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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Bruce Dickinson

Accident of Birth

Review by Gary Hill

You’ve got to love these Bruce Dickinson reissues. When they put them out they give us a whole disc of rare bonuses. You can kind of look at those songs as just the icing on the cake. This disc finds Dickinson occasionally touching base with Maiden like music, but more often than not wandering into territory that wouldn’t really make it in his day job band. Isn’t that what solo albums should be like, though? It’s a good album, but could perhaps benefit from being a bit more consistent. I also am not sure about his choice for closing cut.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Freak
This fires off with a very modern metal sound – fast and mean. It’s extremely raw.
Toltec 7 Arrival

In sharp contrast this is just a short moody piece with ambient sounds and spoken vocals.

Starchildren

While this still has a lot of the modern metal fury of the opener, it’s got a little bit of Iron Maiden in its midst, too. It’s another screamer, though.  There’s an instrumental break that reminds me of the wicked step child of Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix.

Taking The Queen

The balladic motif that leads this off reminds me of Pink Floyd. When Dickinson’s voice joins we’re in more classic Maiden territory. The track builds in a great way. It’s pretty and powerful and yet remains mellow. When it does fire out into metallic territory past the minute and a half mark it’s the most Maiden-like music on show here so far. They work through like that for a time and then drop it back down to mellow to continue. There’s a great melodic instrumental section later that serves both as home to a great guitar solo and as a bridge back into the Maiden zone. It segues straight into the next number.

Darkside Of Aquarius

The mellow modes that start this off are very much in keeping with progressive rock stylings, but they quickly give way to some serious metal crunch. There’s an awesome galloping riff at times on this. It turns to be a very dynamic cut as they take us out into more pure progressive rock later but then come out with more metallic fury in a new vein after a while.

Road To Hell

Here’s a killer track with a catchy chorus. This is another that could really easily be an Iron Maiden song.

Man Of Sorrows

This starts in mellow, keyboard dominated balladic motifs. Dickinson’s voice puts tons of emotion into the mix, building upwards as he continues. It peaks, seeming like it’s about to scream out into metallic fury. Instead it just becomes a more intensified ballad motif. They build upon this with more layers being added and then hit another peak and just up the ante again. Once the guitar solo joins the song is turned more towards metal. It’s still very melodic and represents more music that is in a Maiden-like soundscape. This is an epic piece of music, if not in length, certainly in scope and power, and is one of the highlights of the set.

Accident Of Birth

“Accident of Birth” is another furious metal cut that’s closer to newer metal sounds. That said, musically I can hear hints of both King Diamond and Iron Maiden on this. Of course, Dickinson’s voice pulls it more into the Maiden-like territory.

The Magician

This has a more old school metal texture, but is a bit on the raw side of that moniker. I wouldn’t really consider this to be very Maiden-like, but it is a killer tune. There are some moments of this that remind me of Black Sabbath.

Welcome To The Pit

“Welcome to the Pit” seems to alternate between rawer more modern sounding metal and some more melodic material that closer to old school Iron Maiden. It’s a diverse track and a standout because of it.

Omega

What an intriguing track this is. It’s got a lot of contrasts and is certainly one of the most diverse cuts on show. While a lot of it is in a fairly stripped down metal motif there’s a full on melodic prog movement and a scorching epic eurometal instrumental movement, too.

Arc Of Space

This cut is a change. It’s a pure ballad and gets a bit proggy at times. At other points, though, the string arrangement is a little over the top. This is pretty, but perhaps not the wisest choice for closing the album (at least the main portion of it) with something strong.

Disc 2
The Ghost Of Cain

Here’s another metal jam with modern sounds and killer crunch. There’s a cool drum solo in the middle of this. There’s actually quite a bit of Maiden on this track, despite the more modern elements.

Accident Of Birth (Demo Version)

As the title suggests, this is a demo version of the title track of the disc. In this rougher, more stripped down arrangement, this feels more modern in its metallic stylings. I’d say it’s not as good. Of course, that’s why it’s a demo version.

Starchildren (Demo Version)

There’s an early version of “Toltec 7 Arrival” starting this off. It’s got a less mysterious tone to it, and just feels a bit cheesy in this stripped down motif. That said, the metal modes of the main song are much in keeping with Born Again era Black Sabbath – in other words, this is a real screamer and I might like it better than the main version. There’s an annoying wood block bit of percussion, though.

Taking The Queen (Demo Version)

The early sections of this version are even more like Pink Floyd – think Animals era. There is definitely a demo quality to this, and yet it’s incredibly complete and polished. This is very much a prog rock number. Other than a click track here, I think I like this better than the real version.

Man Of Sorrows (Radio Edit )

This is, as it says, a shorter rendition of the track from disc 1.

Man Of Sorrows (Orchestral Version)

Bonus points are issued for truth in advertising. Sometimes orchestral arrangements like this can really be over the top and heavy handed. That’s not the case here, I think this works quite well.

Man Of Sorrows (Spanish Version)

Well, apparently Mr. Dickinson is multilingual – and he’s got a great accent, too. I’m impressed. Beyond that, if you read the title you know what this is.

Darkside Of Aquarius (Demo Version)

This is less diverse than the version that made it on the disc, instead focusing primarily on the more metal approaches. That said, I think I might like this one better. It really scorches. They do drop it back to the mellow segment later in the track, though.

Arc Of Space (Demo Version)
The final track in the set is also the final demo version. The guitar on this is delicate and intricate and without the strings I think I like it better. It’s a stronger tune here, in my opinion, than the one that made the final cut.
 
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