Beverage Review – Iron Maiden’s Sun and Steel

Sun, steel, Iron Maiden and a nice and cold saké-infused beer. What else do you need in life?

“Sunlight, falling on your steel,
Death in life is your ideal,
Life is like a wheel, rolling on and on.”

Let’s celebrate the news of another round of the superb Legacy of the Beast Tour by the one and only Iron Maiden, which will conquer pretty much the entire world except for the Americas in 2020, with a review of Sun and Steel, the sixth beer from the unstoppable Bruce Dickinson together with Robinsons Brewery. And let me tell you that after having tried the original Trooper Beer, the amazing Hallowed, and now Sun and Steel, I must admit this saké lager by Mr. Bruce Dickinson is in my opinion the one with the best taste, aftertaste, freshness and punch. I still have to try the other Iron Maiden beers I haven’t found yet such as Trooper Red ‘N’ Black, of course, but I doubt those will be as good as Sun and Steel. And do you want to know why?

Sun and Steel is the first lager in the Trooper range and is one of the most complex beers that Robinsons Brewery has ever produced, a double fermented lager created with authentic Japanese saké yeast. The idea for the beer, designed once again by the one and only Mr. Bruce Dickinson along with Robinsons’ Head Brewer Martyn Weeks, was first conceived during the autumn of 2016 following a meeting between Bruce and a friend of the band and long-time Iron Maiden fan George Yusa, owner of the 300-year old family run Okunomatsu Saké Brewery in Fukushima, Japan. Bruce became intrigued with the idea of putting the two flavor profiles together, and thus Sun and Steel was born. George was able to deliver a sample of the saké yeast to Iron Maiden’s 2017 concert at London’s O2 Arena, which Bruce took up to Robinsons Brewery. Having obtained permission from the Japanese government to brew with it, Martyn and the team had carefully cultivated the strain ever since. “This has been such an exciting project. I had a crazy idea to try and make a saké infused lager and over two and a half years later, here we are! I know Martyn and the team at Robinsons have had to become mad scientists to make this work but the end result is a really unique hybrid beer that tastes fantastic. Trooper fans have been asking for a lager, and here it is. I bet you would never have guessed we would do it like this though,” commented Bruce about his newborn “baby”.

Needless to say, if you’re a diehard Maidenmaniac you already know Sun and Steel takes its designation from the Iron Maiden song of the same name that appears on their 1983 masterpiece Piece Of Mind, which was in turn inspired by the life of Japanese Samurai Miyamoto Musashi, hence the idea of uniting a lager yeast, for the initial fermentation, with a saké yeast, as saké is Japan’s national beverage,  for a second fermentation. The result is a crisp and refreshing 4.8% double-fermented, saké-infused pilsner style lager with a flash of honey and fruit that will please from the most demanding beer connoisseur to the average social beer drinker, showing how much effort Bruce and Martyn put into brewing such delicious beer. Of pale yellow color, gooseberry and honey lychee smell, and smooth and delicate taste, Sun and Steel is not too sweet nor too bitter, being the perfect beer for the winter while we all wait for the Legacy of the Beast Tour to kick off in 2020, or for the hot and sunny days of summer when Bruce, Steve & Co. will take several cities and countries all over the world by storm with their unparalleled live performances. For instance, you can find Sun and Steel on sale at selected LCBO stores if you live in Canada for 2.85 Canadian Dollars each 500ml can, at several other importers from all over the world, or simply go to the Robinsons Brewery official website to grab 12 bottles of 330ml each for £20. Having said that, what are you waiting for to purchase a few cans or bottles of Sun and Steel and enjoy them while listening to the song Sun and Steel itself and all other Iron Maiden classics we all love so much? UP THE IRONS AND… KANPAI!

Beer details
Country: England
Brewer: Robinsons Brewery
Style: Saké Lager
Alcohol Content (ABV): 4.8%
Color: Pale yellow
Smell: Gooseberry, honey lychee
Taste: Smooth, complex and delicate
Sweetness: 3 out of 5
Bitterness: 2 out of 5
Contains: Malted barley and wheat

Album Review – Iced Earth / Horror Show (2001)

Are you looking for the ultimate Heavy Metal soundtrack to spice up your Halloween party? Mr. Jon Schaffer and his henchmen can definitely help you with that.

IcedEarth-HorrorShowTampa, Florida-based Power/Thrash Metal veterans Iced Earth might be one of the most underrated bands in the history of heavy music, and I believe they’re not bigger or more famous due to Mr. Jon Schaffer’s fickle temper, which has resulted in countless (and unstable) lineup changes in the history of the band, lowering any expectations a fan might have about their future. I personally don’t care that much about the mood of any musician, as long as this doesn’t negatively affect the overall quality of the music. Take a look at Dave Mustaine and Dani Filth, for example, and you’ll notice there are some changes in their music, but the core essence of Megadeth and Cradle of Filth is always there for the delight of their fans. Due to those constant changes you never know exactly what to expect from Iced Earth, as they sometimes deliver really bad material, but fortunately for all of us their 2001 album Horror Show showcases the Iced Earth we all want to listen to, sounding powerful, well-engendered and, above all, very creative and entertaining.

Horror Show is not just a traditional Heavy Metal album, also bringing a lot of the energy from Power Metal and some of the violence found in Thrash Metal, and that’s in my opinion the best “formula” Jon and his crew can offer us. Furthermore, it’s kind of  a concept album focused on different horror stories, making it even more interesting for Heavy Metal fans that also enjoy reading a frightful book or going to the movies to see a good dosage of monsters and blood. For instance, all songs on the album are based on classic horror films, from werewolves to vampires and mummies, and many of the lyrics are lifted directly from the source material, proving that when Jon doesn’t let his personal issues interfere in his music, the final result is always fantastic. Add to all that some incredibly talented musicians like Matt Barlow on vocals, Larry Tarnowski on the lead guitar, Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on bass and Richard Christy (Death, Charred Walls of the Damned) on drums, and there you have the utmost recipe for awesomeness.

Wolf, the first track of the album inspired by The Wolf Man films, is an excellent heavy song to kick things off, showing why Jon is considered by many one of the best riff-makers in Heavy Metal. The speed of the song and its grinding riffs give it an amazing Thrash Metal touch, not to mention its chorus inspired by a poem that is recited in the 1941 film The Wolf Man, making any fan excited for the rest of the album. Then we have Damien, inspired by The Omen films, presenting outstanding lyrics that make a lot of sense if you have read the book or seen the movies like I’ve done (“When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet fills the sky / The Holy Roman Empire rises / And you and I must die”). As a matter of fact, the chorus was taken from the 1976 film The Omen, and the spoken section was adapted from a speech in its 1981 sequel, Omen III: The Final Conflict, just to give you a sense of how detailed this song is. Things get even better in Jack, inspired by the one and only Jack the Ripper, with Jon slashing our ears with his riffs in great “Ripper” fashion. Moreover, perhaps the funniest thing about this song is that Horror Show was the last studio album (apart from their album of cover songs called Tribute to the Gods, from 2002) Matt recorded before Tim “Ripper” Owens (The Ripper himself!) joined the band in 2003 and recorded The Glorious Burden in 2004, which is for me one of their best and most consistent albums of all.

The album continues with Ghost of Freedom, the only song that wasn’t inspired by any horror movie or character. It’s a very beautiful ballad and one of the top moments of the whole album, showing us a more “romantic” side of Jon and how good Matt’s voice can be even when he’s not screaming. The following three songs might not be masterpieces, but they surely keep the album at a high level of adrenaline and epicness. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) (inspired by The Mummy), Jekyll & Hyde (inspired by The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and Dragon’s Child (inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon) not only have amazing concepts, but the music itself is very pleasant and cohesive, embracing us all and pulling us deeper into the world of horror created by the band throughout the entire album.

IcedEarth_Promo2001Frankenstein (“surprisingly” inspired by Frankenstein) is even better than those three tracks, raising your energy level and making you want to headbang like a crazy motherfucker, followed by the best song of Horror Show without a shadow of a doubt, the stunning Dracula (also “astoundingly” inspired by Dracula), a metal masterpiece that’s absolutely flawless from start to finish, presenting to the listener the duo Jon and Matt at the peak of their forms. This is an all-time fan favorite and a mandatory track in any of the band’s live setlists, also bringing to our avid ears ass-kicking lyrics (“Do you believe in love? / Do you believe in destiny? / True love may come only once in a thousand lifetimes…”). Lastly, we have The Phantom Opera Ghost, obviously inspired by The Phantom of the Opera, and despite all the additional elements and musicians it sounds too pretentious and doesn’t deliver what the fans are actually expecting.

The limited edition has a bonus disc with two totally opposite moments: an incredible cover for Iron Maiden’s Transylvania, where Jon does what he does best with his guitar; and a tedious interview with him that lasts for over an hour. I guess there’s a one-disc version of Horror Show that includes Transylvania as a regular track, so if I were you that’s the one I would buy. And finally, one thing that Iced Earth have always delivered are stunning album arts. The band’s own mascot, Set Abominae, might not be part of the compositions this time, but he certainly makes the front cover of Horror Show designed by Danny Miki and Travis Smith darkly captivating. In a nutshell, Horror Show, which makes the already distant year of 2001 look like it just happened yesterday, is a mandatory choice for that Heavy Metal Halloween party you’re planning with your friends (as well as a good source of inspiration for your costumes), or maybe you can just dress up as Jon Schaffer and walk around your neighborhood playing some of the tracks from Horror Show on your guitar, how about that? We could even call this new Halloween tradition as “Trick or Thrash”.

Best moments of the album: Wolf, Damien, Ghost of Freedom, Dracula and Transylvania.

Worst moments of the album: The Phantom Opera Ghost.

Released in 2001 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Wolf 5:20
2. Damien 9:12
3. Jack 4:14
4. Ghost of Freedom 5:12
5. Im-Ho-Tep (Pharaoh’s Curse) 4:45
6. Jekyll & Hyde 4:39
7. Dragon’s Child 4:21
8. Frankenstein 3:50
9. Dracula 5:54
10. The Phantom Opera Ghost 8:41

Limited Edition Disc Two
11. Transylvania (Iron Maiden cover) 4:30
12. Interview with Jon Schaffer (conducted by Sumit Chandra) 69:27

Band members
Matt Barlow – vocals
Jon Schaffer – guitar
Larry Tarnowski – lead guitar
Steve DiGiorgio – bass
Richard Christy – drums

Guest musicians
Yunhui Percifield – lead vocals on “The Phantom Opera Ghost” as “Christine”, backing vocals
Jim Morris – guitar solo on “Ghost of Freedom”, keys, backing vocals
Howard Helm – keys (pipe organ) on “The Phantom Opera Ghost”
Richie Wilkison, Rafaela Farias & Sam King – backing vocals

Metal Chick of the Month – The Harp Twins

Can you feel the wind of the north, my dear Camille and Kennerly?

How about we celebrate insane six years of The Headbanging Moose with two very talented women who have the unique ability of transforming the heaviest and most intense metal classics into serene and touching ballads only armed with their ethereal harps? I’m talking about Camille and Kennerly Kitt, known worldwide as The Harp Twins, who have achieved an unprecedented success not only among metal fans but in countless other music genres and entertainment segments, leading them to tour across several countries in North and America, Europe and anywhere else where their whimsical sounds are truly appreciated. And no, you’re not seeing double, as The Harp Twins are indeed identical twins, providing your avid ears double the pleasure with their refined skills by mixing all types of rock, metal and soundtrack arrangements with the gentle sounds flowing form their harps. Not only that, Camille and Kennerly are also accomplished actresses, showing there’s no actual limit for this talented American duo.

Born in the city of Chicago, Illinois, United States in 1989, with their heritage being mostly Norwegian mixed with Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish, French, German and a little Cherokee Indian, Camille and Kennerly began playing the piano when they were children, followed by the harp when they went to junior high school. The duo was drawn by the beauty of the harp, saying it seemed like a magical instrument to them. By the way, their first harps (small, pre-owned lever harps) were bought with money they got from jobs such as babysitting and dog-walking, in order to show their mother they were really serious about playing the instrument. Classically trained in piano and also capable of playing a little percussion, the two blonde harpists also love to sing, which can be seen in some of their own original compositions and cover songs, although of course their main focus is and will always be their mesmerizing harps.

Having already played their electric harps, acoustic and electro-acoustic concert grand harps in several concert series, festivals, fairs and conventions in front of the most diverse crowds, even playing for US presidents, tech geniuses and global leaders, Camille and Kennerly have released over 100 singles online since the beginning of their career, as well as some very interesting cover albums, developing a huge cult of followers worldwide through their social media and becoming undoubtedly the most famous harp duo in the world. All that success is not in vain, of course, as both sisters hold a Bachelor of Music degree in Harp Performance and graduated with highest honors (“Summa Cum Laude”) at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, located in Wheaton, Illinois, not to mention their previous years in a music studies program at a local college where they were in the Honors Scholar Program and represented the college at several collegiate summits.

Despite being formally trained in classical music and having the aforementioned degrees, their true obsession in music has always been taking the harp to new heights and exploring new grounds, nurturing a deep passion for arranging and performing rock, metal and soundtrack music as a harp duet, as well as their Nordic-inspired original songs thanks to their Scandinavian origin, always without any backtracks, studio productions or record labels involved, beautifully representing what it truly means to be an independent artist. And after listening to their duet arrangements of contemporary songs from artists including Iron Maiden, The Rolling Stones, Metallica, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Enya and Journey, among many, many others, you’ll be able to fully understand why they have chosen to follow such distinguished path, embellishing the airwaves with their gentle, melodic and classy harp fingering.

As already mentioned, The Harp Twins, who by the way perform on Venus “Classic” Concert Grand pedal harps and Lyon & Healy “Silhouette” Electric lever harps, have several albums released (also in physical format) apart from their hundreds of online singles and videos, with their YouTube videos totaling over 106 million views with over 600,000 subscribers as of September 2019. For instance, their cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven alone garnered over three million YouTube hits as of September 2019, while their version of Iron Maiden’s Fear of the Dark received over 11 million views as of September 2019. Their six self-produced albums are Harp Attack (2013), Harp Attack 2 (2015), Harp Attack 3 (2018), Harp Fantasy (2013), Harp Fantasty 2 (2016), and Winter Lights (2017); while the Harp Attack series are dedicated to covers of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal songs and the Harp Fantasy series focus on covers of video game, anime, film and television soundtracks such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean, Final Fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, Vikings, Silent Hill and The Lord of the Rings, just to name a few, Winter Lights was their first-ever holiday album, including two new original songs and ten new arrangements of holiday classics from years gone by. Furthermore, their music has also been featured in countless media like National Geographic, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Conan O’Brien’s TeamCoco, AMCtv.com, Guitar World, Revolver, and many more, having also been praised by different music icons like Megadeth, Billy Idol, Kansas and Within Temptation, who shared the twins’ music on their official social media.

As a metalhead, I’m pretty sure you’re eager to listen to Camille and Kennerly playing some of your favorite metal classics of all time, right? Well, all you have to do is subscribe to their YouTube channel, sit down and enjoy their harp versions for, but not limited to, Rush’s Closer to the Heart, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Dio’s Rainbow in the Dark, Metallica’s Fade to Black, Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills, and Megadeth’s A Tout le Monde. Go visit their official YouTube channel, or buy their music from CD Baby or from Apple Music, relax and enjoy these and countless other classic like Send Me an Angel, Smoke on the Water, Sweet Child O’ Mine, Hotel California, Don’t Stop Believin’, Every Breath You Take, and so on.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Camille and Kennerly always say they switch off playing melody and accompaniment, even within the same piece, and also that apart from all cover songs they do either by request or by their own choice, they have also been composing original music for their harps for years, which can be seen in songs like North and the music theme for their own animated logo. In addition, you can also find Camille and Kennerly as guest harpists in the intro Time to Set You Free,  from the album The Second Big Bang, released in 2017 by Brazilian Melodic Power Metal project Soulspell. And regarding her main influences and idols in music, the twins mentioned in one of their interviews that their earliest musical influences were rock and classic rock because that’s what their mother used to listen to, including bands like The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Billy Idol, Van Halen, ZZ Top and Johnny Cash, later expanding their range due to their classical training to most artists and bands who think outside the box and follow their own path.

Although their main focus is obviously on their harp career, the duo is also famous for their acting and modeling skills, being members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and AFTRA and having already acted in theater, film and television. For instance, in the season 6 finale of The Walking Dead, they played a walker nicknamed “Ouch That’s My Hair”, who was fought and killed by the character Carol, and had roles as “The Marcelli Twins” in the dark teen comedy Blacktino (as you can see in the official trailer by clicking HERE), from 2011, as well as appearances in many other movies like Delivery Man (2013), Elephant Medicine (2010) and The End of Lost Beginnings (2009), and in several commercial such as a national Japanese commercials for Chupa Chups lollypops. Still talking about their film career, Camille and Kennerly always like to mention that they do all their videos by themselves, arranging the music, finding the filming location, making their own costumes, filming everything with a small hand-held video camera on a tripod, recording the sound in their own living room and editing the video themselves. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as playbacks or any other “magic tricks” in their videos, as what you hear is exactly how it’s being played by our multi-talented twins. Also, when asked about their life on the road, Camille and Kennerly said in several interviews they have lots of memorable moments to share, like when they represented the United States at the World Harp Festival in Paraguay, where they had extensive support from the American embassy resulting in a full concert the day after the event to a sold out theater, and all of their performances at several Walker Stalker Cons, playing right before panels with Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs and Greg Nicotero. It’s impossible to list all events they have participated so far in their career, featuring in all types of public, private, philanthropic, academic, corporate, cultural and political events, proving once again how talented and professional they are.

Of course, there’s no Camille and Kennerly without their harps and vice-versa, and that’s why it’s important and truly interesting to know more about the girls’ ethereal weapons. Their acoustic concert grand harps are 6’3” (or 1.9 m) and weigh 90 lbs (or 40.8 kg), while their electric harps are 4’ (or 1.22 m) and weigh 16 lbs (or 7.25 kg); regarding the number of strings, their acoustic concert grand harps have 47 strings (which can have three different pitches, those being flat, natural and sharp), their electric lever harps have 33 strings (which can have two different pitches, either flat/natural or natural/sharp), and their Harpsicle Harps have 26 strings. In addition, although it’s possible for the twins to use distortion on their electric harps, they don’t actually do that due to the difficulty to use distortion while still continuing the melody and accompaniment; however, you can enjoy Camille and Kennerly blasting distorted harp sounds on their cover version for Billy Idol’s White Wedding (by the way, Billy Idol himself even said that “if you live long enough you get to see this version of White Wedding”), and a slight effect in their Doctor Who Theme and The Smith’s Asleep covers. When asked about how they manage to carry their harps everywhere and how they handle their weight while playing, they said they put a strap on their backs to do that, but that they also bruise their hips from the straps if they wear the harps for too long. They love the freedom of movement, though, helping them to properly perform rock songs with their electric harps. Some people like to ask them why they don’t move even more while playing, and they said it’s tougher to reach a necessary balance with the harps than with a guitar or violin, for example.

Aside from being impressive harpists, Camille and Kennerly also have a variety of other interests and hobbies in their lives, keeping them absolutely busy pretty much all of the time. For instance, the twins are third degree black belts in Tae Kwon Do and former Tae Kwon Do instructors, which by the way caused two broken fingers to Kennerly while sparring one day, and stitches to Camille’s face as a result of puncture wound sustained while holding a board that Kennerly was breaking. In the end, those incidents made them decide to stop practicing martial arts and focus on their career as harpists. Our beloved blonde musicians were also competitive swimmers as kids (having both qualified for the Junior Olympics five times), are experts in rifle marksmanship, and are trained in horseback riding, not to mention their passion for other activities and hobbies such as hiking, working out, watching TV shows like The Walking Dead and Vikings, reading, writing, and so on. Moreover, the Kitt Twins are also actively involved in their community, supporting education and health initiatives for unprivileged children overseas, and volunteering for many years at a monthly deaf/hard-of-hearing social gathering (and yes, they know sign language), among other endeavors, as they strongly believe in the importance of giving back. The girls also sponsor a few kids in Ethiopia, helping to provide them school, food, clothing and medical care, always hoping more and more people will follow their steps to make the world a better place.

Last but not least, Camille and Kennerly’s connection as twins is beautifully externalized in the way they always look at each other while they’re playing, and in their twin costumes (which as mentioned are always put together by the twins themselves by mixing and matching things they already have at home), unless of course they need to dress differently for a commercial, film or media project. Having said that, if you want to have double the fun with the classy and mesmerizing music by Camille and Kennerly, or if you are an event organizer who’s searching for a truly unique attraction to captivate the attention of your guests on your next big event, you can get in touch with The Harp Twins by sending an email to HarpTwins@HarpTwins.com, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their Events Page on Facebook for all of their public performances, concerts and other events. And if you want to show your support to their distinguished work with their harps, as aforementioned you can purchase their music from Apple Music and from CD Baby, or simply visit their official website for all music, news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information about the unstoppable twins who give a beyond welcome touch of delicacy to our good old rock and metal music.

Camille and Kennerly’s Official Facebook page
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Instagram
Camille and Kennerly’s Official Twitter
Camille and Kennerly’s Official YouTube channel

“When someone tells us that our music has helped them through an illness, or inspired their child to learn an instrument, or even just given them some peace after a trying day, that means the world to us. As musicians, it’s the greatest feeling to know that our music has touched someone else in some way.” – Camille and Kennerly Kitt

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/10/2019)

Who’s ready for another night of Iron Maiden and their ass-kicking Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 in Toronto?

INTRODUCTION: “No FTTB nor The Raven Age for you”

As I wasn’t selected for the First To The Barrier experience by the Iron Maiden Fan Club for the second night of the one and only Iron Maiden in Toronto at the always pleasant Budweiser Stage, and as a few friends invited me to a BBQ with lots of beer and metal music before the concert, let’s say that I “had to” miss the opening act THE RAVEN AGE, which in the end was more than good for me because watching their concert in full from the first row on Friday wasn’t what we can call a very entertaining experience. If you were there on the second day and saw The Raven Age, I’m pretty sure it was the exact same thing as the previous night, with the same band’s lineup, the same setlist, and the same confusing sonority. However, if you missed The Raven Age both days you can take a look at how their concert was by clicking HERE.

IRON MAIDEN

Just like what happened on Friday, 15 thousand fans from the most diverse countries such as Australia, Peru, India, Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Colombia, Sweden and so on (including WWE badass superstar and a true metalhead Erick Rowan, whose real name is Joseph Ruud) were gathered together at the Budweiser Stage at around 9pm to enjoy another round of classics by the one and only IRON MAIDEN, once again as part of their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019. Their setlist was the absolute same as Friday, of course, but because I wasn’t so close to the stage let’s say I was able to move more, to jump up and down a lot more, and to have a much more complete view of the stage, including Janick Gers who I must confess I couldn’t see much on the previous night. I was really tired from the previous day and I thought I was going to take it easy on Saturday, but you know what? As soon as Doctor Doctor started playing on the speakers, it was pure madness one more time.

As I mentioned, this time I could enjoy their full stage without having to force my neck up, right or left too much, and my neck is very thankful for that. The whole band was on fire as usual, with Dave and Adrian delivering their traditional crisp and crystal clear riffs and solos while Steve was the beast incarnate on stage. How can he do that? He doesn’t stop smashing his bass chords, singing, running around the stage and jumping up and down not even for a single second, and he’s already 63 years old! It’s absolutely impressive, reminding me why I admire and respect his work and passion for Iron Maiden so much. It’s always a pleasure to watch him play The Trooper, “galloping” his bass as if he was riding a horse into the battlefield, and his endless energy while screaming the famous “Oooh! Ooo-oooo-oooh!” together with the crowd during Fear of the Dark. After another superb and impeccable performance by Bruce, Steve & Co. was over (and this time Bruce’s flame thrower worked during Flight of Icarus), I started thinking how boring the world of music will be without Iron Maiden when they call it quits, but that’s something we don’t need to worry about at least for the next few years, as Bruce himself promised they’ll return to Toronto, most probably after the release of their upcoming studio album. I wish I could attend more concerts from their current tour, but for obvious reasons like time and money, for now I’ll have to  content with two nights in Toronto I’ll never forget. UP THE IRONS!

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/09/2019)

How about witnessing the almighty Iron Maiden and their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 from the best spot of the Budweiser Stage in Toronto on a perfect summer day?

INTRODUCTION: First To The Barrier

Thousands of fans from all over the world, a perfect sunny day, a lot of (overpriced) beer, and another memorable performance by the unparalleled Iron Maiden at the Budweiser Stage to shake the foundations of our beloved city of Toronto. That would have already been a damn good summary of the night if I hadn’t been one of the 40 lucky bastards (plus one guest each) from the Iron Maiden Fan Club who were chosen to get into the venue before the rest of the crowd and bag the best spot at the barrier, which is obviously right at the front. That’s what’s called the FIRST TO THE BARRIER (or FTTB if you’re a fan of acronyms) experience, a fun but quite exhausting adventure as you have to be there at the venue several hours before the concert starts, most of the time without food or anything to drink, and if you move or try to go to the washroom you simply lose your spot and all that effort will be in vain.

Fortunately, I can say I’m good at standing for hours waiting for a concert to start without eating or drinking anything, and all I can say is that the whole experience was more than amazing. What an unforgettable night in another celebration of classic Heavy Metal, where all fans had the chance to not only sing and scream lots of classic together with the band, but a night where we were also able to make new friends, uniting our metal universe even more. Even if you’re not part of the Iron Maiden Fan Club, you can try to be someone’s guest by asking people on Facebook’s FTTB Public Group if they have a spare available when the band takes your city by storm. That’s totally worth it, and that’s how I met a very nice Maidenmaniac who drove hours from Montreal wearing his Aces High pilot hat to join me a couple of feet from the stage from around 5pm until the end of the show.

OPENING ACT: THE RAVEN AGE

Let’s say the only part of the day that wasn’t exactly fun was having to endure British Melodic Groove Metal act THE RAVEN AGE’s performance in full from the first row without having the option to simply ignore them and go grab a beer. Formed in 2009, this London, England-based band has just released a new album named Conspiracy, featuring new vocalist Matt James, who joined the band in 2018. I’m not going to say it was a bad concert, but I think due to the fact those boys are still trying to find their core essence, playing a confused mix of Power, Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal with Hard Rock and even Southern Rock, it was tough to follow them and to actually enjoy their concert. There were a few good moments, though, like the opening song Betrayal of the Mind and the closing tune Angel in Disgrace, especially the last one as it was the heaviest and most detailed of their setlist, but overall it wasn’t the warmup I was expecting for the main attraction of the night. And believe me, standing there for almost one hour listening to something you don’t really enjoy was not what we can call a nice experience. On a side note, both guitarists Dan Wright and George Harris (and yes, he is Steve Harris’ son) are quite talented and have a great future in heavy music. Just maybe not with The Raven Age, unless they stop trying to sound like a generic version of Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold and find their own sound in the future.

Setlist
Bloom of the Poison Seed
Betrayal of the Mind
Promised Land
Surrogate
The Day the World Stood Still
The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships
Fleur De Lis
Grave of the Fireflies
Seventh Heaven
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Matt James – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

Finally after a short break, when it was around 9pm, the almighty IRON MAIDEN hit the stage to stun us all with their flawless Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, obviously inspired by their successful mobile game Legacy of the Beast (don’t forget you can also follow the game’s official Facebook page for news, updates and other shenanigans). As a matter of fact, the short and sweet video showing scenes from the game and several of its versions of our beloved Eddie (most of them already available as Legacy of the Beast Figurines), while the classic instrumental tune Transylvania was playing in the background, was more than enough to warm up our senses for the metallic hurricane that was about to start, but we all needed of course to sing in unison UFO’s all-time classic Doctor Doctor and scream the spoken words from Churchill’s Speech to properly invite Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain to crush our minds with my favorite Iron Maiden song of all time, the one and only Aces High, while a giant airplane was “flying” above their heads.

That beyond epic start was followed by an avalanche of the band’s old and not-so-old classics, with Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, The Wicker Man and Flight of Icarus being the highlights of the night for me. By the way, Bruce’s speech before The Clansman was quite fun, where he “complained” about the fact an Australian (Mel Gibson) portrayed one of the most important Scotsmen of all time, Mr. William Wallace. The song was played to perfection, of course, with all 15 thousand fans at the Budweiser Stage screaming “FREEDOM!” together with Bruce & Co. at the top of their lungs (including of course this guy here that’s writing this review). Another memorable and extremely funny moment was when Bruce’s flame thrower just stopped working in the middle of Flight of Icarus, and after blowing raspberries (yes, he did that), why not showing everything he got by beautifully and powerfully screaming “FLY AS HIGH AS THE SUN” to end the song in great fashion? We might not have had Bruce’s flames in our faces, but we got something even better than that, his unique, trademark high-pitched scream piercing our ears and minds.

It was also amazing to witness all fans singing together with the band even the longest and most obscure songs (or maybe not as classic as the others) of their setlist, those being For the Greater Good of God and Sign of the Cross, proving once again not only Iron Maiden’s newest creations are still meaningful and appreciated, but also that it doesn’t really matter how long their songs are, they are never ever tiresome or boring. And what to say about the poetry found in the lyrics for the gorgeous Revelations? I’ll never get tired of witnessing Bruce declaiming those dark and touching lyrics live, no doubt about that. Well, after almost two hours of perfection, with an encore that brought to our avid ears the insanely awesome The Evil That Men Do, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Run to the Hills (needless to say, all three perfectly executed), it was time to enjoy Monty Python’s inspiring hymn Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and get ready to see the boys in action once again on Saturday. Because you know, one Iron Maiden concert is never enough.

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech

Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Metal Chick of the Month – Wanda Ortiz

I’ve been looking so long for you now… You won’t get away from my grasp…

As 2019 promises to be another memorable year for Maidenmaniacs from all over the world, especially for the ones that reside in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America who will have the utmost pleasure of seeing Steve, Bruce & Co. live during their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, there’s nothing better than kicking off our Metal Chick of the Month section with an amazing bass player that truly understands what it means to be part of the legacy (and also continuing our tradition of starting the year with a badass girl on bass guitar, of course). I’m talking about Wanda Ortiz (or Wanda A. Ortiz), the skillful bass player for the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens (billed as the “World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden”) under the brilliant stage name of Steph Harris, who’s ready to crush your skull in half to the sound of her thunderous, galloping bass allied to her endless stamina when performing live.

Born on March 27, 1968 in Huntington Beach, a California city southeast of Los Angeles, Wanda first learned to play bass at the early age of nine years old, when the elementary school she attended had a music program that enabled students to sign up and choose an instrument. When she arrived late on the first day of music class, she wound up with a junior-sized double bass, and from that moment on we can say it was “love at first gallop”. In addition to that, while she took lessons on the double bass, also known as an upright bass, Wanda also taught herself how to play electric bass when she was 11 years old in order to play in the school jazz band, and she continued playing bass throughout her school years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus) degree from UCI – University of California, Irvine. One funny thing about Wanda and her relationship with the bass guitar is that, according to Wanda herself, she felt a little sad about her instrument when in high school because she could rarely play the melody, which were the fun parts for her, as she got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line), which despite being very important could get really boring at times. Luckily, she had a friend who told her about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, she felt a lot better.

Moving on to her career as a musician, our dauntless bassist, who plays a variety of styles such as Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues and classical music armed with her glitter blue G&L SB-2 bass guitar and her black SB-2 bass guitar on select shows, started playing in a more professional way in 1997, when she joined a California-based Punk Rock/Rock N’ Roll band named Rotten Rod & The Warheads. She was their bassist from 1997 to 2002, having recorded with the band a demo in 1998 titled Practice Bomb (under the eccentric moniker of “Wanda Smart Bomb”), containing songs like Germs and Cruel World. I don’t know about you, but I would love to listen to the music by this fun and electrifying band on any rock n’ roll radio out there. Anyway, while still playing for Rotten Rod & The Warheads, she was also the bassist for Heartache City from 1999 to 2001, with whom she recorded the band’s self-titled album in 2001. I couldn’t find anything online form this band, but if Wanda was their bass player I’m sure their music was at least fun to listen to, right? Furthermore, Wanda was also the bassist for a Huntington Beach-based Rock/Blues band named Field of Vision in 2004, having recorded with them the six-track album FOV that same year, highly influenced by renowned acts such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Once again, there’s nothing online about this specific album, but as aforementioned we know from the bottom of our hearts it’s good music we’re talking about. As a matter of fact, in 1998 and 2004, she won the Best Female Bassist award at the Rock City News Awards and, in 2003, she also won the best bassist award at The All Access Music Magazine Awards, proving how talented and focused she has always been as a musician.

In addition to those previous acts and to The Iron Maidens, our ass-kicking bassist also works as a freelance musician in various groups and orchestras in the Southern California area, including The South Coast Symphony as principal bassist since 1996. When asked about how different it is playing for The South Coast Symphony and for The Iron Maidens, if that’s the type of diversity she needs in her playing style, Wanda said that she likes to play classical music just as much as metal, and after playing an upright bass she thinks it keeps her chops up, also saying that it’s like someone who enjoys playing basketball and baseball, two different sports but both fun, which is the same with classical music and metal for her. Moreover, her talent is also recognized by several important brands and companies, being endorsed by BBE Sound, Digitech, Dunlop Manufacturing, G&L Musical Instruments, RotoSound Strings, Schroeder Superior Sound Cabinets, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and she’s also been in a couple of interesting documentaries recently, those being Hair I Go Again (2016) and the upcoming Rock Is Dead? (2019).

It was in September 2002 when Wanda finally joined The Iron Maidens, remaining with the band ever since and adopting her stage name “Steph Harris” as an obvious reference to Iron Maiden’s iconic bassist and founder Mr. Steve Harris. So far, she has recorded with the band the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005), Route 666 (2007), The Root of All Evil (2008) and the video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan (2010), trying to be as loyal as possible to Iron Maiden’s original sound. In one of her interviews, Wanda said that when she joined the band everyone was just looking for a fun and original side project (there were already several all-female tribute acts for bands like AC/DC in the area), as they all had their own bands and projects, with a goal of playing maybe once or twice a month at some local pubs. However, after the first few shows a lot of people started calling them, with things really kicking off after the band had been together for about a year despite the fact they never took themselves too seriously at that time. As a matter of fact, if there’s one thing they always took very seriously was the music, always trying to replicate the original tones from Iron Maiden the best possible way even with the different instruments they use like Wanda’s bass, which is technically a Fender bass but not the same one used by Steve. If you want to take a good listen at how amazing Wanda and the girls from The Iron Maidens are, simply search for them on YouTube, as there are countless fantastic videos of their live performances such as The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On in California in 2014, or these two full concerts recorded in New York in 2018 and in California in 2013. Also, how about a nice and relaxed interview with the entire band conducted by Grasser Production in 2017 called “15 questions with The Iron Maidens”?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Regarding the songs she likes to play the most from the Iron Maiden vast and rich discography, she said her all-time favorite are Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Phantom of the Opera, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and when questioned if it’s hard for The Iron Maidens to come up with a setlist to please all fans she said it’s not difficult at all because it’s drummer Linda McDonald who keeps track of all places the band plays and what songs they played before, also taking into account her own endurance and the timing for their lead singer to do a costume change, for example, and always focusing on old songs not usually played by Iron Maiden during their current concerts and tours. She was also questioned if she ever struggles with identity, wanting to do her own original material and showcasing it, and she said she doesn’t really have any issues with that, stating that she actually enjoys playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, either metal or orchestral music, and that it doesn’t stop her from writing her own music which she has done before in original bands. Also, when asked if the band has ever had to deal with any issues related to artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers or anything like that, she said the band does everything they can to avoid that, but that they were asked to change their logo many years ago (and they did). She complemented by saying that wasn’t a big deal, and she doesn’t think the guys from Iron Maiden were even aware of it; they simply have a good team of people who help look after everything.

Of course, it’s impossible not to talk about her “relationship” with Mr. Steve Harris and his two-fingered galloping bass method. In one of her interviews, Wanda talked about how much Steve Harris and his bass have influenced her taste for music and her playing style, talking about the aforementioned story of her playing only the basic notes while her friends would play the melodies with their violins and violas in high school, but that after listening to the all-time classic Piece of Mind she fell in love with her bass guitar again and never stopped listening to the music by Iron Maiden ever since. Apart from Steve Harris, she also cites Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Canadian Rock titans Rush, and Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of English Progressive Rock band Yes, among her influences, once again showing how much she loves the most intricate, unique and vibrant sounds anyone can extract from a bass guitar. There’s also a price to pay for having Steve Harris as her major influence, and especially for playing Iron Maiden’s music, which comes in the form of fans who believe they can offer her advice on how to perform that material beyond her considerable talent. “Every once in a while, there will be a bass player in the audience. There’s a couple songs that I’ve gotten used to playing it a certain way or maybe a different position, but they’re the same notes, but it’s not the same position (Harris) plays it in. Sometimes I’ll get that, or sometimes I’ll get like, ‘Well, Steve uses two fingers’. Well, okay. Sometimes I’ll hear that. Very rarely though,” said our talented bassist.

Wanda’s first ever Iron Maiden concert happened many years ago during the World Slavery Tour, when according to Wanda herself she didn’t drink anything to avoid having to leave to use the bathroom, as she didn’t want to miss any part of the show (well, it’s the same for me). Years later, Wanda was even able to get to know Iron Maiden in person when Michael Kenney, Steve’s long-time bass tech and the band’s onstage keyboard player, introduced the whole band to them at a concert in Irvine, California. Wanda and the other girls were obviously nervous at first for meeting their idols, but the guys were really friendly to them and down to earth, making the whole experience very pleasant. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that they weren’t able to give them cookies that they baked specially for them, as their singer left them in her car. I’m pretty sure those cookies were delicious, but you know what was even better than that? The fact that The Iron Maidens were not only able to meet their icons in person for the first time ever, but also that the band led by Mr. Steve Harris supports them, acknowledging their undisputed talent, their passion for metal and their hard work, and that they can rest assured “Steph Harris” and the girls will always represent this more “feminine” and “delicate” side of Eddie with a lot of energy, respect and admiration. Having said that, don’t forget to check Wanda and the girls live whenever they take your city by storm, and of course, as usual… UP THE IRONS!

The Iron Maiden’s Official Facebook page
The Iron Maiden’s Official Instagram
The Iron Maiden’s Official Twitter

“As a bass player, of course, you’re going to be drawn to music more challenging, interesting and fun. I’ve always been an Iron Maiden fan since I was very young. When the band first formed everybody wanted to do something different, something more challenging. Since we all wanted something unique that nobody else was really doing, we thought Iron Maiden would be a good fit. We are all coincidentally huge Iron Maiden fans, so that made it better.” – Wanda Ortiz

Accessories Review – Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar

Are you already on your personal countdown to become part of the legacy on the upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019?

As there are only a few days left until 2018 comes to its inevitable end, it’s time to get ready for the year that’s about to start with the already classic annual calendar by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, allowing you to properly count the days until Bruce, Steve & Co. take your city by storm with their undisputed Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019. And although the Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar might not be a masterpiece, mainly because the manufacturer, your friendly neighborhood Danilo Promotions Limited, missed a fantastic chance of crafting the entire calendar based on all the different Eddies from their critically-acclaimed, epic mobile game Legacy of the Beast, it’s still a fun piece to add to your collection.

As I said, instead of assigning a distinct (and ass-kicking) Eddie from the game to each month of the calendar, such as the Eternity Eddie, the Vampire Hunter Eddie, the Grim Reaper Eddie or the Samurai Eddie, they decided to take a more conventional path by simply adding pictures of the band members taken during their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018. The front cover and the photos chosen to be part of the calendar are amazing, no doubt about that, especially the ones from February, April and September, but as a Maidenmaniac I still believe the Eddies would have been a much more suitable choice. Well, we can’t actually complain about that if you take a look at all previous versions, as it seems the manufacturer alternates between an Eddie-themed calendar (like their amazing 2018 edition) and a version containing solely band photos from year to year. Having said that, who knows, maybe next year when the 2020 version of the calendar is released we get all those fancy Eddies from the game, right?

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition)

Anyway, just like in all previous years, the 2019 calendar dimensions (30.4 x 1.5 x 42.4 cm) and weight (299 g) are quite standard, and you can purchase your copy of it from your regular retailers such as the Iron Maiden webstore, Danilo.com, Amazon (USCanada or UK, for example), and Calendar Club. In addition, don’t forget there’s always the 12 x 12 version of the calendar named Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition) if you prefer that specific format, although I believe it will be hard for anyone to find it online for purchase (it’s sold out in most locations) unless you go for the alternate version with a different front cover sold by BrownTrout. The price of the calendar, that being either the regular A3 version or the 12 x 12, varies depending on where you buy it, but I would say anything between 15 and 20 US Dollars should be fine.

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (BrownTrout Version)

In a nutshell, this is another good quality merch released by the one and only Iron Maiden that will certainly please most of their diehard fans (like this guy here who’s writing this review to you right now), also helping them count the days to their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 as already mentioned, especially if you live in North or South America. I’m already on my personal countdown to the two concerts in a row I’m attending here in Toronto, eager to see them performing their all-time classics mixed with some of my favorite “underground” hymns such as Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, Flight of Icarus, Sign of the Cross and The Wicker Man for the first time after so many years and, as a consequence, becoming part of the legacy together with one of the most important bands not only in the history of metal, but of music in general.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Collectibles Review – Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Figurines

Be part of the legacy with the new collection of first-class figurines inspired by Iron Maiden’s award-winning RPG mobile game.

If you’re an avid Iron Maiden follower, always eager to see what’s next in the career of our beloved Heavy Metal behemoths, I’m pretty sure you have already seen online or even downloaded and played their mobile game Legacy of the Beast, released in 2017, where you are able to battle as Eddie across several different worlds inspired by the band’s unique imagery and music. What you might not know is that Iron Maiden, in a partnership with a multi-faceted production company called Incendium, are also offering their fans a collection of high-quality action figures called Legacy of the Beast Figurines, based on several characters from their award-winning RPG game. There are two types of figurines available, the ones you can see what you’re buying and the ones that come in a blind box, something tons of other manufacturers do for different collections based on movies, cartoons and TV shows where they lower the cost of the blind box, but you always end up spending more money than you have available by buying several boxes (because you never know what you’re going to get).

The ones you can see what you’re buying are a no-brainer, highly recommended for embellishing your “altar of Heavy Metal” together with all your other metal-inspired memorabilia, those being the SHAMAN EDDIE (inspired by their 2015 masterpiece The Book of Souls), the VAMPIRE HUNTER EDDIE (inspired by their 1980 instrumental classic Transylvania), and the TROOPER EDDIE, all costing around CAD$ 32.43 (or US$24.95). These highly detailed 1:24 scale PVC figures measure about 4-inches tall and come on a special theme base, packaged in a diorama-style window box. As I said, whenever you see one of those, simply buy them because they kick some serious ass. However, while searching for those Eddies you might actually find a blind box containing one of the 12 different individual characters featured in the Legacy of the Beast Wave 1 Limited Edition Figurines, and that’s when the “problem” beings because as already mentioned you have no idea what character you’re buying. Those 12 figurines and the chance of getting a particular one are:

Goddess Aset figurine – 1:12
Clairvoyant figurine – 2:12
Cyborg figurine – 1:60
Holy Smokes figurine – 2:12
Owl Cultist figurine – 1:12
Pharaoh figurine – 1:12
Rainmaker figurine – 1:12
Reaper figurine – 1:12
Samurai figurine – 1:94
Soulless Demon figurine – 1:12
Speed of Light figurine – 3:24
Wicker Boss figurine – 1:12

Heights of figurines vary, and are typically 9cm high including the stand, but of course the selection is absolutely random (based on the chances listed above) and you cannot ask the manufacturer for a specific item, nor can they accept returns on opened items. This means once you buy a blind box, it’s yours forever (unless you sell it on eBay or Kijiji), and that you may receive duplicates when ordering more than one item. For instance, I bought only one box and got the Clairvoyant, by far the most boring of all characters by the way, but it is what it is, and if I had bought two boxes I might have gotten two Clairvoyants. You can buy only ONE BLIND BOX for around CAD$ 19.43 (or US$ 14.95), or you can try your luck buying a special BLIND BOX MASTER CASE containing 12 individual blind boxes for around CAD$ 233.92 (or US$ 179.95). But again, keep in mind if you buy the carton with 12 blind boxes, you might end up getting 12 Clairvoyants instead of the Samurai and the Cyborg you wanted so much.

Apart from Iron Maiden’s official webstore, you can also find the Legacy of the Beast Figurines on sale from the Incendium webstore, as well as from Hot Topic (and they have the Shaman Eddie, the Vampire Hunter Eddie, the Trooper Eddie and the individual blind boxes in stock). Furthermore, you can always keep an eye on Iron Maiden’s official Facebook page and/or the Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast’s official Facebook page for news and other announcements about the game itself and giveaways. Yes, they’re giving away special packages of figurines to a few lucky fans every week or so, like this Legacy of the Beast Comic-Con Giveaway containing Trooper Eddie, Vampire Hunter Eddie, Shaman Eddie, six random blind box figures and three pin sets. And remember this is just wave 1, which means more awesome characters are coming whenever waves 2, 3, 4 and so on are released (and I truly hope that happens sooner than later).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Beverage Review – Iron Maiden’s Hallowed

Hallowed Be Thy Ale.

“I’m waiting in my cold cell, when the bell begins to chime
Reflecting on my past life and it doesn’t have much time
Cause at 5 o’clock they take me to the Gallows Pole
The sands of time for me are running low”

British Heavy Metal legends Iron Maiden are not only a metal music machine like everyone says, but in the past few years they’ve also mastered the art of craft beer brewing in a beyond fruitful partnership with independent family brewers Robinsons Brewery. Once again, the dynamic duo of Robinsons’ master brewer Martyn Weeks and Iron Maiden’s multi-talented, restless and wild lead vocalist and ale aficionado Bruce Dickinson have teamed up to create something very special for beer and music fans alike, the brand new Belgian style beer Hallowed (available from October 2017 for a limited period of four months according to the band itself), following on from the success of the original Trooper Beer, which has sold over 15 million pints since its launch in 2013, and previous limited edition beers Trooper 666, Trooper light Brigade and Red ‘N’ Black, all part of the already imposing collection of Iron Maiden beers. As a matter of fact, Hallowed is obviously named after Iron Maiden’s all-time classic Hallowed Be Thy Name, from their 1982 cult album The Number of the Beast, and just by that you already know this beer kicks some serious ass.

At 6.0% ABV in a 330 ml bottle, Hallowed is a Belgian inspired beer that’s brewed in England and also one of the first beers to be brewed by Robinsons Brewery that uses Belgian yeast. Furthermore, Robinsons haven’t changed the yeast used in their beers since 1942, which makes Hallowed even more special. “What makes this brew pretty special is that we’re adopting a Belgian yeast for the first time. I’m a big fan of Belgian beers, so I jumped at the chance to brew my own. While I get very excited about experimenting with new formulas and ingredients, the thing about Belgian beer is that it’s as much a way of life as it is a drink. We’ve tried to bottle that philosophy in Hallowed, albeit with a British twist”, explained Bruce. Martyn complemented Bruce’s thoughts by saying that “it’s all in the yeast. Belgian yeast yields a very distinct taste and presentation. You can sniff out a Belgian beer simply from its aromas: fruity, spicy and earthy. Belgian yeasts withstand higher alcohol levels, they attenuate well and create an array of phenolics and esters… put simply, this means more flavour and I think Hallowed drinkers are in for a treat.”

Of medium and malty style, which makes it ideal for a beef stew or cheeses, Hallowed brings vibrant aromas with vanilla, coffee, clove and floral notes, presenting on the palate notes of coffee, toasted malt and biscuit. Moreover, the crystal rye gives this dark amber, almost light brown ale a blood red hue and a smooth dry finish, having a lot of depth in malt character while the light Belgian yeast provides balance to its taste. As a huge fan of Belgian beer, I personally enjoyed a lot savoring my first bottle of Hallowed a few weeks ago, and I’m happy that I bought a few extra ones at LCBO for future occasions. If the original Trooper beer was already recommended for beer lovers (and not for heavy beer drinkers), Hallowed can be considered even more distinguished and gourmet, turning the simple act of drinking beer into a unique and very pleasant experience. Apart from LCBO here in Canada (and keep in mind not every store has it), I don’t know where else you can get Hallowed, as the product is already listed as discontinued on the Robinsons Brewery official website. Well, you should keep trying to find Hallowed in your hometown or by purchasing it online if possible, because it’s totally worth the investment, with one 330 ml bottle of Hallowed costing around 2.90 Canadian Dollars. In the meantime, you can also have some fun online by watching Bruce himself tasting Hallowed HERE, or this short but fun video by United News International where they talked about the release of Hallowed last year.

Beer details
Country: England
Brewer: Robinsons Brewery
Style: Belgian Dark Ale
Alcohol Content (ABV): 6.00%
Color: Red
Smell: Delicate floral, hints of vanilla & clove
Taste: Malty, Toffee, Caramel
Sweetness: 3 out of 5
Bitterness: 2 out of 5
Contains: Malted barley and wheat
Price: CAD$ 2.90 (1 x Bottle 330 ml)

Accessories Review – Iron Maiden 2018 Calendar

Get ready for the upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018 with the newest,  kick-ass edition of the already famous and always fun Iron Maiden official calendar.

It’s that wonderful time of the year we all start to get anxious for several days of happiness and fun that are about to begin, and I’m obviously not talking about Christmas and the holiday season, but about the new fantastic tour Iron Maiden will start in May 2018 in the beautiful Tallin, the capital of Estonia (unless they add any new dates before that, of course), named Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018, inspired by their own game Legacy of the Beast. Well, there’s nothing better than a classy calendar for the countdown, right? And that’s exactly what Iron Maiden together with Danilo Promotions Limited are providing us once again this year with the brand new version of their already traditional official calendar.

Featuring some of the most memorable versions of Eddie that appeared in different event shirts during The Book Of Souls 2016 World Tour and The Book Of Souls 2017 World Tour, such as London, California, Chicago, Texas, Canada, Japan and South Africa, among others, the Iron Maiden 2018 Calendar kicks some serious ass when compared to most of its previous editions. Simply check the 2017 edition of the calendar and you’ll see what I’m talking about. If someone by any chance forced me to make any negative comments about this new calendar, let’s say it would be the fact they didn’t use any of the Eddies from the Legacy of the Beast game in it, but the special event Eddies displayed in each month are so cool I’m sure on one will complain about that either, don’t you agree?

With its front cover being a fusion of the already iconic “Eddie Sapiens” inside a ring of fire and the aforementioned Eddies from several event shirts used during the band’s The Book Of Souls tours, and having very similar dimensions (42 x 29.2 x 0.5 cm) and weight (325 g) to all past editions, the Iron Maiden 2018 Calendar is the perfect gift for that Maidenmaniac friend of yours who knows each and every date Iron Maiden are playing on their forthcoming tour, but that at the same time can only remember the birthday of his or her significant other if he or she writes it on the calendar and sets up an alarm as a reminder. There are as usual several places where you can grab your copy of the calendar, such as at  Danilo.com, on Amazon.com (where you can also find special bundles such as  calendar + keyring or calendar + fridge magnet), on Amazon.ca, or on any other local Amazon website, at Calendar Club, or at your nearest physical calendar store.

Iron Maiden 2018 Square Global (Multilingual Edition)

And just like I mentioned last year, there’s also a 12 x 12 inch square version of the calendar that can be found online under the name Iron Maiden 2018 Square Global (Multilingual Edition), bringing the same Eddies used in the A3 version of the calendar but obviously in a square format, if you fancy that variation of the regular version of it. Actually, as long as you purchase the Iron Maiden 2018 Calendar, no matter if it’s A3 or square, you’ll be more than ready to initiate your personal countdown for the first gig of the upcoming tour in May, when you’ll finally know the setlist they’ll be playing until the last show of the tour (which is right now booked for August 11, 2018 in London, at the O2 Arena), how their new stage will look like, how the new stage Eddies will be, among other things only a band like Iron Maiden can provide us metalheads. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where they’ll play in 2018, or if you’ve already booked your trip to one of those places, then the calendar will be of the utmost importance for your planning stages, using it to mark the dates when you’ll receive your tickets, book your accommodation, receive your brand new Iron Maiden shirt to get properly dressed for the concert, and so on. And that’s the fun of being a Maidenmaniac, as Steve, Bruce and Co. never get tired of amazing us all with their unparalleled Heavy Metal, while we of course never get tired of following those guys.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.