On August 28, 2006, "Iron Maiden" released its 14th studio album - "A Matter of Life and Death" in the UK.
Let's start with the fact that this is the only album of "Iron Maiden" that has not been mastered. The material you are listening to sounds exactly as it sounds in the studio during the recordings, without console games and equalizers of any kind - "Pure Direct !!!"
It was a conscious choice of the band that sought to sound most natural and close to the original.
This is the third album since the glorious comeback of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to the band, and the third in a row with Kevin Shirley producing the previous two albums alongside Steve Harris.
The album cover and its title hint at what's going on inside. Although this is not a concept album, most of the songs on the album deal with death and war over the bloody history of mankind.
The title "A Matter of Life and Death", is taken from a British film about World War II which was rated by the British Film Institute as the 20th of the 100 best films to come out of the United Kingdom.
The band started to write the material for this album after two world tours that accompanied their previous and successful album "Dance of Death" from 2003. Although this is not the first "Iron Maiden album that included Progressive material, it is probably the band's first album in which the dynamics, changes Frequent rhythms and complex composition became the goal.
The first single released from the album - "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg", is a statement of intent regarding the complexity of the album, which includes only 10 songs spread over 72 minutes.
This is an epic piece that tells the story of Benjamin Brig, whose biography was published simultaneously on a special website that the band uploaded in parallel with the release of the single. The person who allegedly set up the site was a cousin of the same Benjamin, who allegedly came across an old picture of him in his grandmother's house after she passed away. The same "cousin" allegedly set up the site in an attempt to search for Benjamin and on the site his biography could be read.
Benjamin Briggs was born on September 3, 1939, the day the Allied forces declared war on Germany following the invasion of Poland. Benjamin's parents died in a terrible fire that occurred in their home in 1947 and Benjamin was sent to an orphanage. He was a very smart boy but tended to be lonely and did not connect with the other children in the orphanage. He experienced nightmares at night and used to draw them. In 1954 he left the orphanage and began working as an undertaker. He later traveled the world, but on June 18, 1978, his traces disappeared. His cousin set up the site specifically for the purpose of the search, that anyone who knew details about Benjamin's whereabouts would contact him, and so it was. One of the site's visitors announced that he had details about Benjamin and scheduled a meeting with his cousin for August 14, 2006 - the day of the single's release.
Like the background story, the composition of the song is dynamic and complex. The first two minutes are a quiet introduction in which Harris' bass guitar is heard with a kind of chords, with Bruce Dickinson in the background as a mouthpiece for Benjamin's voice, which invites the listener to hear his story. Later in the song explodes with one of Maiden's beautiful riffs and with melodic and amazing singing that develops as the song progresses.
This dynamic and epic style is found in other notable songs from the album, such as: "These Colors Don't Run" which talks about the heavy price the patriots pay on the front lines of the war, and "The Longest Day" which gives us details of the invasion of Normandy in World War II, which took place on 6 June 1944 and lasted until August 30, 1944, and the amazing “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns” which foretells an impending nuclear holocaust and includes Adrian Smith playing on a synthesizer.
The war line takes a slightly different angle with songs like "The Pilgrim", “For the Greater Good of God”, and “Lord of Light” that address the role of religion in conflicts between peoples.
There are no weak moments in this album. Even the shorter tracks like the second single "Different World" which rumors say is a tribute to Phil Lynott or "Out of the Shadows", fit in perfectly here.
If we look at Iron Maiden's albums since their reunion in 2000 as one whole piece, as opposed to the number of strong songs on each album individually, we think that it's one of the band's best albums of the current millennium.
No wonder then, that even the band itself chose to play it from start to finish in a tour designed to fully promote it.