Thursday, February 12, 2009

Iron Maiden: No Prayer for the Dying

No Prayer for the Dying has a character that is distinct from its predecessor, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Where that work was a concept album that focused on the occult, this album touches on an assortment of topics with no real underlying theme. Dying is a rougher work; it's not as flashy, and even Bruce Dickinson's vocals sound raspier than usual in some parts. Something else different is the absence of guitarist Adrian Smith, who has been replaced by Janick Gers, another excellent guitarist. Though his solos seem more rugged than Smith's, Gers still turns in a fine performance.

Now, on to the cover art. Eddie has risen from the grave. After having been shattered to pieces on the cover of the previous album, Eddie is back to his original scariness, and he is ready to take out a few more victims along the way. An interesting note: The artwork you see on this post is how it was on the first release. On re-released versions of Dying, the cover was altered to remove the poor frightened gravedigger. I don't know why this was done. It's not like Eddie hasn't taken out victims before, as on the covers of Killers and Somewhere in Time, so it can't be that the image of the gravedigger being grabbed was too disturbing. There must be some other reason why the band felt compelled to remove the person, but I don't know what it is. And Wikipedia, that font of all knowledge knowable and noteworthy, doesn't offer a clue.

On to the songs.

"Tailgunner" opens the album. Dealing with the World War II Allied bombing campaign over Germany, this song takes the point of view of a bomber's tailgunner, obviously. A good song.

Next is "Holy Smoke," an indictment of televangelism. Upbeat and catchy, this song is very enjoyable. The title song is next, a decent effort that reminds me of "Revelations" from Piece of Mind. After that is "Public Enema Number One," a good song that sounds like classic Maiden.

Up next is "Fates Warning," a very good song about how fate might fit in with the events in our lives, followed by a mediocre song about an assassin called, appropriately enough, "The Assassin." (Iron Maiden's nothing if not practical in its song titling.)

"Run Silent Run Deep" comes next, a tune about submariners, and then comes one of my favorites on the album, "Hooks in You." This song is about sexual bondage, but I swear that's not why I like it so much. It's just a catchy tune. Really!

And the next song is another one of my favorites on this album, "Bring Your Daughter To the Slaughter." This song also seems quite sexual in nature, but, again, I swear that's not why I like it! Really!

Closing out the album is "Mother Russia," a song about the impending collapse of the Soviet Union. I like this song especially for the fine drum work turned in by Nicko McBrain. During the verses, he performs a syncopated rhythm with the hihat that is, in effect, a perscussion arpeggio (bass-hihat-snare-hihat-bass-hihat-snare-and so on). This results in a marching tempo that goes well with a depiction of a superpower known for its military might, and it is just one example of Iron Maiden's musical prowess. And I don't know if I've said it before, but I think McBrain is a superior drummer, and he seems to have so much fun at what he's doing.

A very good album full of great guitar and drum work and exhibiting raw power. It is a sound I can listen to many times over.

UPDATE: Here's the "Mother Russia" drum arpeggio I talked about.

No comments: