The release of Dance of Death
, Iron Maiden's 13th studio album, comes at a most fortuitous time. Fortuitous for them, because in 2003--after years of struggle--rock has fought its way back to the top of the UK charts (thanks, in large part, to the success of The Darkness). Fortuitous for us, because Dance of Death
ably demonstrates why, amongst the Monsters of Rock pantheon, Iron Maiden are the Godzilla.
With singer Bruce Dickenson and guitarist Adrian Smith now firmly re-entrenched after returning for their previous album, Brave New World, Iron Maiden seem newly reinvigorated. Dance of Death sounds like classic Maiden--in particular Seventh Son of a Seventh Son--right down to the over-the-top production. It kicks off at breakneck speed with first single "Wildest Dreams", builds to a crescendo by track three (the anthemic "No More Lies"), and for the most part, maintains this pace throughout the album, pausing only briefly for the slow build of the title track or the orchestra-laden, battlefield epic "Paschendale". Dickinson's overwrought vocals add gravity to apocalyptic lyrics that would descend into irony or outright silliness at the hands of a lesser band (who else could get away with the sound effect of a hawk's cry in the middle of a song?). These are serious men playing serious music, and after more than two decades, Iron Maiden can still teach the big-shorted yoof a thing or two about rock. With Dance of Death, Iron Maiden aren't just back, they're back on top. --Robert Burrow