Majestic is the best word I can think of to describe A Matter of Life and Death, the 14th studio album by Iron Maiden (and 3rd of the "reunion era). That, and classic. This truly is classic Maiden: Most songs running between 7 and 9 minutes long, recorded virtually live off the floor, raw and epic. I truly believe that this represents the absolute peak of Maiden's creativity. While not a concept album like Seventh Song, it does indeed follow themes: war, religion, storytelling.
Anybody who thought Dance of Death sounded tired had better get ready to be blown away by a revitalized band. Maybe doing that "Early Years" tour got Maiden hungry to write something new and epic. Who knows what happened? Either way, this is the best album of the reunion era, and a shining moment in the Maiden canon. While "Different World" starts the show in a fast and furious way, similar to "Wildest Dreams" from Dance of Death, this is no re-tread. This time, melody is at the forefront.
The triple guitars have never sounded better, the songwriting has never been stronger, and Bruce is still wailing the whole way through. I can't pick a favourite song, every one is excellent, but here are some highlights:
"Wildest Dreams", a killer fast opener.
"These Colours Don't Run", a war epic, the three guitars meshing into one ferocious whole.
"The Longest Day", another war epic, with mournful melodic chorus.
"Bejamin Breeg", riffiness emphasized.
"For The Greater Good of God", which is perhaps the most epic of all the epics, absolutely stunning, every second of it is dramatic.
The sound of this album is the perfect mix of heavy and raw with just enough polish. The sound straight from the mix was so hot, they didn't even have to master this album, so they left it unmastered. Seriously. Even the cover art is a vast improvement over Dance of Death. Eddie leading his troops of death into some unknown battle.
Try to pick up the version that came with the insightful documentary DVD. Also, be sure to pick up the singles. B-sides included:
Hot live 2006 versions of "Hallowed", "The Trooper", "Run To The Hills", "Iron Maiden", "Different World" and even "Benjamin Breeg". There was also a studio version of their cover of "Hocus Pocus" by Focus!