Accident Of Birth

Bruce Dickinson

CMC International Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You really have to feel sorry for Bruce Dickinson.

No matter how hard he tries, he will always have his work compared to Iron Maiden, the band he fronted from 1982 to 1993. The only way he'll be able to shake that image is if he were to record an album of country music or new age, and I'll bet someone would still find some similarity to something he did with Iron Maiden. ("Man, that steel guitar progression... didn't that remind you of 'Powerslave'?")

But in the case of his latest disc, Accident Of Birth, some of the blame has to be placed back onto Dickinson - he reverts to his past, and shows maybe part of the reason why Iron Maiden began to stagnate in the late '80s.

The last I had heard from Dickinson, he had recorded the commercially-ignored Balls To Picasso, a disc which I thought was quite good. I know he's released two other discs since then - I just haven't had a chance to pick them up.

But it's now almost five years since he left Iron Maiden... and look who's back. Dickinson grabbed his old buddy and bandmate Adrian Smith, who I last heard from when he was with ASAP, and got longtime Maiden illustrator Derek Riggs to do the cover art. Even the drumming of David Ingraham tends to sound like Nicko McBrain's, by relying on the ride cymbal instead of the hi-hats... AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!!my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Accident Of Birth opens up strongly enough with "Freak," "Starchildren" and the acoustic-veined "Taking The Queen." Dickinson's pipes have obviously accumulated no rust -- his singing is as strong as ever. I'd even dare to say it's improved since his last two studio albums with Iron Maiden, when he sounded kind of hoarse. The two-guitar attack of Smith and longtime Dickinson collaborator Roy Z is a solid match -- it's good to hear Smith's guitar licks again, and it almost seems like each guitarist is pushing the other to achieve new levels of fretwork.

But more often than not, one tends to wonder whether we're listening to a solo album or an unreleased Iron Maiden record. While some songs like "The Magician" utilize guitar sounds that Maiden wouldn't have touched with a ten-foot pole (and which are some of the freshest on the album), other songs like "Road To Hell" are way too close to the bone. All they need is to move the bass work of Eddie Casillias to the front a la Steve Harris, and -- naaaah, don't do that. Bad idea, forget I even brought it up.

And this is what disappoints me the most about Accident Of Birth. If I had not heard all of Iron Maiden's older albums a hundred times, I wouldn't be so bitchy about this. On its own, the album is good, though by the time that "Omega" and "Arc Of Space" kick in, the tracks have kind of blended together. But for someone looking to hear something fresh coming from the microphone of Dickinson, it just isn't there.

And the stagnation on some of the tracks like "Dark Side Of Aquarius" seems to suggest to me what went wrong with Iron Maiden after 1987's Somewhere In Time. It almost seems like during the last years he was with them, Dickinson grew bored with the gig -- and boy, did it reflect in the music. Guess what? It's happening again with Accident Of Birth.

I wouldn't mind seeing Dickinson explore the hard rock genre with songs similar to "Taking The Queen" -- songs which show just how powerful an acoustic guitar riff can be. And if anyone can give hard rock the kick in the ass it needs to become commercially viable again, Dickinson can do it. But with Accident Of Birth, when one knows his past, it really seems like he's going through the motions. If this is purchased without any knowledge of Iron Maiden -- and I doubt there are many people who would fit that category - then this one will do nicely.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1997 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 CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.