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.