Album Of The Week – October 10, 2022

I had a different album in mind for this week, but after talking about a particular band extensively last week, I’ve called an audible and switched things up. The record was mentioned yet not really discussed in the posts last week and I got it in my head yet again after all these years and so it’s time to give the album its day in court.

Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life And Death

Released September 5, 2006 (US) via EMI Records

My Favorite Tracks – The Longest Day, For The Greater Good Of God, Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

This marked Iron Maiden’s 14th studio album, though also the 3rd since the 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. It set the table for the reunion being more than a brief run for nostalgia and cash’s sake, that the band were serious about forging ahead in a marketplace where they were hailed as heroes yet were also as old as dinosaurs.

This also turned a corner creatively – while the predecessors Brave New World and Dance Of Death were celebrated, A Matter Of Life And Death stood out for longer tracks with more mood and less tempo. While not appealing to the portion of the fanbase that pines for Powerslave II, it set the rest of the fans and critics on fire.
Maiden would not hedge on their new effort – the resulting tour saw the band play the entire album live. While there were some lessons learned from that approach, it still indicated the full-bore dedication the band had to their new material and defiance of living on their laurels as a “classic” act.

The album cover is, as usual with Maiden, worth discussion. The art does not prominently feature the band’s most famous member Eddie, but the mascot is there on the tank with his band of brothers. Personally I love the cover and it’s my favorite of any of the reunion-era pieces and it’s especially welcome after the literal abortion of a cover Dance Of Death got. I even have this as a back patch on a jean jacket, as all good metalheads do.

There are 10 tracks to discuss here, but at a beefed up runtime of 71 minutes. The era of long Iron Maiden albums had dawned and this was only a pregame for the future. There are also several other factors to discuss, like the Internet mystery campaign behind the lead single, the decision to run the whole album live, and the album’s prominent place among reunion-era records. In short, this post will be about as long as a reunion-era Maiden album, so grab a few drinks and settle in.

Different World

The opener also served as the album’s second single. The song is, in contrast to the rest of the record, a straightforward rocker offering up a bit of philosophy about co-existing with differing perspectives and all that.

This one doesn’t really get a lot of love around the fanbase. I personally don’t mind it but it won’t make a list of my favorite stuff, Maiden or otherwise. It isn’t “bad” in any sense but it’s just a song.

These Colors Don’t Run

Now into a sound that would shape the bulk of the album and also delve into a theme present in much of the remaining lyrics. This is a mid-tempo affair that moves at a trot as opposed to the gallop of many past Maiden efforts. And the theme here is war, this song offering a rally cry for the soldiers who fight for their flag no matter the cost.

Brighter Than A Thousand Suns

Off to one of the album’s epics, a now standard feature of latter day Maiden records. This sprawling effort tops out at near 9 minutes. The title seems a bit mystifying until the song’s theme becomes clear – this is about the development of the atomic bomb. The bomb was humanity severing its connection with creation and playing god with the potential of world-ending destruction.

The song marks one of three celebrated epics from the record and these songs have become centerpieces for modern Maiden albums. It probably creates fits when it’s time to make a set list, but of course the band circumvented that problem by playing everything live.

The Pilgrim

It’s literally a song about pilgrims, either the historical settlers of America or in the general sense, I don’t know. It won’t ever be accused of being Maiden’s best song but it’s a damn sight better than any description could make it out to be. It’s better than some aging British metal band droning on about the Loch Ness Monster for more than ten minutes.

The Longest Day

Back to the war and, as the title would indicate, it’s off to D-Day. The massive beach invasion is painted in vivid detail in the lyrics as the song slams through the battle. There isn’t a lot for me to say other than it’s my favorite track from the album.

Out Of The Shadows

A fairly abstract track about birth and death, new and old, that kind of thing. Not much to it but it’s a pretty decent song.

The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg

The album’s first single and one with quite the marketing story behind it. Without any prompting, a website featuring a biography of the unknown Breeg was posted. It was quickly surmised that this had to do with the new Maiden album and fans set to work trying to solve the mystery of who Breeg was and what happened to him after his 1978 disappearance. Breeg was a known painter and a future website update offered up one of his paintings which featured none other than Eddie. The last dispatch from the website had set a meeting with someone who knew Breeg’s fate, that meeting was on the day the single was released.

While nothing was ever resolved in terms of the mystery, the quiet marketing ploy drove a lot of buzz for the band’s new song and album. I recall being fascinated with it at the time, but of course it’s a bit tough to specifically recall all of that 16 years later. It seems like Benjamin Breeg might have died in 1978 and was “reborn” as Eddie, but this has never been explicitly stated. Given that Maiden have never built further lore around Breeg, this theory is my guess.

The song itself does also perhaps support the Breeg is Eddie theory. Breeg was a tortured artist who might have sold his soul, and the reincarnation aspect of it might be him becoming Eddie. It fits with the various themes posted in bits on the website.

Oh yeah – also, the song is good.

For The Greater Good Of God

The second of the album’s epics, this tune takes aim at the ills of religion. While not condemning religion outright, the song does goes full-bore on the wars and calamities experienced worldwide due to the power-grabbing influence of religious figureheads over time. The song is widely-loved and often at the top of people’s favorites lists. It’s also one song that has been featured in Maiden set lists years after the album’s tour cycle.

Lord Of Light

This is about Lucifer and mostly how he is used as a scapegoat for humanity’s ills so that humans can continue sinning without consequence. It’s another fairly long track that sometimes gets set to the side but I feel offers a bit more than its secondary status might indicate.

The Legacy

The album closes with the third epic and one that the band knocked out of the park. The song has two halves – one in which a world leader is on his deathbed, being reckoned with the true cost of his warmongering. The second half of the song implores humanity to move beyond the cycle of death and destruction and embrace a new forward vision.

That clearly hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the song. Maiden offered arrangements and movements here that were unheard in the extensive prior catalog. It was a true mark that the band had a solid direction for their music now and into the future, and that direction would diverge from their past eras.

A Matter Of Life And Death was praised by critics and swept up by fans – the album hit high chart positions in many countries all over the globe, including the US where the band scored their first top 10 chart appearance on the Billboard 200 at position 9. The group already had hot receptions for the prior two albums of the reunion era, but AMOLAD arrived and put things on a whole new level.

Proud of the effort, Maiden made the decision to tour the entire record. This was a first, and to date has been the only time the group has played an entire album live. While the die-hard portion of the fanbase ate up the offering, the fact is that concerts are attended by a great many people who aren’t as fervently attached to things and the shows met with somewhat muted receptions. The concept wasn’t dismissed as a total failure, but the group has since refrained from going so hard with pushing new records.

This album shaped the direction of Maiden albums to come – the three albums following all offer huge, epic arrangements and very extended run times. That has become its own argument among fans but it is clearly the direction the band wishes to pursue.

In terms of the reunion period, AMOLAD has been hailed as one of the top offerings, rivaled perhaps only by Brave New World. Not only has it mostly taken that crown, it has ascended many lists in terms of the band’s entire catalog. And it’s something that needs to be highlighted when talking about the band and its long-running status – there are many fans who have come on board in the last 20-plus years and those fans’ keystone albums are in this reunion period. And this one is often top among those.

Not everyone was paying attention or even alive when the 1980’s classics came around and these past few decades of the band have brought in many new fans and kept the legacy alive and thriving. There are fans who sneer at the slower, more plodding reunion material and gladly showcase the band’s masterpieces from way back when as some kind of argument against the modern songs, but judging by the album sales, concert attendance and constant new interest in a band older than dirt, no one really seems to give a shit what they think.

5 thoughts on “Album Of The Week – October 10, 2022

  1. I think if Iron Maiden had done an ‘play the entire album’ tour, earlier in their career, it might have been more successful. By this time, they had too many classic albums and songs the devoted Maiden fans wanted to hear. Example: I have Queensryche’s live “Operation Mindcrime” where they played the entire album. It could have worked because it’s a concept album or because it was still early in their career. Look at me rambling, great write up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is one great album and I would have to say that the Breeg tune is perhaps my fav of the bunch but this is one of those albums I can listen to front 2 back as well. I bought the vinyl copy and it’s stellar looking package. Great pick for the week Sir!

    Liked by 1 person

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