Dance Of Death

Iron Maiden

Columbia Records, 2003

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/06/2019

What does it say when I’ve owned an album for over 15 years and never listened to it in its entirety until now?

Dance Of Death, the 13th studio effort from Iron Maiden (and second following the return of Bruce Dickinson as lead singer and Adrian Smith on guitar) takes the foundation they laid on their previous effort Brave New World, and… well, they don’t do terribly much with it. Mind you, it’s not a bad album, but it most definitely has the feel of being a sequel to its previous effort.

Look, this album gets raked over the coals constantly for its cover art… but you don’t shove the booklet into the CD player, you listen to the disc itself. And, as I constantly found over the course of over a decade-and-a-half, the music that is on the disc is enjoyable, but it’s not my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 exciting. There’s nothing that really makes you want to keep listening until you hit the final track… and that, kids, is the biggest disappointment with this effort.

It’s not like it’s a song-for-song carbon copy of Brave New World, though the opening track “Wildest Dreams” does have a similar vibe to “The Wicker Man” in terms of its tempo and general style. And there is no denying that Dickinson remains a top-notch vocalist, even over 20 years since he first came to Iron Maiden’s forefront; tracks like “No More Lies” and “Dance Of Death” allow him to show his range very well.

But Dance Of Death fails to feel like it breaks any new ground for well over half of the album. Granted, if they tried to re-create the magic of albums like Powerslave or Somewhere In Time people would deride them for trying to hang on to past glories. If they had only taken more chances like they did on the second half of the disc, it could have been far more memorable.

Take, for example, the album’s closing track “Journeyman” - Iron Maiden’s first acoustic-only track. It is a major chance that the band takes… and it works well on almost every level. In fact, the only stumbling block here is Dickinson’s vocals, which seem a little out of place with the symphonic sounds this track has.

Likewise, the band gives drummer Nicko McBrain his first opportunity at songwriting with the track “New Frontier”… and it is quite good. If anything, it’s moments such as these which suggest that bassist Steve Harris needed to loosen his control of the reins and let other members of the band play a larger role in plotting their future.

It would have been nice to have seen Dance Of Death be the superior Iron Maiden “reunion” album that fans have been waiting for, and that Brave New World fell a little short of. But after over two decades together, Iron Maiden seemed to be settled into a comfortable groove, only occasionally rising above to take some musical chances. This album begged for more such risks, and it didn’t deliver… which is the biggest disappointment.

Rating: C

User Rating: D+


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© 2019 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.