IRON MAIDEN – Remasters 2019 (The Last Batch)
The pioneers and legends that are Iron Maiden released the last batch of their 2019 re-masters not that long ago and this time around we are dealing with the following discs: “Dance of Death” (2003), “A Matter of Life and Death” (2006), “The Final Frontier” (2010), and “The Book of Souls” (2015). The remastered audio is generally crisp and dynamic all across the board here, but please note that “The Book of Souls” is merely a re-issue and not a remastered edition.
Despite its dreadful artwork, “Dance of Death” (4 out of 6) is an entertaining listen and one of the more experimental and adventurous Maiden albums in existence although it is hardly the most captivating record of theirs – it is simply too inconsistent for that. On the other hand, the fact that it is so unpredictable is a huge plus in my book. There is drama and theatricality in spades here, but few of the songs truly reach those stratospheric heights that we all know Iron Maiden are capable of reaching. The remastered version sounds brighter and there is more spark and energy to this version than the original one. Majestic tunes ala “Paschendale” and “Journeyman” as well as the glorious “Rainmaker” and the dark title track are great, but truth be told, I have always favored the live renditions of the “Dance of Death” material that is to be found on the fabulous “Death on the Road” live offering over the studio material.
The long and sprawling “A Matter of Life and Death” (5.5 out of 6) was (along with “The X Factor”) the one where a proper re-mastering was most sorely needed and called for. In fact, the original album release was never even mastered if memory serves me correctly. The 2019 edition cackles with energy and atmosphere, and its lengthy albeit brilliant tracks are as epic and cinematic in scope as they come. It took me quite while to truly absorb and digest its content back in 2006, but it totally grew on me and nowadays I consider it a progressive metal triumph and easily one of the very best of the post-1999 albums by Maiden (along with “The Book of Souls, that is). Boasting nothing but huge-sounding compositions with bags of flavor and substance to them, “A Matter of Life and Death” is an expertly crafted and riveting metal odyssey. The re-mastering comes across as much more potent and vibrant compared to its original counterpart, so if you had to choose only one remaster from this latest batch, make it this one.
“The Final Frontier” (3.5 out of 6) never did that much for me regardless of whether we are talking about the musical or lyrical aspects of said album, but the re-mastering has certainly given it a boost and perhaps even some more bombast compared to the 2010 CD edition that is in my collection. It sounds a little more full and open now somehow, but that does not change the fact that some cuts simply seem unexciting and tired to these ears (“El Dorado” anyone?). A half-baked Iron Maiden record is still better than most metal outputs that you will come across out there in today’s market, but still, it leaves something to be desired. “Mother of Mercy” and “When the Wild Wind Blows” rule, though.
“The Book of Souls” (5.5 out of 6) is a spectacular piece of work and sounds sensationally good, and the record is generally stunning and out of this world in terms of song quality, soaring melodies, heavenly riffs, and grand vocals. In short, there is not a single weak or lame track on “The Book of Souls”, so if you do not already own a copy of it, it hardly matters if you cough up some of that hard-earned cash of yours for the original 2015 edition or this nice-looking re-issue. What matters is that you add it to your collection!