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Old 11-19-2017, 09:21 AM   #71 (permalink)
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Track title: “Die With Your Boots On”
Album: Piece of Mind
Year: 1983
Written by: Adrian Smith/Steve Harris/Bruce Dickinson
Subject: The futility of war
Type: Fast rocker
Length: 5:22
Familiar? Oh yes
Rating: 9/10
Perhaps foreshadowing Seventh Son of a Seventh Son five years later, this powerful Maiden rocker opens with the words “Another prophet of disaster”, but it's anything but a disaster. Unlike some, especially later, Maiden songs, this one kicks off in top gear and doesn't takes its foot off the pedal to the last note, careening along like a mad charging battle horse, pulling us along with it. From the opening spiky riffs, and the thumping percussion to Bruce's final shouted “Die!” right at the end, this song is a rocker through and through, and you can bang your head to it all you like because it just does not let up for one single second.

By now Maiden had mastered the art of writing potential hit songs (whether that was their intention or not) with songs like “Run to the Hills”, “Flight of Icarus” and of course “The Number of the Beast”, and their somewhat punky, harsh metal tracks had given way to a more polished, almost commercial sound, without even losing their innate heaviness. In fact, rather than ever being likely of being accused of selling out by writing chart hits, it seems Maiden's singles just kicked their way into the charts on their own merits, and due of course to the resurgence in interest in heavy metal, with Saxon, Motorhead and these guys leading the charge. Hell, it felt good to hear “That was Human League, now here's IRON MAIDEN!” This wasn't a single – too long I guess – but it could almost have been. As could most of this album I guess. Powerful stuff.

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Old 11-19-2017, 09:39 AM   #72 (permalink)
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Track title: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
Album: Powerslave
Year: 1984
Written by: Steve Harris
Subject: Based on the poem
Type: Epic rocker
Length: 13:45
Familiar? Oh **** yes
Rating: 10/10
Is there any other band, never mind metal band, who could not only base one of their songs on an nineteenth-century epic poem, but also have it become one of their fan favourites? Drawing on the epic work of English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” takes the huge saga not quite word for word but very close, and makes an unforgettable metal anthem out of it. The song ended up being, until 2015, Maiden's longest ever at just under fourteen minutes, and quite possibly one of the longest metal songs too, and stands as one of Steve Harris's finest works, despite the **** I gave him for his later work.

If you don't know the poem, it kind of doesn't matter because it's explained in the song, but basically an old sailor shoots an albatross while at sea. This is bad luck, and robs the ship of any wind so that it becomes becalmed, easy prey for Death and his missus when they show up. Kicking off as a fast headbanger, the song goes into a dark, brooding section in the middle, driven by Harris's moody, ominous bass, with a spoken section taken directly from the poem which describes the plight of the mariners as they all begin to die. Slowly then, the song begins to pick up speed as the winds blow and the ship starts to move again, ending both triumphantly and tragically, as the ancient mariner is the only one to survive the harrowing of his vessel.

I'm really not sure any other metal band could have pulled this off, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a huge Maiden fanboy. There's something about their fans that not only accept, but expect and enjoy being treated as more than just meatheads. As I said before in one of the entries, Maiden don't very often sing of motorbikes and beer and wimmen – they do occasionally, but by no means do these standard staples of the metal song form the basis of their songwriting – but seek to educate through their music, while still keeping it heavy enough to headbang to even if you don't particularly care about the history or ethical lessons being taught within the music. Kind of the thinking man's metal band, really, and with this song they proved they deserve that title. Who else but Maiden could do this, and pull it off so successfully?

A very interesting thing about this song (as if it wasn't interesting enough already) is that there's hardly a guitar solo in it at all. We only get one after the song is about ten minutes long, and that's saying something for a band who love their solos!

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Old 11-19-2017, 09:48 AM   #73 (permalink)
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Track title: “Purgatory”
Album: Killers
Year: 1981
Written by: Steve Harris
Subject: Um...
Type: Fast rocker
Length: 3:18
Familiar? Yes
Rating: 8/10
Second-last track on Killers, this is another Harris solo effort, as indeed was virtually all of that album. It flies along, just literally headlong, with Di'Anno almost fighting to keep up with the guitars, which scream ahead like something possessed. It's very definitely a song when you kind of go “Yeah Paul, grand, but can you keep it down? I want to hear the guitars!” The interplay between Smith and Murray here is really impressive, and they lay down a wall of sound that takes your breath away and just goes for the throat, not letting up. There's almost (almost) not even time for a solo; it's like a race between the two. Who wins? Who cares? What a song!
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Old 11-19-2017, 10:00 AM   #74 (permalink)
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Track title: “The Nomad”
Album: Brave New World
Year: 2000
Written by: Dave Murray/Steve Harris
Subject: A nomad, duh
Type: Epic rocker/cruncher
Length: 9:06
Familiar? Very
Rating: 10/10
It may be cliche, but I love the Eastern flavour the guitars get for this tale of a desert wanderer who may be more than he seems. The main guitar riff is to die for, and the chorus just the icing on the cake. But the best part of the song is the instrumental section that runs for almost three minutes, and then just when you think, well it's ending on an instrumental now, back comes the vocal for the big finish. Superb. Of course, another great thing about it, and the whole album, is that it features the long-awaited and needed return of Bruce Dickinson after an absence of ten years. Whether it was planned that he could come back to usher in the new millennium or not I don't know, but hell it worked out well! This album would be the first time Maiden would have three guitarists – and it would remain thus to the present day – and it really shows in the layers and layers of guitar you can hear, sweeping, clashing, intermeshing with and supporting one another. And let's not forget the amazing orchestral arrangement, a first I think for Maiden. Man, this song has it all!

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Old 11-19-2017, 10:08 AM   #75 (permalink)
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Track title: “The Fallen Angel”
Album: Brave New World
Year: 2000
Written by: Adrian Smith/Steve Harris
Subject: Some guy called Satan
Type: Fast rocker/Headbanger
Length: 4:00
Familiar? Yes
Rating: 8/10
Seems like we're staying with Brave New World for now. That's not a problem to me. This is the shortest track on the album, very immediate given that it runs for four minutes only, but there's certainly nothing lost by its being so short. A real punchy little song, presumably about the Fall of Satan, and if so, then one of the few songs Maiden have written with any sort of religious/satanic bent since “The Number of the Beast”. Another great one to headbang to, and a fine hook in the song.

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Old 11-19-2017, 10:22 AM   #76 (permalink)
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Note: I've decided to add album reviews here. Most of them will be pulled from my original journal, though I may have to write the odd new one. I'm going to do them in strict chronological order. And so, we start off with the debut, written by me originally sometime around maybe 2013 I think.

Although now rightfully enthroned and recognised as the leading heavy metal band, even over thirty years after they formed, the big “break” Iron Maiden got in life, I believe, was a change of vocalist. Although their first two albums were moderately successful, they did not serve to break them commercially and lift them to the heights of stardom: it took their third album, The Number of the Beast to do that, and it all pretty much hinged on the arrival of one Bruce Dickinson, following the departure of the man who had fronted the band for their first two albums.

Iron Maiden --- Iron Maiden --- 1980 (EMI)


In fairness, it's easy to see why. While both the debut, to be discussed here, and its followup, Killers, a year later, were fine albums, there was a rawness about them and a certain something lacking, that seemed to prophesy that should things not change, Iron Maiden were going to go down as one of the bands of the NWOBHM who, though successful, would soon fade into the mists of its history, along with other bands like Raven, Xero, White Spirit and Trespass. Of course, that didn't happen, and they rose to, and retain, the position of megastars. But you can see from their debut that, though impressive enough for a young band, and showing the signs of being on the cusp of something truly remarkable, the weak link was holding them back, if that's not too mixed a metaphor.

The album starts off with that by-now-famous twin guitar attack but then vocalist Paul Di'Anno cuts in, and his voice is rough and gutteral, and though it kind of suits this album's rawness and menace, you couldn't really see him singing “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, could you? “Prowler” is a good opener, but not that special really, though it certainly demonstrates the versatility of the two guitarists, Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton, the latter soon to be replaced by Adrian Smith. Clive Burr on drums bashes out the rhythm with gusto, and as it ever would be, Steve Harris' bass is there to quietly keep command of the song.

A much more ambitious song, “Remember Tomorrow”, penned, it has to be allowed, by Di'Anno and Harris, opens with moody bass and picked guitar, quite similar, it must be said, to the midsection of the much later “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from Powerslave. After a low-key intro, Di'Anno goes into overdrive on the vocal, the twin guitars building the tension and power before the song slides back down into what could fool those who don't know it as a ballad. Great use of the guitars on the verses, where many bands would have opted for piano or keyboards, which Maiden seldom used all through their long career. Towards the end the guitar work gets as frantic as Di'Anno's vocal histrionics, and the song ends powerfully and well.

Their very first chart single is next, but I personally consider “Running Free” as more filler material, and there are much better tracks on the album. It does have plenty of energy, great rolling drumbeats from Burr, and a nice little guitar solo, but it doesn't put too much of a strain on the attention, and I feel passes by without any real impression. Still, it was their first hit. It also marks the end of Di'Anno's contribution to the songwriting. Far, far better is the now-classic “Phantom of the Opera”, their longest song for some time, coming in at almost seven and a half minutes. It starts with that iconic guitar riff, then trundles away like a runaway train, and it must be admitted that Di'Anno does a sterling job on the vocal here.

The song goes through a few changes along the way, making it Maiden's first step into progressive metal: it's almost composed of movements, like a classical concerto. A great guitar solo from Dave Murray helps move the song along, then Harris' bass takes the second movement, as it were, joined by the guitars and drums, creating the instrumental section and taking it into what I would term the third movement, where both guitarists rock out with some more fine solos, one across the other in some excellent interplay. The fourth movement then comes when the song goes more or less back to its opening chord structure and Di'Anno comes back in on the vocals to finish proceedings.

It's without question the standout of the album, and would remain for many years one of Maiden's favourite tracks, both by the fans and the band. It's followed by one of their only instrumentals, “Transylvania”, a rollicking, rocking guitarfest with powerful drumming from Clive Burr driving the melody on like a steamhammer. Even more rare in future years, up next is an Iron Maiden ballad! With restrained guitar and even soft vocals from Paul Di'Anno, “Strange World” runs almost seamlessly from the spooky, atmospheric ending of “Transylvania” and indeed seems like it might be another instrumental, as there's no singing for almost a minute and a half. Considering how good this track is, it's a pity Maiden opted to not have another ballad for another twelve years, but that was their choice. “Strange World”, however, shows Harris could write a slow song as well as, if not better than, any other heavy metal songwriter.

The only song written by Dave Murray on the album is next, and though it's a little raw, “Charlotte the Harlot” would be revisited on 1982's The Number of the Beast, the continuing story of the prostitute running through some of Maiden's best albums. It's a fast rocker, with Di'Anno back at his supercharged best, Murray's own guitar growling through the song as if he wanted to stamp his total identity on his creation. Nice little slowdown about halfway through distinguishes it from tracks like “Prowler”, “Running Free” and the title track, which closes the album.

I know it's become a staple of the band, and indeed their signature song, but I find “Iron Maiden” a little too raw, somewhat bereft of musical ideas. A lot of the music on this album comes close to punk rock (punk metal?), mostly due to I think Di'Anno's vocal but also the hard, edgy guitar playing of Murray and Stratton, as well as the subject matter for the songs, mostly chosen by Harris. Also contributing to the punk feel of the album was the raw, muggy and as far as Maiden were concerned, totally unsatisfactory production of Will Malone, who after the debut never worked with the band again.

Iron Maiden would release one more album with Paul Di'Anno before firing him and replacing him with Samson's Bruce Dickinson, beginning a whole new era for the band and opening their music up to a much wider audience. From there on, Maiden would not look back, but had they stayed with Di'Anno, or indeed hired someone similar after he had been let go, would we in fact even recognise the name Iron Maiden today, or would they just be a small footnote in the book of Heavy Metal history?

Going on the strength of this debut, you'd have to say that the seeds of greatness were there, it just took a really great singer and a small change of direction to make them flower and bear fruit, but then you should never forget where you came from, and had this album not been recorded there would never have been an Iron Maiden, so we must be thankful and take the album on its merits.

I do think, though, it could have been a very close-run thing.

TRACK LISTING

1. Prowler
2. Remember Tomorrow
3. Running Free
4. Phantom of the Opera
5. Transylvania
6. Strange World
7. Charlotte the Harlot
8. Iron Maiden
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Old 11-20-2017, 03:30 AM   #77 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post
Kind of the thinking man's metal band, really, and with this song they proved they deserve that title.
I love Maiden, their lyrics are fun, and this song is amazing, but they are no thinking man's metal band. It doesn't take any creativity to crib a pre-existing story and add nothing to it. It's just a cover of a poem basically. The band clearly thinks they're a lot smarter than they really are.

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Old 11-20-2017, 10:22 AM   #78 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The Batlord View Post
I love Maiden, their lyrics are fun, and this song is amazing, but they are no thinking man's metal band. It doesn't take any creativity to crib a pre-existing story and add nothing to it. It's just a cover of a poem basically. The band clearly thinks they're a lot smarter than they really are.

I know but who would have even had the idea to tackle that poem for a song? It's the idea that counts. Sure, they didn't add anything to it - but what could you add? It's complete - but they were thinking out of the box, I feel, by not taking the easy route and writing about the usual things metal bands tend to write about. Also, shut up.
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:28 AM   #79 (permalink)
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I know but who would have even had the idea to tackle that poem for a song? It's the idea that counts. Sure, they didn't add anything to it - but what could you add? It's complete - but they were thinking out of the box, I feel, by not taking the easy route and writing about the usual things metal bands tend to write about. Also, shut up.
Ambition does not equal intelligence, though I do respect that they actually try to be different.
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:44 AM   #80 (permalink)
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Ambition does not equal intelligence, though I do respect that they actually try to be different.
I agree, but what I'm saying is that they appeal more to the kind of fan who wants more in their music than "Woh woh who waa waa baby baby!" etc.

Also, **** Dragonforce, just on general principles.
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