Aside from producer Kevin Shirley’s excellent online updates, the follow-up to Brave New World was locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Not a peep has been leaked aside from the band’s live airing of the leadoff cut/first single, ‘Wildest Dreams’, an unmemorable ‘70s-inspired Status Quo/Slade anthem. And with virtually every snapshot in time where leader/bassist Steve Harris’ head is at, the band consistently fire on all cylinders. Trouble is, the vehicle is in need of an oil change. Dance Of Death is undeniably classic Maiden. And Sanctuary knows if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But that’s the problem. Aside from the orchestral bits that are peppered throughout the record, the writing template remains a constant. And there’s just way too much meat on the bone. Chop the record down by a third and release the follow-up in late 2004, not 2006. Never thought I’d see myself complaining about the length of a Maiden record, but in this case the UK heroes dilute the overall appeal of Dance Of Death by filling the mother up and the cup spilleth over. If you want epic, you’ve got it - nine cuts over five minutes plus, six of them over six minutes plus. Nonetheless, the event gets extremely tiring. Looking at the pure quality on Dance Of Death and not the inherent filler, ‘No More Lies’ is the first eyebrow lifter, although it fills the same shoes as ‘Blood Brothers’ from the last record. The chorus sees frontman Bruce Dickinson quite feisty, his lungs failing to wane as the years go by, whilst guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers solo up a three-headed gun fight. The excellent ‘Rainmaker’, ‘Gates Of Tomorrow’ and drummer Nicko McBrain’s lone inscription, ‘New Frontier’ (his first writing credit in 20 years!) are galloping dustups with memorable choruses to boot. ‘Age Of Innocence’ coulda been pulled from Bruce’s debut solo effort Tattooed Millionaire, it’s swing-like chorus adding a lighter tone to an overall somber record. A strangely refreshing guitar riff from Adrian Smith permeates ‘Paschendale’, a memorable epic detailing the historic World War I battle. Although the cut is one of many in Harris' repertoire that begin with a noodling bass intro, it quickly unites the six-piece in instrumental glory. The title track signals Harris storytelling time once again, but lyrically the longwinded tale is just too much to swallow. It's described as the centerpiece of the record, moreso it's a lesson in patience as the words smother the music. Finale ‘Journeyman’, the mellowest cut on the record, is a bizarre twist, but quite refreshing. It sees Maiden stretching themselves far into the future with never-ending acoustics, passion-filled orchestration and an autobiographical theme. Shame it took so long to get to this point.