Iron Maiden shreds it up on latest album

Some critics would argue most musicians in groups overflowing with raw talent do not last long in their field. The Beatles were only around for 12 years or so; Guns ‘n’ Roses were around for eight or nine. In the underground metal scene, the opposite is usually true. Without getting into the ethics of whether a band is still true after lineup changes or deaths, there are some metal powerhouses that have been together for 15 or more years. Names that come to mind are Deicide, Opeth and Metallica. Of course, only one band can arguably account for the existence of these bands.

Iron Maiden came into existence in 1975. Since then, there have been 14 studio albums and nine live. Albums and almost everyone has seen the band’s mascot, Eddie, whether they recognize him or not. They were also a driving force in the new wave of British heavy metal, which influenced all of the early American thrash metal acts.

A Matter of Life and Death, the band’s latest release, is nothing less than stellar.

Musically, the album is everything one has come to expect from Maiden over the vast expanse of the band’s career.

The album goes through many Maiden trademarks, from the epic E-C-D power chord progressions to dueling guitar leads and stellar harmonies.

In the latter half of the album, the songs are longer and the guitars tend to produce a more lilting effect, even incorporating acoustic parts as in track 10, “Legacy.”

Also in top form is Bruce Dickinson’s operatic voice style, and it’s as strong as it was on Piece of Mind or Powerslave.

Memorable vocals on the album include the seventh track, “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” and the eighth offering, “For the Greater Good of God.”

The album’s production quality is noteworthy too, as is all of Maiden’s work. One aspect that is disappointing in most metal albums is the lack of audible bass guitar. In all of Maiden’s work, the bass is clear, providing the backing rhythms necessary to hold the progression together while the guitars harmonize their leads over the root notes.

All three guitars have the crisp and clear crunch heard all the way from “The Flight of Icarus” to “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg.” The crunch is so good, one can hear every note played and each note within the chord just as well, giving the listener an enjoyable aural experience throughout the piece.

If you have followed Maiden from Icarus’ flight and the plight of “The Trooper” and have made the oath that you will “Die With your Boots on,” chances are, you will follow them all the way to A Matter of Life and Death. This album is a masterpiece. Any fan of Maiden should add it to the other 13 studio albums they have released over their 31-year career. If metal has taught me one thing, it is that the strong survive, so it is safe to say the band is far from done.

Iron Maiden, hallowed be thy name.

Grade: ASanctuary Records.