“No Prayer for the Dying” is the 8th studio album by British heavy metal act, Iron Maiden. It was released in 1990 on EMI Records and produced by Martin Birch. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Janick Gers (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums).
This was the first Iron Maiden album without Adrian Smith since 1980, being replaced by Janick Gers. Both would be reunited, however, on the band’s 2000 offering, “Brave New World”. The album was a follow-up to the hugely successful album released in 1988, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. It spawned two singles, “Holy Smoke” reached No.3 in the UK singles charts, while “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter” became the first No.1 single of 1991, giving Maiden their first chart topping hit.
This song gets the album off to a flyer (no pun intended), as Dickinson’s love for flying shows through in this song about World War II, and it was the tailgunner’s job to man the .50 cal guns at the rear of the plane. The song sounds good instrument-wise, but I think it lacks in the chorus – “Climb into the sky never wonder why, tailgunner. You’re a tailgunner” – I think if the band could rewrite that now, they probably would.
This is a fun song which is about American televangelists who hide behind religion in order to get rich. It is one of the softer tracks Maiden has done but it still punches above its weight, especially in the guitar solo department. The writing partnership of Dickinson/Harris has always been a good one, and this is another song which does not let that down. If there could be any criticism about the song, it would be that Dickinson’s vocals seem a little strained at times.
No Prayer for the Dying
The title track is up next, and it is a powerful song about a man who is at the end of his life. He’s wondering if there’s anything in the afterlife and pondering life in general. Harris’ lyrics hit the nail on the head, but it’s Dickinson’s delivery in the chorus what steals the show. This is one of the slowest Iron Maiden songs up to this point in the discography, but it has an excellent guitar riff in the bridge. The tempo gets fast towards the end of the track, as the narrator demands answers from the higher form.
Public Enema Number One
This is a song set in that classic Iron Maiden mould of chugging rhythm guitars and thundering bass. It is about how the world is destroying itself and there is nothing we can do about it. The politicians aren’t listening, the public isn’t listening and the police are doing nothing about the implosion of drugs and gang warfare. The chorus is a happy-go-lucky sing-along, which is surprising for the importance of the lyrics.
This is one of the better songs off the album. Dickinson sings it well, with the guitars sounding good behind him. It’s another track about the build up to the end of the world and how warring factions of superpowers will eventually push the button, deciding the fate of every one of us. I love the bass line on this song, especially when it’s played behind the solos near the end of the track.
This is an excellent song with simple lyrics and intricate guitar work. It is, as you might have guessed, about the mind of a contract killer and the thoughts he’s having as he prepares to go about his work. The best of Murray and Gers can be heard here, especially on the solo before the last few verses. Dickinson’s vocals are stretched to the limit on the chorus, which makes the song sound even better as he puts in a classic performance.
Run Silent Run Deep
This is another warfare song, once again delving into World War II, but this time it’s about German U-boat submarines and how they encroached into Allied territory. ‘Run silent run deep’ was a command issued to U-boat Captains to attempt to avoid detection. The song is what I would call a dark horse. It shouldn’t be good, but it is. McBrain’s drums sound better on here than any other song off the album, and the ending riff is effortless yet complicated all at the same time.
Hooks in You
This is a continuation song following on from “Charlotte the Harlot” and “22 Acacia Avenue”. It’s about what goes on behind the doors of No.22 and the sinister life that some people lead. Some would say it is a weak song but there is a riff part-way through which gives it a little more credit, which is always a good thing as far as Iron Maiden is concerned.
Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter
Ask any Iron Maiden fan what their favorite song on the album is, and most will say it is this one. Not just because it reached number one in the UK singles charts, but because it rocks more than any other, which isn’t that difficult on an album that doesn’t quite pull the strings. There is a very catchy chorus with some neat guitar work along with it that also made it a live favorite for some years to come.
This track tries to close the album out on a high, but doesn’t quite get there. You can almost hear some eastern European influences in the song and there is a wonderful main riff, but it’s just too simplistic. There is also an orchestral piece part-way through, and the sound of fingers sliding on the guitar strings makes it worth listening to, if only a snippet of it.
“No Prayer for the Dying” has some good moments in it, but the bad far outweigh them. The band tried to outdo “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” and was on mission impossible from the start. A lot of fans will put this in the bottom part of their Maiden collection and they would probably be right to do so. The likes of “Bring Your Daughter…” and “Holy Smoke” just about help it over the finishing line.
- Holy Smoke
- No Prayer for the Dying
- Public Enema Number One
- Fates Warning
- The Assassin
- Run Silent Run Deep
- Hooks in You
- Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter
- Mother Russia