Thursday, May 07, 2009
Second release from this powerhouse UK metal group and it is uniformly excellent. What would you expect to hear when gingerly applying the needle to a record by a band named for an 18th century torture device?
Songs about clouds, adopting puppies and love, of course.
Bassist Steve Harris single handedly takes care of the writing chores here, with all tunes but two dating from the first album. Despite the gothic horror image they projected, no effort is made to embrace themes of chopping up your relatives or selling your soul to the Evil One. The lyrics are fairly conventional and sit comfortably atop inventive structures with scorching twin guitar arrangements, courtesy of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith. Exceptional playing is the rule. Humble opinion time: Murray is in a class of his own and does not get nearly enough credit for his fretwork.
I burned through my cassette copy of this in high school, listening so frequently to what remains my favorite Maiden set to this day. Kicking off with rolling drums that lock into an insistent pattern, the short instrumental "The Ides of March" gives way to "Wrathchild" ,which is a definite highlight.
When you listen, there's a great live energy retained in these tracks. Production legend Martin Birch certainly captured the best performances and allows them to breathe without sanding off all of the natural dynamics.
Vocalist Paul Di' Anno brings an intense edge to the material, while remaining melodic. "Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a great example of this style, as he's not merely screaming every syllable. Some singers in this genre fall into that trap with mixed results. Di ' Anno would be bounced from the lineup before the next studio project, though.
Always the "thinking person's metal band", this music has not stale dated since it first appeared in early 1981. "Killers" sounds as if it could have been recorded last week. Crank it up!
How about that happy, un-dead chap dispatching his latest victim with a hatchet? That's "Eddie", the ingenious cartoon mascot who has graced every one of their LP covers. Not just a pretty face, his skeletal mug is the image most closely associated with Iron Maiden.
He's available to do children's parties, too.