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Iron Maiden

No Prayer For The Dying LP

It's the beginning of the nineties; Rowan Atkinson's made his first TV appearance as Mr. Bean and Margaret Thatcher enjoyed her 11th year as a prime minister. She didn't know that 1990 will be her last year in Downing Street, when she declared the end of the Cold War along with G. Bush and M. Korbachev. Britain is in the verge of a large change. A great band, which dominated heavy metal in the 80's and has just headlined Donnington in front of over 100,000 people for the first time, is also headed for a big change. The beginning of the new decade marks a new era for the band. The leader Steve Harris, after a colossal "Seventh son of the Seventh Son", resets Iron Maiden, having lost an essential member and composer named Adrian Smith. "No Prayer for the Dying" signaled the change of direction Maiden decided to make, a change of style that was met with negative reviews. It would be pointless to argue that No Prayer wasn't a letdown or that it is somehow equal to Maiden's best albums. It is just that this record is so underrated, that it pains me. So here it goes.
 
No Prayer is the best thing Maiden could do at the moment, a great album for the time that has aged considerably well and a pivotal turn in their career. Don't forget that in NPFTD exist: a) at least 4 songs that could be played in every Maiden concert, b) the only no.1 song at UK charts in their whole career and is the last time Maiden went gold. More importantly, it is a down to earth heavy metal/hard rock offering that maintains the band's status as leaders of the pack, in a decade that traditional heavy metal suffered greatly. So back to the roots Maiden went and it was a perfectly sound decision. There was nowhere to go after keyboard based SSotSS, in a musical era that went the other way. Guns and Roses, Nirvana or even Judas Priest made it clear. There were two ways to go, either hard rock or thrash metal. The departure of A. Smith and the arrival of Janick Gers, a flashy axeman with hard rock influences, made it a no brainer. Maiden decided to play straightforward metal/rock, which was not so far away from their first albums, although way simpler and less adventurous. "Tailgunner" and "Holy Smoke" could easily belong to the debut. They are short, melodic and fast songs, yet catchier and straightforward-er, oozing an aura of professionalism. Dickinson sounds less pretentious, dropping the high pitched screams for a more mannish approach, which fits perfectly the simpler songs. The fantasy based lyrics are substituted by stories about war, politics and well... maturity. Even the production is changed, as Harris decided to take the band to record in his hometown Essex. One can argue that the production is thinner, but to me it is exactly what these songs need to make Maiden a bit rawer.
 
The Maiden formula is present all the way though. Sometimes, I think that Maiden play the same song again and again with some minor changes. The crazy thing is that every time I am enjoying it as if it's the first time! Now that's talent right there. The song named after the album's title, is a power ballad in the Children of the Damned vein. After the almost spoken introduction a massive riff takes over the song, which sounds so familiar and yet so damn enjoyable at the same time. Listening to the lyrics, the whole song comes off as a heartfelt confession, a dynamic rocker with pop influences, reminding "Tattooed Millionaire" that was released some months earlier. Having said that and after a big slump in the middle of the record with some not-so-memorable but all in all pleasurable songs, "Bring your daughter to the Slaughter" storms out like a breath of fresh air! Dickinson and Gers steal the show with a blast of energy that No Prayer so desperately needed just before the closure. Clever and theatrical and with the perfect amount of humor, I still consider it a top-5 Maiden song.
 
To end on a higher note, I'll share my thoughts why I reviewed a well known album released 25 years ago, with -quite frankly- nothing new to say. When I recently found out the news about the new Maiden album coming out this September, I contemplated the ideal Maiden album in 2015. To my surprise, I secretly wished that the band decided a similar "NPFTD reset" and not a mammoth 92min double disc. It isn't just a very good heavy metal album. It also signaled a new step, that every band needs to make now and then to avoid stagnation. And that step was No Prayer for the Dying, which deserves more respect.
 
-- Sputnik Music
item # 42482
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