Brave New World

Iron Maiden

Portrait / Columbia Records, 2000

http://ironmaiden.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/12/2001

In 1999, fans of the British heavy metal group Iron Maiden got what they had been clamoring for: out was vocalist Blaze Bayley (who, in all fairness, didn't get the credit on record that he deserved... though he did suck in concert), in was former vocalist Bruce Dickinson. Also back in the line-up was former guitarist Adrian Smith, who had hooked up with Dickinson during his solo stint.

People must have imagined that with Dickinson back in the band and Iron Maiden now with a three-guitar attack, their first effort as a six-piece would blow their most recent material out of the water.

That album, Brave New World, does indeed have some moments which are absolutely incredible... but to call it a return to form would be a bit premature, as there's still a lot of growth that has to happen in the band.

Let's start out with the positives, though. When Dickinson left Maiden in 1993, he sounded incredibly bored with the material and with what had become of the band. Seven years later, his vocals have indeed been re-energized. In retrospect, Dickinson's taking a break from the band could well have been the best thing for him, allowing Dickinson to re-charge his creative batteries.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, there are moments on Brave New World that will have the listener thinking that they're actually hearing outtakes from the Somewhere In Time era - and I happened to love that album as a teenager, so that's meant as a compliment. (I'm in the process of updating all my Iron Maiden albums to the 1998 enhanced CD versions... and though I reviewed Brave New World in MP3, I'll still be picking this one up.)

No, it doesn't mean there's heavy synthesizer work (though they are present, and make themselves known at times). It means that the material, like "The Wicker Man," "Ghost Of The Navigator" and "Blood Brothers" all is outstanding and in-your-face.

Yet not everything about Brave New World is sunshine and roses. First, it's difficult to hear the three-guitar blitz on this disc -- not that the guitar work is subpar by any means. But it's hard for my ears to distinguish between the axe work of Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Smith. (In hindsight, that might be the best compliment someone could pay to Gers.)

And while the songwriting has improved somewhat over the sonic frisbee that was Virtual XI, Brave New World shows that work still needs to be done. Founding member/bassist Steve Harris has loosened his vice-like grip on the songwriting a bit, but there still is a bit too much repetition going on... though it's not so much in the lyrics this time as it is in the songs themselves ("Thin Line Between Love And Hate" -- not a terrible song, though). Other songs feel like they're a bit long in the tongue -- both "The Nomad" and "Dream Of Mirrors" clock in at over nine minutes, and both have noticeable sags in their energy levels.

One other note -- am I the only one who picked up that someone lifted part of the guitar like from "Prowler" (way back from Iron Maiden in 1980) for "Mercenary"? Ah, well... guess if you're going to steal, it's less of a crime to steal from yourself.

Maybe it's that Iron Maiden fans expected far too much from the first collaboration in seven years between Dickinson and his old mates -- and we all know that reality never quite lives up to expectations. But there are enough moments on Brave New World to make diehard fans hold out hope that the glory days of Maiden will soon be returning -- though work still needs to be done.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A


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© 2001 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 Portrait / Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.