Ginger Nuts of Horror
Brave New World saw Bruce Dickinson return to Iron Maiden. Which made it fairly appropriate that this was the first Iron Maiden album that I bought. Thinking back (cue wavy ‘memory’ effect and harp music) it must have been about the year 2000. I was at that stage of my youth where I was obsessed with music. Every penny I had went on music, eyeliner and black nail varnish, or black t-shirts displaying the imagery of said music. I had exhausted the back catalogues of Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss, and now Iron Maiden were recommended to me by a friend.
My existing impression of them at that time wasn’t particularly positive. Put down those pitchforks a moment, just hear me out before you chase me up to the old windmill. I was under the impression that Iron Maiden songs were all about dragons and goblins and such. Which I stand by, except it no longer bothers me because my music taste is much broader now. At the time, however, I was 15 years old and wanted my music to be about sex and girls and sexy girls. All three of which were things that I wasn’t getting much of. So, albums that seemed to me to be the rock music equivalent of Lord of the Rings? No thank you. Even if they did have a cool zombie thing on the album covers.
My mind changed somewhat when I wandered into my local independent music store - that’s right, this was back when we still had those - and looked at the ‘sale’ section. Brave New World, a new release at that time, was on sale for about a fiver. That was near enough my usual budget for CDs those days, so I decided I’d risk it and give Maiden a go. It had nice artwork on the cover, the song titles seemed interesting, and the guy behind the counter told me it was a good return to form for them. Fair enough, I thought, except I didn’t really know what their ‘form’ was and whether it was worth returning to.
I got my answer that evening as I spun the CD on my stereo for the first time. From the opening of ‘Wicker Man’, I knew I was onto something good. The pacing, the energy, the harmonies and melodies, and Dickinson’s voice. It was all just brilliant. The kind of music that serves like a mental can of Redbull. But it wasn’t just fast and loud for the sake of it; it had purpose, depth and feeling. The songs felt like they had a power that I was unlikely to get listening to Paul Stanley sing about some girl who liked to suck his cock. This was a new kind of music to me; almost like real stories told to amazing tunes.
It’s probably a rather obvious ‘next chapter’ in that particular tale, but inevitably I went back to that independent music shop and started to buy up Iron Maiden’s back catalogue. Not in any particular order, but simply picking up whatever was on sale that week. The album covers seemed to be increasingly good the further back I went into the band’s history, and I even managed to find three or four whose spines lined up to make another picture of Eddie, the zombie from the artwork. He was just missing part of his left cheek because I already owned the album which would have filled it, and the version I had wasn’t part of the same editions. It was fine though, Eddie didn’t seem to mind missing part of his face. I think I made it up to him by purchasing a massive action figure in his likeness, which would adorn the top of my wardrobe for several years.
So what was it about this album that brought me into the fold, as far as Maiden’s music is concerned? Is every single song brilliant? No, but then there’s few albums (by ANY artist) where you can truly claim that. But the songs that are good, are VERY good. So good, in fact, that they stand (in my opinion, and also it seems the opinion of others) as strong as any of the more popular songs from Maiden’s history. Brave New World was, of sorts, a comeback album. A return to form in terms of lineup, and many would say quality. I’d like to go into more detail as to why this is, but I’m not going to give a full breakdown of every single track. Instead I’ll just select a few which stand out for me personally:
The Wicker Man
First track on the album, and Christ, is it a good start. It’s fast, loud and sets a perfect pace to hit the ground running. It even has a catchy singalong bit (Your Time Will Come….repeat), which impressively doesn’t take away from the epic feel to the song. Like many of Maiden’s best work, this song feels like it could be the soundtrack to something. It’s also a very ‘accessible’ Maiden track, I feel. One of their songs most likely to be enjoyed by folk who aren’t fans of their music. As such that’s why it usually has a place on any Rock compilations I make for parties or long journeys.
Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Ah, now this one holds a special place for me. Firstly, when I listened to new music as often as I did in my mid-teens, I was always happy to find that track on an album. The one that stuck in my head. The one I would rewind (yep, this was back when we used to make our own compilation tapes, a process I had to genuinely explain to my girlfriend) over and over to listen to just because the minutes that the song lasted weren’t enough. On Brave New World, this track was most definitely it. It starts well, builds up and then gets to the chorus, which is just perfect in itself. In fact, a much more recent memory of that chorus is when a group of friends and fellow rock fans were at Sheffield’s premier Rock Night Club, the Corporation, when this song was the latest to be blasted from the surrounding speakers. When it got to the chorus, damn near everyone…on the dance floor, at the bar, generally mulling about…raised their fists to the air and sang along. It was like the Church of Rock.
I will hope, my soul will fly,
So I will live forever.
Heart will die, my soul will fly,
And I will live forever
If there was one song on this album that was the sort to get people to raise their lighters in the air, it’s this one. It’s strong, has a beautiful melody, and it’s as anthemic as any song could be. It starts gently with Dickinson’s voice luring you in, and then suddenly the chorus hits. And when it does the hairs on your neck stand up. This song is the type that I may accidentally start singing along to on public transport. That’s a risk I need to point out if you’re going to listen to it. In fact the song should probably carry a warning.
I’ve only given notes on three of the ten tracks on this album, but these three alone are enough reason to own it, assuming you don’t already. These songs and the album they belong to set the tone that Maiden were back, and knew how to deliver what they had done at their best. Power, melody, and songs that made you quite happily embarrass yourself vocally on a bus. And for me personally, introduced me to a band who I would, in hindsight, have been sorry to have never discovered.
‘About the Author’
Lex H Jones is a British cross-genre author, horror fan and rock music enthusiast who lives in Sheffield. He has written articles for The Gingernuts of Horror on various subjects covering books, films videogames and music. When not working on his own writing, Lex also contributes to the proofing and editing process for other authors.
Lex’s first published book, Nick and Abe, is available for purchase from Amazon, Waterstones, and various other book sellers. The book tells the story of God and the Devil spending a year on Earth as mortal men, to see who has the most to learn about the world they created. Things don’t go as planned, however, and their newfound humanity forces them to re-evaluate their relationship with each other and maybe, just maybe, start to repair it.
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/LexHJones/
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nick-Abe-Lex-H-Jones/dp/190858694X/
Amazon US link: http://www.amazon.com/Nick-Abe-Lex-H-Jones/dp/190858694X/
Waterstones link: https://www.waterstones.com/book/nick-and-abe/lex-h-jones/9781908586940