Maid(en) For Me: Gods Of Metal Back On Tour With Maiden England

Maid(en) For Me: Gods Of Metal Back On Tour With Maiden England

That's a lot of hair!
That's a lot of hair!

What does a mid to late 30-something (closing in on 40, if I’m being honest) consumer of books like Styrbiorn the Strong,  Dune, and World War 2 military history do in between bouts of reading and writing posts for Black Gate? Why, listen to Iron Maiden, of course! I can blast “Invaders” and vicariously experience a Viking raid, play “To Tame a Land” and hear bassist Steve Harris’ take on Frank Herbert’s classic SF novel, and fire up “The Longest Day” for a stirring rendition of the events of D-Day and Omaha Beach.

Iron Maiden has always been a favorite of mine. I personally consider them the best heavy metal band of all time, edging out the likes of Judas Priest (on whom Maiden holds an edge by virtue of a more consistent catalog—Priest has more dud albums) and even heavy metal originators Black Sabbath (whom they beat due to longevity—Black Sabbath spent decades residing in the “where are they now” file, living off past glories). Maiden is to heavy metal what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy—not the first on the scene, but the best. In my opinion of course, and your mileage may vary.

I’ve always thought of Iron Maiden as the heavy metal band that catered to the nerdy crowd. If you were smart, you liked history and science fiction/fantasy, and of course you liked Iron Maiden. They were and are the antidote for those critics who sneered at metal, labeling it as mindless noise, the stuff of “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.” Faux-metal hair bands like Poison and Warrant gave metal a bad reputation, but Iron Maiden elevated this much-maligned genre of music into an art form.

seventh-son-of-a-seventh-sonThough they are getting a bit long in the tooth Iron Maiden is back touring this summer. The title of the tour is Maiden England and it is an homage to a live video released after their 7th Tour of a 7th Tour, featuring a heavy rotation of their awesome Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album (someone posted the entire Maiden England concert here on Youtube). Seventh Son features Maiden at their most ambitious. It’s a concept album apparently based on the Orson Scott Card novel Seventh Son (which I’ve never read) backed with keyboards, a near heretical concept for a heavy metal band in the late 80s. I can’t say every song on the album fits the concept, about a seventh son of a seventh son blessed with “the power to heal, the gift of the second sight … the chosen one,” with a smattering of free will vs. predestination, but it works tremendously well as a whole and certainly ranks among their best albums.

The chance to see a great swath of Seventh Son live was too great pass up and today I scored tickets to their June 26 show at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA. I can’t even tell you excited I am for this show. I started listening to Maiden around 1988 when Seventh Son was their newest album. I was blown away (still am) by songs like “The Clairvoyant,” “Can I Play With Madness,” “Infinite Dreams” and my favorite on the album “The Evil That Men Do.” I recall walking around high school and seeing kids wearing Seventh Son t-shirts with Eddie’s legless torso emerging from some arctic sea and wanting my own so badly. Alas, Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet and your only option was to buy one at a concert or order from an ad in the back of Kerrang! magazine. Alas, I was “out of money, out of luck” (one Eddie point for the first person to name that song reference), and so had to wait until 1991’s No Prayer for the Dying before I was able to see them in concert on the No Prayer on the Road tour. By then Maiden had begun a downhill decline and guitarist Adrian Smith had left the band, though it was still an excellent show. I’ve seen them many times since, but this particular show looks particularly great with its heavy rotation of old material and apparently their old stage set from 7th Tour, featuring faux glaciers, blocks of ice, lots of smoke, and other cool stuff.

Iron Maiden can retire any time they choose to, and I still hold my breath with each studio release, fearing it may be their last. However, Maiden is still producing incredible material, so why should they stop? I’m a huge fan of three of their last four releases (Brave New World, Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death; their latest, The Final Frontier, was a disappointment), and they remain creatively vital.

somewhere-in-timeMy favorite Maiden album is Somewhere in Time. It has an otherworldly sound and a feel that makes me think of Blade Runner and instantly transports me back to high school (with all the good and bad said mental trip entails). There was a time when I wore through two Somewhere in Time cassette tapes from too many listens. There’s just something about this album that resonates deeply with me. Maybe it’s the whole package–the mesmerizing cover, the distinct guitar synths, Bruce Dickinson at his peak as a singer, the band at its creative peak–I don’t know. In the end, I love it because it exemplifies that metal can be a lot more than just loud and fast, and can aspire to art. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is right up there too, along with Powerslave and Number of the Beast.

For a sampling of Maiden, here’s an early rendition of a live performance of likely their best song, “Hallowed be thy Name,” which captures the incredible strength and soaring heights of the “air raid siren” Bruce Dickinson (seriously, listen from 0:40 through 1:22 for a stunning example of the power and splendor the human voice is capable of producing). Here’s the official video for “The Evil That Men Do,” taking you back to that mythical concert in 1988-89 that I missed.

Is anyone else planning on seeing the greatest heavy metal band that ever was this summer, or have Iron Maiden stories to share? Post ‘em here. And Up the Irons!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
12 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Glenn

I would have to agree with just the sims fact that maiden has consistently good songs. I recently bought their album Brave New World and while every song isn’t amazing I do enjoy listening to it in its entirety.

As far as the catering to nerdyness goes I would say I agree but they don’t do it to the extent that a band like Blind Guardian does (who’s early stuff was clearly inspired by Maiden). but no mainstream band caters to the nerdyness like iron maiden does. By far the best 80s band. So I agree with you UP THE IRONS!

Light in the Black

“Out of money, out of luck”

(I’m) Running Free (Yeah)!

Iron Maiden were my gateway metal band about 12 years ago and they opened my ears to, literally, a ton of new bands ranging from Dream Theater to Blind Guardian to Iced Earth to name a few. Never been able to see a show but I never get tired of spinning their albums. Catchy songs that don’t fall victim to their own ambition.

Up The Irons Indeed. Maiden Forever

Tiberius

Awsome and unexpected post, have me reaching for my Powerslave vinil. Disagree partially re Priest, yest they did have a 10 year hiatus after Painkiller and yes they had some not so great albums, but as you mentioned, Maiden also had some bad ones.

Matthew David Surridge

Love Iron Maiden. I think they don’t get enough credit in terms of the tightness of their song structures. I’d probably agree that they’re the best metal band I know (unless one counts Rush as metal, but that’s another discussion). In terms of Seventh Son … I’m very ambivalent about the Card source material, which has some nice writing but some baffling elements, so I think on the whole I prefer the album. Also, Graham Chapman’s in the video for Can I Play With Madness. So there’s that.

Personally, I started really listening to the band with Brave New World, and I actually think this era’s their strongest. The three-lead-guitarist set-up shouldn’t work, but does. Maybe because they’ve got so many musicians, the arrangements have to be very carefully thought through? I don’t know, but I like it. I’m a much bigger fan of the last album than you were — personally I found A Matter of Life And Death to be a bit off, a bit less varied than their other albums. Still very good, though.

I always thought metal generally has much broader and to me more interesting lyrical subject matter than most pop music. Whether that’s art-metal like Voivod or Mars Volta, Viking stuff like Amon Amarth, gothicy material like Opeth, or political material like Sepultura or Rage Against the Machine, there just seems to be a lot to like.

(I’m also the one guy who loves Maiden but never got into Judas Priest. Not a bad band, but their stuff doesn’t resonate with me, I guess. And I never really understood how Poison and such got to be viewed as heavy metal. There’s a terrible movie called Critters 2 that has one great exchange in it. A metalhead’s hitting on a waitress, she turns him down, he asks why. “Let’s just say I’m not the Van Halen type,” she says. “That’s OK,” he answers, “I don’t like elevator music either.” About sums it up for me, and I like Van Halen much more than Warrant et al.)

andy

Got my tickets a couple of hours ago!

I think The Final Frontier was the best album they’ve done since Seventh Son, but there’s a lot of divided opinion on it.

I kind of differ on your Black Sabbath point because I think there’s a lot of really good material on their 80s albums. No one makes a crunchier riff than Tony Iommi.

The more I look at Priest’s career, the more convinced I am that, the excellence of their 80s albums notwithstanding, their peak was in the 70s, before they traded in their prog tendencies for pop.

Joe H.

Never really listened to the band, but their touring plane taxied in next to ours in Keflavik airport in Iceland back in August 2011 — all painted with the band logo and Eddie on the tail. Not sure what the story was; I watched people deplaning and they looked like wives/girlfriends/roadies. Did you know that Bruce Dickinson is a licensed airline pilot and that’s what he does when he’s not singing?

MorgonMax

total respect for the Irons! The Tolkien comparison is right…but still for me the Priest remains the top

Sarah Avery

I said something like, “I just don’t get heavy metal,” so a friend sat me down and made me listen to Iron Maiden’s take on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. At the time, I was Coleridge’s fangirl, so it was exactly the right piece. And wow, those guys really get Coleridge.

I still don’t quite get heavy metal, but I do have a real respect for it.

GusG

I skipped a day of my senior year of high school to drive up to the old Portland Coliseum to see Iron Maiden in 1987. Good times. It was on their Powerslave tour, so I got to see the full staged treatment of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Any metal band that can turn a teen on to poetry has got to be something special.

Iron Maiden sits at number 4 on my reunion tour priority list. With Rush safely at number one and checked off, I now eagerly await Van Halen and Black Sabbath to arrive in the northwest. Though neither of the latter two can rival Iron Maiden for intellectual quality or musical inventiveness, one has to admire the pure fun (VH) and pathos (BH) that lead the others to stardom. Rock on, fellow SciFi nerds!

Sarah Avery

I like several kinds of over the top–Oingo Boingo was my favorite band when I was in high school, and these days I love the enthusiastically twisted lyrics of Fountains of Wayne. I could say it’s metal’s loudness, the distortion, the fact that I couldn’t begin to sing along without doing permanent damage to my vocal cords, but really, I don’t know why it doesn’t grab me. Some things I can recognize as great just don’t. After I’d finished listening to Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I felt that I’d done that, and I haven’t felt any urge to listen to it since (though I’ll probably always have a vestigial crush on Coleridge).

12
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x