Iron Maiden and Me. Part III: Live After Death

One of the best live albums of all time, Iron Maiden’s “Live After Death” was recorded during the World Slavery Tour 84/85. During 322 grueling days, they played 191 shows in 24 countries in four continents. The crew began work at 8 am and finished at 2 am on show days and hauled forty plus tons of equipment in six 45-foot trucks. The LP contains multiple pictures that tell the story of a long and seemingly unending tour. We see the band goofing off, having beers, playing football (or soccer for North American readers), sleeping, hugging their kids, making phone calls and rocking the stage. The album was produced, engineered and mixed by Martin Birch (who also engineered the epic Deep Purple “Made in Japan” album.)

Upon getting the album I was afraid the sound was going to be grainy and poppy because the records pressed in Venezuela were known to be of inferior quality to the imported ones. Being a teenager I could only afford the locally pressed albums. So with a bit of anxiety I opened the LP, placed it on the turntable, pressed a button, which placed the needle in the first groove and got transported to an arena in a land far, far away from Caracas. Fortunately the needle didn’t jump out of the turntable from a manufacturing defect and I was sucked into the show right away.

The beautifully engineered album begins with a fade-in of the colossal crowd cheering frantically. A few moments later a tape with Churchill’s famous 1940 speech in the House of Commons “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” plays. A guy in the crowd whistles above the cacophony and then every person seems to get on their feet and holler with all their might as they welcome to the stage the British quintet formed by Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, Bruce Dickinson and Nicko McBrain. The attending masses happily provided the band carte blanche to pummel their ears, stimulate their minds and challenge their vocal chords, and to feel part of the Maiden family.

Immediately after Churchill utters the words “we will never surrender!” the bombastic start to “Aces High” makes the crowd jump, as two very loud guitars, an equally loud kick-drum, snare, cymbals combo, and the clankity-clank bass sound of Harris’s Fender smashes them in the face with over a hundred and fifty thousand watts of pure Maiden.

After a few measures Bruce Dickinson comes out of hiding after presumably processing the crowd’s energy and spits it back in the form of powerful vocals, magically pouring out melodies as though they were a warm blanket of awesomeness. The madness begins and you are taken on a hair-raising trip of fighter planes, mariners, troopers, people running to hills, damned children, numbers of beasts and torture devices from centuries of old.

During the instrumental bit of “Revelations,” the crowd’s cheers intensify several times (band: ta-na-na, crowd: haaaaaah; repeat.) Many times I wished I were there to know what was going on that made every person yell. Fortunately the mystery was resolved when I got my hands on the video: Bruce elevates his arms and the crowd responds with increased intensity as if hypnotized. He does this several times. I heard him say in an interview that he tries to make the crowd shrink which means that he works hard to make the connection with every person in the arena, from the people in the front to the ones in the nosebleed sections. In this recording he manages to do it in a way that transcends the limits of the arena and reaches your living room. When you listen to this album you are sucked into this show and feel you are there. And if you play it loud enough, you can experience the vibrations shake your body as well.

In the video you can appreciate the enormity of the set (the design, lighting, amps, props and pyrotechnics) the band’s eclectic attire and Eddie (the band’s mascot.) The Egyptian themed stage contains several sarcophagi, statues, and papyrus with symbols. It feels one is inside a pyramid. The drum set is raised and at that height a walkway surrounds the stage, which Dickinson uses to run on incessantly. The video also shows the energy of the band, the showmanship and the professionalism of one of the hardest working bands in heavy metal today (and one of the most loved.)

Bruce comes out with a mask during “Powerslave” a gigantic mummified Eddie appears behind the drum set shaking uncontrollably amid smoke during “Iron Maiden.”

The show ends with the song “Running Free” and a crowd that yearns for more and a band that could have played another few hours.

In my view, the World Slavery Tour raised the bar for Maiden. Releasing an LP and video of the tour was a great move as it brought the concert to millions of fans in countries the band did not visit and inarguably broadened their loyal fan base.

If you love metal and haven’t heard this album, it is a must for your collection. Or even better, get the video. Or get both. The song “Sanctuary” is not on the LP but it is on the video. If you’re not a metalhead but want to know what the big fuss is regarding the genre, watch the video.

Iron Maiden continues to fill arenas all over the world. Even today their shows are as dazzling as this one. Experiencing them live last year in Atlanta, GA during the Maiden England tour was as if time had stood still. These guys refuse to age and continue to work really hard to make every show an incredible experience for their fans. And for this love and dedication I say Up the Irons!

Atlanta GA 2012

Atlanta GA 2012

Eddie Pyro copy Band Nicko

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Iron Maiden and Me. Part II: Trooper Beer

While my friend Ken and I waited to settle our tab at the local watering hole, he said “this is so surreal. Back in 1983, when I was listening to [the Iron Maiden album] Piece of Mind I never in a million years imagined I’d be drinking an Iron Maiden beer!” My friend Ken’s reflection touched me. We were teenagers at the time each one living in our native countries, too young to drink and too naive to imagine a beer with Eddie adorning the bottle. I am sure the sentiment is shared by the millions of Iron Maiden fans who can now in the USA get a hold of the Iron Maiden “Trooper” beer, brewed by Robinsons Brewery in Stockport, England from a recipe created by Bruce Dickinson, the band’s lead singer (who is also a pilot and an accomplished fencer, may I add.)

I’ve been an avid craft beer drinker for nearly a decade now (and a regular beer drinker for, er, ne’er mind.) One’s palate changes little by little through the years as one gets used to the taste of the different beer styles. I began with the sours, then switched to the stouts, and slowly welcomed the hoppy beers. Nowadays I prefer strong-flavored beers like triple IPAs (we know them lovingly as the “palate killers”) and Russian Imperial Stouts, so naturally before I tasted The Trooper beer I was a little scared it would be too bland for my experienced palate. Would it live up to my expectations? Would the beer suck and my credibility be tarnished after I’d been advocating this as-of-yet untasted beer for months? If I didn’t like it, would it mean I’m a beer snob? Fortunately the fears were unfounded. The Trooper was well liked by fellow friends and beer drinkers alike and received the approval from my favorite Englishman and a beer connoisseur par excellence: my husband.

The beer is a straight-up English Ale, and a perfect example of the kind. The aroma, body and taste makes one think one is in a stone-walled pub with a name like Ye Ole Quenay Pub, and a door frame so low one has to bend down  to get in. 

The chosen brewery, Robinsons, has been in existence over 170 years. The Trooper beer sold in 8 weeks what they had projected to sell in the first six months: a million pints! It is the first time in their nearly two-centuries of existence that a new brew sells at this rate. The demand has been so great that they are using the entire facility for this beer alone. This feat was achieved with little advertising and before a major supermarket in England started carrying the beer, which reminiscent of the band itself: with no radio airplay they continue to sell millions of records and sell out arenas all over the world.

I had been waiting for this release for months. I’d been a thorn on the distributor’s side trying to get a release date. Initially it was thought it would hit Florida in July, but it wasn’t until about a week ago that it started to be spotted in local stores. And at last I saw it at a local liquor warehouse and bought two bottles: one for immediate consumption and one to display next to my Iron Maiden memorabilia. Other fellow metalheads are buying cases. Fortunately stocking up on this beer is not necessary. Robinsons added the beer to their list of normally offered brews, so this beer is here to stay. Hurray! (or should I say “Murray!”…ba-dum-psh!)

The artwork on the bottle is a throwback to the Derek Riggs days, an Eddie clad in a torn military uniform holding a battered Union Jack flag looking as though he’s going to jump off the bottle and fight you for it. In fact, this label was too controversial for Sweden, where it was changed to depict a close-up of Eddie’s face. It is against the law in that country to show any war-depicting icons on alcoholic beverages.

The beer is delicious whether in the bottle or on draft. If you’re in Orlando, head on out to Oblivion Taproom who have it on draft at the moment. But don’t delay, the keg won’t last long.

I’ve been drenched with Iron Maiden’s music most of my life. Little did I know I’d be able to quench my physical thirst with them too. Up the Irons!

SAMSUNG

Iron Maiden and Me. Part I: The Discovery

Iron Maiden is my favorite metal band. This is very difficult to admit because I am in love with other metal bands and to them, I apologize.

To honor Iron Maiden, I will be posting an as-yet-undetermined number of articles about every album, every concert, and about every time their music made me feel like a million bucks.

And without further ado, Part I begins:

The Discovery

This story begins a little over 25 years ago. One of the most iconic and influential metal bands in the world, the mighty Iron Maiden, did not get radio or video airplay in my native land of Venezuela. I had read about them in metal magazines where I found that the band didn’t get radio airplay in most countries. Despite this fact, their fan base kept growing steadily becoming one of the biggest metal acts in history.

So how was I to get my hands on some Iron Maiden? When I began the ninth grade, I met kids that had their albums. The fact that classmates liked the same music as I did gave a huge boost to my social life. I finally had buddies with whom to share albums and songs and tapes and the passion of loving heavy metal music. Finally, I was surrounded by kids that “got it.”

If you’ve ever heard music that makes your ears perk like a dog’s when it hears a fire truck siren and your hairs raise like when the boy you like locks eyes with you, then you understand the impact Iron Maiden had in my metal life.

The band went through several lineup changes, most noticeably the change of vocalist Paul Di’Anno to Bruce Dickinson in 1981 and drummer Clive Burr to Nicko McBrain in 1982. The lineup of the last 5 albums at the time was: Steve Harris, bass; Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, rhythm and lead guitars; Bruce Dickinson, vocals; and Nicko McBrain, drums.

To the best of my memory, the first LPs I devoured on a Wednesday afternoon were Killers, The Number of the Beast and Piece of Mind. My dad’s turntable was in the corner of the small dining room, with the speakers located at either side of a china cabinet. Neither mom or dad were home so I cranked it up! Each of the cups and plates and other china figurines vibrated with every guitar howl, drum beat and ear-piercing screams. It was love at first listen.

I sat at the dining table carefully studying the album sleeves while eating a fruit-at-the-bottom yogurt. The covers were fascinating. Several details were there for the curious eyes to find: people hiding in alleys, Egyptian totems, funny stick figures, and drawings that appeared in several albums. The band’s mascot Eddie, created and drawn by Derek Riggs, appeared on most of the album covers. Eddie was pure bone covered by muscles, his eyes afire, his mouth open in a silent scream. In one of the album covers he was the puppet master of the Devil and his minions on a land covered by fire, presumably hell.

I eventually got my hands on every album released up to that point. Additionally to the albums mentioned above they were: Iron Maiden, Powerslave, Live After Death and Somewhere In Time.

I spent many days writing the lyrics to every song on a special spiral notebook. I preferred penning them instead of typing them in the computer as I felt more in touch with the words that way. I learned about Alexander the Great and about the loneliness of long distance runners, about Indians running to hills and battles fought in the air. My goal was to memorize every word of every album like I had done a few years before with The Police (yeah, I knew every word to every Police song!)

Instead of studying boring, tiresome and lame school crap, I spent my time away from school listening to the albums, learning the lyrics. New words entered my vocabulary and I practiced the English language by singing in my room at the top of my lungs. The school assignments fell short from the vivid, descriptive, fantastic and thrilling stories portrayed in the Maiden songs, so my grades suffered. A passing grade was all I cared about. I didn’t give a rat’s ass about school. School could suck it.

About two years later, Iron Maiden released a new album: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Getting my hands on it was going to be a challenge: the internet was a thing of science fiction, the band was still not played on the radio or TV, very few record stores carried imports and it would take a while to be released locally. Luckily my father was traveling abroad on business that month and was able to bring me a copy.

It was the first time I’ve listened to a Maiden album almost at the same time the world did. I was not listening to a five-year-old album. It was fresh, right off the presses.

At first listen I had mixed feelings. I did not love the song Can I Play With Madness. Honestly, I hated it. However, the rest of album was incredible. But allowing this one commercial song in the album scared me. Would the follow up to Seventh Son have more rock songs? Would they become an extension of Bruce Dickinson’s solo work? I wasn’t sure but I would find out a few years later.

Iron Maiden gave me a platform on which to view the world from a totally different angle. They introduced new sounds, new stories, new imagery, and gave me a peek at events I’d never heard of. I learned more from their songs than from school.

Catcha at the next installment…

Up The Irons!