No Prayer For The Dying

Iron Maiden

Epic Records, 1990

REVIEW BY: Chris Harlow


By the time Iron Maiden hit the studio for 1990's No Prayer For The Dying release, the backbone of the metal/hard rock scene of the 80's was on the verge of breaking as I saw it. As a junior in college, I remember hitting the one lull in my record/cd purchasing habits as bands like Triumph, Rush, the Scorpions, Dio, and Ozzy - bands I followed religiously- were in the process of putting out their first truly weak albums after producing a series of albums that came to define their careers.

Then this Maiden album hit with their first #1 single, "Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter". If the cheesiness of the song title didn't strike fear in the hearts of Maiden fans, surely the actual sound of vocalist Bruce Dickinson waxing poetic through the song's chorus would have done them in. Me included as I was instantly subjected to laughing taunts by my then Morrissey loving roommate. It was humiliation to the third degree. "….Slaughter" was a track more befitting of inclusion in any of the popular Freddy Krueger, "Nightmare on Elm Street" soundtracks of the time than it was suited as an Iron Maiden track.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fast forward a couple of months and I found No Prayer For The Dying in the $2 used bin down at the student union. Picking it up on the cheap, I quickly came to find that the departure of guitarist, Adrian Smith, was not steadied with the addition of Janick Gers. Personally, the Maiden albums and/or songs where Smith got the songwriting credits or played lead guitar always have provided the most appeal to me. Couple Smith's departure with the fact that Dickinson comes off sounding uninspired vocally; No Prayer For The Dying is an album with nary a track that has inspired me to revisit this album in the last 14 years.

The primary gutwrencher is the track "Holy Smoke" as it suffers from the worst case of lyrical composition Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson have ever allowed the listening public to hear. Bees and honey, some dude named Jimmy Reptile, and a holy smoke chorus with Dickinson mimicking a Brian Johnson (AC/DC) growl just ain't funny. Trust me. It's more like a holy joke.

Sure. This was the album that was supposed to bring Maiden back to the roots rock sound of the band's early days and away from the synthesizer experiment of Somewhere In Time and the progressive conceptual element that Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son gave us. And for this goal it succeeds to a certain bare extent. What I hear are ten cuts that are better suited as B-sides from the band's previous years than anything that furthers the bands signature stamp on the metal genre.

While I have just pointed out my disaffection to this album, I am reminding myself that in comparison with previous reviews where I have panned artist's efforts, this is still Iron Maiden we are talking about. The stellar musicianship is still evident on No Prayer For The Dying, by and large, but the writing and overall vibe is very substandard to any album the band had recorded until this time. With that silver lining identified, I feel somewhat exonerated in scoring this album a tad higher than a review full of nothing but criticism might normally be expected to receive.

Rating: C-

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© 2004 Chris Harlow and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.