Accessories Review – Iron Maiden 2016 Calendar

Completely disconnected from The Book Of Souls, the new calendar has a huge feeling of “been there, done that” despite being very classy and well-crafted.

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00_Iron Maiden Calendar 2016Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden have been on a exciting roll in 2015, starting with Bruce Dickinson beautifully overcoming cancer, followed by the release of a brand new album that’s being considered by most of their fans as their best since Bruce’s return to the band back in 1999, the spectacular The Book Of Souls, which obviously led them to schedule several dates all around the world for their upcoming tour in 2016 (with most of those concerts being sold out already). Add to that the soaring number of merchandise items offered through their official webshop and also available in lots of physical stores everywhere, and you have a flawless 2015 and a promising 2016 for the band and consequently for each of their diehard fans worldwide.

However, in my opinion there was a huge opportunity missed by the band with one of their new items, which might not make any difference in the life of their occasional fans, but that surely has a significant impact for Maidenmaniacs like myself. I’m talking about the Iron Maiden 2016 Calendar, which despite being a solid compilation of some of Eddie’s most iconic facets, it has that tiresome feeling of “been there, seen that” when compared to all their previous calendars.

Published as usual by Danilo Promotions Limited and displaying very similar dimensions (42.1 x 29.6 x 1 cm) and weight (318 g) to all previous editions, don not expect to see ANY references to The Book Of Souls on the calendar, but just a collection of old school Eddies from Running Free to Different World. Actually, the artwork chosen for the front cover is a slight adaptation from their 1996 “best of” album Best Of The Beast, something beyond my comprehension.

I’m not saying it’s a boring calendar. Quite the opposite, who doesn’t love the Eddies from The Trooper, Aces High or Stranger in a Strange Land? The main issue for me is that, if you think about what they could have done to the calendar by using the unlimited potential from the Mayan theme featured in The Book Of Souls, you’ll realize how lazy and disappointing the 2016 calendar is. It’s still worth the £8 (or 15 Canadian Dollars) you’ll pay for it, but it’s obvious they could have done a lot better than that. Can you imagine how awesome the whole calendar would have been with the same look and feel of the new album, including the Mayan hieroglyphs, the “Eddie Sapiens” and everything else?

Anyway, with a magnificent album like The Book Of Souls in our hands, I guess in the end we cannot complain that much about a simple calendar. You can find it for sale at the Iron Maiden official  webshop, on Amazon.ca (or any other Amazon website), at Danilo.com and at tons of other webshops all over the world such as Calendar Club, from the UK. It might not be the Mayan calendar most of us were expecting, but it will be more than enough for you to count the days until Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain and Eddie storm your city with their unparalleled Heavy Metal in 2016.

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Album Review – Iron Maiden / The Book Of Souls (2015)

As you read through the pages of The Book Of Souls you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all, no matter how far.

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Iron Maiden_The Book of Souls“Here is the soul of a man…”

Unless you were one of the luckiest bastards in the world who joined Mr. Bruce Dickinson on a special 737 flight from Cardiff, UK to Paris, France on August 26 to hear in its entirety the brand new album by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, the 92-minute Mayan-inspired masterpiece The Book Of Souls, I’m pretty sure you have been suffering lately from several “withdrawal symptoms” such as anxiety, palpitations, restlessness and poor concentration, counting every second left until today to close that excruciating five-year gap since their 2010 album The Final Frontier. However, you can definitely relax now, because the band’s first ever double studio album is not only ass-kicking, but so dense and multi-layered we have enough Iron Maiden at their finest to soothe our souls for the next five decades or so.

Furthermore, there are so many noteworthy details surrounding The Book Of Souls it’s hard to summarize everything in just a few lines. For instance, the album was recorded at Studios Guillaume Tell in Paris, the same studio used for their 2000 release Brave New World, with several songs being written and recorded immediately after to give them a live and fresh taste. Also, the album cover features the original version of the Iron Maiden logo, not used on a studio album since their 1995 release The X Factor. And finally, although The Book Of Souls is not a concept album, many songs have references to the human soul, mortality and death, depicted in the artwork as the idiosyncratic “Eddie Sapiens” by English illustrator Mark Wilkinson, who by the way has already worked with other music icons such as Marillion, Fish and Judas Priest, as well as with Iron Maiden themselves in previous works like Best of the ‘B’ Sides and the single The Wicker Man. In addition, the band hired Mayanist scholar Simon Martin, who also translated the song titles into hieroglyphs, to validate the accuracy of the artwork. If there’s a band that pays attention to every single detail in their albums, that’s undoubtedly Iron Maiden.

Nevertheless, it’s when the music starts that we’re all reminded why we love these British veterans so much, and in the case of The Book Of Souls there’s A LOT of music for us Maidenmaniacs to relish. Starting with the first disc, the intro in the excellent If Eternity Should Fail already gave me goosebumps, and besides, it’s really comforting to see that Mr. Bruce Dickinson’s voice continues to be stunning after his battle against cancer (even knowing the album was recorded before his treatment started). After that it’s pure Iron Maiden, which means powerful riffs, galloping bass and drums, and a gripping storyline, with the creepy narration at the end (“the harvester of souls”) reminding me of what Bruce did in some of the songs from his excellent solo album The Chemical Wedding. And if you think this is a lengthy song with its imposing eight minutes, let me remind you it’s only the fourth one in terms of duration. Moving on to the next track, it’s not Iron Maiden if you cannot enjoy some extra freebies such as a behind-the-scenes exclusive footage of an official video or playing a special game inspired by a song, which is the case in the high-octane Speed of Light, where Hard Rock is taken to the next level with the help of some dashing cowbell, Bruce’s vibrant screams and a fuckin’ awesome rhythm led by Iron Maiden’s guitar triumvirate formed by Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, taking us fans back in time to a Piece of Mind-ish musicality with a touch of Brave New World. Moreover, this electric tune has that type of chorus you’ll be singing nonstop in the shower, in your car, at work, school and anywhere else in the world with your fists in the air and a huge smile on your face (“Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / At the speed of light / Shadows in the stars / We will not return / Humanity won’t save us / We’re slippin’ through the night”).

Iron MaidenThe Great Unknown, which reminds me of some of the songs from The X-Factor but with the addition of the high-end progressiveness found in their latest albums (especially The Final Frontier), showcases the always superb Nicko McBrain firing his unique beats and fills, as well as another eerie story told by Bruce, keeping The Book Of Souls at an incredible level of quality. But it’s from The Red and the Black on that the album becomes a brilliant tribute to Heavy Metal. No words can describe the verve of its intro, and it doesn’t matter if you consider it old school or more contemporary Iron Maiden, as long as you acknowledge its awesomeness. It’s obviously another masterful and epic creation by the one and only Mr. Steve Harris, with highlights to the combination of Steve’s flawless bass lines and Dave’s, Janick’s and Adrian’s riffs and solos. I can’t wait to scream its electrifying “Ooh-Oooh! Ooh-Oooh!” together with the band when I see them live next year (if they play it, of course), and while some people might complain this song is too long, I prefer complaining it has “only” 13 minutes. Too short for its greatness, don’t you agree?

With hints of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and their Punk Rock attitude from Iron Maiden and Killers, the fast-paced tune When the River Runs Deep, written by Adrian and Steve, truly makes my blood run wild, and I’m certain that if this song was part of any of their old albums it would have become an all-time classic without a shadow of a doubt. Bruce and Nicko are absolutely on fire, making me wonder if they’re really over 50 years old as they sound like they’re in their 20’s, so fiery their performances are. Then closing the first album we have the title-track, The Book of Souls, exhaling beauty from its melancholic intro to the poetry in its lyrics. Everything was meticulously put together by the whole band in this song, which has actually two distinct parts if you pay good attention, the first composed by a grandiose and marching rhythm enhanced by the keyboards in the background, while the second is a lot faster and heavier, showcasing Maiden’s traditional guitar riffs and solos until the songs fades to a somber and calm ending.

In order to properly kick off the second disc and tear the house down, Adrian and Bruce got together to craft another fighting anthem the likes of The Duellists entitled Death or Glory, the perfect soundtrack to an epic battle movie where nothing sounds out of place, with highlights to its exciting backing vocals, blazin’ guitar solos and a potent battlefield sonority. Truth be told, I can’t stop banging my head and playing air bass guitar to this straightforward tune, which is also the case in Shadows of the Valley and its “Wasted Years 2.0” intro, another strong candidate for their live performances. Despite beginning in a very similar way as one of their biggest classics of all time, it ends up following a pattern closer to songs such as “The Fallen Angel” and “Montségur”, mainly due to its characteristic galloping bass guitar and Nicko’s solid drumming. One thing I love doing while listening to Iron Maiden is closing my eyes and absorbing the story Bruce is telling me while the other band members generate a thrilling ambience, and let me tell you this song is perfect for that.

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Iron Maiden’s Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet, also known as Queen of the Skies

Tears of a Clown, a reverent Heavy Rock tribute to one of the most important actors in the world, Mr. Robin Williams (R.I.P.), is a lot more inclined to Bruce’s solo career, and albeit its instrumental parts sound very cohesive what really stands out in this song is the story told through its lyrics. And The Man of Sorrows, which also sounds closer to something Bruce would do on his own rather than with Iron Maiden (it was written by Steve and Dave, by the way), is completely different from Accident of Birth’s “Man of Sorrows” regardless of their almost identical names. It starts as a heavy ballad, evolving to a darker, more progressive and more melodic musicality than usual, increasing its complexity and impact on the listener.

And last but not least, Empire of the Clouds, featuring Bruce on piano for the first time ever and based on the historic crash of the titanic airship R101 in 1930, replaces “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as the band’s longest song ever at 18 minutes in duration. It is perhaps the most melancholic and sorrowful song ever composed by the band, and as we all know they have the guts to play something like this live I bet it will be part of their upcoming setlist next year for our purest delectation. Bruce gives a History lesson about the R101 during the whole song, taking its epicness to the second power, with the music perfectly representing the audacity, dreams and failure involved in that important historical fact. Additionally, after nine minutes it becomes a music voyage full of changes in rhythm, progressive passages and symphonic elements, culminating in a gentle and passionate climax that closes The Book Of Souls with a flourish.

In summary, Iron Maiden triumphed once again (as if anyone is really surprised with that), delivering a bold, venturous and elaborate album that will keep them atop the highest mountains of heavy music, consequently attracting more and more fans to their extensive family and keeping Heavy Metal strong and relevant for many years to come. Now all we have to do is wait patiently for their gigantic world tour next year on board of their Boeing 747-400 Jumbo Jet (aka Queen of the Skies), listening to The Book Of Souls over and over again until then. And as you read through the pages of the new epic album by Heavy Metal’s greatest band of all time, you’ll inevitably realize that Iron Maiden’s gonna get you, and you, and you, and you, and all of you… no matter how far.

Best moments of the album: The Red and the Black, When the River Runs Deep, Death or Glory, Shadows of the Valley and Empire of the Clouds.

Worst moments of the album: WHAT!?

Released in 2015 Parlophone/Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG

Track listing
Disc one
1. If Eternity Should Fail 8:28
2. Speed of Light 5:01
3. The Great Unknown 6:37
4. The Red and the Black 13:33
5. When the River Runs Deep 5:52
6. The Book of Souls 10:27

Disc two
1. Death or Glory 5:13
2. Shadows of the Valley 7:32
3. Tears of a Clown 4:59
4. The Man of Sorrows 6:28
5. Empire of the Clouds 18:01

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals, piano on “Empire of the Clouds”
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Album Review – Iron Maiden / Powerslave (1984)

Exactly 30 years ago, the world would witness the birth of the best Heavy Metal album of all time.

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Iron Maiden_PowerslaveRecorded from February to June 1984 at the famous Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and released on September 3, 1984, Powerslave is much more than just a milestone in the Heavy Metal universe. You can disagree with me and start all that blah blah blah about how this or that album from Black Sabbath or Metallica, or even another Iron Maiden album like The Number of the Beast, is better than Powerslave, but I’m sorry, nothing really compares to this album. Powerslave is by far the most complex, complete, exciting and powerful album of all time, and anything I say about it won’t be enough to describe this 50-minute Heavy Metal masterpiece’s grandiosity.

Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain were at the peak of their musical creativity and inspiration, delivering their fans unique songs about the Ancient Egypt, the experiences of a sailor from a famous English poem, the pleasures and honor of a duel, an aircraft battle during the Battle of Britain, and more. All songs have wonderful instrumental parts, together with clever and meaningful lyrics, making them some of the most requested by all Maidenmaniacs around the globe for any live concerts, best of albums, top 100 Heavy Metal songs, weddings, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals, prom nights, or anywhere else good music can be played.

Well, the album kicks off with my favorite song of all time in any music genre, Aces High, which still gives me the chills every time I listen to it. “Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die / Run, live to fly, fly to live, Aces High”, sings Bruce perfectly while Steve Harris “gallops” his bass like a wild beast. Not only that, you can feel the battle going on in the air with the lyrics, and the solos are among the best the band has ever produced thanks to majestic performances by Adrian and Dave. Do I need to say it sounds even more splendid live?

There’s no better way to continue the album than with another all-time classic, 2 Minutes to Midnight, a song that has an unparalleled starting riff that even a newborn baby can easily recognize, and amazing lyrics that make reference to the Doomsday Clock. Then comes Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), one of the few instrumental songs the band has ever produced, with total highlight to the beautiful job done by Steve and Nicko. Flash of the Blade keeps the bar high with its outstanding riffs and speed, while The Duellists is in every fan’s dreams of seeing it being played live by the band in any of their world tours. This is another one of my top Maiden tracks of all time, especially due to its incredible rhythm led by Steve and Nicko. Iron Maiden even tried to replicate this type of sonority with more contemporary songs like “Fallen Angel” and “Montsegur”, but it seems the fans didn’t like the new songs that much. Then we have Back in the Village, another song with amazing riffs, although it’s considered the least favorite of the album by many fans.

Iron Maiden 1984The last part of the album is simply awesome: Powerslave is one of those cases of a song that should be turned into a movie due to its excellence in telling the Ancient Egyptian history during its 7 minutes of pure Heavy Metal. Its initial drums are superb, the lyrics are perfect, the chorus is wonderful (“Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave / I don’t wanna die, I’m a God, / Why can’t I live on?”), as well as every other part of the song. Seeing Maiden playing this song live is an unforgettable experience in the life of any person. And last but not least, we have another Heavy Metal masterpiece, the one and only Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Inspired by the amazing poem from British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, this 13-minute song has one of the most elaborate lyrics in the world of music, different tempos, a beautiful narration in the middle taken directly from the original poem, and all musicians showing us why “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”. As I mentioned before, nothing I say will be enough to describe the magnitude of this song or the entire album.

“One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
Four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan),
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one.” 

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)

Iron Maiden World Slavery Tour

World Slavery Tour 1984-1985

If you think that’s all, you’re completely wrong. Iron Maiden is not a regular band, as they add a lot more than just the music to their work. Powerslave follows its predecessors with another unmatched front cover showing the band’s most celebrated “member”, Eddie the Head, this time inspired by the Ancient Egypt and perfectly representing the content of the album, designed by master Derek Riggs. It’s impossible not to fall in love for it, don’t you agree? And if you get the 1995 reissue, you’ll also enjoy the songs from the bonus disc, especially their cool  version for Beckett’s Rainbow’s Gold.

Finally, right after the release of Powerslave the band went on their longest and most memorable tour of all, The World Slavery Tour, which began in Warsaw, Poland on August 9, 1984 and ended only in Irvine, U.S. on July 5, 1985 (187 shows in total), culminating with the launch of another masterpiece, the live album Live After Death. I have no idea of how many bands have been influenced by Powerslave or by Iron Maiden’s entire career, but I know that none has ever been able to deliver something so mighty and unique as Steve, Bruce & Co. did with Powerslave. UP THE IRONS!

Best moments of the album: Aces High, The Duellists, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Worst moments of the album: None. Powerslave is perfect.

Released in 1984 EMI

Track listing
1. Aces High 4:29
2. 2 Minutes to Midnight 6:00
3. Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra) (Instrumental) 4:13
4. Flash of the Blade 4:03
5. The Duellists 6:06
6. Back in the Village 5:03
7. Powerslave 7:12
8. Rime of the Ancient Mariner 13:42

1995 Reissue Bonus Disc
1. Rainbow’s Gold (Beckett cover) 4:57
2. Mission From ‘Arry 6:42
3. King of Twilight (Nektar cover) 4:53
4. The Number of the Beast (live) 4:57

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

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Brno Velodrom, Brno, Czech Republic, 06/08/2014)

SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!

INTRODUCTION: The City of Brno

tour_500Finally back from my awesome trip around Eastern Europe, there couldn’t be a better way to “reignite” the moose than with a review of another flawless performance from Heavy Metal behemoths IRON MAIDEN! But before I talk about the concert itself, let me do a quick intro about the city of Brno, where Maiden played for the first time ever in their brilliant career.

With a population of almost 400,000 people, Brno is the capital of the South Moravian Region and the second largest city of the Czech Republic (Prague is the first one with 1.3 million people). This beautiful city is located about 200km from both Prague and Vienna (Austria), so it doesn’t really matter where you fly to if you don’t live in Europe and want to visit there.

And believe me, it’s definitely worth a visit: the people from Brno are very friendly and beautiful, their food is amazing, their beer is not only delicious but also very cheap, and of course, there’s a lot to do in the city such as visiting the imponent Špilberk Castle (you can have a pint of Brno’s awesome Poutník light draft beer for less than two Canadian Dollars at the pub on the top of the castle), seeing the mummies at the Capuchin Crypt and Church, or visiting the Brno Ossuary. Or maybe if you’re planning to have a very romantic dinner in the city, my suggestion is the excellent La Bouchée Restaurant. You can find some good info about the city and its hotels, attractions and events at the website Brno.me.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

IMAG2183We flew from Toronto directly to Vienna from the evening of June 7 to the morning of June 8, picked up a car at the airport, enjoyed the 2-hour drive to Brno, checked in at our hotel located only 500m from the venue (the open-air Brno Velodrom, which seemed really old and not very well-maintained from the inside), slept for about 2 hours to recover our energies, and then simply walked to the Velodrom. When we got there, Swedish Hard Rock band Ghost was already onstage, but we couldn’t care less as we’re not fans of the band nor will ever be. We really don’t get why so many people love this overrated band. Well, Ghost did exactly what we expected: despite their good instrumental, interesting lyrics and all their theatrical performance, the vocals are extremely bad and the songs sound way too boring for big venues or festivals. I wasn’t able to distinguish any of the songs from one another, so for me it sounded like a single 40-minute boring song being played all the time. Anyway, even the most diehard fans of Iron Maiden respected the band and not even a single boo was heard, which was good for the band members, but that left me wondering how cool it would have been with Anthrax instead of Ghost opening for Maiden, as it happened in previous concerts this year.

Band members
Papa Emeritus II – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists (lead guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, rhythm guitarist)

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1829It was around 9pm when, after the traditional intro with UFO’s Doctor Doctor and the video showing scenes of ice meltdown with the epic orchestral song Rising Mercury in the background, Steve, Bruce & Co. hit the stage with the classic Moonchild (by the way, the sound quality was excellent). I don’t need to say how great that was, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge festival like Rock Am Ring or a small city like Brno: Iron Maiden are ALWAYS on fire and ALWAYS deliver the most electrifying show one can ever imagine! “What a lovely evening!”, Bruce said in regards to the sunny and hot weather in Brno, with the temperatures above +35°C making it even hard to breathe sometimes. Nothing that cannot be solved with some cold beer, though.

Besides that, it was clear to me that the vast majority of the fans there were not from Brno, but from other parts of Czech Republic and major European cities like Prague, Vienna and Bratislava (as well as other distant parts of Europe like England and Finland), which means only true Maidenmaniacs attended the concert, enhancing the connection between band and fans even more. Moreover, as it already happened in 2012 and 2013, each and every all-time classic like Can I Play With Madness, The Trooper, Wasted Years and Run to the Hills didn’t let the energy down not even for a single second throughout the entire concert. Not even the limited English from most fans in the venue curbed their enthusiasm and their will to sing along all songs with the band. And what was that crazy dude on the fence with the British flag? He was 100% drunk, his T-shirt was all torn because of the fence (and I believe he was also bleeding because of that), but he was so happy seeing Maiden live that none of that could stop him from enjoying every song played. That was awesome.

IMG_1809In addition, the highlights of this concert (and of the whole Maiden England Tour 2014) were once again the thrilling masterpieces The Prisoner and Aces High, the undeniable perfection of the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and of course the three changes the band made to the setlist this year. This was my fifth “Maiden England” concert (after three in Canada in 2012 and one in Germany in 2013), and by far the best in terms of setlist: replacing Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant and Running Free by Revelations, Wrathchild and Sanctuary was an awesome move that added more power to their performance, especially the wonderful Revelations, one of my favorite Maiden songs of all time. Bruce had such an outstanding performance on this song, one of the best I’ve ever seen, that it was impossible not to get emotional with its perfect lyrics. Can someone please ask the band to NEVER remove it from the setlist again?

Talking about Bruce, he was singing A LOT better than a few days before at Rock Am Ring. For instance, during the encore it sounded like the concert was just starting, and we’re talking about very difficult songs to sing like Aces High and The Evil That Men Do. Maybe he had more time to rest until the concert at Brno, or maybe he feels more excited when it’s a smaller venue and not a huge festival? The same can be said about the other band members, especially Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain, who were both in top form even after so many years on the road. They simply love what they do, and that’s why we love them so much. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about, there are many good videos shot at the concert in Brno that you can compare with their performance at Rock Am Ring.

In summary, as the band itself always says, “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”, even if it’s as far as Brno, in the amazing Czech Republic. No one knows if Maiden will return to the city in the future for more concerts, but based on this first one and on all the beauty, peace and the enthusiastic people there, Brno truly deserves to be constantly visited by our beloved Heavy Metal giants. And if they do so in the following years, I hope I can take some days off again to witness Bruce shouting out loud “SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!” under the beautiful and clear Czech sky during one more of their superb summer tours.

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

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