Iron Maiden’s 2003 album Dance Of Death is already 10 years old, can you believe it?
September 2003 saw the release of Dance Of Death, the second studio album from the reformed 2000 era line-up of Iron Maiden. Being the follow-up to comeback album Brave New World (2000), Dance Of Death was the record that proved to the world that the Maiden reunion would be a long-term project.
Some people thought that singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned to Iron Maiden in 1999 only to cash in on nostalgia. Indeed, the band’s new three-guitar line-up, retaining Janick Gers, would open the door to performances of classic material that Dickinson’s replacement Blaze Bayley could never do, like Aces High and Where Eagles Dare. But Maiden swore to look ahead and not back, a promise that was kept with Brave New World and strengthened even further with Dance Of Death.
The album was recorded in early 2003, but the release was held off for a few months while Maiden toured Europe and North America in the summer. This tour saw the return of classics like Revelations and 22 Acacia Avenue for the first time in nearly two decades, and was another step on the way to the full-blown History tours that would follow in 2005, 2008-09 and 2012-14.
That summer’s set featured just one song from the forthcoming album, the single Wildest Dreams. The Dance Of Death album was released immediately following the tour, to generally positive reviews. Two firsts occurred with this record: Maiden’s first ever all acoustic song – Journeyman, and the first ever songwriting credit for drummer Nicko McBrain on the track New Frontier.
The band performed much of the new material in concert on the subsequent Dance Of Death World Tour in 2003-04, creating one of their most theatrical shows ever. A highlight of the show was the new song Paschendale, a war epic composed by Adrian Smith with lyrics by bassist Steve Harris. The album version of this song probably ranks among the very best work that producer Kevin Shirley has done for Maiden.
The tour was one of the shortest of Maiden’s career, totaling 53 concerts in just over 3 months, but the show was filmed and recorded for the Death On The Road DVD and album. In fact, there was official talk at the time of Maiden scaling back their tours, sort of semi-retiring from touring. Band and management soon changed the way they talked about this, and subsequent tours would be very big indeed as Maiden started eclipsing their own 1980s popularity.
(Click here to see how we rate the Death On The Road DVD in the pantheon of official Iron Maiden concert films!)
Dance Of Death confirmed Maiden’s long-term commitment and swept away any lingering doubts about whether or not the reformed line-up would be around for more than a couple of years of cashing in. Looking back now, 10 years later, it still seems like a pivotal point in Maiden history.
39 thoughts on “Dance Of Death 10 Years!”
Actually, THREE firsts! Nicko’s first use of a double bass pedal on “Face in the Sand” 😉
Now I’m just nitpicking. 😛 Happy birthday DoD!
Well, let’s say FOUR firsts. The first ever Harris-style Maiden epic written by Adrian Smith. 😀
First album cover ruined by a kid with Photoshop?! Least consistent album of the reunion era, five or six classics and the rest is dross.
The album cover is a very strong contender for Maiden’s worst ever. But to be fair to the artist, this was never meant to be the finished cover! He showed it to Rod and the band as a proof of concept, and they inexplicably decided to use it. That’s like releasing a very unfinished demo. The artist demanded that his name be removed from the credits…
Ah, I didn’t know that! I’d heard somewhere that Rod’s son had played around with it and they sort of waived it through… It’s a shame, because the Eyes Wide Shut theme, carried into the inlay band photos, was really strong. It was a shame that it got dumbed down into a standard castle fantasy stage set.
I’d still love to hear Paschendale or Montsegur on the next (final?) tour though.
Whew! I thought I was the only one who thought that atrocity was worse than a stick in the eye…
LOL! Don’t worry! If there’s any one Maiden cover through the ages that regularly gets the heat, it’s this one! 😀
I’d say the cover for “The X factor” is much worse…
Cain: I hear yous. Yes, that one’s pretty horrid, but at least it looks like someone attempted to actually FINISH it before printing, you know? And you gotta admit it’s a step up from that “Virtual XI” blood clot painted cover with that “mildly Eddie-ish” monkey looking thingy…For Goddess’ sakes, the points on the logo were even cut off! What the hell was that??
Still not worse than this bilge pump, though.
I also think it was the best inner sleeve photo concept they’ve done since waaay back. Such a shame the album artwork is the worst they’ve ever done, probably even worse than Virtual XI…
Totally gree! Visual concept-wise, DoD is one of Maiden’s strongest EXCEPT for the album cover. I thought the stage set was fantastic, and the theatrical element to the show was very cool and different for Maiden.
Unfortunately, the album art is just terrible, the production is shockingly bad (the album was mastered from a poor-quality rough CD master that Kevin gave Steve to listen to in his car, but Steve “liked the way it sounded”…) and there are a couple clunkers on it (Age of Innocence springs to mind). Still, the mood created on tunes like Dance of Death and Paschendale has never quite been achieved on subsequent Maiden albums.
I agree with most of this, maybe except the production being “shockingly bad”. It’s absolutely not a good master, though. And this marked the point where Kevin Shirley stopped assuming he’d get to master Maiden records the way he wanted to. 😀 By the next record, he mixed it with the assumption that Steve could decide to use just about anything as a master. Quite a change from relying on George Marino at Sterling Sound…
I also agree with many others in here, there are some tunes on the album that rank among Maiden’s best ever (Rainmaker, Montsegur, Paschendale, Journeyman) but also some clunkers (Wildest Dreams, Gates Of Tomorrow, and all but the chorus of Age Of Innocence), in my opinion.
In terms of the inner sleeve photo concept, I’d actually say it’s the best they did since No Prayer For The Dying, or maybe even Somewhere In Time (!) … Wow, Maiden really don’t pull off great inner sleeves too often, do they? 😀
I’d say ‘The longest day’ beats those two in terms of mood (what a masterpiece that is). ‘The talisman’ gets quite close too.
No they don’t! 😀 TFF being a case in point of a horrible overall package, though the cover art was at least passable. I think they should’ve run with that comic book theme a bit further.
And yeah, it’s really just the mastering that makes me cringe, especially on Journeyman. For such a sensitive, delicate tune to have audible clipping on the acoustic guitars… it’s a damn shame! I love AMOLAD’s unmastered sound, complete with all that wonderful dynamic contrast!
Agreed. And AMOLAD is in my top three favorites for that reason, too. The compositions held up wonderfully under that production approach. But DoD’s needed a lot more TLC to do them justice.
With the apparent slap-dash recording and packaging, it really makes me wonder if perhaps they reunited under duress and just wanted to get it over with? They’re all alphas sharing the den, after all…
Well, the recording of DOD is pretty solid, imo. I agree with Adam that the mastering is the problem, and that seems to be one of those cases where mr Harris just decided to do something stupid. He does that sometimes, and he often has the final say. 😀
I agree that AMOLAD is a much more solid package of songs, even though DOD stand-outs like Paschendale peak very high. If you put Different World and These Colours Don’t Run next to Wildest Dreams and No More Lies, AMOLAD owns it every day of the week in my opinion. I think there are zero weak songs on AMOLAD, actually. (I know a lof of fans love No More Lies, but I always thought it sounded like a late left-over from the Blaze era…)
Side note: Kevin Shirley once explained how he approaches the mix these days – he does one “dry” mix to Steve’s specs, one “wet” mix to Adrian’s specs, and one in-between on his own. They usually come down in favor of Shirley’s. 😀
On artwork, I thought that both the TFF comic style and the serious sci-fi paintings inside were both great, it’s just that they should’ve picked one style and stuck with it throughout…
Any chance of a Feature Friday on album art/themes?! That would be fun.
I agree with you on the TFF stuff. And a feature on something like this will have to happen, won’t it? Let us know if you feel the calling! Always good with some other voices. 🙂
Interesting, where did you read that info about Shirley’s Maiden mixing process?
That was in his diaries for The Final Frontier, the ones we didn’t get until after the album was out because of Rod. I don’t have them handy right now.
That account is very believable. Adrian loooooooves his reverb! I swear I couldn’t get past the first track of ASAP because it sounded like it was recorded in someone’s bathroom at the bottom of the Grand Canyon with the door open.
Hehehe… Indeed! You can just imagine how Adrian would have felt about Steve’s live mixes in 1993. 😀
LOL!! I’m just visualizing a lot of cringing…
Didn’t we all feel that way?
Point made. Point taken.
I sure don’t know anyone who didn’t.
Ms. Ray mentioned the terrible Virtual XI cover and how the Maiden logo also had its points cut off with that release. I think Virtual XI, The X Factor and Dance Of Death are the 3 worst Maiden covers ever (people hate TFF, but I think that one looks great in comparison), and the logo thing is something else… Since 1998 Maiden have used the cut-off logo for nearly every release. Why??? It’s a minor alteration that succeeds in only one thing – making the logo look less good.
That is a really intriguing question and I didn’t really think about it until now. For all we know, the answer could simply be, “Cuz that’s what we wanted to do.” However, I haven’t been able to find an official answer for it anywhere. But, you’re absolutely right, it’s very damaging aesthetically and Maiden is known to be so grand and meticulous when it comes to presentations so this “downgrade” really doesn’t make any sense.
And yet, the points are still present on all the merchandise…
The only correlation I can find is Bruce re-entered the lineup in 1998. Is it possible that there may have been something contractual that may have forced this weird change?
No, ’cause the change was made with the Virtual XI album in March 1998, way ahead of Blaze leaving. My big problem with it, aesthetically, is the fact that there are points both on top of and at the bottom of the original Maiden logo. The top ones are “within” the letters, if you get what I mean, so the only change they made was to cut off the bottom ones. But the result is a logo that looks unbalanced! Like removing the feet from a statue… The cut also works counter to the pointed style of the letters and the triangles inside the R, O, A and D.
Was it “way ahead” of Blaze leaving? I understood that Bruce rejoined in ’99 and had been connecting with them beforehand. I’ll admit I lost interest with Maiden in the 90’s — it wasn’t about Bruce leaving so much as I found it hard to connect with their music at that time.
I cannot see how anyone who is not rubbing crack on their skin instead of soap could think the logo would look better this way. I really don’t! You’re right, it’s imbalanced, it looks plain, it looks like a cheap chop job just to make formatting easier. (Hey, maybe that’s why?)
Probably Rod and Steve thought it looked better that way…
Maybe at the time…but, Steve designed that logo. I have a hard time believing it was that simple. But, who knows?
Well, the logo was changed prior to the release of Virtual XI and the Virtual XI tour, so the change happened in early 1998. Blaze leaving didn’t become a possibility until at some point during the tour, and Bruce returning didn’t become a possibility until after the tour in late 1998. I only meant to say that the change obviously had nothing to do with Bruce. Can’t really see how there would be any other reason than Steve and Rod simply deciding to change it, like Ghost said…
*nodding* I’ll admit I may may be guilty of over-reaching. Because, I can’t really see how there would be any other reason why Steve and Rod would decide to change it other than they were blindfolded.
They learned long ago that the real fun for them was in driving the fans crazy…
“Crazy,” as in “let’s see if they’ll spend days on a public blog trying to figure out why we cut the points off our logo?” Yeah…Actually, I’d probably find that fun, too. 😛
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