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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Iron Maiden

No Prayer For The Dying

Review by Greg Olma

Iron Maiden ushered in the 1990s with an album that many fans felt was lackluster and uninspired, but I disagree.  No Prayer For The Dying was a shift back to a more stripped down sound after toying with the synth and keyboards elements on their two previous efforts.  Another change was that Janick Gers came in to replace Adrian Smith, who was unhappy with the direction of the new material.  Speaking of material, the songs are more straight-forward and less grandiose or conceptual.  It’s as if they made a concerted effort to adapt to the current musical landscape that would usher in grunge and leave behind the bloated material of their latter output.  I find the production to be a bit muddy, but it has a good full sound While I liked Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, this record has the band returning more to their roots.  I will agree that there are less memorable moments throughout the record than many of their releases, it still has a lot to offer and has aged well.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Tailgunner
The familiar bass sound of Steve Harris starts off the record, and then we quickly go into “Aces High” territory both in spirit and lyrics.  It’s a great opening track and represents the “back to basics” sound of the record.  They started their shows with this piece on the tour, and it really does get your fist pumping.
Holy Smoke
I find this track to be a bad choice for their first single off the album.  It’s a great song that deals with televangelists and their blind followers, but I feel that there are other tracks that would have made better singles (but what do I know? This was a top-five single in the UK).  As with the previous tune, this one has simple riffing and stays away from the more complicated song structures of the previous records. The performance has an urgency about it with Bruce Dickinson barking out the lyrics instead of his more operatic approach.
No Prayer For The Dying
The beginning of this tune starts off mellow and continues on until about halfway through where it goes full on Maiden with galloping bass and frantic guitar solos.  As soon as that mid-section is over, the song reverts back to its original mellow structure.
Public Enema Number One
Once again we are presented with your typical Maiden guitar sound at the beginning.  Dickinson barks out his vocals again and only ever so slightly touches upon his operatic style on the chorus.  It’s a fast rocker that lyrically is a lot smarter than its title, which is a shame because some might view this as a “joke” song, when in fact it is one of the better tracks on the record.
Fate Warning
Just like the title track, there is some great mellow guitar work that starts this cut.  There are some similarities to “Holy Smoke” in structure and sound.  I can see where some fans might feel that some of the material on this record is uninspired, and this song is a good example of a band going through the motions.  The guitar work at the beginning is the best part of this track and, while not horrible, there is much better material on No Prayer For The Dying.
The Assassin
This one starts similarly to “Tailgunner” but it quickly brings in a lot of drama with the lyrics and vocal performance of Dickinson.  He does both his new raspy vocals along with still giving us some of the older vocals from when he first joined the band.  There is also some great guitar work that lifts up the track to being one of the best of Maiden’s 90s output.
Run Silent Run Deep
I find some that some of Iron Maiden’s latter material has the same structure, and this album is where I think it all started.  It seems that all the songs start off with a mellow guitar intro before the track really starts in earnest.  It contains all the Maiden elements that you would expect but somehow it falls a little short.  Again, it's not a bad track by any stretch, but when the band set the benchmark so high, they leave room to stumble occasionally.
Hooks In You
This is one of the tunes that has an Adrian Smith writing credit, and it shows.  Remember that he was responsible for “Wasted Years,” which was a big hit for the band off of Somewhere in Time.  It has a catchy chorus and a simple riff but it all works wonderfully.  It's your typical mid-paced Maiden rocker but it has that little extra that makes it memorable.  I’m shocked that they didn’t bother to release this as a single, as I’m sure it would have done well.
Bring Your Daughter... ...To The Slaughter
Originally, this tune was recorded by Dickinson’s solo band for the soundtrack to A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.  I liked the original, but I feel that this one is better due to the Maiden boys making it just a touch heavier.  It’s a mid-paced rocker that contains all the elements of a pop song but with heavy guitars and vocals.  I’m not sure if the band was short on material or if they liked the song, but it is does sound different than the other material.
Mother Russia
They saved the longest track for last, and it starts off the same as most of the tunes on this album.  It’s a plodding rocker that has an Eastern European sound.  There are instrumental parts that go on a little too long but overall, it’s a great proggy track with a lot of musical passages that make it interesting.
 
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