quite progressive album with intricate compositions, epic tracks, catchy melodies, interesting and relevant lyrics, and great performance by all six members. As with many of their golden era albums, all tracks on "A Matter of Life and Death" are memorable in one way or another, so I'm just going to mention three highlights here.

"Different World" started out a more progressive affair with a 7/4 riff by Adrian Smith which Steve Harris straightened out to 4/4, and it worked. The track is very catchy, uplifting and energizing with some really great singing by Bruce Dickinson, including an unusual Lynott-esque sounding chorus-line. I spent an entire month listening only to this track while bicycling to and from work (and that's 10 km each way) - that's how energizing it is.

"Brighter than a Thousand Suns" is, to me, a truly progressive affair with interesting and surprising changes in time and tempo and some odd time signatures here and there to boot. While complex, it's catchy at the same time, and it does include an almost power pop like section which explodes out of the blue, and that world really well. The lyrics may be outdated, as they deal with the atom bomb, a theme that was prevalent in the 1980s; but then again, maybe it serves as a reminder that nuclear weapons are still around. In addition it's not your classic fear-the-bomb song, but rather it approaches it in an almost philosophical perspective describing the bomb as man's attempt to play God.

"For the Greater Good of God" is yet another lyrically interesting and relevant tune dealing with religion and all the atrocities that have been committed in its name. It starts out with a soft melodic section in which Bruce Dickinson, according to himself, sounds almost like Cat Stevens. As with most other tunes on this album, this track is rich in catchy guitar melodies and great solos, and the chorus is just great both in terms of vocals and in terms of music (there's even a stint of a galloping feel to it).

The other songs are equally as great. Progheads may find "The Legacy" interesting with its eerie introduction, which Steve Harris himself finds reminiscent of early Genesis.

"A Matter of Life and Death" is a truly great album and a very progressive affair that never loses its metal edge. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
The 80s, especially from The Number of the Beast to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is justly seen as the golden age of Iron Maiden, but many say that a new golden age began when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith joined the band after years of absence. They are not necessarily wrong, as 2006 brought a third consecutive album of excellence from this line-up.

At 72 minutes A Matter of Life and Death is the longest Iron Maiden album to date, soon to be dropped to #2 by The Final Frontier, and it continues the progressive fashion displayed on the previous albums with most of the album classifiable as epics. In my review of The X Factor I mentioned that around that time the band began to start off their songs with long quiet intros, and on this album this method is taken to the extreme with seven of the ten songs having an intro like that. Different World is one track that jumps right into the main riff, and as an opener it's too much of a Maiden-rocker-by-numbers to make a memorable entry to the album, but the other two, The Pilgrim and Out of the Shadows are considerably better with a slower tempo and a clearer character.

But the epics is what this album's about. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns, The Longest Day, For the Greater Good of God and The Legacy are all excellent longer tracks that touch on the subjects of war and religion, as does most of the album. The first of them has some exceptional bass work from Steve Harris, and one must also mention Nicko McBrain who is one fire throughout the album with joyous fills in every corner. A far cry from Virtual XI where he probably used a kit consisting of a bass drum, a snare and the cymbals. The Legacy could use a bigger climax in the end as it is an album closer, but a very fine piece this way as well.

The long intros, that do not feel redundant at all as may be the case in some of the other songs, make The Reincarnation of Benjaming Breeg and Lord of Light deceptively long, as in their core they are quite basic songs, but what songs they are! Benjamin Breeg has an absolutely crushing riff, one of their heaviest ever, some very tasty hi-hat work by Nicko and the melodies to make this one of my favourite Maiden tracks of the new century. And Lord of Light is even better, with an ominous intro breaking into a masterful heavy metal riff and an immensely powerful vocal by Bruce Dickinson. But it is the quieter middle part that make this perhaps my favourite Dickinson vocal track in the history of Maiden. "Free your soul and let it fly, mine was caught, I couldn't try", listen to the delivery of that line. Love it, absolutely love it. Since the release of this album, every time someone has asked me for my favourite Iron Maiden song, I've always answered Stranger in a Strange Land or Lord of Light. That's how good this track is.

Some say a band is just as good as their latest album, and judging by that Iron Maiden is in an excellent form. Just a week until the release of their next one, we'll see then how they're keeping it up.

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