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IRON MAIDEN - A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH - EMI
Record Rating: ****

Iron Maiden - A Matter Of Life And Death - EMI Iron Maiden has always been the definitive metal band. Fusing the gothic doom of Black Sabbath with the riffs and speed of Led Zeppelin, it isnít just their crushingly loud interpretation of rock and roll thatís won them a worldwide following: itís how theyíve incorporated mythology, mysticism, and a variety of other aspects into their sound.

Having the devil on your side never hurts when you're plying your trade in the realm of heavy metal, and on their fourteenth studio album A Matter Of Life And Death, these British boys make it clear that Lucifer is most definitely a friend. Vocalist Bruce Dickinsonís shrieking and growling is positively refreshing, and most of the ten tracks practically leap from the speakers to shake you by the collar and prompt you to bang your head a bit faster.

From the punishing drums that propel first single The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg to the massed guitars that tear through Lord Of Light, the tight playing eclipses any doubt about the band's ability to keep up with the phantom spectre of age. A close sibling to the band's 1992 classic Fear Of The Dark, Maiden once again seem to be inspired by current events, this time in particular by the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. And they seem to have a lot to say; six of the tracks exceed seven minutes, making this a challenging listen. Songs like Brighter Than A Thousand Suns and These Colors Donít Run showcase how the bandís songwriting and sound continue to solidify. The dark imagery and the ferocity of the performances are something that long-time fans havenít heard in awhile. And no Maiden album would be complete without a Lord Of The Rings style epic, and they donít disappoint with the lush nine-minute plus For The Greater Good Of God. Now spread the word.

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