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Brave New Irons
Brave New World - Iron Maiden
Member Name: Jarisleif
Brave New World - Iron Maiden
Advantages: Some incredible choruses
Disadvantages: Album fades a little towards the end
"Brave New World" is the 12th studio album by British heavy metal artists, Iron Maiden. It was produced by Steve Harris and Kevin Shirley and released in 2000. The line-up for the album was Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (guitar), Adrian Smith (guitar), Janick Gers (guitar), Steve Harris (bass) and Nicko McBrain (drums).
This album marked the return to the Iron Maiden fold of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, who both left the band in the 1990s. Dickinson's last studio album with the band previously was 1992's "Fear of the Dark", while Smith last played on the 1990 release, "No Prayer For the Dying". This was also the first time the band entered the studio with three guitarists. The album reached No.7 in the UK charts and spawned two singles: "The Wicker Man" and "Out of the Silent Planet". The album cover shows a futuristic London with Tower Bridge in the forefront of the picture and the River Thames is surrounded by unrecognisable buildings. In the skies above, Eddie's face is there and is smiling down on the City.
Right from the start of "The Wicker Man" it's clear that Iron Maiden have a winning formula once more with Dickinson back in the band and the new three guitar line-up. I really like the opening riff and Bruce's vocals sound as good as they've ever done, stamping out the doubts that he was done as a singer. For those that don't know, his vocal performance on the "Fear of the Dark" album was a little raspy on some songs and his successor, Blaze Bayley, just couldn't cut the mustard with Iron Maiden. I thought he was a great singer for Wolfsbane, but Maiden is a different animal altogether. The bellowing of "Your time will come" in the chorus proves the doubters wrong, but it's not all about Bruce. Steve Harris' bass clunks away as dominant as ever and Nicko on the drums is a wondrous sound. This is a really great song and my favourite on the whole album. Bruce Dickinson said "This song is called "The Wicker Man" because there's one line in the song which mentions The Wicker Man as in the 1970s film of the same name. And the song is, I think, the best single Maiden have had out in ages. It's a really rocking song. I was just thinking about when I stand up in front of thousands of people singing, just thinking about the buzz I get out of it; I'm thinking about the buzz I used to get when I was a kid and I used to go to rock festivals you really felt you belonged to something bigger than yourself on that one day. You also felt in some ways that you could change something; you could change the world a little bit that day because you're all in that field. And that's what's the song's about, hence the chorus, "Your time will come". You suddenly feel you are a part of everything.
"Ghost of the Navigator" begins with a marvellous intro that's melodic and timely with a few parts to it that leads into the main part of the song. Firstly, that riff is incredible, but I've heard it before on a W.A.S.P. record, although it escapes me at the moment of which one it was. That doesn't stop it from being really good, though, because Iron Maiden could take something from Boyzone and still make it sound like perfection. The only problem I have with the song is Bruce's wails before the chorus - they just don't really fit - and I think it would have been more atmospheric without them there. This is another song I really like on this album, which makes it 2 out of 2 so far for the Irons. Bruce Dickinson noted "I wrote the song with Janick and he came up with this riff, and I just got this thing in my head of Vikings smashing through the seas, big boats and pioneers. Then I thought about navigation. So being a vaguely arty bloke on occasions it struck me as a metaphor for life. So suddenly I had a plot for the song. It was a great big epic sea-faring journey and the journey was life and the navigator was us as we were writing it. Steve said, "That's a really cool middle bit, and we can have this bit in it too" and I really liked it. I don't know if he was on the same wavelength as me but it sounds to me like a big storm because I've already got the navigator lashed to the helm as not to be tempted by the sirens on the rocks trying to distract him. Trying not to be distracted by all the ghosts of his subconscious, the ghosts of his failed aspirations, and also his own fears, that it may all be pointless when he gets there and he does it because he must. That's the only answer he can give."
"Brave New World" begins with a slow acoustic riff that Bruce softly sings along to, accompanied by the bass which matches his melody. I can understand the need to bring in something complex to the song, but I'm torn between wanting it to be removed and wanting it to be a little heavier than it is. When the song finally gets going properly, it sounds really good leading up to the chorus which sounds wonderful. It's that build-up that gets you, though, and that's what's important about this song. Without those build-up verses it just couldn't work, and Dickinson's impressive singing of "A brave new world in a brave new world" would not hold the power that it does. This is a magnificent song that depicts the novel by Aldous Huxley as only Iron Maiden can. Bruce Dickinson noted: ""Dying swans twisted wings, beauty not needed here". I don't recall there being any dying swans in "Brave New World" the book, but I wanted an image that represented the tragedy and sadness of what "Brave New World" had done. Dying swans, twisted wings, you know, the agony, the death. "Brave New World" doesn't want to see that. It has no use for either the life or the death. All it has use for is the image because in the book, if you want excitement you go to the viddies; it's Aldous Huxley's premonition of virtual reality and I'm taking that and throwing it out there for discussion."
I really enjoy the intro on "Blood Brothers" with its winding, orchestral feel to it on the guitars and this is a song that has the crowd in the palm of Bruce Dickinson's hand, especially in the chorus. His passionate singing on this song completely blows me away and it really does sound incredible live. The soft riffs go well with the vocals, and Steve Harris' bass clanging away during the verses makes it even more of a good track. Of the song, Bruce Dickinson said "This is a little masterpiece that's Steve's song 100%. In singing it I can tell you what I think it's about. It's about Steve's relationship with his father who died; it's a very personal song so this song is about Steve and his father being blood brothers, like, forever the lines go. "Just for a second a glimpse of my father I see, and in a movement he beckons to me, and in a moment the memories are all that remain, and all the wounds are reopening again, we're blood brothers". So it's kind of bitter sweet and very loving and at the same time very melancholic. It's a lot of very, very mixed emotions and musically there are a few Celtic nods."
"The Mercenary" brings us back to the fast heavy metal style of song that Iron Maiden was once known for, as opposed to the epic songs that they began doing. There's not much to it if I'm honest and I think it could be filler, although I'm sure some will disagree with me. It's weak in the lyrics and the guitar riffs sound like they've been conjured up on the day of the recording, but that's just my opinion. As legend would have it, this song was originally meant to be on the album's predecessor, "Virtual XI", and I can imagine that holding some truth. Bruce Dickinson noted "This is a good solid track not a huge amount to say except that they're mercenaries and they're generally a bad thing; they're generally cruel and heartless fiends who cynically kill people for money. A fairly conventional tuneful Maiden rocker comparable to a sort of "Die With Your Boots On" type thing."
Something inside me says that "Dream of Mirrors" was written with former vocalist Blaze Bayley in mind because of the structure at the beginning of the song. It's powerful, but there are a lot of words that fit into the opening verse and I'm not sure that works. It's the longest song on the album at over nine minutes long and I find it a little repetitive and bland, to be honest. It only gets going just over halfway through with the marvellous chorus that rocks your socks off and gets faster towards the bridge with Nicko playing some timely double bass on the drums. Bruce Dickinson said "It's a pretty lengthy song and the chorus is blinding! One of the best choruses I think Steve has ever written, and one of the best lyrics he's ever written too. "I only dream in black and white". I mean straight away, absolutely great! Who dreams in black and white? Wow, do I? Is that weird? "I only dream in black and white, I only dream because I'm alive, I only dream in black and white, to save me from myself!" I was like, "Oh man he's a tortured bloke, Steve is sometimes", and he does have these dreams and deja-vu things and out of body things going on for him."
"The Fallen Angel", in contrast to the previous song, is the shortest on the album and it is one of the more upbeat songs with a rocking rhythm section. This song goes back to Maiden's earlier days and sounds a little like something off of "The Number of the Beast", which was Bruce Dickinson's debut in the band. If you want solos from all three guitarists one after another, this is the song for you. Bruce Dickinson said "This one, I assume, is about being chosen as a human sacrifice, so it's deep and dark. I think Steve was having a dark patch when he wrote the lyrics to that one. Steve's got a lot of dark patches on this record! Adrian wrote the basic song and it's got a pretty catchy little chorus. But I hope we don't have too many people flying out of windows if it's a single because the chorus is "Could it be the end of my world, all the things that we cherish, there's nothing left, but to face this all on my own, because I am the chosen one!" People chucking themselves out of windows like in "The Omen.""
"The Nomad" comes in with a timely, hard-hitting intro that moves into an Egyptian-style riff before Bruce's vocals mark the beginning of the mainstay of the song. The riffs on the verses aren't really riffs but just power chords from strumming and the chorus is pretty lame. The song just doesn't do the album justice, which is a shame really because it could have been one of Iron Maiden's best albums in their entire catalogue, but what it does is drone on into another 9-minute plus opus. Bruce Dickinson said "It is about the Bedouin, the warrior tribes of the desert. I don't think there are any great layers of hidden meaning to this other than what it's about. I mean when Steve wrote songs about Alexander the Great they were basically about Alexander the Great and that's it! The lyrics are there to basically tell you about nomads and about how mysterious and strange they were, how they were pretty nifty and jolly fearful people and that's what it is. The big picture is the effect the song has. Well, it's not really a song; it's a nine-minute piece. So you don't view it in terms of a five-minute rock song."
There's a neat little guitar solo intro on "Out of the Silent Planet" which is backed up by Steve Harris' small bass riff, and then it's Bruce's turn with what I can only describe as something that sounds like it should be in a 1960s pop song by the Beatles or some other band like that. It's almost cheesy to be fair but that's all forgotten after the first minute is over, when some really good harmony soothes the pain and the chorus is killer. This is another song on which I wish someone would have tapped Steve Harris on the shoulder and said "C'mon, mate, what are you doing here? Cut that beginning bit and you've got a winner." Bruce Dickinson spoke of the song, "This is a fairly straightforward romp through sci-fi territory and a sort of "Run to the Hills" revisited vibe. Certainly by halfway through the song because I wanted to get into the old gallop bit from the get go and Steve was like "Let's not give it to 'em straight away". It's based on the sci-fi classic "The Forbidden Planet" which is monsters from the id and this is basically monsters from the id. Again that was the inspiration for it anyway, a bunch of aliens who have destroyed their planet and now they've left their silent planet and they're coming to get us."
"The Thin Line Between Love & Hate" completes the album with a prog-rock sounding tune that has a really good bass riff but once more, the lyrics don't seem to fit and tend to go along with the simple guitar riff. It's not a brilliant song but it's not a bad one either, and that's the essence that Iron Maiden brings to the table - they can completely get away with writing an ordinary song because it will still sound like Iron Maiden, and the beauty of it is the incredible vocal harmony that Bruce delivers on the final line of the song. Bruce Dickinson said "Another Steve song. It almost sounds like a UFO track in places. It was quite an unusual thing we did on the vocal on this because it's more of a rock 'n' roll / hard rock rhythm going down and we actually put a harmony on the entire verse. So it's quite an unusual sound for Maiden. It's basically about karma. In other words what goes around comes around and you reap what you sow and only you take the responsibility for it. There's the hope if you've done the right stuff, otherwise down you go to the pit of hell!"
In summary, "Brave New World" started off with a bang and got better and better, then started to dwindle a little towards the end. That doesn't make it a bad album, but it does make me question whether the band should have cut the album down by a song or two or even cut the track length of some of the epic 9-minute numbers on here. The highlights of the album are very obviously the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to the band. The lows are, as noted, some songs are just too long.
1. The Wicker Man
2. Ghost of the Navigator
3. Brave New World
4. Blood Brothers
5. The Mercenary
6. Dream of Mirrors
7. The Fallen Angel
8. The Nomad
9. Out of the Silent Planet
10. The Thin Line Between Love & Hate
My rating: 9/10
Summary: Iron Maiden are back with a vengeance.