I won't hold any words back, this is better than any Iron Maiden album since Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. And I'm being objective, because I'm not writing this as a fan of the band, but metal as a whole.
This album has the strength and straight forwardness many fans have been missing since the 80's. It doesn't have the Iron Maiden name nor Steve Harris on bass, but aside from that it sounds more Maiden-ish than anything from the last 18 years. At the same time, the freshness of the sound in the then new name Roy Z who produced it. They accomplished a raw, powerful, yet classy sound.
The power in all of the heavy songs in it lies in the way the flow, they keep in motion. Accident Of Birth, Road To Hell, The Magician and Freak are driven by vivid riffs and guitar melodies and solos - courtesy of both, Roy Z and Adrian Smith who reunited with Bruce for the recording of this album.
Most of the songs show a rich diversity in their arrangement: Take Of The Queen and Omega for example, feature acoustic intros and sections. The Dark Side Of Aquarius is a song with a galloping riff, a chorus which reminds to Heaven Can Wait and keyboards in the middle section with memorable vocal lines. The Arc Of Space is completely acoustic while Man Of Sorrows is a piano ballad about Aleister Crowley.
Lyrics are mostly about esoteric. e.g. The Magician (the Tarot card), The Dark Side Of Aquarius (the age of Aquarius).The theme of the album Accident of Birth can have more than one interpretation, Bruce Dickinson defining himself as having been born as a stroke of luck. His reunion with Adrian - hey, got 'born together' for Number Of The Beast 15 years ago.
In simple words, this is what Iron Maiden could have made of a natural progression towards modern-yet-classic heavy metal which almost no band achieved in the 90's. Right after Seventh Son, skipping the latter albums - excepting maybe The X Factor which was at least some effort to do something different from Iron Maiden - up to the late 2000's (Now that I write this it's 2008).
The amazing cover artwork of a joker / fool coming out of a man's body, painted by Derek Riggs was perfect for this album.