Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Year's Best, Part Two

Iron Maiden
A Matter of Life and Death
Maiden is back! And their latest CD shows that they are still unwilling to coast on past achievements, but are committed to producing new and vital material after a quarter-century of releases. While the CD perhaps doesn't rise quite to the level of Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death is still a worthy addition to the Maiden canon. Songs like "These Colours Don't Run" and "The Greater Good of God" explore new territory for the band, while "The Re-incarnation of Benjamin Breeg" illustrates the band's knack for creating obscure and unique horror stories that go beyond the standard fair. The CD has been criticized for a lack of variation between the songs, and I'd have to agree that it's a valid observation. Of course on the radio we play one or two songs at a time, so that weakness is not as noticeable. The major complaint I have is a consistent one--Iron Maiden have a lousy track record for choosing singles from their albums. "Different World" is one of the most non-descript tracks on offer, but it gets released as a single/video. Whatever--that doesn't change the fact that Maiden continue their relentless march into the 21st century!

Spheric Universe Experiment
Mental Torments
From France, Spheric Universe Experiment's debut CD "Mental Torments" sees five accomplished musicians playing fluent pr0g-metal with just enough of a thrash influence to set them apart from the legions of Dream Theater inspired proggers springing up these days. Despite having a guitarist who can obviously shred, the band is willing to show enough restraint that the songs are prevented from drowning in an excess of virtouso wanking. Most of the songs are longer than commercial radio is comfortable with (the title track clocking in at 15 minutes) so don't expect to hear them too much outside of outlets like Tapping the Ether--but if they continue to live up to the promise they show on this album, expect to hear them on TTE on a regular basis. Weakest point is the lyrics, but given that English is not the band's first language there's no reason to assume that they won't improve over time. Kudos once again to Nightmare Records for sending us another winner!

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