It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I consider the first seven Iron Maiden albums to be perfect. Entirely perfect. Not a single misstep among them. There are more than a few missteps in No Prayer, Fear of the Dark, and Virtual XI, but generally speaking I am pretty forgiving of Iron Maiden. Albums like The X Factor and A Matter of Life and Death have their detractors but I defend them unwaveringly. It must be said, however, that a person can notice a difference in overall quality between the Maiden of old and the band we have today.
That is, until now....
The first thing I think of when someone mentions Iron Maiden is the cheeky image of Eddie the Head who has fascinated me ever since I was a young girl. In truth, when I was little, he frightened me a little. I don’t even remember where I first saw him, but he’s been in my life off and on for quite some time. Which is funny, because my parents aren’t exactly metal heads. My mom prefers Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley and a whole string of caterwauling Country singers. (Though I have to give her credit for introducing me to Bob Marley as a kid)
I do like a bit of Metal. I’m no stranger to Pantera, Rammstein, Alice in Chains, White Zombie, Sepultura and System of a Down, to name a few of my favourites. I even like the ‘uncool bands’ like Korn and Aerosmith. So it’s actually quite funny to think that I don’t really know Iron Maiden’s music. They have, after all, been a really big part in the development of the Metal scene.....
As the summer of Maiden reaches penultimate album The Final Frontier, the timing of this publication couldn’t be better. Iron Maiden have just announced their first full UK tour since The Final Frontier World Tour took Eddie and the boys across their homeland. Not only will the album be revisited, but the tour of England as well. I was lucky enough to catch five shows on the Final Frontier tour.......
I think the early years after Iron Maiden's reuniting with Bruce Dickinson are pretty rough. I was there on the first day to purchase Brave New World and I told myself how brilliant it was but, honestly, I always find myself skipping over that one in favor of more classic Maiden. Still, it had to be said that the band has a certain something now that they never did before. A kind of maturity, a kind of force. They just weren't able to harness it.
2006's A Matter of Life and Death is a different story, however. This is the album, for me, where it all comes together. This is a new Maiden sound that is distinct from the band they used to be but still maintains that INTEGRITY that is Iron Maiden. Part of that is helped by the fact that the band chose to not master the recording. This creates a “live” sound that the band has kept ever since and it is perfect for what they do. No frills. No bullshit. This is Iron Maiden.
When Iron Maiden released Brave New World in 2000, they effectively pressed a big red “REBOOT” button on their career. The return of Lord Dickinson to the Maiden fold immediately erased all of the bad ju-ju that had been created by the Blaze Bayley era (forever to be known as The Dark Ages) and the band rode that wave of goodwill straight back into the Enormo-Domes of the world.
Let’s be honest: BNW was and is a fine album, but in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t have really mattered if it had been good or not; as long as the album had Dickinson behind the mic, the band could’ve simply crapped on a paper plate and the reaction still would’ve been (ala overjoyed, drunken Maiden fanboy) “F*CK YEAH DUUUUUDE! BRUUUUUCE IS BAAAAAAAAACK!! WOOOOO!”
Brave New World saw Bruce Dickinson return to Iron Maiden. Which made it fairly appropriate that this was the first Iron Maiden album that I bought. Thinking back (cue wavy ‘memory’ effect and harp music) it must have been about the year 2000. I was at that stage of my youth where I was obsessed with music. Every penny I had went on music, eyeliner and black nail varnish, or black t-shirts displaying the imagery of said music. I had exhausted the back catalogues of Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss, and now Iron Maiden were recommended to me by a friend.
My existing impression of them at that time wasn’t particularly positive. Put down those pitchforks a moment, just hear me out before you chase me up to the old windmill. I was under the impression that Iron Maiden songs were all about dragons and goblins and such. Which I stand by, except it no longer bothers me because my music taste is much broader now. At the time, however, I was 15 years old and wanted my music to be about sex and girls and sexy girls. All three of which were things that I wasn’t getting much of. So, albums that seemed to me to be the rock music equivalent of Lord of the Rings? No thank you. Even if they did have a cool zombie thing on the album covers.
I was terrified of listening to this album. I had listened to X Factor long before Virtual XI and I hated it and this one was supposedly worse. However after giving it 3 or 4 tries, it kind of grows on you. The only issue I had throughout the whole thing was the sound of Blaze’s voice, which to me doesn’t really fit at all with Iron Maiden musically, but that’s just me.
Before I begin, allow me to explain….
I came at this project as someone who has never listened to an Iron Maiden album, but of course, I’m familiar with the band. Who isn’t? I’d describe myself as a fan of all types of metal and would like to think I have eclectic musical tastes. Before sitting down to listen to ‘The X Factor’, I had never heard the album, or any of the songs from it, and didn’t really have any feelings about Iron Maiden either way. I could name a few of their songs and would nod my head along sometimes, but I sort of ‘nothing’d’ them.
After sitting down for around 120 minutes with this album, I’ve changed my opinion, and my Maiden fan pals have already laid into me about it. According to them, my opinion counts for nothing because I don’t know Maiden well enough, haven’t given them enough of a chance (on account of only listening to one full album), and I just don’t ‘get’ the band or what they do. I’d disagree that my opinion is worthless, but can’t argue with their reasoning. I slagged off one of their favourite bands and they felt personally offended by that.
It’s the 28th August 1993. Iron Maiden has taken to the stage in what will be their last performance with vocalist Bruce Dickinson at the helm. Rumours are rife of band disruption and there are allegations of Bruce not performing to the best of his ability coming straight from bassist Steve Harris. Something has to give! The previous two studio albums, Fear of the Dark and No Prayer for the Dying, feel a little like Maiden were just going through the motions. Fear had some great songs; notably Afraid to Shoot Strangers, Be Quick or be Dead and of course the live favourite and title track Fear of the Dark….but the rest? The less said about No Prayer for the Dying, the better. To these ears it sounded like a band tired and lacking any real inspiration. Maiden revisited themes such as war (Tailgunner) and history (Mother Russia) and they were beginning to sound very dated. Maiden was in trouble and all you need do is take a look at the lousy Raising Hell video to see that Dickinson had somewhere else he wanted to be.
Continuing our series of companion articles where Iron Maiden virgins are exposed to their first taste of Maiden madness, George Illet Anderson pops his cherry with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. You can read Steve Chapman's review of the album here
As I sit here and try and write my first impressions of hearing an Iron Maiden album the one thing I’ll probably say over and over again is how much I have reverted to being an adolescent. My head has been bobbing up and down, my feet pumping and my arms gesticulating wildly whilst I mouth vaguely formed words and sentences. I’m acutely aware of this phenomenon occurring the more and more I try and listen to the lyrics. There’s something just so gloriously freeing about letting caution fly and prancing around as if I’m Bruce Dickinson wailing about portents, signs and seals whilst alternately doing screeching air guitar solos legs akimbo and flailing my arms at the same time as my feet tap out a persistent beat. I haven’t done this sort of thing in an age. There’s an old saying, “dance like no one’s watching” and I think based on my experience with this album you can also add sing like no one’s listening.