Friday, March 17, 2017

Iron Maiden – Brave New World



Before I get to the meat of the review, a little backstory...

Picture it: Brooklyn New York, the tail end of the 1980's.  An awkward cross-eyed girl is just discovering  rock bands on the heavier end of the spectrum.  Living around the corner from the Legendary but sadly no longer existent Zig Zag records helped fill in the gaps with my new musical library.  A friend and I snuck into the even more legendary L'Amour when we were still way below the legal drinking age – and I became known as “the girl in the Iron Maiden shirt.” 
           
I think at one point I had about 2 dozen Maiden shirts – over the years they've gotten lost or I gave them away when I went through my “too cool for band shirts” period.

Seriously Iron Maiden were my favorite band.  I listened to a lot of different bands at the time (most often it would be Priest, Purple/Rainbow, Sabbath – the usual) but Maiden were my #1 – I even proudly marched around with a huge “Killers" back-patch. 
           
In  the early 90's it became harder and harder to defend Iron Maiden's output.  And remember this is only one simple Penguin's opinion. After reading in Kerrang that guitarist Adrian Smith left the band to be replaced by Janick Gers (who appeared on Bruce Dickinson's first solo album “Tattooed Millionaire” - I was still hopeful that “No Prayer for the Dying”, released in 1990  - would be fantastic.  Damn was I wrong. I struggled to like the album, even bought the t-shirts with the art from the accompanying singles, but could not get my head around it.  In 1992 “Fear of the Dark” was released and I purchased it from the aforementioned Zig-Zag the day it was dropped – again to utter disappointment.  Over the next few years, I still purchased Maiden albums, live records, compilations – on or close to the release day – but my musical tastes were getting more varied.  My obsessions turned to a band called Marillion and old school prog like Yes, ELP and the Moody Blues.  (I'm not ashamed – it's part of my musical history).  
           
By the time I first saw Maiden in concert, Bruce Dickinson had gone, Blaze Bayley bravely fronted the band to a half empty Roseland Ballroom.  There was a hollow feeling about it all – and like the releases of that time – I was very disappointed.
           
In 1999 Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band and I saw them at a packed to the rafters Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan.  This was the band that I fell in love with.  They did a greatest hits set and Bruce told the rabid crowd they were working on a new studio album to be released the following year.

“Brave New World” came out in 2000.  after being burned so many times with blind purchasing in the past, I listened to a few of the tracks the band posted on their official site.  “The Wicker Man” was the first single from the album.  I remember the extra lines in the chorus “Thy will be done” that were for some reason not on the album version. I thought “This is a great track but I've been fooled by pre-release singles before”.  Then the band put the almost 7 minute long “Ghost of the Navigator” track up and I was convinced.  This was the band I was in love with all those years ago.
           
At the time of the record's release I was living in the elsewhere of the east coast and couldn't readily run to Zig Zag, so I ordered it online – on cassette!! I listened to it on my Walkman at work on constant repeat.  But at the time other new releases and life took precedence and “Brave New World" was put to the side. 
           
A year later I was living back in Brooklyn again and discovered I had lost the tape.  I ordered a CD copy on eBay and – after finding out I lived in New York City (this was right after the twin towers were destroyed) – the seller put an extra rush on the CD and offered their sincerest condolences.  I remember emailing them a couple of times about what had happened, they wanted to know what the mood was like here, if we were scared something like that would happen again.  It's amazing how a tragedy could bring strangers together – people who are just looking for answers and comfort. 
           
That marked the album as being very special .  The title track has that epic-”Rime of the Ancient Mariner” bombast that Maiden are known for.  Also the book it's named for by Aldous Huxley is one of my favorites- and I say that as a proud Epsilon.
           
 “Out of the Silent Planet” - with it's galloping bass runs and apocalyptic lyrics is another standout for me,

“Withered hands, withered bodies begging for salvation
Deserted by the hand of gods of their own creation
Nations cry underneath decaying skies above
You are guilty, the punishment is death for all who live
The punishment is death for all who live”

What I love most about Iron Maiden is what I also love about AC/DC – they have their own sound, their own style.  If I want musical exploration and innovation I'll look elsewhere but if I want a good Maiden album, this is it.  That was the problem with their 90's output – and in my opinion, everything after “Brave New World” - they tried too hard.  That had a great formula – galloping bass, twin guitar leads, booming drums and operatic vocals with not the most intelligent lyrics (but by no means idiotic).  This is what made albums like “Powerslave” and “Piece of Mind” “classic” and I would say places“Brave New World” in as the last “classic” Iron Maiden album.

-Rys



           

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