As I sit typing this, Iron Maiden is currently embarking on their Legacy of the Beast tour. Legacy of the Beast is Iron Maiden’s mobile game. If you didn’t know, Iron Maiden rule the world. So because their Los Angeles show is coming up; what better time to write a review of all sixteen of their albums leading up to it. Their show is Saturday, September 14th at the Banc of California Stadium. So every work day (including one day with two), there will be a song-by-song Iron Maiden album review. Yesterday was Virtual XI, the last album to feature Blaze Bayley on vocals. Today we’re going into their comeback album with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, Brave New World.
Background on Brave New World
It would truly be a brave new world for Iron Maiden after 1999. The album’s title is apt as the reintroduction of Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson to Iron Maiden would reinvigorate the entire heavy metal scene. As I said previously, the world needs Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden. The band embarked on a small reunion tour called the Ed Hunter Tour.
They played lots of classic songs on this tour but when they got home it was time to write a new album. In addition to Smith and Dickinson, Janick Gers stayed in the band. They now had three guitarists. Tired of the Barnyard Studios, the band all went to Guillaume Tell Studios in Paris. The worry was that they were just going to record a cookie cutter album to sell the nostalgia factor.
The album was wholeheartedly not just a cash grab. It furthered their progressive and melodic sound from the last two albums. It was recorded from the Summer of 1999 to April of 2000. The album released on May 29th, 2000 to worldwide acclaim. Enough with the background, let’s get to the review.
Track 1: The Wicker Man
The lead single to the album, this song let everyone know that Iron Maiden was back. Hard, catchy, and in your face, “The Wicker Man” is a staple of this era of Maiden. According to the band, the song’s writing was incredibly simple. Adrian Smith had a riff that he had been messing with. Bruce Dickinson added a catchy melody to the song and then Steve Harris started to play bass along with it. The song itself is loosely based on 1973’s The Wicker Man. It’s a great start to this album especially when you look at the song in the context of it’s time.
Track 2: Ghost of the Navigator
Now we’re kicking into another gear. While “The Wicker Man” is a nice single to start your album off with, “Ghost of the Navigator” is Iron Maiden at their best. A sailor sets out on his last voyage. On his way he sees the ghosts of all the other men who’ve set out before him. Bringing forth images of the Odyssey, the Flying Dutchman, and other nautical adventures, the song is one of their best from this time period. At the end of the song, the sailors heart is set free by the waves, he’s with the ocean now. An all-time classic, this song belongs on every Maiden playlist.
Track 3: Brave New World
The title track of Brave New World, it is inspired by the novel of the same title by Aldous Huxley. It goes through similar imagery and themes of the novel including the character of The Savage and the dulling of the mind with drugs. “Brave New World” is another in a long line of literary focused songs that Iron Maiden knocks out of the park. They don’t play this one too much on tour, but it’s definitely a great one.
Track 4: Blood Brothers
Now for one of the most beautiful songs in the Iron Maiden catalog. “Blood Brothers” is about brotherhood, love, respect, and camaraderie. Maiden always dedicates this song to either fans of metal, fallen friends, or victims of disasters around the world. If there’s an Iron Maiden song that’ll make you want to grab the guy/girl next to you and put your arm around them and belt out “WE’RE BLOOD BROTHERS”, it’s this one. We’re all blood brothers in the world, let’s start acting like it. This one is an Iron Maiden staple.
Track 5: The Mercenary
A hired-gun goes through a crisis of being afraid to kill for so long. He can’t show fear or else he’ll be compromised. “The Mercenary” is a self-explanatory rocker that isn’t amazing but the chorus will make you sing a bit. It’s a letdown from the massive power of the first four tracks on the album but they all can’t be amazing. According to Adrian Smith, this song and a couple of others on the album were written originally for Virtual XI. There is a bit of a Blaze Bayley Maiden sound to it, but that’s not 100% confirmed by Steve Harris. Either way, it’s a decent song.
Track 6: Dream of Mirrors
Another of the songs that was purportedly written for Virtual XI. “Dream of Mirrors” is the longest song on the album and the longest that a Bruce Dickinson led Iron Maiden had recorded since “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. About a repeating nightmare that a man has every night. He eventually believes that his nightmare will become real life. There’s a lot of other meanings that could be formed from this song. It’s incredibly deep lyrically. Musically, the song is top notch. The guitar work by all three of their players is amazing. Bruce Dickinson shows that he hasn’t missed a beat in his time away. It’s a great song that combines everything that makes Iron Maiden who they are in one.
Track 7: The Fallen Angel
Here’s where the album slows down a bit. Not from a speed standpoint but in quality. “The Fallen Angel” feels a bit like filler. The chorus is the highlight of the song by far but the rest of it feels middle of the road. It’s not the worst song they’ve ever recorded but it’s just sort of boring. After six amazing tracks, I can’t blame them for running out of steam a bit. It’s not one that I listen to a whole lot.
Track 8: The Nomad
The last of the leftovers from Virtual XI, “The Nomad” is another misfire from the band. The instrumentals of the song will definitely take you to a desert view or evoke imagery of the desert in your mind. Unlike “Powerslave” this song doesn’t have that same epic quality. It feels like they’re trying for an epic feel on the song but it doesn’t quite get that far. Bruce Dickinson gives it his all on this one, but it’s not enough to raise it from mediocre Maiden territory.
Track 9: Out of the Silent Planet
An upbeat song that was the second single released off the album. It’s a wonder why Iron Maiden hasn’t picked this one up to play live since the Brave New World Tour. “Out of the Silent Planet” can be seen in a multitude of meanings. Is it about the novel of the same name? Is it about the movie Forbidden Planet? Or is it about society as a whole destroying the planet with war and violence? Who really knows, what I do know is that this song is criminally underrated in the catalog of Iron Maiden songs.
Track 10: The Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Does “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate” match up to previous album ending epics like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Alexander the Great”, and “To Tame a Land”? No, it doesn’t. It’s a fairly generic lengthy song from the band. I could have gone without this song being on the album really. It’s generic, progressive sounding that goes for an epic tone but doesn’t really reach it. Like “The Nomad”, it reaches up for those heights but doesn’t come close to it. It’s not a downer for the album as it’s not a bad song, just generic. Bruce Dickinson is really the highlight here with his vocal range going all over the place. I’d rather have “Out of the Silent Planet” close out the album.
Final Thoughts and Score
Brave New World was a fantastic way for Iron Maiden to reintroduce themselves to the heavy metal world. Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith’s re-arrival to the band was a much needed invigoration of energy to the band that continues to this day. Brave New World doesn’t reinvent the Iron Maiden wheel but it updates it. Their new sound includes more progressive elements and longer songs. They would end their world tour for the album in Rio. Rock in Rio was the show that they recorded for it and it’s a great highlight of the band at the peak of their powers. If I were to give the album a score, it would be an 8/10. The first six songs on the album are all classics while the second half lags a bit excluding “Out of the Silent Planet”. It’s a worthwhile Maiden album and one that they needed to make going into the new decade.
As for after Brave New World, Iron Maiden would take a little break from their massive Brave New World Tour. Their next album would be one of their finest in decades. Dance of Death would rival the likes of Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Piece of Mind. But you’ll have to read about that one next time.
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All audio and images are courtesy of Iron Maiden.