The New Millennium Maiden Slayers
CoC attends Iron Maiden, Slayer and The Almighty
at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy, Paris, France
June 14th, 2000

by: David Rocher
Returning to Bercy with undeterred determination almost a year after Iron Maiden's apocalyptic appearance with Megadeth (and very proud to have indeed survived 9/9/99 well...), I arrived at the entrance of the POPB to discover that quite a few long-maned individuals had also survived the Great Britain sextet's eschatological show last year, and had also returned for more. With the very promising prospect of beholding Slayer and Iron Maiden on the same evening (now, did anyone mention The Almighty?), this two-and-a-half band "package" was undoubtedly, to some considerable extent, a dream come true. Oddly enough, Bercy was filling up, but slowly -- well, 16000 odd thrashers were after all going to be treated to a definitely not-very-Almighty reformation show, so being late that evening was probably only a half-assed effort to try and spare oneself some aural agony.

So, the lights went out, Bercy's audience didn't bother standing up, cheered with rather lukewarm conviction, and The Almighty (minus Pete Friesen -- good on him) made a tentatively triumphant arrival on stage; they then awkwardly waddled through an excruciatingly boring half-hour long set covering material from all their albums since _Powertrippin'_, whilst methodically racking my nerves and ears with excerpts from their obviously gruesome new album. Ricky Warwick sounded like a tone-deaf drunken punk choir, the guitar work was lame and unconvincing, and only drummer Stump Monroe proved to be worthy of any interest that night, as he vainly attempted to salvage this "Ricky's bunch go iceberg-spotting onboard the Titanic" spree. After what seemed like the longest half-hour in my life, The Almighty had convinced me that reformations suck, that poppy punk music also sucks, and had me wondering, for many a sleepless night thereafter, how I could possibly ever have enjoyed _Soul Destruction_ and _Powertrippin'_.

During another endless 20-minute period as roadies cleared the stage, Bercy began to twitch, growl and shudder as the excitement related to Slayer's imminent appearance soared to a peak. Finally, the lights went out, and a warlike roar flooded Bercy, as the legendary thrashers invaded the stage. They started out with their classic "Mandatory Suicide", then flawlessly broke into a high-speed rendition of "War Ensemble", followed by the eerie "South of Heaven". Slayer's playing was perfectly on time, powerful and made for a totally enrapturing set. The quartet halted, and started to play a few of their newer tracks, including the rather unconvincing "Stain of Mind" and another excerpt from _Diabolus in Musica_, after which Slayer attempted to "grace" their Parisian audience with an unreleased track, named "Here comes the Pain" -- which Araya proudly introduced with the words "this is a song about the band... SLAYER". Well, Slayer's forthcoming album is apparently slated for October 31st this year, and I'm quite sorry to say that I sincerely believe that they should put a bold and timely end to their career (rather than beating a dead horse the Sepultura and Metallica -- scratch that, should I rather say "Rockica"? -- way) and cease chipping away at their legend by revelling always deeper in their new-found Korn-style antics. After having more than molested Megadeth's opening appearance last year, I found myself to be more eagerly awaiting the Mustaine mob's new album (which should see them reverting to _Rust in Peace_ and _Peace Sells..._-style aggressiveness) than Slayer's next output... oh, woe is me.

Nonetheless, after this rather tepid fifteen-minute interlude, Slayer paused, before dealing the finishing blows to Bercy as they moved onto cult material such as "Dead Skin Mask", "Hell Awaits" and "Reign in Blood". Without granting fans a second to catch their breath, Slayer closed their set off with the much-awaited "Angel of Death", and left the stage after saluting the writhing mosh-pit at their feet. No encore was granted to us that night, and the bitter-sweet taste of having actually seen Slayer, but only for a ridiculously short 50 minutes, probably remained long in many a fan's mouth that evening.

After another twenty-minute break, the glorious heavy metal legends Iron Maiden then appeared, and things took an unpleasant turn as they instantly opened fire with two tracks from their horrible last collection of essential deja-vu classics, _Brave New World_. I fail to remember what tracks they played from this "Brave New Reformation" that night, but I do however recall that we were mercilessly treated to every track featuring a "wohowoho" sequence for the public to sing (and occasionally collectively go flat) to, including rather lengthy and unconvincing "epic" slabs such as "Dream of Mirrors" or "Blood Brothers". Compared to the splendorous track listing and stage of last year's tour, the backdrop here seemed rather bland and uninteresting, and Iron Maiden's selection of material did nothing to stray away from the assortment of classics they have taken the customary habit of treating their audiences to, such as "Wrathchild", "Iron Maiden", "The Number of the Beast" and "Two Minutes to Midnight". The sextet unfortunately decided to studiously ignore all material from their 1987 masterpiece _Somewhere in Time_, and their godly _Seventh Son of a Seventh Son_ was very meekly represented by the nonetheless great "The Evil That Men Do".

But Iron Maiden's strong point was, as always, their fantastic scenic presence; Bruce Dickinson was absolutely frantic that night, as he tirelessly ran from one end of the stage to another, then appearing crucified on a cross that was raised behind the stage decor, gracing French audiences with some of the most perfect singing I have ever heard from him. The string section put on a fine show as usual, Dave Murray's and Adrian Smith's godly leads ceaselessly giving chase to one another, Steve Harris bass-gunning the audience, and Janick Gers making a total fool of himself on many an occasion -- a heart-warming sight indeed, something that has the feel of coming home after a long journey... After the Maiden first left the stage, faithful to tradition, an encore gimmick took place, as always capped off by a brilliant interpretation of "Hallowed Be thy Name"; Bruce Dickinson was literally ethereal on this track, so perfectly flawless were his vocals, reaching heights unknown to me with utterly awe-inspiring smoothness.

The band then left the stage for good, and Bercy began to empty... I can't help but think that despite his electric performance that night, Bruce must feel somehow restrained on a tame collection of rather banal heavy metal material such as _Brave New World_; however, I sincerely wish that the Maiden's next offering will prove me wrong, and that with the ideal line-up they have conjured, the Britons will release the glorious sequel a timeless milestone such as _Seventh Son of a Seventh Son_ so direly deserves.

(article submitted 12/8/2000)


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