Part 29 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!
IRON MAIDEN – Brave New World (2000)
Ed Hunter tour complete, the returned Bruce Dickinson and the boys hit the studio. Steve had already begun writing several new songs while Blaze was still in the band. Several of these made it onto the new album, with Bruce singing them instead.
Brave New World features the brand new three guitar lineup of Gers, Murray and Smith (aka “The Three Amigos”) for the first time in the studio. Steve Harris had flirted with a three guitar lineup very early in Maiden’s career. The original Iron Maiden lineup consisted of two guitar players named Terry Rance and Dave Sullivan. Neither were standout solists, but Dave Murray was. Harris’ concept was to bring in Murray as a third guitarist to solo over the other two. The other two didn’t like that idea and they split. Since then, fans have wondered what Maiden would sound like with three guitars. Wonder no more.
Brave New World is also the first full Maiden album produced by Kevin “Caveman” Shirley (he did the “Wraithchild” promo single prior to this), and features cover art partially done by original Maiden artist Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs. Anticipation ran high!
I was not disappointed.
Starting off with “The Wicker Man”, the first single, you can instantly hear all of Adrian’s style and substance. It’s such a welcome sound. “The Wicker Man” has a slightly-“Two Minutes To Midnight”-styled riff, which leads into this short catchy blast of awesome. “Your time will come!”
From there, it’s the slow and heavier “Ghost of the Navigator”, an equally strong song. Then, the title track “Brave New World” has chiming guitars, and soft verses with heavy choruses. It suffers from Repetive Chorus Syndrome, something that has really dogged Maiden since The X Factor. Lyrically it seems to be an environmental theme, continuing with the real-world based style of writing from the previous albums.
Steve Harris’ “Blood Brothers” is next, which once again suffers from the repetitive chorus. Otherwise, a strong song. “Side 1” of the vinyl version ended with the lethal “The Mercenary”, fast and deadly.
“Side 2” kicked off with an epic track, “Dream of Mirrors”. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s one of Maiden’s greater epics. I would place this one pretty low on the list, especially with the repetitive chorus of “I only dream in black and white, I only dream when I’m alive, I only dream in black & white to save me from myself.” OK then.
“The Fallen Angel” is next, and even though Bruce didn’t write it, I find it somewhat similar to some of the stuff on his Accident of Birth album. Then, another 9 minute epic! “The Nomad” is slightly middle eastern in sound, something they previously explored on “To Tame A Land” and “Powerslave”. It is not, however, a standout track.
Second single “Out of the Silent Planet” is a cool sci-fi track about alien invasion. This is a fast one with one of those Dickinson choruses that you never forget. It was written by Bruce with Janick and Steve. I’m quite fond of this song
The album closes with “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate”, almost 9 minutes in length and an underrated classic. I love the sparse ending to this song. You can really hear the guitars. And Nicko’s outro! “I fucking missed it!”
I love the three guitars. It was a brilliant idea to have Adrian come back, but nobody else have to leave. Adrian Smith is the melodic one who writes his solos out in advance. Janick Gers is the manic, spontaneous one whose solos frequently sound out of control. Dave Murray is somewhere between the two, with melodic, but barely-in-control trademark Maiden guitars. With this mix, the solos are deliciously diverse and you can identify each player.
Shirley did a fine job on production, lending Maiden a powerful modern sound with big, big drums and clear, sparkling guitars.
There were of course singles to collect. And collect them I did. The fine cover art (some of the Maiden’s best in my opinion) was done by Mark Wilkinson, of Marillion/Fish fame.
1. “The Wicker Man” singles, parts 1 & 2 which featured the cool “Wicker Man” video, as well as several live tracks from the reunion “Ed Hunter” tour. Of note were several Blaze era songs with Bruce singing. This is the only place you can hear Bruce belting out “Futureal” and “Man on the Edge”. They are also home to two smokin’ versions of the classics “Powerslave” and the awesome “Killers”.
2. “Out Of The Silent Planet” single, which had that video, and two more tracks from the “Ed Hunter” tour: “Wasted Years” and “Aces High”. With Adrian back in the band, this version of “Wasted Years” is superior to the one on the “Hallowed By Thy Name” single.