No Prayer For The Dying

Iron Maiden

Epic Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


After a stable period in Iron Maiden's lineup, the boat was shaken yet again when guitarist Adrian Smith departed after eight years. Having recently launched his own solo career in parallel to Iron Maiden, singer Bruce Dickinson discovered guitarist Janick Gers for his own group - and quickly, Gers became the new hired axe in Iron Maiden.

Creatively, though, Maiden were on a bit of a tailspin. Their previous disc, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, polarized their fans, especially through their continued use of synthesizers in their music. Also, while the album was a commercial success, it was not up to the kind of standards the band had set for themselves.

In this regard, No Prayer For The Dying, the eighth studio release from Iron Maiden, should be taken with a grain or two of salt. After all, this was a band in regrouping mode, trying to see how their newly revamped lineup worked together in the studio with a new batch of songs. And, looking at the disc from a distance, it was an improvement over Seventh Son.

Yet after repeated listenings to this disc, one tends to walk away from it feeling rather unsatisfied. On previous discs, Iron Maiden gave the listener an audio and mental workout, challenging the listener on many levels. With this disc, though, the songwriting is a bit more lightweight, and the lyrics don't exactly give the listener reason to think.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Things start out on a slightly positive note with "Tail Gunner," a track which seems to revisit the aerial battlefields first seen on "Aces High," but without the lead guitar bite which Iron Maiden had become known for. It's hard to tell whether Gers's addition is at fault or whether Dave Murray had an off day in the solos department - even after all these years, it's almost impossible for me to tell who is playing which solo just on hearing them. Still, it was a partial return to form for the band.

Then, there are the two singles from this one. First is "Holy Smoke," a track which dares to take on televangelism from a skeptic's point of view. Good idea, poorly written song, weak lyrics. I'm all for slamming Jimmy Swaggart and the whole bunch of fakers who are fleecing people in the name of God (and, brother, wait 'till these bastards get His final room service bill), but I expect a little more… well, more fire and brinstone against them. This is almost the audio equivalent of a ruler across the knuckles.

Then, there is "Bring Your Daughter… To The Slaughter," easily the worst song Iron Maiden has ever recorded. Why they even took this one on is beyond me, and to this day remains a song I cringe at. What a load of shit.

Speaking of shit, we come to the unfortunately titled "Public Enema Number One," a great song with a disastrous name. Honestly, anyone going into this track is going to expect something along the lines of "Bring Your Daughter…" or any number of the joke B-sides the band recorded instead of a solid, all-out rocker of a number.

In fact, No Prayer For The Dying does indeed have its share of songs like this - "Fates Warning," "The Assassin," and the title track - but they, too, seem to lack some of the bite which set earlier Iron Maiden albums apart from the pack. The end result isn't disastrous, but it is a tad disappointing.

The other notable thing about this album is Dickinson's vocals - which sound more ragged than they had to this point. Granted, you can't keep screaming your lungs out day in and day out for eight years without doing some damage, but even so, hearing this was a tad shocking. The perils of growing older, I guess.

No Prayer For The Dying does portray a band in flux, but showing signs of recovery even with weak moments littering their path. It isn't the greatest Iron Maiden album ever recorded, but it's also hardly their worst. Just don't expect to come away from this one feeling fully satisfied.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 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 Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.