Sep 8, 2006

A Matter of Life and Death.

Finally picked up and listened to (most of) the new Maiden album, A Matter of Life and Death. I can't believe these guys are actually making better music now than 10 years ago. I'd all but lost hope for them when they put out Fear of the Dark, which was easily my least favorite album by them before the Blaze years (for anyone who is lost, you can catch up here). Brave New World was a tremendous return to form, and while I really liked some of the stuff on Dance of Death, I was getting afraid that they were slipping down the path (again) where I'd start to recognize passages and arrangements from their previous catalog. Not a good thing when a group starts to cannibalize its own past.

But this album has some freshness to it that explodes from the get-go. I guess I realize now how much I appreciated Adrian Smith's presence in the band - he brings with him a rock attitude that seems to sheer off some of the excess and yet still afford riff-heavy songs that are fun to sing along with Bruce. He's a co-author of a full half of the songs, and it's just very clear that this album is much stronger. There's something urgent about this one, which I guess is evident from how fast they were able to write, record, and put it out. They seem more fresh and ready to take risks.

Interesting, Bruce actually explores more terrain with his voice in this album than he's done in most of the past albums. While this isn't a full-on review - I'm really impressed with all that he's been able to do with his voice - it's a combination of his trademark sound with a lower register, some more melodic/non-air raid siren singing, as well as some elements that almost sound like Ray Alder of Fates Warning/Engine/Redemption (man, how many bands can that guy be the singer for anyway?). I haven't heard much of Bruce's solo work, but I'm thinking that I may want to at least check out the two albums in which he and Adrian Smith were working together.

Anyway - so let's just say that the new Maiden is an 8.5 or 9 at this early point in listening to it, the new Roots album is only a 6, and the new Dylan is so hard to map that I can't come up with a rating. A good time for new music.

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