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Thread: Trollheart's Iron Maiden Thread (Genre: Heavy Metal)

  1. #11
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    I noted somewhere that only Iron Maiden could have tens of thousands of sweaty, manly, rough and tough rockers all swaying and shouting a poem written in the nineteenth century!
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  2. #12
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Part Two: No Prayer For The Powerslaves, Somewhere In Time:
    Bruce Dickinson And Global Domination (1982-1992)

    After “Killers” Di'Anno was asked to leave the band due to various disputed reasons, and they hooked up with Bruce Dickinson, who had been singing with Samson. It was with him at the mike that they recorded their ultra-successful 1982 album, The Number Of The Beast, which shot straight to number one and is recommended as one of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die in the book of the same name by Robert Dimery. The whole style of the album is different, perhaps due to songwriting being shared, perhaps due to the presence and charisma of Dickinson, or perhaps it was just a natural evolution of the band. But the overall feel of The Beast is of polished production, excellent songwriting, powerful and technically-proficient playing and indeed a band who are all on the same page. Possibly the conflicts with first Dennis Stratton and then Paul Di'Anno may have strained the atmosphere during the recording of the first two albums, but there is no such tension evident here.

    Featuring songs like “22 Acacia Avenue” (subtitled “The Continuing Adventures Of Charlotte The Harlot”, who is seen in a song titled with her name on the first Maiden album), “The Prisoner”, for which the band had to gain permission from Patrick McGoohan to use audio clips from the cult TV series in the intro, and of course the two singles, “Run To The Hills” and the title track, this was, in all ways possible, a monster album. “Run To The Hills” shot to number seven in the charts, and is a powerful indictment of the treatment by the White Man of the Native Americans, featuring a killer guitar solo from Dave Murray and some singing which would earn Bruce his nickname of “Air-raid Siren”! The title track, and indeed the album title and artwork, earned Maiden the tag of Satanists, and true to form, the Religious Right in America sought to ban the sale of the album (and all Iron Maiden records, extended of course to other “questionable” metal bands), boycotted the gigs and burned their albums. What was that they said: “Where they burn books (or albums), they will later burn people?”
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    Laughing at this accusation, but nevertheless hurting from the adverse publicity and the boycotts of and protests at gigs, Steve Harris, as the face of the band, declared that far from being an anthem or prayer to the Devil, The Number Of The Beast was based on a nightmare he had after watching one of the Omen films, and the track even has a passage from the Bible preceding it. But you can't tell the Moral Majority they've got it wrong, and the mud stuck.

    Nevertheless, fans and heavy metal pundits alike loved the album, and it still stands as Iron Maiden's best. It also contains one of my own favourites from them, the epic “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, which closes the album and runs to just over seven minutes. It tells the story of a man about to be hanged, and his thoughts as they lead him out to the gallows. It's quite an introspective piece for such a heavy song, starting off with doomy church bells (actually referred to in the lyric when he says ”I'm waiting in my cold cell/ When the bells begin to chime.”) and featuring some great guitar work from both Adrian Smith and Dave Murray.

    For the next decade Iron Maiden were prolific in their releases, a new album usually being no more than two years from the previous. In between they of course toured extensively and released some live albums, of which Live After Death, released in 1984, is regarded as their best. 1983 however saw the emergence of their fourth studio album, Piece Of Mind, with the obvious play on words in the title. It features this time Eddie in a straitjacket and imprisoned in a “rubber room”, with part of his brain missing, ergo the title. Despite the obvious imagery of madness, however, the album did not deal with the subject of insanity: rather, the songs were mostly influenced by or about books or films the lads enjoyed.

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    Piece of mind” was the first album to feature new drummer Nicko McBrain, ex-Trust, who is still with Maiden to this day. It only featured two singles, but they were both very successful, just missing getting into the top ten. “The Trooper” is a powerful, rollicking story of the Charge of the Light Brigade, while “Flight Of Icarus”, with its heavy guitar intro, tells the legend of, well, Icarus. Other good tracks on the album include “Die With Your Boots On”, “Where Eagles Dare” (based on the WWII movie) and “Sun And Steel”, loosely based around the sword-and-sorcery heroes of fantasy literature like Conan and Kull. There's another epic on the album, again closing it, this time taking as its subject matter the Frank Herbert sci-fi series Dune. Called “To Tame A Land” it runs for nearly seven and a half minutes, and is again evidence of Maiden's dabbling in prog metal, towards which they were sliding closer with every album.

    Only one year later and they released perhaps their most openly prog album to date, 1984's Powerslave. While it included “boys-own”-type adventures songs like “Aces High” and “Flash Of The Blade”, and a return to “The Prisoner” from Number Of The Beast in the song “Back In The Village”, it was the two closing tracks that really characterised this album. The first being the title track, written from the point of view of an Egyptian god or pharaoh, and evidenced on the sleeve of the album with Eddie depicted as a huge stone statue like the Sphinx, being worshipped as a god. The lyric tells of the pharaoh/god's reluctance to give up life, as he moans ”Tell me why I have to be a powerslave?/ I don't wanna die/ I'm a god, why can't I live on?” but he realises at the song's conclusion that he has no more sway over life than the lowliest of his worshippers, as he accepts ”In my last hours I'm s slave/ To the power of death.” Not surprisingly, the music is eastern-tinged, to give the effect of being in Egypt.


    The other standout track is their longest, and would remain so until 2015, the epic in every way “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, based on the epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It features a great bass solo halfway through that really gives the feeling of isolation and fear, and quotes much of the famous poem in the lyrics. There must have been some trepidation on the part of the band that metallers would listen to a song which runs to thirteen and a half minutes, and moreover, is based on a poem over a century and a half old, but it went down a storm thanks to the heavy riffs, powerful singing and, to be fair, gripping lyric, even if they were half-inched from the poem.

    1986 and Somewhere In Time hit the shelves. Different to previous albums, mostly due to the writing of Adrian Smith, it features more long compositions, like “The Loneliness Of The Long-distance Runner” (6:31), “Heaven Can Wait” (7:21) and the title track, “Caught Somewhere In Time” (7:26). In fact, the shortest track on the album is “Deja Vu”, at 4:56, and even at 7:26 the title track is not the longest: that honour goes, once again, to the closer, this time called “Alexander The Great”, and clocking it at a massive 8:36! Again, despite the cover art depicting Eddie as a futuristic bounty-hunter/cyborg killer, the themes on the album range from madness to history to reflections on life. There are two sci-fi/future themed songs, in the title track and “Stranger In A Strange Land”, based on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein. With the comparative lengths of the tracks, there end up only being eight in total.
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    You could I suppose say that this was also a very prog metal album, with its long compositions and its varied themes, and very few of the “rock till I drop” songs - although even on their earlier recordings Maiden tended to eschew the generic metal themes like beer, women, fighting and who's the loudest. Some of these would find their way into later releases, though Maiden would more or less continue on the road towards total prog metal with each new album. Somewhere In Time also pioneered their use of the guitar synth, belying a legend that had once appeared on the back cover of Number Of The Beast - “No synthesisers or ulterior motives”. With the move towards prog metal, it was perhaps inevitable that Iron Maiden would need to introduce some sort of keyboard sound, and this was how they went about it.

    This culminated in what became the pinnacle of their progressive metal leanings, 1988's Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, on which the guitar synths were swapped for actual keyboards, played by one Michael Kinney. This album also featured only eight tracks, although the longest, the title track, came in at just under ten minutes, with the next longest, “Infinite Dreams”, a mere six minutes. The power and energy was still there, the great melodies and the hooks, and the interesting themes, though many of them were linked or semi-linked in a kind of a fairytale. Some of the better tracks on it, for me, are “Moonchild”, the title track, “The Evil That Men Do” and “Only The Good Die Young”. It's the first album since The Number Of The Beast not to feature an epic closer, with “Only The Good Die Young” clocking in at a mere 4:42.

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    It was also the last album to feature Adrian Smith, who left the band to return in 2000 for their triumphant Brave New World, an album I look on as their “comeback” album after years in the metal wilderness, of which more later. Seventh Son also gave Maiden some of their highest-charting singles, with “Can I Play With Madness” going to number 3, the highest they had ever achieved.

    Rather ironically, Smith had left the band because he was unhappy with the prog-metal direction Maiden were going in, but as soon as he left the next album, 1990's No Prayer For The Dying changed the musical direction and returned to a more hard-edged, rock/metal sound, with shorter songs and more of them. Despite the fact that it was panned by critics, it did yield Maiden their only ever number one single, in the Bruce Dickinson-penned “Bring Your Daughter... To The Slaughter”. There are no songs over five minutes on the album, the longest being again the closer, “Mother Russia” being a paltry 4:45.
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    No Prayer For The Dying is probably the first Maiden album to feature a whole host of sub-standard songs. The likes of “Public Enema Number One”, (ouch!) “The Assassin”, “Fate's Warning” and the aforementioned “Mother Russia” just don't cut it for me, and although there are good tracks in “Tailgunner” (basically “Aces high” from Powerslave revisited) and “Holy Smoke”, with its stab-back at the Christian Right, and of course “Bring Your Daughter...”, there's a lot of dross on this album, probably the least impressive of any Maiden album - at least, under the Dickinson regime - I have ever heard. Maybe they needed Adrian Smith's songwriting abilities more than they realised! On guitar, Smith was replaced by Janick Gers, and there were more changes to come in the years ahead.

    Things came to a head in 1992, with the release of their ninth album. Fear Of The Dark, although superior to its predecessor, was still not a patch on previous opuses. Retaining the short-song format, and eschewing the prog-metal epics for more basic rock fodder, it nevertheless featured themes like the Gulf War, on the Steve Harris-penned “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”, a great track which begins slowly and gets into high gear halfway through, as well as the cowboy-themed “Be Quick Or Be Dead”, which opens the album, but the vast majority of the tracks are still sub-standard, and if I listen to this album at all, it's very much a cherry-picking operation, and there are a LOT of tracks I skip over.

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    Fear Is The Key” and “Childhood's End” are decent enough tracks, though both “The Fugitive” and “The Apparition” fail to impress, recalling “The Assassin” from the previous album, and although this is the first Maiden album in some time to feature an actual ballad, “Wasted Love” is, well, wasted really: not a very good song, and adds nothing to the album except a slowing-down of the general mayhem. The best track for me is “Judas Be My Guide”, with its soaraway guitar, and the closer, the only long track on the album, and indeed the title track, again written by Harris, and coming in at 7:45. The album is also the first not to feature cover art by longtime illustrator Derek Riggs, and the last produced by Martin Birch, who had been with the band from Killers.

    Shortly after the recording of the album, Bruce Dickinson decided he had had enough, and left the band to pursue a short-lived solo career. He would not return until 2000, and as such I see four distinct eras of Iron Maiden, the First Era being those characterised by singer Paul Di'Anno and the first two albums, the Second Era being from Number of the Beast up to now, the Third Era being the intervening years and of course the Fourth Era being the “return of the king.”
    Last edited by Trollheart; September 15th, 2019 at 01:43 AM.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  3. #13
    Of Maiden's albums, "Somewhere In Time" and "Seventh Son" were/are my favorites, and of the two, "Seventh Son" is my favorite.
    Love Blue Oyster Cult's, "Imaginos" album. Still a huge favorite of mine. The lyrics and composition are pure brilliance.
    Dio was great.
    Motley Crue is still a favorite. Nearly ALL of their stuff.
    Ditto Sixx A.M.
    Accept - "Metal Heart" was a great album.
    Def Leppard is/was excellent.

    So many....

  4. #14
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Part Three: The Virtual X Factor: Blaze and the Wilderness Years (1995-1998 )

    Following the departure of Bruce Dickinson, Maiden were left with the job of finding a replacement for the charismatic frontman. This was no mean feat: Dickinson had helmed the band for ten years, and fans had got used to his powerful presence, and voice, so it was really no great surprise that the idea of someone taking over from him was greeted with mostly scepticism and in some cases outright anger by the faithful. Nonetheless, on October 2 1995, three years after Bruce's departure, Iron Maiden released their tenth studio album, the aptly-named X-factor, featuring new singer Blaze Bayley, recently of Wolfsbane.
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    The album was quite a departure from standard Iron Maiden fare, and much different to the last few releases. It was, for a start, a lot darker, something that might be expected given Dickinson's mostly unexpected departure, and Harris returned to writing most of the material, with input from the new guy and the “other new guy”, guitarist Janick Gers. I found most of it not to be up to scratch, and while Fear Of the Dark had suffered from its share of problems, I could find few songs on this album I liked.

    It probably doesn't help that the guys turned their usual practice upside-down, having the longest track at the opening of the album rather than closing it, and the eleven-minute “Sign of the Cross” just didn't pique my interest, leaving me with a long time to wait, getting more and more frustrated as the song went on, and on, and on, before the next track up hit my ears. That was “Lord of the Flies”, and to be fair, I really liked that, more like the Iron Maiden I knew. Following that was “Man On the Edge”, the first single from the album, and to be fair it's not bad: kind of reminds me of “Back In the Village” from Powerslave.

    I’m sorry and a little ashamed to say, I lost interest after that, and even today I could not tell you even the running order after that song, much less recognise any of the tracks, and there were eight more. It's not that the album is terrible, but given the heights Maiden were capable of reaching (and had reached), this just felt like a very lacklustre album. I also personally felt (and I wasn't the only one by any means) that Blaze Bayley was no replacement for Bruce Dickinson. Oh, he could sing, sure, but to replace THE voice of Iron Maiden they were going to have had to come up with someone very special indeed, and he wasn't it. Always felt to me like he was constantly dealing with (as he probably was) the stigma of being Dickinson's successor, and trying to live up to that. I would not have wanted to have been in his place, that's for sure.
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    It was three years later before Maiden tried again, with the release of Virtual XI, the last album they would record with Bayley. To give him credit, the guy seemed by now to have found his place in the band: he sounded more confident, more sure of himself and probably felt like he belonged. Rather ironic then that after this album he would leave the band. My problem with the “Blaze” Iron Maiden was twofold: first, there's no Bruce Dickinson. I only really got into Maiden via Number of the Beast, and then backtracked, and whereas I could tolerate Paul Di'Anno, he wasn't a patch on Bruce. The second problem I have is that in a very real way they seemed to be retreading old ground, taking bits from previous songs and recycling them into new ones.

    There was a third problem, although personally I didn't see it as such, but it was something of a surprise to see the sudden emergence, even dominance of keyboards on Maiden albums. You can hear this very clearly on “The Angel and the Gambler”, where the guitars are pushed very firmly into the background, with the result that what you get is a very commercial-sounding song, but then Maiden had had great commercial success with singles like “Flight of Icarus”, “The Trooper” and “Run To the Hills”, to mention but a few. And they had never had to compromise on their sound. Here, they begin to sound more like a seventies prog band than a hard-hitting veteran heavy metal legend.

    This album was also the shortest, in terms of tracks, since 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, with only eight tracks, although on overall length it was well up there with the best, at just over fifty-three minutes, yet still nearly twenty minutes shorter than its predecessor. Still, every album to follow it (so far) would be much longer. There's also another point: listening now to the almost ten-minute “Angel and the Gambler”, I notice that of those ten minutes, the closing THREE are taken up with the same refrain, with a few guitar solo bits in there, but come on! Did it need to be that long, if all they were going to do was repeat the same line to the end? Like I say, lack of imagination and originality, which had never previously been a problem for the boys.

    It's probably quite possible that I'm doing Virtual XI a disservice, as I only really listened to it the once, didn't like it, and am only listening to it for the second time now for this piece, so maybe my opinion would change on repeated listens. The fact remains, however, that every album, from Iron Maiden to Fear of the Dark, I was able to get into on the first listen. That did not happen with either of these, which is why I was overjoyed to hear the announcement in 1999 that Blaze was out, and Bruce was back!
    Last edited by Trollheart; September 15th, 2019 at 01:45 AM.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  5. #15
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Part Four: The Return of the King: Soul Dancing In the Brave New World (2000 - 2019)

    The return of both Bruce and longtime guitarist and founder member (almost) Adrian Smith breathed new life into what was in some ways becoming a tired band who seemed unsure of the direction they were heading in. Janick Gers remained, so that Maiden now had three guitarists, and the new sound was a joy to behold.


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    Brave New World was well-titled (although it is of course the title of Aldous Huxley's novel, and even that comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest), being released in the first months of the new millennium, and with most of the original Maiden lineup back in the fold. The fans reacted as expected, and sellout tours resulted. The album was critically acclaimed as one of Maiden's best ever, ranking up there with Number of the Beast, Powerslave and Seventh Son: high praise indeed!
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    2003 saw the release of Dance of Death, which while retaining the heavy classic sound of Maiden, expanded on Brave New World's leaning towards longer, more epic songs and complex structures, tipping the scales towards progressive metal rather than outright metal. Although this came as something of a shock to some, it serves to underline and address the problem I laid out earlier, that the Blaze-era Maiden had little in the way of new, original songs and seemed to be falling back on older melodies and ideas, which served to make both the albums he recorded with Maiden seem a little stale and unimaginative.

    Now, to be fair to Blaze, there was definitely a need for a change: Fear of the Dark was largely an unremarkable album, and Dickinson's time away seemed to only have done him, and the band, good, giving them a new zest for their music and a whole host of new ideas. It's sad in a way to see Blaze Bayley as a “placeholder”, marking time for the return of Dickinson, but the truth of it is that that's how it turned out, even if that wasn't the original intention. Whatever, the re-energised Iron Maiden were going from strength to strength, and Dance of Death was another step along that path to regained glory, with some excellent tracks in “Rainmaker”, “Montsegur” and of course the title track.

    Note: although nobody mentions it in any reviews, as far as I can see this is the first Iron Maiden album not to feature Eddie on the cover, and this practice would continue through the next two albums, until the beloved mascot would finally retake his rightful place in 2015. Also seems to me that this is also the first sleeve not to be created by longtime artist Derek Riggs, who was responsible for so many of their iconic album covers, and who has so far not worked with them again.

    The guitars are back in charge! Steve Harris plays keyboards on the album, but they're nowhere near as much in evidence as they were on Virtual XI. A track like “The Angel and the Gambler” from that album was basically built on the keyboard melody: here, the keys are very much ancillary, a backup instrument to enhance, not take over or change, the sound. As it should be. Even the longer tracks, like “No More Lies”, “Paschendale” and the title track, which could have been filled out with synth and keyboard, are instead crammed with guitar. And why not, with three great axemen?

    Let there be no doubt however: Iron Maiden were moving, and continue to move, in a more progressive metal direction, away from the harder, “pure” heavy metal of their early days. They added to their sound, expanding upon it and writing longer and more complicated songs, like the title track, and “Paschendale”, both over eight minutes long. Of course, Maiden have never been a stranger to epic songs - “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” stood for over twenty years as their longest ever, at just over thirteen minutes, but whereas albums prior to the Blaze era had generally tended to have shorter, snappier, more commercial songs - the last really long track before X Factor was the title to 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Since the departure, and return of Bruce Dickinson, Maiden tended to shy away from the shorter songs, with seven out of ten of the songs from Brave New World being over six minutes, and six, almost seven of those on this album being of that length (“Montsegur” is 5:50). In fairness, the Blaze albums produced a total of 5/11 for X Factor and 5/8 for Virtual XI, whereas Fear of the Dark boasted a mere 2/12, while not one of No Prayer for the Dying's eleven tracks were over that length, so there has been a definite progression into longer tracks since 1995.

    Dance of Death also distinguishes itself from other Maiden albums in being the first album of theirs in twenty years to feature a totally acoustic number, the closer, “Journeyman”, very much a departure from form for Maiden, but it works exceptionally well, the more for the fact that it's so unexpected. I think the last acoustic song they did was “Prodigal son” on 1981's Killers, but don't quote me!
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    Another three years later saw the release of A Matter of Life and Death, with a somewhat similar title to the previous album, and no doubt a nod back to the live opus Live After Death. No matter what criticism is levelled at them, no-one can deny that Maiden remain the potent force in British Heavy Metal that they always have been, and despite ageing (as we all do), their music is still relevant and powerful, as opener “Different World” shows in spades. Recent Maiden albums have all tended, if not to be actual concept albums, to have a certain theme running through them, and here it's the horrors of war, driven home powerfully by the artwork on the album cover, showing an army of dead marching before a tank, like a modern version of Brueghel's El Triunfo de la Muerte.

    This album maintains the high ratio of long-to-short songs, with songs over six minutes coming in at 7/11, three of these being over eight minutes, with five, almost six over seven minutes. The song structures became more complex and intricate over the last few albums, and here you can certainly see that in tracks like “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns”, “The Longest Day” and the closer, and longest (at over nine minutes long) “The Legacy”, but even the shorter, snappier songs have their place. “The Pilgrim” is a great little song, although in my own nitpicking opinion Maiden write too many songs with the word “the” in the title!

    Out of the Shadows” revisits one of their favourite themes, that of prophecies and chosen ones, and “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” features some of Dave Murray's best work since “Powerslave”. The album is certainly dark, though to be fair so was the previous one, with its obsession with and examination of the process of death, but it's also an angry album, and there's nowhere the vitriol comes to the fore more than in “For the Greater Good of God”, where writer Steve Harris spits out his contempt for the idea of religious wars. This is also the longest track on the album, just, beating out closer “The Legacy” by two seconds!
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    2010 marked the release of, Iron Maiden’s fifteenth album, the critically acclaimed Final Frontier. This is also their longest ever album, clocking in at an amazing seventy-six minutes thirty-six seconds, with the opening track almost nine minutes long and the closer one second off eleven. Not surprisingly then, the ratio is again 7/10, almost 8, as “Coming Home” runs for 5:52. It's also their best effort since Brave New World, perhaps even since Number of the Beast. Yeah, it's that good!

    Opener and almost-title track “Satellite 15... the Final Frontier” lays down the gauntlet, with a multi-layered, complex and intricate composition, introduced on a lengthy instrumental passage more expected of a prog-rock band. It's actually quite understated and restrained, taking almost four and a half minutes before it finally takes off. “El Dorado”, on the other hand, kicks right off from the start, with a very familiar guitar riff (from “Wasted Years”, I think) and a great vibe.

    The more complex arrangements shine through on tracks like “Isle of Avalon” (which has definite echoes of the title track to Powerslave), “The Talisman” and the epic closer, “When the Wild Wind Blows”. There's definitely a sense of Maiden maturing, growing and learning new tricks over the course of the last three or four albums. You can of course hear the common themes leaking in, but there's more than enough new ideas there to make every song stand out on its own merits.
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    Although everyone - well, all Maiden fans anyway - salivated at the thought of a new Maiden album in 2015, the first for five long years, word coming out of the camp was that there was an epic included on the new album which, lengthwise, would not only supercede “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, but knock it into a cocked hat and possibly kick it down the road too! “Empire of the Clouds”, said to be prefaced by a long piano intro - something no Maiden song had ever had before - claimed to be in the twenty-minute range! Probably nobody believed it, and that wasn’t quite true, but it is a monster.

    Returning the band to the top of the tree, and showing them at the top of their game even after such a long time away, The Book of Souls, the first ever Iron Maiden double album, shot straight to number one and has since sold in the region of units, gong Gold in most territories, and even Platinum in some. It certainly was worth the wait, showing that a band who have been together and recording now for almost four decades can still release an album that blows the competition to hell and back. Opener “If eternity Should Fall” begins almost acapella, very proglike, with a droned vocal from Dickinson, whose voice has never sounded better, but soon kicks up, while “Speed of Light”, the lead single that preceded the release of the album, is back to Maiden headbanging basics, as is “Death or Glory”, their third (so far as I can remember anyway) song about flying, this one concerning the exploits of the infamous Red Baron.

    The songs mentioned are relatively short and snappy, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for epics, as the title track (over ten minutes)and “The Red and the Black” (thirteen) show, but of course, as foreshadowed, the real epic is in the closer, the eighteen-minute Dickinson-penned “Empire of the Clouds.” As promised, it does indeed begin with a long acoustic piano intro, and relates the story of the crash of a British airship, an event of which I assume most of us were unaware of, and probably don’t really care that much about. It’s a fine song though, but eighteen minutes is asking a lot from the attention of a metal fan, and I feel it might be slightly overlong.
    Nonetheless, it can’t be denied that this album, which could have been a mistake, or, worse, phoned in (though when have Maiden ever done that?) proved to be a triumph, a favourite both with the fans and the critics, and shows us there’s a whole lot of life left yet in the band, and that any young pretenders who are waiting for them to fall off their throne are going to have a very long wait.

    All through their career Iron Maiden have led the field, turning out classic album after classic album, building on their fanbase, playing bigger and bigger venues and opening up the world of heavy metal to successive younger generations. There are few metal bands around today who would not admit to owing at least a little of their success to the venerable elder statesmen of heavy metal, whether it's that they listened to them when younger, or they influenced their style, or even just showed that a bunch of guys from London can scale the heights of worldwide fame with nothing more than their innate talent and some perseverance.

    It would be wrong to say Iron Maiden created heavy metal - of course, it was around, though mostly known as hard rock at the time - long before their arrival. But what is in no doubt is that they were one of the shaping forces behind metal, indeed behind rock, and remain so to this day. After almost four decades together, Iron Maiden show no signs of slowing down. They've had their problems, they've been through their changes, btu they've come out the other side stronger and more potent than ever before. They've innovated, moved with but not been shaped by the changing trends, and have always remained true to themselves, their fans and their own unique sound.

    What was it Ozzy Osbourne said? You can't kill rock and roll? Truer words were never said, and Maiden go from strength to strength, proving that good old-fashioned honesty and hard work is sometimes all you need to make it in this world. Lessons some other bands would do well to take to heart.

    Long live the Beast!
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
    I'm a bit of an oddity. I was never that into AC/DC, though I'm a rocker, and as you'll see as my prog history develops, I really really REALLY hate Tull. Could never stand them. Fun fact: I used to think Ian Anderson was Jethro Tull!

    Okay, I'm gonna have to report you to the authorities for that heresy & sacrilege!
    As soon as we get the woodpile built, you will be burned at the stake.

  7. #17
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    Okay, I'm gonna have to report you to the authorities for that heresy & sacrilege!
    As soon as we get the woodpile built, you will be burned at the stake.
    You know that's ecologically irresponsible, don't you? Do you hate the planet that much?
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  8. #18
    Offline: Depressed Trollheart's Avatar
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    Okay, well now you have your beginner’s guide to Iron Maiden, it’s time to delve into their catalogue properly. I’ll be reviewing all the albums in-depth and in order, and later on will possibly look at solo and side projects of the band, but for now let’s return to where it all began, one cold January night in west London, 1980 where, having dismissed two separate producers, the band engaged one who would essentially not give a monkey’s (according to them) about the album and leave them to produce it mostly by themselves. Whatever the truth of this, the result was the beginning of something bigger than anyone, including the lads, could ever have dreamed.

    Although now rightfully enthroned and recognised as the leading heavy metal band, even nearly forty years after they formed, the big “break” Iron Maiden got in life, I believe, was a change of vocalist. Although their first two albums were moderately successful, they did not serve to break them commercially and lift them to the heights of stardom: it took their third album, The Number of the Beast to do that, and it all pretty much hinged on the arrival of one Bruce Dickinson, following the departure of the man who had fronted the band for their first two albums.

    But that was two years in the future, and first, a small, mostly unknown band from London had to make sure that London, England and then the world associated their name with heavy metal rather than an ancient torture device, and lead, in time, to a rather hilarious misunderstanding by Bill and Ted...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Iron Maiden ---
    1980 (EMI)

    In fairness, it's easy to see why things were slow to take off. While both the debut, to be discussed here, and its followup,
    Killers, a year later, were fine albums, there was a rawness about them and a certain something lacking, that seemed to prophesy that should things not change, Iron Maiden were going to go down as one of the bands of the NWOBHM who, though successful, would soon fade into the mists of its history, along with other bands like Raven, Xero, White Spirit and Trespass. Of course, that didn't happen, and they rose to, and retain, the position of megastars. But you can see from their debut that, though impressive enough for a young band, and showing the signs of being on the cusp of something truly remarkable, the weak link was holding them back, if that's not too mixed a metaphor.

    The album starts off with that by-now-famous twin guitar attack but then vocalist Paul Di'Anno cuts in, and his voice is rough and guttural, and though it kind of suits this album's rawness and menace, you couldn't really see him singing “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, could you? “Prowler” is a good opener, but not that special really, though it certainly demonstrates the versatility of the two guitarists, Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton, the latter soon to be replaced by Adrian Smith. Clive Burr on drums bashes out the rhythm with gusto, and as it ever would be, Steve Harris's bass is there to quietly keep command of the song.

    A much more ambitious song, “Remember Tomorrow”, penned, it has to be allowed, by Di'Anno and Harris, opens with moody bass and picked guitar, quite similar, in fact, to the midsection of the much later “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from Powerslave. After a low-key intro, Di'Anno goes into overdrive on the vocal, the twin guitars building the tension and power before the song slides back down into what could fool those who don't know it as a ballad. Great use of the guitars on the verses, where many bands would have opted for piano or keyboards, which Maiden seldom used all through their long career. Towards the end the guitar work gets as frantic as Di'Anno's vocal histrionics, and the song ends powerfully and well.

    Their very first chart single is next, but I personally consider “Running Free” as more filler material, and there are much better tracks on the album. It does have plenty of energy, great rolling drumbeats from Burr, and a nice little guitar solo, but it doesn't put too much of a strain on the attention, and I feel passes by without any real impression. Still, it was their first hit. It also marks the end of Di'Anno's contribution to the songwriting. Far, far better is the now-classic “Phantom of the Opera”, their longest song for some time, coming in at almost seven and a half minutes. It starts with that iconic guitar riff, then trundles away like a runaway train, and it must be admitted that Di'Anno does a sterling job on the vocal here.

    The song goes through a few changes along the way, making it Maiden's first step into progressive metal: it's almost composed of movements, like a classical concerto. A great guitar solo from Dave Murray helps move the song along, then Harris' bass takes the second movement, as it were, joined by the guitars and drums, creating the instrumental section and taking it into what I would term the third movement, where both guitarists rock out with some more fine solos, one across the other in some excellent interplay. The fourth movement then comes when the song goes more or less back to its opening chord structure and Di'Anno comes back in on the vocals to finish proceedings.



    It's without question the standout of the album, and would remain for many years one of Maiden's favourite tracks, both by the fans and the band. It's followed by one of their only instrumentals, “Transylvania”, a rollicking, rocking guitarfest with powerful drumming from Clive Burr driving the melody on like a steamhammer. Even more rare in future years, up next is an Iron Maiden ballad! With restrained guitar and even soft vocals from Paul Di'Anno, “Strange World” runs almost seamlessly from the spooky, atmospheric ending of “Transylvania” and indeed seems like it might be another instrumental, as there's no singing for almost a minute and a half. Considering how good this track is, it's a pity Maiden opted to not have another ballad for another twelve years, but that was their choice. “Strange World”, however, shows Harris could write a slow song as well as, if not better than, any other heavy metal songwriter.

    The only song written by Dave Murray on the album is next, and though it's a little raw, “Charlotte the harlot” would be revisited on 1982's “The number of the Beast”, the continuing story of the prostitute running through some of Maiden's best albums. It's a fast rocker, with Di'Anno back at his supercharged best, Murray's own guitar growling through the song as if he wanted to stamp his total identity on his creation. Nice little slowdown about halfway through distinguishes it from tracks like “Prowler”, “Running free” and the title track, which closes the album.

    I know it's become a staple of the band, and indeed their signature song, but I find “Iron Maiden” a little too raw, somewhat bereft of musical ideas. A lot of the music on this album comes close to punk rock (punk metal?), mostly due to I think Di'Anno's vocal but also the hard, edgy guitar playing of Murray and Stratton, as well as the subject matter for the songs, mostly chosen by Harris.

    Iron Maiden would release one more album with Paul Di'Anno before firing him and replacing him with Samson's Bruce Dickinson, beginning a whole new era for the band and opening their music up to a much wider audience. From there on, Maiden would not look back, but had they stayed with Di'Anno, or indeed hired someone similar after he had been let go, would we in fact even recognise the name Iron Maiden today, or would they just be a small footnote in the book of Heavy Metal history?

    Going on the strength of this debut, you'd have to say that the seeds of greatness were there, it just took a really great singer and a small change of direction to make them flower and bear fruit, but then you should never forget where you came from, and had this album not been recorded there would never have been an Iron Maiden, so we must be thankful and take the album on its merits.

    I do think, though, it could have been a very close-run thing.

    TRACK LISTING

    Prowler
    Remember Tomorrow
    Running Free
    Phantom of the Opera
    Transylvania
    Strange World
    Charlotte the Harlot
    Iron Maiden
    Last edited by Trollheart; September 19th, 2019 at 10:03 PM.
    Come away, human child to the waters and the wild
    With a faery hand in hand.
    For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand. - WB Yeats "The Stolen Child"

    I drink to forget, but I never forget to drink.

    "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today
    He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" - The The, "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" - Mind Bomb, 1989


    The most destructive force on the planet is not nukes or global warming...it is the human ego. - Ralph Rotten

  9. #19
    I saw Iron Maiden in concert back in 2007, (I think) this was the biggest concert I've ever been to in my life. Heavy metal fans row to row in Sydney's Olympic stadium and after the end of the show the hordes and legions of Iron Maiden T-Shirts roamed the city centre long into the night. It was beautiful!

    I'd say "Somewhere in Time" and "Brave new world" are my favourite albums from them.

    By the way, anyone who is an Iron Maiden fan MUST check out the Russian Iron Maiden called Ariya. You owe it to yourself, don't rob yourself of this experience or you will regret it forever! They toured with Maiden back in the 90s.

    I threw a glance at humankind and saw them treacherous and feeble.
    Severe judges, cruel, unkind and fools who are always close to evil.
    Before their frightful, anxious mob, indifferent hate forever rages.
    Not learnt the lessons from the ages!
    What use are wise and tempered words?
    "Sometime, in my sweet blindness" - Pushkin

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    I saw Maiden in concert. I think it was Accept who opened for them.
    I like a few of their jams, they rock the house.

    But for metal, I was always a Dio/Sabbath fan. Not so much Sabbath with Ozzy...twas okay with him. More Dio Sabbath.
    Saw Dio in concert twice.
    Wow, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Yeah, Ozzy will always be what made Sabbath, but Dio for me is where it's at. "Heaven and Hell" is the only Sabbath album i can listen to on repeat.
    I threw a glance at humankind and saw them treacherous and feeble.
    Severe judges, cruel, unkind and fools who are always close to evil.
    Before their frightful, anxious mob, indifferent hate forever rages.
    Not learnt the lessons from the ages!
    What use are wise and tempered words?
    "Sometime, in my sweet blindness" - Pushkin

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