I have decided that there are many different and varied kinds of nerds in our culture of these United States, and they don’t always mix well. Not every Monty Python/Britcom nerd is going to feel at home at an Anime convention, nor is every Retro Gamer going to be that interested in comic books. There’s simply too much to be nerdy about to cover that much ground (some people make very respectable attempts at the expense of ever showering ever), but every nerd can agree, you have to be especially nerdy to be into Iron Maiden.
Of course, I myself am nerdy about many things, and I really dig Iron Maiden, so I mean none of this as a jab at anybody. In particular, even if you aren’t much of a fan of them but like some good cheeseball classic heavy metal, then why haven’t you heard this already? Jeeze.
For one, it’s most likely their most popular album (just guessing here), and it’s the first to feature their most popular lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, who graduated valedictorian from the school of Ian Gillan Vocals.
This album starts off with a nice, fast punchy guitar/drum riff that counteracts with some real fancy bass playing. One thing I do appreciate about Iron Maiden more than a lot of Metal bands that have occured before and since is the fact that the bass-lines are very fancy, and there could always be a bass solo just around the corner. In fact, for this song there’s a ripping guitar solo half-way through, and really there would probably be more if this song were more than 3 1/2 minutes long. Still, nearly an entire minute of that is the guitar solo, so it’s a relatively long solo. Don’t worry though, guitar solo fans who are afraid that there might only be one guitar solo on this album, there are indeed more.
The second song is “Children Of The Damned”, which starts off with an acoustic guitar that is about as cheesy as a ball of cheese. Yes, this song is a little ridiculous, but features some astonishing vocal work, and after a couple of minutes, the beat really picks up just in time for not one guitar solo, but two guitars playing a solo. The dual-lead solo (especially with finger-tapping) will always have a special place in the nerdiest corner of my heart, where I keep the dusty 20-sided dice.
The next song, “The Prisoner”, begins with a sample from a TV show of the same name (thanks to Smeg for that info). A really cool beat comes in that has this triple-bass pedal hit that I quite like. Soon, however, the song goes into a more standard speed, which you technically proficient music theory types might call “quite fast”. The lyrics are a rollicking romp of almost random ideas being loosely tied together by a theme of defiance and spit. The chorus’ vocal harmonies are a little too pop-tastic for me, but the guitar solo makes up for it, despite its mysterious several measures of basically playing the same three notes. Anything’s better than just mindless noodling, however, so at least it has structure.
“22 Acacia Avenue” is a great song, not just because it’s about hookers, but because it features a low but obscure number in it, which is perfect for my purposes. Also perfect for my purposes is the rhythm-change after one of the choruses which changes the beat from drivin’ to bumpin’, and that’s a good place to be. Otherwise, this song features a very “Spinal Tap” level of sexy lyrics. There’s actually a bit of redemption, I suppose, in this song, since it ends with the person around which the song is centered being caught and reprimanded by a wife or mother or something, so the whole thing becomes a little more than a joke. A little.
Ahh, the album’s title track is next, and it opens nicely enough with a very sinister british guy called Barry Clayton reading a passage about, well, the number of the Beast. The song then opens up with one of the catchiest instrumental bits I have heard since “Highway Star” (and in concerts it opens up with a bass solo sometimes!) The lyrics are actually not really satanic, they’re inspired by a dream the band’s leader (who happens to be the bassist) had about Satanism. Totally different things, you see. Still, you can’t have a song song with the chorus:
Six, six, six, the number of the Beast
Six, six, six, the one for you and me
Without getting some flack from the moral majority crowd. I’m unfazed, of course, I know when someone’s not really being serious about Satanism, and I always say a catchy tune kind of defeats any kind of curse the lyrics may have. This is just a nerdy song with a killer guitar solo and a deceptively amazing drum beat that I almost always pair with “Highway Star” and “Ace Of Spades” when I want an instant dose of adrenaline. In other nerdy news, this song is incredibly fun to play on Guitar Hero III.
Not quite as fun is “Run To The Hills”, which has kind of an irritating sound to it on a few levels, but is mainly irritating because I can’t get over the fact that it’s a British guy empathizing with the Native Americans the British subjugated and destroyed in order to build America, a country Britian doesn’t even like. Ok, it’s actually really fun to sing, I can’t be too negative.
“Gangland” is better anyway just from the drumming intro, which is kind of like two swing beats being laid over each other. The other instruments take a while to catch up, but they get there eventually. I gotta say, as well, that the chord progression is a little hard to follow, but that tends to be the case with good metal, if you can predict what will happen next, you can predict the amount of time that I will grow bored with it is coming soon.
On the CD version of the album, we get the song “Total Eclipse” as a bonus before the final song, which is kind of weird. It’s a good enough song, I guess, but I don’t normally talk about bonus songs. I consider them beneath me unless they’re particularly good.
The album ends with one of the most epic metal songs of all time, “Hallowed By Thy Name”, a song without which nerdy bands like Dragonforce would not exist. Of course, it should be established by now that I can hardly condemn a rock song that makes use of church bells. One thing that Iron Maiden is known for is their creative bridges, which sometimes exist as if they were their own songs that are merely placed in the middle of other songs, and inside these bridges are often the guitar solos, like the nice-but-far-too-short one in this song. It’s all right, however, as it is replaced with a dual-guitar part, which is technically twice as good as a guitar solo, right?
And with that, the album draws to a close. I appreciate albums like this on occasion, as there’s nothing really to think about with them. You can just sit back and let the beats rock you and the guitar solos melt your face, and you can go back to listening to Rachmaninov or whatever it is you kids are listening to nowadays. I really am not the most learned person on Iron Maiden, however, otherwise I might have better trivia interspersed through this writeup. I will be checking up on them from time to time, however, so maybe there’ll be a second writeup, who knows!