Iron Maiden - _Brave New World_
by: Paul Schwarz (
To unearth my reasons for reviewing this "high profile" release in CoC's hallowed "underground" pages, look up my review of Pantera's _Reinventing the Steel_ [CoC #48], insert classic as an adjective where appropriate, amplify influence factor by at least tenfold, and change the decade from the nineties to the eighties. On another note, be assured that the timing of this review is not just down to a perpetually hectic schedule and a two month visit to Argentina, for much as I was disgusted enough on first listen to not be able to finish the entirety of _Brave New World_ past track six, I have since given it repeated spins now totalling in excess of twenty. I have "lived" with this record, and as an Iron Maiden fan. In the words of _BNW_'s final song, there is a thin line between love and hate, and Iron Maiden's comeback with Bruce Dickinson -- back and happily exercising the air-raid siren -- exemplifies perfectly how possible it is to love and hate the same group of musicians, to differing degrees, over nearly seventy(!) minutes of music. Especially after repeated spins, love is definitely the initial emotion evoked by Iron Maiden's twelfth offering. "The Wicker Man" (the album's single and video) is assuredly _BNW_'s finest moment, despite being overlong, excessively anthemic, and repetitive; symptoms of the album's ultimate downfall from start to finish. It isn't surprising to find that Adrian Smith took the greatest part in the creation of this stomping opener, though it's unfortunate that he ripped off Judas Priest's "Running Wild" -- opening riff = identical -- to do so. From here on it proves to be a bumpy ride. "Flight of the Navigator" has its moments but is ultimately maybe a little pretentious; the title track is cleanly structured and adequately evocative but no classic; "Blood Brothers" combines _Load_-era Metallica with Manowar and its first chorus enters after 40 seconds: need I say more?; "Mercenary" is nothing but cannon fodder. It terminated my first listening of _BNW_, and after repeated spins the wholly overlong "Dream of Mirrors" -- and its totally excessively repeated chorus -- fails to evoke any other desire in me. After the flat "Fallen Angel" and god-awful "The Nomad" have dragged by, "Out the Silent Planet" proves to be the only other song on _BNW_ that I can happily listen to all the way through. It injects some -pleasantly- anthemic and powerful riffing laced with pleasant melodies and boasting a -pleasingly- catchy chorus. "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate" then closes things off in distinctly lukewarm, unspectacular style. It feels strange to advise a band with years of experience behind them and, we assume, megatons of talent still in them about arrangement and song selection, but at a rough estimate I'd say Maiden could've cut _Brave New World_ down to about half (discarding the fat of inadequate songs and unnecessary repetitions) and come out with a better and eminently more -listenable- album. You see, _BNW_'s greatest asset is that it is Iron Maiden who made it. The musicianship and melodic sensibility is present and correct, and Bruce Dickinson, though maybe not -as- spectacular as on certain past releases, is nonetheless still in possession of some of the finest lungs in the metal world. Many other bands (see current Century Media and Nuclear Blast rosters for details) would probably have performed _BNW_ a lot worse, more obviously exposing its considerable shortcoming. However, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Maiden have released an album which, by their standards, is verging on the diabolically bad and not just merely the so-so level of witnessed in Bruce's final early nineties days with the band. A Maiden album is not necessarily a good album -- though the weakness of _BNW_ is hard to understand considering the high quality and sheer metalness Dickinson's last solo offering, 1998's _A Chemical Wedding_ -- I hope the band collectively remember that for next time. Honestly speaking though, I don't think Maiden will ever again make an album that I will feel the need to own.
(article published 10/25/2000)
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