Iron Maiden - No Prayer For The Dying
No Prayer for the Dying
Public Enema Number One
Run Silent Run Deep
Hooks in You
Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter
History has not been kind to Iron Maiden's No Prayer For The Dying’. When the band released the Complete Studio Collection in 2017, Classic Rock wrote, "In truth, No Prayer For The Dying’s self-conscious, back-to-basics approach was a let down after the grandiose perfection of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and it remains the patchiest set of songs in Maiden history. Fates Warning, in particular, is utterly, infuriatingly forgettable but Tailgunner, The Assassin and the title track are all unsung gems."
Metal Hammer were similarly unimpressed, ranking it the worst of Iron Maiden's career and saying, "It may feature Maiden’s only number one single, the enjoyably daft Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, but the follow-up to the mighty Seventh Son From A Seventh Son now sounds like a misguided attempt to get back to basics.
"There are a few decent songs here – the title track and The Assassin certainly have their charms – but thanks to the hook-free likes of Fates Warning, No Prayer For The Dying is Maiden’s worst album by some distance. Mother Russia is pretty funny, though."
Thirty years on, should those opinions be revised? That's what we're going to find out.
Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in October 1990
- Wrong Way Up - Brian Eno and John Cale
- Enlightenment - Van Morrison
- Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band - Ringo Starr
- Change of Season - Hall & Oates
- Chronicles - Rush
- Edge of the Century - Styx
- Girls, Girls, Girls - Elvis Costello
- The Greatest Hits, So Far - Public Image Ltd.
- Seasons in the Abyss - Slayer
- Souls of Black - Testament
- Hindu Love Gods - Hindu Love Gods
- Hold Me Up - Goo Goo Dolls
- Recycler - ZZ Top
- Up from the Ashes - Don Dokken
- Faith Hope Love - King's X
- Slaves & Masters - Deep Purple
- Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 - Traveling Wilburys
- Heart Still Beating - Roxy Music
- Raygun... Naked Raygun - Naked Raygun
What they said...
"Coinciding with the departure of long-term guitarist Adrian Smith and the recruitment of his replacement Janick Gers, (who had played on Bruce Dickinson’s solo work, as well as stints with Gillan and Fish), No Prayer For The Dying sought to expand an already extensive following by toning up a bit of instrumental flab via shorter tunes suited-up in some radio-friendly threads. The chief culprit is the title track which mixes Kayleigh with Van Halen’s spandex lope." (The BBC)
"After dabbling with synths and proggy metal, No Prayer for the Dying was supposed to be a return to Iron Maiden's grittier, punk influenced NWOBHM roots. But somewhere along the way the band seems to have lost focus, and rather than the straightforward metal ala Iron Maiden or Killers that was promised, we get an agglomeration of 80s hard rock, and tepid Number of the Beast-isms." (Sputnik Music)
"The title track contains an opening too reminiscent of their 1988 single Infinite Dreams, while other tracks such as Fates Warning, Run Silent Run Deep, and Hooks In You never catch fire. And even though the epic closer Mother Russia, Public Enema Number One, and Fates Warning are standouts, they just don't hold up well when compared to past classics." (AllMusic)
What you said...
Bill Griffin: I'm surprised that I've never heard this before; Maiden was one of my favourite bands in '88 but just dropped off my radar after Seventh Son. The thing is, there is nothing here that would make me want to come back and listen again.
Musically, it's Maiden but the vocal melodies are generally rather pedestrian. A lot of it sounds generic as a result. Oddly enough, I thought Hooks In You was going to be one of those songs when it started but I like it. It sounds like it could be on Tattooed Millionaire which I like a lot.
Side two is definitely the stronger of the two but Bring Your Daughter... is a stupid title and I remember being turned off by it back then. In fact, that's probably why I never bought this album. The song itself is just as bad. Mother Russia is good though and redeems the side. This is not one of Maiden's better efforts, especially coming after the incredible run of great albums they had.
Happs Richards: So I will admit this is the kind of Iron Maiden stuff I like, not the later huge 13 minute opuses (good as they are), but the short(ish) songs by which they made their name. But despite it being in my wheel house I’ll admit I hadn’t listened to it in years.
So the album opens with Tail Gunner. Yeah, Aces High it isn’t but it’s safe territory for Maiden with a historic theme, and I can’t help but feel Bruce had been dying to trot out the “Nail that Fokker” line..
Holy Smoke: It’s a bit of a fun Maiden track and a firm live singalong. I’m not sure religious satire works that well in metal, but I kind of like it.
No Prayer: Sounds like an early experiment in the direction Maiden would later go, a kind of mix of storytelling ballad which would give way to a change of tempo and some big guitar moments. The reason I like this is it’s still sub-5 minutes.
Public Enema: Well, aside from the poops and giggles title, which I’m sure amused many a bored teenage metal fan, it’s a solid Maiden track which wouldn’t of sounded out of place on sone of their earlier albums (Somewhere In Time or Piece Of Mind).
Fates Warning: Again, quite formulaic Maiden; verse, chorus, verse, chorus, wiggly guitar bit, chorus verse and out.
The Assassin: Really not a big fan of this one. Probably spoilt for me as there was a badly heard lyric moment during the chorus where I became convinced Bruce was singing “Batter watch out I’m feeling sassy”.
Run Silent: Another Maiden movie retelling in the style of Where Eagles Dare without that killer drum opening, but a good track overall.
Hooks In You: Charlotte The Harlot rides again? Driving guitars and a suitably sneering vocal, what’s not to like?
Bring Your Daughter: Well it was a Christmas number one, and – let’s face it – another great live sing along.
Mother Russia: Big, grandiose in production and playing to all the cliches, including guitar riffs that sound like they’d be at home on a Russian State Orchestra album. It is what it is and closes the album well.
Overall, the album is a bit of a forgotten gem. Maybe not their strongest, but superior to what came next (Generation X and Virtual XI). Maybe what it really suffered from is being the follow up to the hugely successful Seventh Son album.
Mike Knoop: A beautiful banger that I need in my life right now, even though I didn't feel that way when it came out. This is the first Iron Maiden album that I didn't buy as soon as it was released. Even though it was a purposeful change from the previous two albums, I don't know that I would have embraced it in 1990. First single Holy Smoke, with its typically terrible Maiden video and cornball lyrics kind of put me off. I mean, calling out televangelists was so 1986! Over time, I gained an appreciation for Tailgunner and Bring Your Daughter... from A Real Live One, but still never listened to the rest.
Fast forward to today, and Holy Smoke is relevant again, and pretty rocking to boot. So is the whole album. The title track starts out as a ballad but, as Maiden songs do, goes to 11 before gracefully sticking the landing. The Assassin and Run Silent, Run Deep are a couple more of Maiden's patented "action movies in song."
At first, Tailgunner sounds like one too, but with lyrics like "Now that this tailgunner's gone; No more bombers, one big bomb," demonstrate why I was forever referencing these guys in English and history classes. Public Enema and Fates Warning (and Holy Smoke) are biting social commentaries with a snarl that only Bruce Dickinson can deliver. Bring Your Daughter... is a fun singalong, but after reading the lyrics to Hooks In You, I'm pretty terrified for poor Charlotte. The song is an unholy union between 22 Acacia Avenue and Iron Maiden. Finally, closer Mother Russia shows a song can be both epic and under six minutes.
To my 2020 ears, the band really does sound re-energized on this album. Steve Harris is still the world's greatest lead bassist, Nicko McBrain goes bonkers on the drums like only Nicko can, and Bruce really sounds like he has his piss & vinegar back after a couple of soggy proggy albums. Dave Murray and Janick Gers make a great team, so I guess I need to get off the Gers slagtrain. I'm not sophisticated enough to know what he does or what Murray does; I just know they sound great together.
I am marking my calendar for a reappraisal of the album Brave New World in 2030.
Bogdan Nicolaescu: My point of view on this album is somehow different. Why? Because No Prayer For The Dying occupies – in the timeline of me becoming a rock fan – a certain special spot: the first track of the album, Tailgunner, is the rock song that got me into this sort of music (probably heard some other songs before this, but this was the starting point). A few months later, I got the whole album, which made No Prayer for the Dying the absolute first full-length I have ever listened in my life. So, what do you think? Obviously, I love this album.
Brian Anderson: I love Maiden, but not this album. They’d done six brilliant albums, then chucked it all away with Seventh Son and it’s really awful production, dire guitar sound, and proggy approach. No Prayer did very little to draw me back in. Yes the production was better, and the guitar sound was an improvement but still not back to their best. What really killed this album for me was Bruce’s singing. Let’s face it, he doesn’t sing through any of the tracks here, he either growls, snarls, or screams his way through. There’re some good songs on here, but Bruce brings them all down. Sorry matey but you turned this into a right duffer.
Gino Sigismondi: OK, so I just listened to it for only the second time in my life, and the first time since it came out. This album was released at a weird time. Adrian Smith had left the band (strike one), Metallica took over the metal world, (strike two) and grunge was just about to happen (you're out!).
So I remember listening to this album, and thinking it just seemed...tired. Listening to it now, my perspective has softened a bit, probably because I'm so into Maiden these days. I think Book Of Souls and Brave New World stand up to just about anything from the old days. And honestly, I don't think that I would classify any Maiden album with Dickinson as "bad."
Tailgunner gets things off to a great start, and I thought to myself, maybe I was wrong about this album! Then Holy Smoke starts with its annoying chorus. Oh well, maybe not! But the title track and Fates Warning are great tunes, and there is some fantastic bass playing throughout. It feels like half a good album - and though I appreciate the shorter songs and less prog approach, I miss that element. Especially after the brilliance of Seventh Son, which I felt was really under-appreciated at the time, and the passing years have proven me right.
Eventually we get to Bring Your Daughter, and I'm pretty much done. That might the most annoying song from the Dickinson era. There are some bands that just have a sound you love, the music created by that combination of personalities, and Maiden is definitely one of those bands for me. And that's what ultimately redeems it. In the immortal words of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, "This is actually quite listenable!" Unfortunately, everything that came before it is legendary.
Pekka Turunen: I've always likened the relationship between Seventh Son and No Prayer to that of Metallica's Justice and the Black Album. After taking their songcraft to to its epic peak they grew tired of the direction and took a turn for the simple and straightforward. But yeah, while Black Album was a smashing super success, No Prayer not so much.
I get the feeling that instead of striving for ambitious compositions the band just felt the urge to do some pressure-free rockin' out. Here's a riff, let's jam on it, ok it's good enough, let's record it and on to the next one. For someone who thinks that Maiden peaked in 1986-88 this album is obviously a big let down, but it's still a fun listen from time to time. Hooks In You is near the bottom of the garbage bin, but on the other hand the often maligned Holy Smoke is in my opinion an excellent rocker, and the more atmospheric numbers like the title track and Mother Russia hit quite close to the bulls eye.
By Maiden standards it's a bit ho-hum, but Maiden standard is higher than most other standards to judge rock music by.
Philip Qvist: Hmm! Interesting choice. It's not a bad album - but it isn't a good Iron Maiden album.
There are some great songs on No Prayer - Tailgunner and the title track stand out, Holy Smoke is real tongue in cheek, while I have a soft spot for Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter and The Assassin. But there are also too many average songs and filler on this record.
Bruce Dickinson's vocals were different on No Prayer and maybe a couple of songwriting contributions from Janick Gers would have helped.
The 90s was not a great decade for Maiden, and this album and Virtual XI usually compete for the weakest album in Maiden's catalogue - I think No Prayer "wins".
But hey; I still enjoy listening to it - it just requires an open mind. Verdict? As a Maiden album an average 6, judged on its own it's a 7.5.
Jochen Scholl: With the exception of the ridiculous Mother Russia, every song on this album is great. Some need a second listen, and most aren't "timeless", but name a better metal-album of 1990. It's Maiden in 1990, and I'm glad they carried on back then. It was impossible and not an option to remake Seventh Son.
Adam Ranger: I agree that not all songs need to be 10 minute epics. That can get boring. But it seems to me that they are trying to cram all those changes of tempo from 10 minute songs into four minute songs, and that does not always work.
Not all the songs are bad (apart from Holy Smoke) and some would have been good as part of another album, maybe. But it feels a bit like filler-by-numbers for a whole album.
Pete Runcieman: For me I feel the production is the first weak point. Using the by-then ancient Rolling Stones mobile studio truck means the music suffers from a thin production that is the worst since the debut. Bruce's raspy delivery isn't the best either, and the songs don't soar like the average Maiden song. That said I have a real fondness for this album. The songs aren't the greatest the Maiden catalogue for sure but it's solid enough. The title track is to me an underrated gem, as are the likes of Running Silent Running Deep and Mother Russia.
Definitely the sound of a band in transition and absolutely missing the Adrian Smith touch. A solid 6.5 from me, could have been a lot better but it's nowhere near as bad as some would say. Despite enjoying the later Maiden albums I do wish they'd return to short sharp songs occasionally. No need for a 10-minute ramble on every track boys!
Steven Mcguire: Pretty good album. It doesn't suck. So I guess that's a positive outlook? Should have dumped Janick once Adrian rejoined. He's so cheesy playing live.
Martin Jensen: It's hard to comprehend that this album is now 30 years old. It still fells like one of the "never" Maiden albums. It's super solid and one that I visit often. Strong tracks from start to finish. I never understood why even the band doesn't like it.
Carl Brown: I loved it when it first came out, the songs are so un-Maidenlike you have to remind yourself who you're listening to. It doesn't stand up against the classics like Number Of The Beast or Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son though.
Neil Pettitt: I bought it when it came out and never bought another Maiden album again. I have a friend trying to educate me into the later stuff. I promised I'd give it a go but my heart isn't really in it. This was the off switch to everything that followed for me.
Caleb Bradley: This is a fantastic record. The sound is shit, but at least Bruce is in key. This was the first tour since Beast On The Road where he hit the high notes consistently. He was really sketchy, live, in the high register in the mid/late 80s.
Wade Babineau: I saw this tour and while some fans were put out by the band saying they were scaling back the stage production (as I recall it was lights, backdrops and Eddie, no inflatables), I was grateful to see them live again and with Jannick on guitar. Gave this album another run through on a road trip to see the Legacy tour and have to say there are more gems on this than I remember the first go 'round.
If I had to pick a "weak" track it would be Public Enema. The rest are solid banging efforts. Title track and Tailgunner remain the faves, but The Assassin, Fates Warning and Run Silent Run Deep will be getting future plays.
Neil Immerz: Oh man, OMG! This album rules! I love all Maiden stuff. Mid-career slump my f**kin' a**e! One of the best post-Adrian albums they did, along with Fear Of The Dark! Judas to anyone else who thinks otherwise.
Michael Klompenhouwer: Janick gave them a kick in the nuts live. That said: this album is awful song-wise (so many fillers) especially after Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, and it can't compete with the 1980-1985 era. I am glad Adrian is back as a songwriter in this band.
Darren Burris: Some good songs, but too much filler. I mean it’s Maiden so it can’t be horrible. But one of their weaker efforts. You can tell they were getting a little bored. I still give it 7/10.
Mike Rowell: Possibly the weakest album Bruce made with Maiden. Some good riffs, but shoddy production and a bit too much filler. (I liken it to AC/DC's output in the years following Back In Black and For Those About To Rock). Not fit to lick the mighty Powerslave's boots.
George Yannopoulos: If a new band released an album like that we'd all be saying that it's a great debut album, but for Maiden standards it's a weak work, the weakest after a fantastic streak of seven amazing records.
John Davidson: By 1990 Iron Maiden had produced seven albums, and five with Bruce Dickinson as lead singer. They had progressed from punky NWOBHM hopefuls to a band that were recognised around the world as heavy metal masters.
From the start they produced a mixture of shorter faster rocky tracks alongside more complex arrangements, and when they made Powerslave in 1984 they had pretty much perfected their formula. They had also established a number of inspirational themes for their music : historical/military (but the kind in Alastair McLean movies or Commando comics), Hammer Horror, SF and fantasy novels.
At a superficial level No Prayer For The Dying sounds very much like an Iron Maiden album should – with Steve Harris's signature bass chugging away. But on closer listening it doesn’t have the same spark as their previous work. Some of their lyrical themes persist, but most have been abandoned and replaced with songs that veer toward the schoolboy vulgarity of AC/DC and crass polemics about preachers and politicians (not that they don’t deserve scorn – but Maiden don’t have the lyrical chops to pull it off).
Maiden may have led their corner of the metal world through the 80s, but the 90s was to be a tough decade for them as teenagers flocked to the harder sounds of Metallica and Megadeth and earthier lure of Grunge.
The album opens with Tailgunner – a counterpoint to Aces High – and while it's nothing spectacular it chugs along quite steadily. This is Iron Maiden in cruise control.
Holy Smoke is OK. Bruce spits the lyrics like he means them but as a song it’s largely clunky and awkward. No Prayer For The Dying is the best song on the album by a country mile. It has that peculiar epicness that Maiden bring to their best work, starting slow and almost ballad-like but finishing with a powerful instrumental romp. Public Enema Number One is better than the puerile title suggests it might be. Fates Warning is another decent one – reminiscent of earlier work but just about good enough to stand on its own.
Assassin and Run Silent Run Deep are Maiden by numbers. Not bad but adding nothing new or interesting to their catalog. Hooks In You starts pretty lively, although it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Scorpions album - Charlotte from 22 Acacia Avenue is having a tough time with the lyrics and Bruce stumbles through the chorus but the music isn’t bad.
Bring Your Daughter is one of those songs where the mantra of ‘repeat til effective’ works despite itself. Musically it’s pretty slight as Maiden songs go, but it sticks in the mind at least. Mother Russia reaches for epicness, but plods when it should stomp and the guitar solo in the last the third sounds like it is being played under a block of ice.
It wasn’t until – after the album finished – when a song from Powerslave came on next in my playlist, that I realised how bad the production is on this album. Where Powerslave pops, No Prayer sounds like it has been recorded from the wrong side of a plasterboard wall. The drums sound like they’re made of cardboard and the guitar harmonies that are the backdrop to Maiden’s sound are lost in a muddy fuzz. It doesn’t have the songs to be a great album, but better production could have lifted it from merely OK.
If there is a perfect Iron Maiden album in some objective reality, this is its shadow, flickering on the wall of Plato’s cave. The shapes are there but the depth and colour are not.
Marco LG: Three years might seem like a short time but when you are a teenager they are an eternity. 1987 was my year zero: I discovered heavy metal with Iron Maiden, and specifically with Somewhere in Time. That album is to this day my favourite Maiden album, and the reason has a name: Adrian Smith. Not only was he responsible for much of the songwriting, but he also took vocal duties in one of the singles, and of course his solos were awesome throughout the album. The year after, 1988, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son came out, and Adrian Smith was again a songwriter: Moonchild, The Evil That Men Do and the hit single Can I Play With Madness? had his name to them, and they were among the best numbers on the album.
Now let’s put October 1990 – the time when No Prayer For The Dying came out – into perspective: it was one year after Adrian Smith released his “solo” debut Silver And Gold (as A.S.a.P. or Adrian Smith and Project) and a mare five months after Bruce Dickinson released Tattooed Millionaire. Both those albums sounded very different from the heavy metal of Iron Maiden, both contained a personal take on hard rock – hair metal even – by two heroes of the NWOBHM.
But while Smith’s album was firmly rooted in the early 1980s, with big melodies, singable choruses and classy guitar solos, Dickinson’s opted for a sound closer to the 1970s, with abrasive riffs, acoustic guitars and of course some impressive vocal lines. In the head of a young teenager, who at the time refused to listen to anything published before 1979, Adrian Smith was the winner. And I so desperately wanted the next Iron Maiden album to sound like a mix of the best bits from the two solo efforts.
By the time No Prayer For The Dying was released, however, Adrian Smith was out of the band, and Janick Gers had taken his place. Janick Gers had played on Tattooed Millionaire and nobody would argue about his skills. The problem for me was his style: a bit too much Jimmy Page and not enough Ritchie Blackmore, to use two reference points I didn’t have at the time. The solos became a little bit less precise, the twin guitars a little bit shorter, and the harmonic bridges were just not as sharp as before. Some of it may well have been a deliberate choice by the band, but for me Janick was to blame. It took me years to forgive him, in fact I started to accept his presence in the band after the return of Adrian Smith some ten years later!
To top it all off, the band took the conscious decision to go back to basics and abandon the prog elements that characterised the previous two albums. A pattern many others also followed, most notably the four fans from California calling themselves Metallica. But let’s not forget in those years prog metal was a relatively new thing, and bands playing long and complex tunes to my ears sounded exciting. This new version of Iron Maiden didn’t fit with my expectations and rejection was inevitable. Or was it? I’ve always maintained that Fates Warning is one of their best songs, and always enjoyed the title track. But it is fair to say I have also always placed this album towards the bottom of their discography in order of preference.
Over the years I have come to love a bit more than just two songs on this album, but it remains a great missed opportunity in my opinion. Side A (the first five songs) is probably one of the most solid sequences of songs ever published by Iron Maiden, ruined a bit by the production and some soloing I still find out of focus (Janick, oh Janick). The rest however contains songs like The Assassin and Mother Russia, which are among the worst they ever published, including also all the single B-sides. Even a joke like The Sheriff Of Huddersfield works better than Mother Russia. What were they thinking?
In conclusion, I still wish Iron Maiden released an album half way between Silver And Gold and Tattooed Millionaire, I still think Janick could have been embedded better in the sound of the band (and in the following effort he was), but I will admit No Prayer For The Dying” contains some real classics worthy of inclusion in any Iron Maiden ‘best of’ collection, no matter how short. A solid 7/10 from me.
Mauro Lucke: Maiden is going through the motions on No Prayer For The Dying. The songs are uninspired, the band seems out of gas, and Bruce Dickinson adopted a raspier singing style, which is more annoying than refreshing. Even the cover is unimaginative! So, it really is a mid-career slump. One that took them 10 years to recover from.
Carl Black: A few years ago I listened to every Iron Maiden song, one per day, rated them and then sorted all the songs into a list, and in turn, I found out my favourite and least favourite Maiden albums. I called it the Iron Maiden advent calendar. It transpires that No Prayer For The Dying is my least favourite Maiden album. I still stand by that but it's a solid 7 all day long. Tailgunner was the highlight on the album (those opening chords!), Assassin should be covered by Mastodon, and I still rate Holy Smoke. Its a bit folky in places and if they had more time it could have been a prog masterclass. But I think they settled for an easier route.
Jonathan Novajosky: I would call myself a decent Iron Maiden fan. I like most of the hits and a few deep cuts, but I haven't necessarily dived into every album. This is one of them that has avoided me for a long time. Immediately after finishing No Prayer For The Dying, I understand why it's considered one of the weaker albums: the songs come off as a little too simplistic and not memorable. There is no "wow" moment, whether in the form of an epic track like Fear Of The Dark or a memorable vocal performance such as in The Prisoner.
That doesn't mean the album is bad though. It starts off great; Tailgunner and Holy Smoke are probably the best on the album. Tailgunner's main riff and the opening to Holy Smoke provide the head banging hard rock you would expect. The title track is pretty weak; Dickinson really sounds like he's straining his voice here. Public Enema Number One and Fates Warning are both solid, but again, not particularly memorable. Another song worth mentioning is Run Silent Run Deep, which almost saves the second half of the album from becoming too dull.
It's worth mentioning again that No Prayer For The Dying is not a bad album at all. In fact, I would call it good. But when you compare it to classics like Killers, Number Of The Beast, Powerslave, or even Fear Of The Dark, it struggles to stand out. The tracks are short and to the point, usually bringing the Maiden sound we all love, but at the price of losing the grandness present in some of the longer songs in their catalog. I was glad to give this album a full listen, good choice! 7.5/10
Iain Macaulay: The only time I’ve seen Iron Maiden was on the tour for this album, in Edinburgh, Dec 1990, with Anthrax supporting, who were amazing. It’s not one of my favourite gigs, although I still remember it. I remember being a bit ‘distracted’ by the end.
I’m not a Maiden super fan. I like the band. Not everything they’ve done, but a good chunk of their material. I only own a few selected albums, with Live After Death still quite a regular play.
It’s mostly the albums before this one that define who Maiden are for me. And It’s the albums from this one that don’t quite cut it with me. Although, I have to say the Book Of Souls is fantastic.
I know this album lies at the bottom end of their catalogue in polls and I get it. But, to be honest, on listening now, I don’t mind it. So it doesn’t have the best production but it does have a great energy and feel. It has relatively short songs, that are, for the most part, memorable. I say most part. It also holds something akin to their first two albums, with an almost punk attitude and Bruce growling like Di’ Anno rather than belting out those high notes.
But what gets me most is that it sounds half finished. Like it was a case of ‘shit, the album's out next week, we better start writing a few tunes!’ And demoing ideas was as far as they got. Shame. But hey, after such a hugely successful runs of albums every band is allowed to be tired and slip up at least once.
Elad Winberg: Surprisingly enough, while compared to some of their recent stuff and the albums with Blaze Bailey, this record is quite decent. Sure, it’s not Powerslave or even Fear Of The Dark, but it has its moments, and tracks like Tailgunner or Mother Russia are exactly what I look for in an Iron Maiden song. Also, Janick Gers is a very talented guitarist, and his combination with Dave Murray was kinda interesting. Overall it’s a decent album with a few gems here and there, I’ll give it a 7.5 or even an 8 out of 10 but it depends on my mood, of course.
Gary Claydon: It's one of those albums isn't it? Every successful band has at least one, the album that gets rubbished because it wasn't as good as the ones that came before (or sometimes after). And in truth it's not a brilliant album. But it is a good solid one, 7/10 any day of the week.
It is a kinda diminished Maiden. The production is a little lacklustre, not bad but just a little flat. Dickinson's vocals are a bit more gravelly than normal, the air raid siren somewhat muted, but still decent. The song writing isn't quite up to scratch (Adrian Smith was missed in that dept.)
Even the accompanying tour was low-key by Maiden standards. I don't mind that they eschewed the epic tracks here. My favourite Maiden album has always been the debut with it's mainly shorter, sharper, punchier tracks. As for the new boy, I've always liked Janick Gers. I used to watch him in the clubs with White Spirit and always rated him. Of course, they were a different proposition, more akin to Deep Purple than Maiden's metal. I also felt a bit sorry for him at times. When he got his big break with Gillan he had to replace the marvellous, mercurial Bernie Torme - no easy task - and here he was taking over from the highly underated Smith, again, a tough act to follow. But Gers is fine here.
So, No Prayer For The Dying is good but not great. Tailgunner might be an Aces High wannabe but it ticks along nicely to open proceedings. Holy Smoke and Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter might be a bit on the corny side but they are enjoyable chunks of hokum. Nothing else here really grabs me, but then nothing has me reaching for the off button either. As an aside, parts of the verse on Hooks In You always bring to mind Riding With The Angels by Samson. So yeah. NPFTD. It's solid.
Chris Downie: If there is one album in Iron Maiden's long, illustrious career which deserves reappraisal (for better or worse) it is No Prayer For The Dying, for a few notable reasons; Firstly, it ended an incredible (and arguably unrivalled) seven-album run by ushering in the new decade with a stumble. Conversely, while undeniably their weakest album at the time, it contains a level of conciseness that is all too rare in their meandering, prog-influenced latter-day epics.
While re-evaluating the album, it is firstly important to note their intention was to go 'back to basics' in a way not seen since their first two albums. The sentiments may be laudable, but perhaps a retrograde step, given that since producing possibly their finest hour two years previously, the bar had been raised by the likes of Queensryche and Fates Warning, with a young Dream Theater also emerging in the wings. Whether a questionable decision or not, what we got was a bare-bones effort, with all songs (with the exception of the album closer) coming in under five minutes and a production stripped down to levels not heard since the Paul Di'Anno-fronted years.
Apart from the three (serviceable, but unremarkable) singles, there is much to be admired on the songwriting front. Public Enema Number One and Fates Warning pack a significant punch, which would have been welcome on some of their later albums, which despite their quality, all too often lacked balance between their heavier and more progressive elements. There are however missed opportunities; in their insistence on brevity throughout, the impressive title track (and to a lesser extent Mother Russia) has the makings of a seven-minute epic, but ends all too quickly. The dynamic The Assassin is also hindered by a disappointing, pedestrian chorus.
Looking at the bigger picture, the passage of time suggests this is a better album than given credit for at the time and indeed since. It is not the worst of their career and, despite it's flaws, not even the most inconsistent (indeed, that would come next, with the infuriatingly topsy-turvy Fear Of The Dark), but one wonders what their post-millennium output would have been like, had they channelled some of its straight ahead approach.
Ultimately, while perhaps their most underrated album, its legacy is to highlight that it was the loss of Adrian Smith (whom, let's not forget, was a key songwriter as well as iconic guitarist) and not Bruce Dickinson which was the catalyst to their years-long struggle, in what was a challenging decade both for the band and the genre they have dominated. 7/10
Brian Carr: No Prayer For The Dying features the always fantastic bass work from Steve Harris and excellent guitar riffs, leads and harmonies, but why had I never listened to the album before this week?
I wonder if my lack of interest stemmed from song titles like Bring Your Daughter... To tThe Slaughter and Public Enema Number One? Not very inspiring, and it turned out I was right. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I’ve discovered that I don’t typically pay much mind to lyrical content (strange, really, since I love to sing). There is an exception, though: if the lyrics are bad, they’ll jump out at me, and oh, wow, are there some incredibly bad lyrics on No Prayer For The Dying.
It felt like they hired a middle school metal head to write the words. Holy Smoke is the worst example, but by no means the only one. Hooks In You is almost as lousy by any standard, but by Iron Maiden standards? Ugh. The music ranks the album in the 6-7 range, but when I need a Maiden fix, I highly doubt I’ll be grabbing this one.
Robert Dunn: Iron Maiden. One of the biggest, most revered rock bands ever, but they just don't do it for me and haven't for years, a bit like AC/DC to be honest. Maybe I am just an old fart suffering from Second Singer Syndrome, but it is not just that. The songs become very repetitive very quickly, the same motifs and techniques appearing over and over, with Bruce Dickinson's vocals becoming increasingly wearisome the longer you listen.
Other people have mentioned his obsession with wartime lyrics, but that doesn't bother me as much as the constant full-on un-nuanced delivery of them. I am fond of Iron Maiden, and if someone paid for me to go and see them I would, but for me listening to this album vindicated my decision not to buy anything since Powerslave. Sorry Maiden fans, they are good musicians, but as Steve Harley sang, "Only metal, what a bore".
Final Score: 6.12⁄10 254 votes cast, with a total score of 1556)
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