REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Brave New World (2000)

Part 29 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Brave New World (2000)

Ed Hunter tour complete, the returned Bruce Dickinson and the boys hit the studio.  Steve had already begun writing several new songs while Blaze was still in the band.  Several of these made it onto the new album, with Bruce singing them instead.

Brave New World features the brand new three guitar lineup of Gers, Murray and Smith (aka “The Three Amigos”) for the first time in the studio. Steve Harris had flirted with a three guitar lineup very early in Maiden’s career. The original Iron Maiden lineup consisted of two guitar players named Terry Rance and Dave Sullivan. Neither were standout solists, but Dave Murray was. Harris’ concept was to bring in Murray as a third guitarist to solo over the other two. The other two didn’t like that idea and they split. Since then, fans have wondered what Maiden would sound like with three guitars. Wonder no more.

Brave New World is also the first full Maiden album produced by Kevin “Caveman” Shirley (he did the “Wraithchild” promo single prior to this), and features cover art partially done by original Maiden artist Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs. Anticipation ran high!

I was not disappointed.

Starting off with “The Wicker Man”, the first single, you can instantly hear all of Adrian’s  style and substance.  It’s such a welcome sound.  “The Wicker Man” has a slightly-“Two Minutes To Midnight”-styled riff, which leads into this short catchy blast of awesome.  “Your time will come!”

From there, it’s the slow and heavier “Ghost of the Navigator”, an equally strong song. Then, the title track “Brave New World” has chiming guitars, and soft verses with heavy choruses. It suffers from Repetive Chorus Syndrome, something that has really dogged Maiden since The X Factor.  Lyrically it seems to be an environmental theme, continuing with the real-world based style of writing from the previous albums.

Steve Harris’ “Blood Brothers” is next, which once again suffers from the repetitive chorus. Otherwise, a strong song. “Side 1” of the vinyl version ended with the lethal “The Mercenary”, fast and deadly.

“Side 2” kicked off with an epic track, “Dream of Mirrors”. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s one of Maiden’s greater epics.  I would place this one pretty low on the list, especially with the repetitive chorus of  “I only dream in black and white, I only dream when I’m alive, I only dream in black & white to save me from myself.” OK then.

“The Fallen Angel” is next, and even though Bruce didn’t write it, I find it somewhat similar to some of the stuff on his Accident of Birth album. Then, another 9 minute epic! “The Nomad” is slightly middle eastern in sound, something they previously explored on “To Tame A Land” and “Powerslave”.  It is not, however, a standout track.

Second single “Out of the Silent Planet” is a cool sci-fi track about alien invasion. This is a fast one with one of those Dickinson choruses that you never forget. It was written by Bruce with Janick and Steve.  I’m quite fond of this song

The album closes with “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, almost 9 minutes in length and an underrated classic. I love the sparse ending to this song. You can really hear the guitars.  And Nicko’s outro!  “I fucking missed it!”

I love the three guitars.  It was a brilliant idea to have Adrian come back, but nobody else have to leave. Adrian Smith is the melodic one who writes his solos out in advance. Janick Gers is the manic, spontaneous one whose solos frequently sound out of control. Dave Murray is somewhere between the two, with melodic, but barely-in-control trademark Maiden guitars. With this mix, the solos are deliciously diverse and you can identify each player.

Shirley did a fine job on production, lending Maiden a powerful modern sound with big, big drums and clear, sparkling guitars.

There were of course singles to collect.  And collect them I did.  The fine cover art (some of the Maiden’s best in my opinion) was done by Mark Wilkinson, of Marillion/Fish fame.

 

1. “The Wicker Man” singles, parts 1 & 2 which featured the cool “Wicker Man” video, as well as several live tracks from the reunion “Ed Hunter” tour.  Of note were several Blaze era songs with Bruce singing.  This is the only place you can hear Bruce belting out “Futureal” and “Man on the Edge”.  They are also home to two smokin’ versions of the classics “Powerslave” and the awesome “Killers”.

2. “Out Of The Silent Planet” single, which had that video, and two more tracks from the “Ed Hunter” tour:  “Wasted Years” and “Aces High”.  With Adrian back in the band, this version of “Wasted Years” is superior to the one on the “Hallowed By Thy Name” single.

4.5/5 stars

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54 comments

  1. For sure this was a great comeback due not only to Bruce’s return but after his solo album buildup to his return in Maiden.
    Solid comeback record, gone is the clank clankity clank production with some crisp clarity for a change thanks to Bruce wanting to get a producer……
    Those b sides sound and look deadly…….

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    1. They are! I strongly recommend them.

      I’d forgotten that it was Bruce that wanted to get a producer. It was obviously a smart move. Sonically the Shirley albums are some of the strongest sounding.

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  2. I thought this was a great album and still do. It’s not perfect by any means. Like you mentioned, the repetition and also the phrasing of some of the vocals matches the guitar lines too closely and sounds a bit simple at times. The “Dying Swan..” bit in Dream of Mirrors springs to mind. But there’s lots of excellent, atmospheric stuff. When the riff kicks in on Ghosts of Navigators. Wow! That’s thrilling, Maiden at their best.

    What songs were written for Blaze? I didn’t know anything about that.

    I think for a 4.5/5 album you held back your enthusiasm on this a bit. It seemed like a lot of the songs were just ok? Was it as good as you hoped it would be when it came out or were you a bit disappointed?

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    1. Off the top of my head I don’t recall which songs were written for Blaze. We could probably piece is together by the writing credits (stuff Bruce or Adrian didn’t write obviously).

      Maybe my review wasn’t enthusiastic enough…but as good as this album is, I think they topped it later. It’s a great re-launch. But I think they just went into the stratosphere later…

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      1. That’s how I feel about it. It was a great re-launch and the resulting tour was fantastic but it wasn’t quite the real deal yet. I think I’d give it 4 out of 5. It’s a good solid album but it’s a bit light on genuine classics.

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  3. Kinda funny looking at the picture of Bruce holding the torch kinda like he did on the back of the Beast album cover,must have been due to the fact that Beast was his first album and Brave New World was his first album back after his sabbatical so let’s light torch and Blaze a new trail(no pun intended )
    Hahaha

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    1. I never noticed that before, but good point! Of course the torch also ties into the theme of the Wicker Man (a haunting movie if you ever see the original with Christopher Lee) but I never considered it tying into Bruce’s first album with the band. Good call Deke.

      Bad pun on Blaze though :)

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  4. It’s funny that this was the first “new” Maiden release after I became a fan, since the majority of people I knew grew up with their music but I didn’t dip my toes in the Maiden waters until the late-’90s. So I’m not sure what my expectations were when this came out, except that it was cool to have a new album with Bruce back and the 3-guitar lineup. It was produced really well, and the songs are excellent, but I would dock them a full star on the repetitive nature of so many songs. As a prog-rock fan, I’m all for long songs, but they need to go somewhere. A lot of the 9-minute songs could’ve been more effective at 6 minutes. That’s a minor complaint, though, since they sound so good. I’m glad this didn’t end up being a one-and-done reunion, and they’ve continued releasing strong new albums.

    This was a great review, Mike. I especially love the way you explained the differences between the guitarists’ soloing styles. I still can’t identify who’s playing what when I listen to their albums. I may have become a big enough fan to get all their albums, but having not listened to them for 30 years I don’t know the ins and outs of their individual styles.

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    1. Well Rich, better late than never right? I first started playing guitar when Seventh Son came out, and I was a big, big Adrian fan. You might say he was my favourite player back then. I was really paying attention to him, via the videos, and I kind of noticed his style right away.

      When Janick joined it was like night and day! And it took me a while to accept him. They certainly didn’t seek a soundalike.

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    1. The review is written and the photos are taken. It’s coming after Rock In Rio.

      Strange that they didn’t release the discs separately. They could have made a lot of money. But in doing so, fans like me would have felt pissed off, so I appreciate that.

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      1. Are you saying that a scroll and shot glass weren’t worth $100? Actually, the metal case itself is pretty cool, but still not worth that money without the six CDs. Did you ever see/get the “Eddie’s Head” collection? I think I had just started buying their CDs when that came out. I considered picking it up but now I’m glad I didn’t. Where do you store something like that?

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        1. Well Rich I figure you’re the expert on storing music! Good question though, I never liked the look of the head myself. I believe HMO told me once that he bought the set and actually disposed of the head portion.

          For me, I didn’t want to re-buy all the albums for that set. Since I had the complete set, in 2 CD deluxe editions with the B-sides, I didn’t want another redundant version.

          However…speaking of redundant…looking like according to Jimmy Page I WILL be buying all the Zeppelin albums again next year! Hopefully I can trust Page to make these editions worthwhile. He promises loads of valuable bonus material. Perhaps we will finally get the legendary “Swan Song”.

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        2. I’m excited about the upcoming Zeppelin “Immersion”-type sets, and I’m sure Page will give us value for our money. Think about the Zeppelin DVD from 2003 (I think that’s when it was released). They spent an insane amount of time gathering up the best-looking and best-sounding footage, including having to synch up the entire Albert Hall concert footage with a separate audio track, all available in excellent surround sound, put it onto two jam-packed DVDs for a very affordable price. I think he wants to do definitive versions of each album, and although I’m sure money is part of it for him, it’s just as important to enhance their legacy. Hopefully we won’t get any unnecessary scarves & marbles like the Floyd box sets, and instead we’ll get only things we’ll want to listen to, watch & read. And maybe a replica of “The Object” from “Presence.” That would be cool.

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        3. The work that Page has put into things like the DVD indicates to me that he’s as interesting in the integrity of the product as he is the commercial value. And that’s fine. Personally, for me the Floyd Immersion sets are too much (scarves notwithstanding). With the amount of stuff available to re-buy today (Floyd, Megadeth, Rush Tull, etc.) I only have so many dollars to go around. A Zeppelin multi disc set would be something I’d be very interested in. I just have a limited need to 5.1 mixes of every album known to man. Some of the Rush ones have been cool, but let’s face it…if the album was intended to be in stereo, anything on top of that is a bit much. It’s like converting Star Wars to 3D. I’m sure Lucas wasn’t thinking 3D when he filmed it.

          (Although knowing Lucas he’d probably claim, “I always intended to do 3D but I was waiting for technology to catch up with me.”)

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        4. I’m a big fan of surround sound music, but only when it’s done right. I bought the Rush “Sector” box sets mostly to get remastered versions of all the albums, since my Rush CDs were all from the ’80s, and I wasn’t impressed with most of their 5.1 mixes (that goes for the majority of their live DVDs and “Moving Pictures”). To me the only man for the job right now is Steven Wilson. Not only has he done phenomenal 5.1 mixes on his own stuff (solo & Porcupine Tree), but he’s also done all the King Crimson, Jethro Tull & ELP 5.1 mixes, as well as a great Caravan reissue and several Opeth albums (are you a fan of Opeth?). He basically expands the concept of a stereo mix by creating a perfect blend of sounds through all speakers, where most surround sound engineers do gimmicky mixes with specific sounds in each speaker. Once you’ve heard a Steven Wilson 5.1 mix, you become very picky about how others do it. I did, however, love the surround sound mix on the Zeppelin DVD, so I’m confident that they’ll do a great job on each album.

          As for your George Lucas comparison, I completely agree, which is why I think it’s important that any definitive box set should include the original stereo (&/or mono) mix. It captures the technology of a place & time, and should be preserved. Along with that, you can do any kind of remixes or re-imaginings you want.

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        5. Now I am afraid, because I have a Sector 2 review coming up soon! Clearly you have more listening experience with the 5.1 field and I have never heard a Steve Wilson mix. Ahh well. The review is written and you will soon read for yourself!

          Actually I may be wrong, I may have a Wilson mix if you say he did Tull. I have the 3 disc edition of Stand Up here, and I believe the live DVD is 5.1

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        6. Wow, you actually have a backlog of reviews. I continue to be impressed. I’ve been spending so much time with each batch of albums I’m revisiting that at most I can write one post a week. Then again, the purpose is more for me to get to know these albums than to blog about it, but if I had more time I would write more just because it starts conversations like this.

          The only Tull 5.1 mixes Steven Wilson did were “Aqualung” and “Thick As A Brick.” As for the Rush 5.1 mixes from the “Sector” boxes, I seem to remember “Fly By Night” being very good, “A Farewell To Kings” being the best surround sound Rush I’ve heard, and “Signals” to be terrible. Since “AFTK” is from “Sector 2,” we may be on the same page when it comes to your review.

          If you’re not already a Porcupine Tree or Opeth fan, the best Steve Wilson 5.1 mix to start with would be any of the King Crimson titles (especially the first two lineups…the ’80s albums are amazing but don’t benefit as much from 5.1). If you want to dip your toes in the Porcupine Tree waters (and I highly recommend that), the “In Absentia” DVD-Audio is stunning.

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        7. Thanks Rich. Everything I had set to publish this week was done a week ago. Which is good as I will be out for much of this week. Even the videos are over a week old. If you check out the Bill Ward video, that;’s BEFORE the snow started coming down.

          I’m disappointed to hear that you didn’t like the Signals or Moving Pictures 5.1 mixes. I did like Moving Pictures, haven’t heard Signals. Signals is one of my favourite Rush albums period.

          Everybody tells me I need to hear some Opeth! Sounds like a must. I love the cover art for the Albert Hall set.

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        8. Haven’t had a chance to read or watch the video from the Bill Ward post. I used to have that CD but got rid of it years ago. I remember it was pretty good…even jazzy at times…but I wasn’t enough of a fan and I was purging what I considered unnecessary music from my collection. At least now when I do that, I have a digital copy of the CD, but anything I got rid of before 2005 is just gone.

          The “Moving Pictures” 5.1 mix is pretty good, but having heard great surround sound mixes, I thought it was merely okay. The “Signals” mix, however, was just muddy and added nothing to the album, which I probably love as much as you do. I’ll be skipping the “2112” reissue unless I find it for an extraordinary price.

          You need to choose wisely when entering the world of Opeth, as their style continues to evolve with each album. Before hearing them, I thought the growling, Cookie Monster vocals of that genre were a joke, but I eventually came around to that sound. It’s like another instrument or texture. What I love about them is that they balance the growling with “smooth” singing (hard to believe it’s the same guy), but they’ve also done complete albums with no growling, and their last album was closer to jazz fusion (a positive for me, but not for a lot of old school fans). I’m sure others would disagree, but “Ghost Reveries” is probably the perfect place to start.

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        9. Hope you don’t mind me pitching in guys! Definitely agree on “Ghost Reveries” as an Opeth introduction… maybe “Watershed” would be good too. I’m not very keen on their new one, “Heritage”. I know where they’re coming from, I just didn’t think the material was very good.

          An PT’s “In Absentia” is essential if you don’t have it (in stereo or 5.1 doesn’t matter!).

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        10. Thanks for chiming in, HMO. By the way, I added both of you to my blogroll. Not sure how many visits you’ll get as a result, although I have a decent & steady flow of traffic, but I know some of my readers would enjoy your sites.

          I actually love Opeth’s “Heritage” but I completely understand why it’s been so divisive. It’s definitely not the best introduction to their music. I agree that “Watershed” is another great starting point, and I’m glad we’re seeing eye to eye about “In Absentia.” It’s definitely in my Top 3 PT albums, and is the perfect entry point as it showcases their heaviness and proginess in equal measure…and every song is a killer.

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        11. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll. That’s really good of you and much appreciated. I might have to look into adding one on mine but my theme isn’t very good with things like that… everything is crunched down at the bottom!

          Definitely a divisive album and I really respect them for being so brave and progressive at any rate. Whether it’s to my liking or not. Glad you liked “Watershed” too!

          I think “Stupid Dream”, “In Absentia” and “Deadwing” is the golden period of Porcupine Tree for me. Great live band too, seen them about three times now.

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        12. No problem. I have two reasons for writing my blog: (1) keeping me focused on revisiting the lesser-known albums & artists in my collection and (2) having discussions with fellow music lovers. If I can point some in your direction, that will make me happy.

          For me the golden period of Porcupine Tree began with 1996’s “Signify,” which has my favorite PT song, “Sleep Of No Dreaming.” That was the first album of theirs I got, probably around ’97, and I was immediately a huge fan. I agree that the golden period extends through “Deadwing,” yet honestly everything they’ve released is worth hearing…and that includes Steven Wilson’s solo albums and his Blackfield & No-Man projects.

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        13. I have “Signify” but still haven’t listened to it! I did enjoy the last two although “The Incident” was a bit of a grower. The first Blackfield and Wilson solo albums didn’t particularly wow me to be honest so I’ve stopped paying too much attention. Next time I’m in the mood for them I might be inclined to dig further but, like yourself, I’m trying to cut down to the essential purchases! I’m sure I’ll investigate further when the mood strikes.

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        14. Well this all sounds very interesting to me. Maybe I’ll start with that Albert Hall album. I love to start with live albums. I find it makes the studio versions that much more interesting, when you get to them.

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        15. I have to be honest…I don’t think Opeth are a great live band. The Albert Hall album and DVD are excellent, and probably the best entry point if you want to hear a live album, but visually they don’t offer very much in concert and don’t take the songs to other dimensions. I saw them live once and was bored out of my mind. It didn’t affect my opinion of their records, though.

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        16. I’m inclined to agree with Rich. Not a great live band at all. I’ve not bothered with the Albert Hall show for that reason although I do have The Roundhouse Tapes and that’s ok. I think your point about listening to live albums first is interesting though. I tend not to but the few times I’ve started off with a live album of an artist it’s been a great way to have gotten into them.

          But in Opeth’s case… studio albums are the way to go.

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        17. Then again, if “Live After Death” was your first Maiden album, you would immediately be a fan for life. That’s kinda how it worked for me. I bought “Killers,” “The Number Of The Beast,” “Piece Of Mind” and “Live After Death” on used vinyl in the ’90s for less than $10 total. I listened to them in order, literally knowing nothing other than the two “hits” from “Beast.” By the time I got to the live album, I was in awe and thinking, “how…and why…did I miss these guys for so long. I certainly made up for lost time.

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        18. Well that’s it exactly. There’s certainly been plenty bands where I’m glad my introduction was a live recording… Humble Pie, Ted Nugent, Fleetwood Mac (Green era) and Gabriel-era Genesis are the first that spring to mind. I’m sure there must be more!

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        19. Great box set for sure. I already owned the bulk of their catalog by then, but there was still a lot of new things for me to explore. Cheap Trick were my first concert, at Madison Square Garden in 1980, a month before my 14th birthday. What a great show that was. Opening act was The Romantics (“What I Like About You”), so they were really the first band I saw in concert.

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        20. Guilty as charged! I did have the head but got fed up looking at it’s tacky face pretty quickly. To be honest, it was a cheap way to get all the reissues. If I’d had the 2CD ones you’ve been reviewing I wouldn’t have bothered.

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        21. How cheap was it? I recall it being around $200 here, which wouldn’t be considered cheap. It would have been about the same as buying them all at the same time. But cheap would have been buying them all at second hand stores.

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        22. Ooh, I can’t remember. It was in the £150 area I think and I got 25% off because I worked in the Borders at the time. So with the discount it worked out a good bit cheaper than buying them all individually. But when I said “cheap” what I should have said was “cheaper”!

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  5. Mike told me that Blaze was gone for good, starting with this record. And all I could think was “well, thank fuck for that!”

    So, now things are as they should be. Welcome back, Bruce. Please keep your speed-wobble to a minimum, and let’s get down to it.

    The Wicker Man I know from a hits collection I heard one time. But that was out of context, compared to this adventure I am on now, as we go through these records in order. I will now forever associate this song with the total relief that Bruce came back. GREAT tune. [And I saw that film a long time ago. Creepy!]. Ghost Of The Navigator builds beautifully and then just takes off. Lots to recommend this one. I imagine it sounds cool live. Then the title track, Brave New World’s intro struck me as Maiden doing a cover of a Tool song. Am I the only one who can hear it? Anyway. Once it builds into what it’s gonna be, it’s a bit lesser than it could be. I don’t know, it wasn’t really a let-down, just not a hit, you know? Still better than anything on the last two records, never doubt that. And that’s one wicked guitar solo around the 4:00 mark, too. Blood Brothers continues their trend of taking all the energy of the ending of the song previous and starting all over again. It’s almost like each song is supposed to stand alone. At this point, I’m not surprised by it. Anyway, the music track on this just soars. I’m not really taken with the vocals on it, almost like at times he’s doing a bad Bon Jovi impersonation. It’s a strong song otherwise. Great use of dynamics… and an orchestra? Or are my ears deceiving me?

    The Mercenary brings the rawk right from the start. Pure Maiden – and when you read those two words, you know exactly what I mean. Shame the chorus cuts the tempo in half. Oh well. Dream Of Mirrors’ intro turned me off at first, just an awkward shouting thing. But then it settles itself down into this quiet chug while Bruce sings over it. Those same Some Kind Of Monster lyrics, though, the ones that made me want to kick Blaze Bayley in the nuts (whether he wrote them or not). The chorus rocks out in a 90s grunge band bouncing between two notes way, but the rest is sort of boring. And yes, around 5:45 it kicks and satisfyingly takes off, but most people would have skipped this track by then. Not a keeper track, to me. The Fallen Angel picks up the pace again. Bruce’s vocals are over the top a little, here. There are just some notes that are a little high for him, I guess. But the rest of the track just rocks.

    The Nomad keeps that energy alive with a repetitive, relentless riff. I envisioned a video set in the desert, some dude on a mission of great import, with enemies on his heels. It just has a bit of an eastern feel to it. But, being a 9 minute song, by the 5 minute mark it shifts into an instrumental interlude worthy of any of Maiden’s song intros. It builds, and is still chugging along at the 7:45 mark before the vocals come back. I dunno, that section could have been shorter and still had power. This track fades into Out Of The Silent Planet. Science Fiction? Bring it! It crashes into a good rocker. I didn’t pay attention to what he was singing, but the band was solid. We get the trademark gallop again, and then around 3:35 it becomes this neat speed-shuffle beat while the guitars play around. And bringing up the rear is The Thin Line Between Love And Hate. Who’s that singing with him? This one would be great in a live setting, too. It’s not a huge track in the “Maiden canon,” but it’s a good rocker for the middle of the show that would let them play a recent track that has that lift to it. And of course, being Maiden, they had to mess with it around 5:15 and just take it right down to almost nothing, bring it back up again only to let it fade off again to end the album. It’s a little jarring, but whatever guys. And what’s the “I fucking missed it” thing at the end. Is that Nicko? Did he screw up? I didn’t notice anything too glaring.

    In sum:

    Total relief that Blaze Bayley went home. This sounds more like what I was wanting for the past two records. There are still a couple of tracks where the vocals aren’t what I’d want, but hey, that’s small complaint. They finally sound like Maiden again, like they got their mojo back. And it’s about bloody time. I liked most of this record quite a lot.

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