Ah, the classic “1,2, 1-2-3-4!” intro! I wondered how long it would take for Maiden to get around to doing that on a record. Wildest Dream’s lyrics are (I think) meant to inspirational. They just sound cliche. Maybe I’m jaded. Anyway, it’s a good rocker, out of the gates, even if it’s a bit weak. Ha, listen to me, the armchair reviewer! Rainmaker keeps the pace high, but with the opener, it’s a one-two punch of mediocre lyrics over power-chording. No More Lies finally busts out their patented, pretty intro-building (this time fortified with strongs!) to heavy riff thing they seem to like to do. In fact, for your edification and through all this exposure to it that I’ve had, I’ve worked out the template:
pretty instrumental intro
Bruce sings over top of it, things build
tempo increases to mid-speed and guitars get heavier
verses and chorus
mid-tempo instrumental section, usually guitar solos
(pace may increase here again – optional)
Bruce comes back and sings to outro
outro is pretty reprise of intro
Feel free to cut and paste that, and go start your own band.
Anyway, Bruce also yelled “no more lies!” enough times that, to me, it started to sound like “normalize!” Even this didn’t really change the song.
Montségur is much heavier right out of the gate, musically a cool song. But, as I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a pitch Bruce can’t quite reach, and unfortunately for the bridges and choruses here he keeps on trying… I really like the music a lot (especially that middle instrumental section, so evocative of “classic” Maiden), but I could do without the vocals as they are.
The title track is back to the template (see above). It isn’t until the 3:00 mark that this song starts to take off… that’s a chunk of time to wait. The growl vocals are a welcome respite from that keening nasal thing Bruce does sometimes (here). Gates Of Tomorrow is back to the AC/DC intro homage! Man, the last one of these was several albums ago! Of course, before a minute is up it becomes undeniably Maiden, but still. The harmony vocals have got to go. Ye g-ds, that’s horrible. The chorus bits don’t help, that nasal thing again. Yeah, I could do without this track. New Frontier works hard from the get-go to dispell the pall of the previous track. It’s a decent track, but it’s at 2:47 where things get great, with that chunky change-up riff leading into more blistering solos. Woo! You’ve got to admit, these guys are killer musicians. Thankfully, this one rocks right up to it’s end, a great stand-alone track.
Paschendale. I understand that this is about the WWI campaign. But really guys, did you have to misspell it? Anyway. This feels more like they used to do, the inventive, long epic track about some historical topic. Cool! I enjoyed that. Face In The Sand builds slowly (an almost-template song, without Bruce’s intro vocals). It’s a riff that feels like it never resolves. It’s hypnotic, but it never comes down from that ledge it’s walking on, and while the pummelling is fun, I kept waiting for it to finally finish the idea, you know? Hm. The instrumental section after the 4:00 mark helped a bit with that. It swings! Age Of Innocence is perfectly servicable despite those sappy inspirational lyrics again, and if it was played live I’m sure it was a lot of fun. That one heavy riff is great! For other bands it’d be a big song, but for Maiden it’s just mediocre. And finally, Journeyman messes with the template a bit, never taking off on the gallop we expect. It’s very pretty, and atmospheric. Not a bad album closer, actually.
In sum? A decent record. Not an instant classic, but also not disappointing. It’s worthy of the discography, I’d say. I mean, every Maiden album has moments where I, personally, wonder why they chose to do what they did, but those moments are always redeemed by many other facets of the songs and the massive moments of rawk we know are coming along eventually.
Now, I haven’t read Mike’s review yet (before posting this), I’m sure he has more insightful things to say than my “I liked this!” and “I didn’t like that!” binary real-time commentary. But have you considered that the last record, which was awesome in many ways (and better than this one) could be considered their re-debut? Making this one the dreaded “second album” that can make or break a band? Sure, they had a long history up to when Bruce left, but his return could be considered a re-start. So in that way, it’s understandable that this one is a bit more bumpy. Just a thought.
Here’s Mike’s far superior write-up: