Ginger Nuts of Horror
I think the early years after Iron Maiden's reuniting with Bruce Dickinson are pretty rough. I was there on the first day to purchase Brave New World and I told myself how brilliant it was but, honestly, I always find myself skipping over that one in favor of more classic Maiden. Still, it had to be said that the band has a certain something now that they never did before. A kind of maturity, a kind of force. They just weren't able to harness it.
2006's A Matter of Life and Death is a different story, however. This is the album, for me, where it all comes together. This is a new Maiden sound that is distinct from the band they used to be but still maintains that INTEGRITY that is Iron Maiden. Part of that is helped by the fact that the band chose to not master the recording. This creates a “live” sound that the band has kept ever since and it is perfect for what they do. No frills. No bullshit. This is Iron Maiden.
That's not right, though. Not really. What is Iron Maiden? Well, simply, Iron Maiden is Iron Maiden. Albums released under the Iron Maiden name are, technically speaking, Iron Maiden. Who am I to say that this or that is or is not Maiden? I, who have absolutely no hand in anything other than just spinning the discs when they release. Who, indeed, are you?
Steve Harris thought Virtual XI was Maiden and he has a great deal more “right” than I or you to define what is and isn't Iron Maiden. So why does AMOLAD feel more “Maiden” to me than the aforementioned Blaze Bayley-fronted album? It’s not the inclusion of Bruce over Blaze because Brave New World feels inauthentic too. In fact, I'd wager that The X Factor is many times the “Maiden” album that Brave New World is.
I argue that a Maiden album is a Maiden album when it doesn't apologize for existing. The very worst albums bearing the Maiden name are ones that apologize for something. The X Factor, a brave and bold album that took the band to unexplored territory, got grief from fans who wanted Bruce Dickinson back. What happened next? Iron Maiden released a Bruce Dickinson album with Blaze on vocals and it is one of their worst albums. That album failed, so the band got Bruce back into the fold but did not wait until they could work as a cohesive whole again. What happened? Brave New World. And on it goes.
Then the band decided to be Iron Maiden again. They decided to be unapologetic. A Matter of Life and Death was born. For that reason, AMOLAD should be a lesson in a time when artists and consumers feel a need to apologize for just being what they are. We should all aspire to this kind of commitment and honesty.
Oh, the songs really kick ass too. I'll let you figure that out for yourself though.
CT McNeely is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in such places as Thuglit, Beat to a Pulp, Monster! and Fist of B List. He lives in the greatest city on Earth -- New Orleans, LA -- with his perfect wife and their mighty children.