Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death

by Matt Hensch

We had so much fun with our Iron Maiden TBT month that we decided to share a bonus look back this week of Matt Hensch's look at the bands acclaimed 2006 album "A Matter Of Life And Death."

I always get nervous before hearing a new album from a band I like. So many questions arise: Will it be good? Will it be something original? Will it get old? Well, after hearing Iron Maiden's new album, I can finally exhale. I've been awaiting the release of "A Matter Of Life And Death" since it was announced, and after many listens, it's safe to say this is surely one of Maiden's best releases. "A Matter Of Life And Death" is one of the most exhilarating albums of Maiden's legacy and is bound to become another classic album in their discography.

Just like all of Maiden's post-millennia material, "A Matter Of Life And Death" continues to exercise the progressive influences that began with "Brave New World." Just about every song on this album contains a good amount of progression along side the typical speedy Maiden style. "The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg" is solid proof of how the progressive influences mix with the standard heavy metal tone. This is mainly shown from the soft intro and the fast-paced instrumental section. Tracks like "Out Of The Shadows" and "The Legacy" opt toward a more progressive driven sound because of the solos, keyboards, and the common presence of acoustic guitars. Aside from the progressive surroundings, some tracks on this album lean toward the heavy metal side of Maiden's influences rather then the progressive elements. "Different World" and "The Pilgrim" are the best examples of how some songs on "A Matter Of Life And Death" are accompanied by a more heavy metal driven sound due to their faster riffs and shorten time lengths. These songs still manage to remain progressive, but the faster musicianship and short time lengths are dominant on these tracks.

Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers put on a damn good guitar show. "These Colours Don't Run" is a great example of how this brilliant trio plays traditional heavy metal riffs that have hints of melody and sound quite similar to post-millennia material. The guitars take a different path on "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" with the darker tone and faster riffs, and I swear that's a thrash riff on "Lord Of Light!"

"A Matter Of Life And Death" has Bruce Dickinson doing what he does best, which is singing his guts out. After all those years in Maiden and his solo project, Bruce is still able to have a voice that doesn't sound scratchy or weak. Bruce has some really great singing moments during most of the songs. During "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns," Bruce bellows out the chorus with his signature high notes and steals the show from the rest of his bandmates. "Out Of The Shadows" has Bruce blending his mellow vocals with an acoustic guitar that makes a beautiful sound to the listener's ears. There is also a bit experimenting with the vocals. During the chorus of "Different World," there is an added backing vocal that makes the song seem more memorable, but it's also something different. "The Legacy" also features a strange vocal effect on Bruce's voice that makes it sound a bit faint, but it fits the mood of the song perfectly.

When being compared to previous albums, the lyrical themes on "A Matter Of Life And Death" are darker and more controversial. A good portion of the lyrics are built around war, but there is a topic that Maiden haven't really touched on before: religion connecting to violence. "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" and "For The Greater Good Of God" deal with war that was caused by religion. One lyric that really stand out to me is the stanza "Whatever would Albert have said to his god about how he made war with the sun. E=Mc^2 you can relate how we make god with our hand's" from "Brighter Then A Thousand Suns." This is an extremely intelligent lyric because it relates with the E=Mc^2 (energy = mass times the speed of light squared) theory and how it was used to make nuclear weapons and how the term "God" could be used as a weapon. The lyrics on this album are some of the best these guys have ever wrote.

I was completely blown away with "A Matter Of Life And Death." Call me crazy, but I think this is their best album in a long time; dare I say since "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son?" Out of the three Iron Maiden albums released since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith came back into the band, "A Matter Of Life And Death" is defiantly the best one. If you enjoy metal in general, I highly recommend you get this.

Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death

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