Reviewed by Pedro Blas González
Iron Maiden is an apocryphal rock band. Their sound is not easily classifiable as straight rock. This alone makes their style rather unorthodox among rock bands. Only a handful of other rock groups before them have gone their same route, what used to be called Hard Rock: Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Deep Purple and Uriah Heap, even though the use of progressive, keyboard elements by the latter two groups sets them apart. A more appropriate comparison to the Iron Maiden sound is Nazareth and Judas Priest, especially in their vocals.
The Iron Maiden signature sound is definitely unique. Their newer songs remain as unpredictable and meandering as ever. Their new album titled From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010 brings together songs from a time when heavy metal gave way to a hodgepodge of indecipherable sounds that are more akin to the clatter made by mechanical, industrial machinery than that of proficient musicians. ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ is a fine example of Iron Maiden’s ability to create interesting songs that employ different time signatures. This song even has a melodic keyboard.
Undoubtedly, Iron Maiden’s followers, sesemingly rowdy young males, and today, legions of middle-aged headbangers, devour songs like ‘The Wicker Man’, ‘Fear of the Dark’, and the acerbic, ‘Holy Smoke’. However, as aggressive as their sound is, this is not an accurate profile of the band members. The band’s very enjoyable documentary, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, paints a picture of energetic, affable family men in their late fifties. The documentary follows the group’s stellar popularity during their 2008 Somewhere in the World tour, as they fly their chartered Boeing 757, incidentally, which is piloted by the band’s singer, Bruce Dickinson. Piloting such a formidable aircraft requires a pretty level head. So, one must conclude that it is all about rock’n’roll. Image is everything, don’t you see?
Latter day Iron Maiden has modelled itself on the success of their staple hit, ‘Run to the Hills’. Their theatrical lyrics and the varied time signature of their songs have always been suitable candidates to fill the soundtrack of slasher movies. That’s the point, though. Having found a niche of heavy metal rock fans to claim as their own, and who have a burning desire to bob their heads for endless hours at a time, the band’s success is predicated on their ability to make new fans. Part of the story of Iron Maiden is that their sizeable fan base has now reached the half-century mark.
Given the many imitators that have surfaced on the music scene in the last two decades, no other group has managed to eclipse Iron Maiden’s freshness in continuing to create heavy metal rock. Consider that while Iron Maiden lyrics can still be deciphered, despite Steve Harris’ lighting fast bass fingering technique and thundering drumming, their imitators – Thrash Metal bands – have all but given up on singing, period.
‘Blood Brothers’ is a quasi Irish-sounding ballad that employs a singing-lead guitar and melodic strings. How’s that for heavy metal? The junction between melody and hard edged metal rock, Nicko McBrain’s rapid tom tom fills, and the use of diverse and very challenging tempos is what ultimately distinguishes the band’s legacy.
Iron Maiden stayed with their music through the years. Today, they are enjoying a golden-age of loyal listeners who cherish their body of work.
Pedro Blas González is a philosopher and writer. He has published six books.