A PRAYER FOR NO PRAYER FOR THE DYING
Digging for duds in the formidable Iron Maiden catalogue is kinda like bitching about the heat at a beach picnic: It makes you seem like an ungrateful, silly jerk-off. But this fact doesn’t make it any less true that by 1990’s No Prayer For The Dying, Maiden was sounding a little tired, uninspired, and probably worst of all, short of patience. The entire album plays like the work of a budget bin Iron Maiden tribute band, rife with shortcuts and pressboard production. Even the usually stellar cover art looks cheap!
But this is old news, and the stunningly attractive and informed MetalSucks readership really doesn’t require a reminder that Maiden’s best record (the flawless, ass-tight Seventh Son rules your world – don’t deny it) was followed by a contender for their worst. Instead, I want to proudly defend this clunker, and I’ll start by saying that I still wear an expression of hurt surprise when NP4tD is described as “an out-and-out shitturd.” That is simply not true. Not true at all, I say!
Okay, fine, No Prayer is characterized by missteps, like that Bruce Dickinson solo retread (the twice ghastly “Bring Your Daughter … To The Slaughter”) and a mandatory closing epic that plays like Cliff Notes on paint thinner (“Mother Russia”). Then there are the head-scratchers: “The Assassin” sounds like opening theme to a failed action show for the Matlock set; “Holy Smoke” is killer but spoiled by history’s least imaginative/most annoying riff; both “Run Silent Run Deep” and the title track would sink a fucking B-sides collection.
So what does that leave us? I’ll tell you what, man! Twenty scorching minutes of incredible metal performed by the newly Adrian Smith-less and not totally indifferent Iron Maiden. (That would be faint praise if shitty Maiden weren’t better than pretty much everything.) Though misplaced at the top of the album, “Tailgunner” is a dynamic gem matched in near-awesomeness by side A closer “Fate’s Warning.” And goddamnit, I demand that the thunderous “Public Enema Number One” again be a live set fixture, effective now. Unfortunate title notwithstanding, that song rips.
But the most surprising No Prayer standout is the curiously rockin’, kinda sexy Smith-penned jam “Hooks In You” (above). Steve Harris must’ve been desperate for material if this black sheep tune made the cut; “Wasted Years” it is not, but after all, “Hooks” marks a lot of firsts for Maiden: cowbell, a snappy chorus (with the word “love” in it!!!), mention of, uh, chicks and stuff, and penis-related double entendres. And you can dance to it!