bruce dickinson

VHS Archives #8: Bruce Dickinson interview (1986)

Popular vote by Harrison, Jessie, and a bunch of others who picked Iron Maiden’s Bruce Bruce (Bruce Dickinson) for this VHS Archive.

Yes folks it’s 1986, and that means questions about Satanism and devil worship. Oh my.

#724: Balls to Picasso

GETTING MORE TALE #724: Balls to Picasso

In 1993, Iron Maiden announced the departure of Bruce Dickinson, and my world was shattered.

“Oh no.  Not Iron Maiden too…”

I found out via M.E.A.T Magazine, and because of print magazine lead times, the actual announcement came weeks before I found out.

All the big bands seemed to be losing their key members.  Both Motley Crue and Judas Priest were dealing with it, and nobody knew if those bands would survive.  Maiden hurt the most; they had been with me the longest.  What could Maiden do without Bruce?  What could Bruce do without Maiden?

The band tried to keep up appearances, but the split was not amicable.  We wouldn’t know this for years.  In the meantime, my life changed when I was hired at the Record Store.  Though I loved the job, it was starkly obvious that in 1994, heavy metal was passé.  Nobody was buying it, while Soundgarden dominated our rock sales.  No matter how it panned out, both Bruce and Iron Maiden would be facing uphill climbs.

Bruce’s solo outing Balls to Picasso was released in June.  I was surprised that we were carrying it at all, but it wasn’t selling.  I hadn’t got it yet; the review in M.E.A.T stated that the Japanese version had a bonus track.  Drew Masters claimed the bonus acoustic version of “Tears of the Dragon” was better than the album cut, so I was trying to hold off until I could find the Japanese.  All I knew is the album in general was supposed to be very, very different from Iron Maiden.

I never found the Japanese version.  In 1994 it was virtually impossible to find Japanese imports, though I asked the boss to try to order one for me.  HMV in Toronto carried rare imports, but I didn’t know that.

When a used CD copy of Balls to Picasso was traded in, I waited for the boss to leave for the day and then I eagerly put it on the store player.

Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Why are you looking,
At the cameras eye?

By the first chorus of the first track “Cyclops”, I knew I was going to like the album.  Different indeed!  Growling guitar sounds backed by exotic percussion were new twists.

There were two songs that sold the album to me immediately.  I did not want to live my life any longer without the songs “Change of Heart” and “Tears of the Dragon”.  Both songs spoke to me.  I was dealing with the fallout from a nasty breakup and the lyrics seemed to apply to my life.  Not to mention, the music was brilliant!  If Bruce had to leave Iron Maiden to put out a song like “Change of Heart” then so be it.  I played the song over and over.  I even told the boss how good the album was.

“I was playing the new Bruce Dickinson in the store the other night,” I said, “and it’s really good.  Not what you’d expect.”

“Isn’t that too heavy for the store?” he semi-scolded.

“No,” I semi-lied.  “It’s pretty light.”  I obviously didn’t tell him about the white hot “Sacred Cowboys”!

For some reason I chose to buy the cassette, and I played that tape everywhere.  I jammed it in the car for my buddy Aaron.  He particularly liked “Shoot All the Clowns” because he’s terrified of clowns.  Shooting all the clowns was a sentiment he could get behind.

What I liked about the album was that it was modern sounding (“Shoot All the Clowns” had funk and rap!).  I could get away with store play, but yet it had the sterling musicianship and guitar solos that I craved.  I could play it for younger friends like Aaron, who would appreciate the modern production and maybe get past the operatic vocals.

Playing “Change of Heart” today is not the same.  I’m no longer the heartbroken sad sack of shit.  It’s still a brilliant track but I don’t hang on every word anymore.  In 1994 it seemed like every line was for me to sing.  The feelings it used to stir don’t exist anymore.  But man, what a song!  The unusual drumming, the guitar work, the singing…it is one of Bruce’s very best, including those he wrote in Iron Maiden.

I can’t say that I am as passionate about Balls to Picasso in 2018 as I was in 1994.  I still love it, but I daresay Bruce has made better solo albums in his amazing career since.  Still, Balls to Picasso is historically important.  It introduced many of us to Roy Z for the first time, and it may have put him on the map.  Roy’s work in metal since has been highly respected by connoisseurs worldwide.  And then there’s that personal history.  I played this album so much during that cold, depressing winter.  It still stands up today, with a timelessly clear production and some very strong material.

Obviously things eventually worked out between Bruce and Iron Maiden.  He’s been back fronting them for almost 20 years.  Things worked out OK for me too.  Balls to Picasso was a step in both Bruce’s journey, and mine.

 

REVIEW: ECW Extreme Music – Various Artists (1998)

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ECW Extreme Music (1998 CMC)

There are way too many CDs in my collection that I don’t like, but I own for one or two rarities.  ECW Extreme Music is one of those many.  I have never watched an ECW wrestling match in my life.  I only know one of the wrestlers pictured inside, Bam Bam Bigelow, because he was in the WWF when I was a kid.  I don’t like the 90s version of wrestling with the blood and barbed wire.  And I don’t like much of the music they used.

First is the generic riff/loop combo of Harry Slash and the Slashtones, whoever that is.  Skip that repetitive crap to get to a White Zombie remix. “El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama” was a great groove from Astro-Creep: 2000.  The “Wine, Women & Song” mix by Charlie Clouser is from their remix CD Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds.  It’s an enjoyable remix, which is something best appreciated on its own rather than on a remix album.

Somebody named Kilgore did a carbon copy cover of “Walk” by Pantera, presumably because using the original would have cost more?  It’s embarrassingly copycat.  Your friends who don’t know will assume it’s Pantera.  Fortunately a great Megadeth tune is next.  Cryptic Writings is an underrated album, and “Trust” was probably the second best track on it (right after “A Secret Place”).   This instrumental mix is an exclusive and has emphasis on Marty Friedman’s lead guitar which replaces the vocals.

Bruce Dickinson (and Roy Z) is next with a lacklustre cover of “The Zoo” by the Scorpions.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, it’s just a cover, but it’s also a non-album track that collectors will want.  Too bad it’s not exceptional like most of Bruce’s output.  It’s just good not great.  Another cover follows:  Motorhead doing “Enter Sandman”!  It’s as bizarre and weirdly perfect as you’d expect it to be.  Grinspoon are next with their fairly stinky version of Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck”, robbed of all its snarl.  John Bush-era Anthrax are more impressive with Metallica’s “Phantom Lord” from Kill ‘Em All.  It’s breakneck, and also very cool to hear a Big Four thrash band covering another Big Four group.

Pantera, minus Phil Anselmo, are here for their cover of ZZ Top’s “Heard it on the X”.  It’s both ZZ Top and Pantera at the same time, and that’s kind of remarkable.  That’s it for this album though — nothing worthwhile from here out. What’s the point of having a cover of “Kick Out the Jams” (courtesy of Monster Magnet) but then beep out the naughty words?  Somebody named Muscadine decided to do “Big Balls” by AC/DC, a pretty obvious bad idea.  Just awful.  Then it’s more of Harry Slash to end the CD with some more pure filler.

CMC International released a lot of low budget crap over the years, and this CD is pretty poor.  There are five pages of merch advertising inside, including one for a ECW Extreme Music 2.  I skipped that one.  This CD is collectable for the Bruce Dickinson, Anthrax and Motorhead tracks.  But these are cover tunes we’re talking about, so tread wisely.

1.5/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017)

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (2017 Universal)

Not many bands can get away with releasing so many live albums so late in their career.  Iron Maiden can.  They can for three main reasons:

1: They still kick enormous amounts of ass.
2: Their setlist changes tour after tour and there will always be songs you won’t get to hear again.
3: See #1.

It doesn’t hurt that their new albums are as acclaimed as their old. Ever since Maiden’s 1999 reunion with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, we have been treated to an abnormally solid stream of brilliant records. Deal with the devil, perhaps? Faustian bargain #666?

The atmospheric and shadowy intro to “If Eternity Should Fail” is a perfect way to begin an Iron Maiden concert.  This track is magnificent.  It also serves as a dramatic way to open what is sure to be the greatest live experience on Earth. “Scream for me, Sydney!” yells Bruce to rile up the crowd. Yes, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter is taken from a number of different shows, which is a format Maiden have succeeded with before.

Another thing Maiden do successfully is top-load their live set with new songs.  The first two songs here are the same two as The Book of Souls itself.  Single “Speed of Light” really kicks up the excitement level.  To go from the epic drama of the opener to the taut single immediately causes an energy surge.  From there, we travel back to 1981 with “Wrathchild”.  It’s like a time machine to the London stages that young Maiden once trod upon.  Bruce’s scream is unholy.

Jump cut to Canada and “Children of the Damned”.  Bruce speaks French for the raving Montreal crowd, a nice touch of respect for the province of Quebec.  Maiden never sagged in popularity there.  In Quebec, Maiden’s 1995 album The X Factor (with lead singer Blaze Bayley) went Top 10.  Back to new material, “Death or Glory” is another energetic shorty.   The triple guitar solo slays.   Then it goes to epic, “The Red and the Black”, 13 minutes and the longest track on the album.  Riff overload!  Unabated, we launch into “The Trooper” and “Powerslave”, both old classics that remain as amped up as they were in the 80s.  It is pure joy to listen.  (Only qualm: backing vocals on “Powerslave” sound like tape.)

A pair of top-notch new songs, “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” kick off the second CD.  These are not short tracks.  In a way this is the “meat” of the set.  It is a run of 17 combined minutes of epic Maiden, and it’s a lot to swallow.  Savour every bite; this is prime stuff.  And will they ever be played live again?  Who can say?

You know the show is drawing to a close when you hear the opening chords to “Fear of the Dark”.  This favourite has been in the set since 1992.  It’s the crowd’s chance to really sing along and be a part of it.  More favourites follow:  “Iron Maiden” and “The Number of the Beast”.  (Absent is “Run to the Hills” which is on plenty of other live Maiden albums of recent vintage.)  “Blood Brothers” from the reunion album Brave New World seems oddly placed in the second-to-last slot.  The crowd at Download festival are thrilled to sing along.  On CD, you can hear Steve on backing vocals clearly, and appreciate how he and Bruce complement each other.  Then finally, it’s a terrific “Wasted Years” from underdog favourite Somewhere in Time.

The mix here is just dandy.  There are variances in sound from track to track and city to city, but these are minor and only natural.  You can clearly pick apart the instruments in the stereo field, and it’s pure delight to do so.  Once again, Iron Maiden have released a quality product.  You cannot go wrong by investing in any version of The Book of Souls: Live Chapter.

4.5/5 stars;

#503: 22 Acacia Avenue

GETTING MORE TALE #503: 22 Acacia Avenue

Everything started with Iron Maiden.  At least for me.  Way way waaaay back in Record Store Tales Part 1: Run to the Hills, we revealed that pivotal moment when everything changed.  The album was Masters of Metal Volume 2, and regarding hearing “Run to the Hills” for the first time I wrote, “Some people speak of moments of clarity: That was my moment.”  Everything I was focused on and passionate about now took a back seat to rock and roll.  The year was 1984.

I taped some Iron Maiden albums off friends, and bought the double Live After Death as my first Maiden LP.  I memorised the names of the members, and made sure to include Martin “Black Knight” Birch and Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs in my memory banks.  Maiden had the best album covers, the best videos, and the best lyrics.  They had songs about World War II and the Crimea.  It was more intelligent music than the other heavy metal bands I’d heard.  I stared for hours at my Live After Death LP, so loaded was it with photos and facts.  In grade 8, I was the only kid in my school who liked Iron Maiden, and that was fine by me.

Figuring out exactly what Maiden were saying, that was another story.  Live After Death had a lyric sheet, but before that we were just guessing.  In a case of mis-heard lyrics, I assumed that the lyrics to “Number of the Beast” went, “Hell and fire are born to be the least”.  Bruce was actually singing “Hell and fire are spawned to be released.”  “To be the least” went over better with teachers and parents, but when I got Live After Death, I kept the real lyrics for myself.  I did learn a new word from that song, “spawned”.

IMG_20160707_180758

Maybe it was Bruce’s accent, but I really struggled to hear what he was saying, even just when he was speaking on stage.  “Scream for me, Long Beach!”, he repeated throughout the album.  I could not figure out at all what he was saying, and neither could my best buddy Bob.  It sounded like “Scream for me, lambiens!”  So we assumed “lambiens” was British slang for “my friends”.  That made sense to us.  Bob had Live After Death on cassette and there were no liner notes.  Not until I got it on LP many months later did I see that the album was recorded at Long Beach Arena, and put two and two together.  Until then, it was “lambiens”!  “Speak to me, Hammersmith!” was another Bruce phrase that we couldn’t decipher.  Until I noticed that side four of the LP was recorded at Hammersmith Odeon did it click.  Until then, I thought Bruce was talking to his bandmates on stage.  “Speak to me, Harris Smith!”

Both of us played that live album plenty.  Thanks to “Powerslave”, I was way ahead on my Egyptology.  By the time we started taking Egyptian history in grade 11, I was already well familiar with the eye of Horus.  All knew all about Alexander the Great and the Gordian Knot.  Iron Maiden brought all that stuff right to our stereos, but I don’t think they got enough credit for it.

Maiden had other subject matter as well.  Though seldom, they would sometimes write songs regarding the “fairer sex” such as “Charlotte the Harlot”.  As a young kid first getting into the band, I had no idea what that was about.  Even foggier to me was “22 Acacia Avenue”.  It was a great tune, but the lyrics were a total mystery to me.  It’s not complicated:  Charlotte sells herself for money in both tunes.  In the second, someone is trying to talk her out of this lifestyle.  “You’re packing your bags, you’re coming with me.”  Right over my head.

In art class at school, we had to draw a scary scene for Halloween.  I chose a bunch of imagery I lifted from Maiden covers:  streetlamps, grave stones, fire, dark alleys, a grim reaper and…a house with the address “22 Acacia Avenue”.  I liked how Maiden’s artist Derek Riggs hid symbols and clues in his covers, so I was trying to do the same, but just randomly.  The teacher walked up and observed my artwork, and asked me a couple questions.  “22 Acacia Avenue, is that where you live?”  No, but how the hell do I explain this to the Catholic teacher at a very Catholic school?  Scrambling for an answer I said, “No, that’s the address of an actual real haunted house.”  The teacher “Oooh’ed” excitedly and went to the next student.  An actual haunted house?  Boy did I have that wrong.  Not that I could have given the real answer!

IMG_20160707_180740

Playing Live After Death again today as I’m writing this is very much a time capsule.  It’s 1985 again, and Bob and I are playing air guitars to “22 Acacia Avenue” in my basement.  How badly we so wanted to BE Iron Maiden.  Hell I made a birthday card for Bob one year that had his face in Iron Maiden over Dave Murray’s!  Of 22 Acacia Avenue, Bruce sang “That’s the place where we all go.”  Good enough for us, so we wanted to go too.  If we knew what Bruce was actually singing about, I think we would have (wait for it) run to the hills instead!

WTF Search Terms: Freddie Mercury’s Mic Stand edition

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 13: Freddie Mercury of Queen performs on stage at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985 in Wembley Stadium, London, England (Photo by Peter Still/Redferns)

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXI: Freddie Mercury’s Mic Stand edition

Gather ’round yon computers and tablets boys and girls, as we once again recount some of the…errr…more amusing search terms that led people here to mikeladano.com.  If you’re new, this is a series of bizarre things that people have typed into search engines to get here.  And once again, this proves that there are some pretty sick individuals out there!  Let’s begin.

The Swedish rock band Europe, and their singer Joey Tempest, have been the source of many bizarre hits from the search terms.  This is NOT the first time!

1. joey tempest satanist
2. satanist sign on shert of joey tempest
3. opinion of joey tempest about religion

Not sure why the obsession with Joey Tempest and religion. At all.

Here’s one to warm the heart:

4. avril fuck by bruce dickinson

And I’m sure many people have this question:

5. did freddie mercury masturbate his mic stand

Next up we have Poison. I’m sure Poison had lots of dirty sex back in the day, but this? Who the fuck wants to know? Bobby Dall is, like, the least sexy guy in Poison.

6. bobby dall sex tales

And we round out today’s list with just a bunch of dirty, filthy shit. Literally.

7. trough urinal dick parade
8. film porno women shit and piss
9. boy to boy big cock six part
10. hyenas fucking

Thank you internet! You are the gift that keeps on giving.

REVIEW: Bean – The Album (1997 soundtrack)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK


BEAN – The Album (1997 Mercury)

Every once in a while, you just have to buy an album for one song!

Never mind that Randy Newman’s classic “I Love L.A.” isn’t on the CD, even though it was the most memorable song in the Bean movie.  Included instead is “I Love L.A.” as performed by…O.M.C.!  Remember him?  “How Bizarre”!  His one hit had expired and I guess somebody thought they could re-work the “magic” on “I Love L.A.”.  Maybe because both guys have a kind of flat voice, somebody assumed it would work.  It does not!  Why this would have been recorded, instead of simply using the Newman classic, I have no idea at all.


NOT INCLUDED.

You can also safely skip Boyzone (boy band crap but at least with a 70’s groove), somebody just called “Louise” (70’s-sounding easy listening), Thomas Jules Stock (barf-inducing pop), another person just called “Gabrielle” (60’s sounding soul), “Blair” (really stinky rap), and Code Red (saccharine soul pop).  Some of these tracks aren’t even in the movie.  If you want to hear some soul or funk, just put on an actual album by an original artist.

Songs you may want to give a moment to listen to include the campy 80’s classic “Walking on Sunshine” (Katrina and the Waves).  You never know when you might need that song in a collection.  Another good one to have is “I Get Around”, the original surf classic by the Beach Boys.  From 1964, the Boys were in perfect voice, singing Brian Wilson’s genius melodies.  Unfortunately it is interrupted in the fade by Peter MacNicol with movie dialogue.  There are a number of tracks with this issue.  Wet Wet Wet do a surprisingly decent version of “Yesterday” (in the movie, sung by Peter MacNicol).  It’s too sweet and shopping market ready, but hey:  it’s “Yesterday”.  Movie dialogue spoils this one too, at the start of the track.  Why do that?  I’m not familiar with the Wet Wet Wet discography, but this song does seem to be exclusive to the soundtrack (or at least was at the time).  What a way to ruin a track for the fans.

Worth noting is loop-laden “Stuck in the Middle With You” by Susanna Hoffs.  This funky version is worth having for Hoffs fans, but everyone else can safely stick with the Steeler’s Wheels original.  Also fun is “Art for Art’s Sake”, the 1975 original by art-rock band 10cc.  In the movie, Mr. Bean works at an art gallery.  Get the connection?

So what’s the one song I bought this album for?  A rarity.

BEAN AND BRUCEBack in 1992, Bruce Dickinson was working on solo material with the UK band Skin.  The album would eventually become Balls to Picasso, but it was a long way getting there.  I’m not sure what led Bruce to Mr. Bean.  Divine intervention perhaps?  Two of England’s finest exports had to meet, I suppose, and when they did, they covered “Elected” by Alice Cooper.  This was done for a music video coinciding with the general election that year.  As a final track, the Bean soundtrack reissued this hard to find single.  Bruce sings the vocals rather straight, very raspy, very much like his 1990 No Prayer for the Dying voice.  Rowan Atkinson in character as Mr. Bean reviews his campaign promises between Bruce’s growls.  “To help the Health Service, I promise never to get ill.”  Other promises include stopping everyone in Dover from going to the toilet (cutting pollution).  “I’m the nice one in the tweed jacket,” he says.  “Well it was a present actually.”

I’m a Mr. Bean fan, but there is little of appeal on this CD.  After all, Mr. Bean’s gimmick is that he rarely speaks.  Therefore, the movie dialogue stuff isn’t necessary.  It’s a shame they ruined tracks by putting dialogue on the fades.  If they had included the Randy Newman track, I might’ve been able to bump this CD up by half a star.

1/5 stars

Sorry Mr. Bean.  Your CD gets the dreaded Flaming Turd!

 

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Record Store Day picture disc single)

IRON MAIDEN -“Empire of the Clouds” (2016 Parlophone Record Store Day picture disc single)

The story of acquiring this single and RSD 2016 can be read right here, so without getting into the details again this is what you need to know:

  1. This was a Record Store Day exclusive (April 16 2016).
  2. There were only 5500 copies made.
  3. Everybody wanted one.

The picture disc and packaging are gorgeous.  The record is a depiction of the Eddie destroying the R-101 airship, but fear not, this is not how history actually unfolded!  This picture disc is ensconced in a die card cover with reprintings of the Daily Mirror newspaper article from the day following the disaster.  It’s a lovely keepsake for sure, but it also has an exclusive interview on the B-side.

Not that the A side is unimportant.  From my original review for The Book of Souls, I had much praise for “Empire of the Clouds”:

“Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits ‘Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano’ been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, ‘we did that’.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but ‘Empire of the Clouds’ might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instil it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.”

Nicko McBrain and Bruce Dickinson discuss the making of the song, almost an album in itself, on the B-side “Maiden Voyage”.  The R101 was a massive airship (“the Titanic fits inside”) that was rushed into service and caught flame in 1930.  Bruce wrote the song on piano, which he had learned to play over the last three years.  He then researched the history of the airship and worked on the words.  The way he describes the incident on this interview track, it was a perfect storm of everything going wrong.  In its context, the airship was an expression of the ambition of the British Empire to stretch to all corners of the Earth and above as well.  Bruce says the crash was the end of this era.

Part of the story involves a storm, so Bruce came up with a piano part to depict that.  Before long he had enough components from his piano writings to build the different parts of the song.   One of the bits was written when Jon Lord (from Deep Purple) was ill with cancer.  After his death, Bruce used this piece for the part when the airship initially sets off.  It’s interesting that this era of British ambition inspired the most ambitious track that the singer had ever attempted.  This includes a musical “S.O.S.” in Morse code, something I picked up on upon first listen.

Bruce has particular praise for drummer Nicko McBrain in the building and recording of this song.  Nicko was not only a help in a technical respect, but also as a cheerleader keeping the band driven, so much was he into it.

Bruce Dickinson is a remarkable individual in heavy metal.  You don’t see many metal stars as well educated in history as Bruce, or as capable at communicating it to his audience.  Indeed, as a presenter on the BBC, Bruce has brought history to many diverse audiences.  You would think Iron Maiden fans would be one of the more challenging groups to reach, but Maiden followers are hungry for this kind of content.  We can only respect the band that much more when we realize the true depth of their work.  This coming from a licensed airline pilot, published fiction author, cancer survivor and amature fencer who also happens to be in Iron Maiden.  Extraordinary!

I’m not sure if this disc was worth the buying frenzy it spawned or the online prices you are about to see, but I’m sure glad I got my copy.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls (2015)

NEW RELEASE

IRON MAIDEN – The Book of Souls (2015 Parlophone, collector’s book edition)

I have a new hero.  His name is Bruce Dickinson.

Bruce has not only beaten cancer back to that dark hole from which it came, but he takes command on Iron Maiden’s new opus The Book of Souls.

Even though he only has writing credits on four of the 11 tracks here, his impact is massive.  With lungs of iron, Bruce propels everything.  For the first time (possibly) ever, I feel that the most important band member is not leader Steve Harris, but the singer himself.

Right from the opener “If Eternity Should Fail”, Bruce is center stage.  He wrote this complex number himself.  It boasts one of Maiden’s most memorable choruses yet, and musical twists and turns that return us to Powerslave.  Meanwhile, there is a hook that reminds me of Bruce’s solo song “The Ghost of Cain”, from Accident of Birth.

We took a good look at the lead single, “Speed of Light” a couple weeks back.  Maiden often write a fast, heavy blazer to go with a new album, and that’s “Speed of Light”.  Even though it is the single, it is far from the strongest song.  Written by Bruce and Adrian Smith, it is certainly a good Iron Maiden track, but in comparison to the monuments of metal that surround it, “Speed of Light” feels like a brief diversion from the epic metal moments at hand.  Adrian’s solo, however, is delicious.

“The Great Unknown” (Smith/Harris) opens softly, but even so there is a menacing tone to Bruce’s voice and the underlying instruments.  With a slow, thrusting riff, “The Great Unknown” soon lurches forth, a killer metal march for the ages.  Bruce pushes his voice to the very limits, giving it all and then some.  As with many of the songs on The Books of Souls, I hear hints and echoes of past Maiden epics.  This is not a lack of originality, more like a signature — familiar but always different.  “The Great Unknown” ends on the soft note with which it began.

What is an Iron Maiden album without a Steve Harris bass intro?  He and producer Kevin Shirley captured a wonderful bass sound on this album.  “The Red and the Black”, another epic, is the only Harris solo writing credit.  It has a riff that takes me all the way back to Killers, but then it is gone, and it’s onto another riff…and another…and another.  At 13 minutes in length, this is one of those trademark Harris songs.  Time changes galore, loaded with hooks.  You can draw parallels to many epics from the past, but to do so takes away from this one.  “The Red and the Black” is a proud achievement, a passionate metal song as only Iron Maiden can really do.  Adrian Smith handles one of the guitar solos with a huge splash of wah-wah, and that is simply a thing of beauty.  In sum, if you took a little bit of everything that makes Iron Maiden great and unique, then all those ingredients are in “The Red and the Black”.  Bass outro, and that’s that.

A semi-shorty (5:52) is in the next slot, a fast riffer called “When the River Runs Deep” written by Steve and Adrian.  This one is hard to compare to any past Maiden tracks, as it occupies a space all its own.  Adrian Smith sometimes brings in riffs that sound like something other than Iron Maiden, and I think that’s “When the River Runs Deep”.  Adrian takes another wah-wah solo, but not to be outdone is Janick Gers who throws down an edgy solo of his own.  As far as Iron Maiden goes, this song is guitar solo nirvana.

A 10 minute epic always makes a good closer when you’re Iron Maiden, so the title track “The Book of Souls” (Gers/Harris) is last for disc one.  Gentle acoustic guitars and keyboards emulating pipes tell us that this is previously uncharted territory.  Then “The Book of Souls” trudges forth, with a beat not unlike “Mother Russia” from No Prayer for the Dying.  There’s far more to the song than that, however. Soaring lead vocals (Bruce only seems stronger!) just ice the cake.  All three Maiden guitarists shine on this, but Janick and Adrian have some solos that just play off each other so well. You want those trademark Maiden guitar melodies?  How about galloping riffs?  Nicko McBrain killing it on the drums?  Maiden deliver, in top notch style, everything and then some more.

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Bruce and Adrian co-wrote “Death or Glory”, opening side two with frenetic drums and riffing.  Going for the throat, The Book of Souls has more fast riffs per minute than any Maiden album in decades.  In five brief minutes, you are blasted against the wall, bounced off the floor, and nailed to the ceiling.  Don’t hurt your neck from all the headbanging.  This time, the guitar spotlight is on Dave Murray for an intense, dramatic solo.

“Shadows of the Valley” (Gers/Harris) sounds a lot like “Wasted Years” at first, but only briefly.  If anything, “Shadows of the Valley” recalls Dance of Death-era Iron Maiden.  Although this song is not as powerful or memorable as others on the album, it does contain some seriously incredible instrumental moments.

One of the most heartfelt and powerful songs on the album is the shortest.  “Tears of a Clown” is a thoughtful moment about Robin Williams.  The poignant lyrics are to the point:

All alone in a crowded room,
He tries to force a smile,
The smile it beamed or so it seemed,
But never reached the eyes, disguise,
Masquerading as the funny man do they despise.

I found this to be one of the compelling songs.  Of all the bands to commemorate Robin Williams, I did not expect it to be Iron Maiden.  But they did it in such a way that it completely fits.

Dave Murray and Steve Harris might not have known that Bruce already has a solo song called “Man of Sorrows”, but it doesn’t matter much since Maiden’s song is called “The Man of Sorrows”.  Musically this sounds much like X Factor-era Maiden.  Bruce takes it to a higher level than that.  Dave himself has a nice slow bluesy solo at the end that is just pure gravy.

The biggest surprise, the biggest song, and the biggest challenge has to be “Empire of the Clouds”.  Written solely by Bruce and coming in at almost 20 minutes, it is unprecedented in the Maiden canon.  Never before have the credits “Bruce Dickinson – vocals, piano” been written inside one of their albums.  For the first time ever, the piano is a part of Iron Maiden’s makeup.  Maiden have used orchestras before, and the strings return as well.  “Empire of the Clouds” is a peak accomplishment, something that they (and Bruce) can proudly proclaim, “we did that”.  The piano is a natural fit, in the way it is used to make an epic song even more dramatic.  Aviation has been one of Bruce’s favourite lyrical subjects for a long time, but “Empire of the Clouds” might be his first song about airships.  You can trust him to instill it with all the drama and heaviness that you expect from Iron Maiden.

Even though 92 minutes have elapsed, The Book of Souls does not particularly feel longer than A Matter of Life and Death or The Final Frontier.  Like those two previous records, The Book of Souls is going to have to be digested long-term, returned to again and again to fully absorb and appreciate.  This is an album in the true sense:  best appreciated in sequence, as a single work.  There’s an intermission in the middle for you to change CDs and take a break, but I recommend diving right back in once again.

With Bruce’s very serious health scare, and the increasing age of the band, there is always the chance that this could be the last Iron Maiden album.  Of course, some said that about The Final Frontier as well.  It seems that ever since Brave New World in 2000, Iron Maiden have set to top the previous album each time.  The cumulative effect of that is that they had a hell of a lot to live up to on The Book of Souls.

Mission accomplished.

5/5 stars

Disc 1
1. If Eternity Should Fail (Dickinson) 8:28
2. Speed Of Light (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
3. The Great Unknown (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
4. The Red And The Black (Harris) 13:33
5. When The River Runs Deep (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
6. The Book Of Souls (Gers/ Harris) 10:27

Disc 2
7. Death Or Glory (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
8. Shadows Of The Valley (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
9. Tears Of A Clown (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. The Man Of Sorrows (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. Empire Of The Clouds (Dickinson) 18:01

For the official KeepsMeAlive review by Aaron, click here!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Speed of Light” (2015 single/T-shirt bundle)

For Superdeke‘s review of the new Maiden single, click here!

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20150825IRON MAIDEN – “Speed of Light” (2015 BMG single/T-shirt bundle – Best Buy exclusive)

“Only at Best Buy — the words chill me to the bones.

I don’t know what the deal is with Best Buy exclusives in Canada.  When Tenacious D’s movie Pick of Destiny came out, I found the Best Buy edition no problem, just up the street.  Bonus disc and all, easy peasy.  Didn’t even know such a thing existed until I found it at Best Buy.

Only a few years later, it became impossible to find Best Buy exclusives at Best Buy.  Using Tenacious D as the example again, the Best Buy edition of Rize of the Fenix has two bonus tracks.  I had to buy it on eBay, so you know it was an inflated price.  Same thing with the last Black Sabbath album.  Best Buy had a bonus track called “Naïveté in Black” which happened to be one of the best songs.  Had to buy it on eBay.  Paid too much.

A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced they were getting an exclusive on the new Iron Maiden single “Speed of Light” from the forthcoming double album The Book of Souls.  It came with a T-shirt.  But I wanted the single just as much.  That’s where Stone from Metal Odyssey came in!

First of all, I’m gonna tell you to follow Stone in some way, shape, or form.  (WordPress/Twitter)  He read my plight regarding Best Buy items here and took pity.  I called my closest Best Buy — all CDs have been removed from their inventory.  So Stone bought two copies and sent me one, asking nothing in return.  (I will return the favour — just name it man!)  To say I appreciate this gesture is am understatement, which is why I’m being more long winded than usual for a one track CD single!

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“Speed of Light”, written by the duo of Dickinson/Smith, is true to Iron Maiden, and it sounds fucking brilliant.  We know all about the new double album, with plenty of long bombers.  “Speed of Light” is just a hair over five minutes, a very concise song for any Maiden album.  When Adrian and Bruce write together, you can count on a catchy riff and hooks.  “Speed of Light” delivers, and Bruce’s singing is just as powerful as ever, cancer be damned.  His voice is virtually unchanged since Brave New World, 15 years ago.  The air raid siren is intact.  And this album will be the fifth with this Maiden lineup, the longest lived in its history.  Impressive.

Most impressive.

A highlight of “Speed of Light” has to be Adrian’s solo.  The three Maiden guitarists (Janick Gers and Dave Murray being the other two) all have their own distinct styles, which is a major boon to a band like Maiden.  Adrian is the one who thoughtfully composes his solos, and then lets them rip.  This one is brief but has his stamp all over it.

Sometimes Maiden take on a 70’s vibe.  “The Angel and the Gambler” is one such moment, but I think “Speed of Light” also has one foot in the 70’s.  Just a hint, an insinuation, at the beginning.  Otherwise, “Speed of Light” is purely a modern Maiden metal moment.  It would have fit comfortably on The Final Frontier, although I would caution against inferring the sound of the new album from just one single.  It is probably one of the more straightforward moments on The Books of Souls, but we’ll find out for sure on September 4.

One last comment:  fuck you, cancer!  You just got beat by Bruce Dickinson!

4.5/5 stars