The return of Bruce and Adrian in early 1999 has already been greeted with the kind fan euphoria which, in the wake of their 'Ed Hunter' computer game/greatest hits set, saw Maiden sell-out a string of European and US shows in record time late last year. This, however, is the year 2000 and it's time for 'BRAVE NEW WORLD' - the next installment in Maiden's rich and varied history.
More than an album, 'BRAVE NEW WORLD' is a call to arms; a reminder of the righteous power of metal from a band who have continued as defenders of the faith while those around them have either withered or denied their roots. Flying the flag for metal against all odds, in the last 20-odd years Maiden have never given a damn about what's cool and what's not. Never have, never will.
'BRAVE NEW WORLD' is proof of that and, according to Bruce, it's an album that set to reaffirm Maiden's position as one of the greatest metal/heavy rock bands of all-time.
"l feel that this will be a very important and successful time for Maiden," enthuses Bruce. "You can sense that this kind of music is coming back and when it comes to playing it there are very few bands that can live with Maiden when we're on form. And right now we're on form. A listen to the album will tell you that."
'BRAVE NEW WORLD' also boasts a sparkling production job courtesy of Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Silverchair), aided and abetted by Steve Harris, with the former also taking charge of engineering and mixing the album. Hence, it nods at the band's rich heritage while pointing firmly at the endless possibilities that lie ahead.
The album's opening track and first single, 'The Wicker Man', is a bold statement of intent which is both hooked-filled and unashamedly heavy. Nicko's gatling gun drum onslaught, Steve's skull-walloping bass thump, and the renewed six-string bliztkrieg from the Murray/Gers/Smith axis are all present and correct, topped by a fine display of vocal-power from Dickinson.
Accompanying the infectious fury of 'The Wicker Man' is an equally arresting video directed by Dean Karr based on the 1973 erotic/horror movie masterpiece of the same name and shot in Sheldon Pit, California, during two particularly mud-splattered, torrential night shoots. Karr - a man whose credits include the likes of Marilyn Manson, Cypress Hill and the Deftones - it transpires is a lifelong Maiden fan.
"Dean is the hottest video director in America, bar none, and he's a huge Maiden freak," states Bruce. "He actually sent us a hand-written note asking if he could do the Maiden video before he'd heard any of the new music at all. We got the note and a show reel via a friend to Dave Murray who passed it on to our manager, Rod, at his party on New Years Eve. It's a good job he was sober at the time! Dean just really wanted to do it because he is such a big fan of the band."
Karr's affection for Maiden is mirrored by a list of modern day musos which reads like a rock 'Who's Who'. From Metallica to Marilyn Manson, they're all fans that acknowledge their debt to Maiden.
"It's pretty strange right now because there are so many different types of Maiden fans out there," nods Steve Harris. "With musicians that like Maiden it's quite strange for us to deal with things. I suppose it was the same with us when we started this band because we all looked up to our heroes and all that. That doesn't stop it being a bit strange when people look up to you."
Of course the requisite statistics that accompany Maiden's career are impressive (over 50 million albums sold; 13 Top Ten albums in the UK, including three Number Ones; legendary strength-sapping world tours etc). But Maiden stand for much more than that. A people's band in every sense of the word, Maiden represent an entire community of music fans. Just ask any of the hundreds of thousands of fans that visit their website IRONMAIDEN.COM each month. Your own visit to the site will illustrate the unique/no bullshit relationship Maiden share with their fans, the bulleting board boasting some particularly offensive discussions!
Doubtless, those same fans won't be surprised to find that 'BRAVE NEW WORLD' is another up-and-at-them set from a band who don't know the meaning of the word 'compromise'. It also happens to be an expansive effort which confirms Maiden's position in the pantheon of British rock alongside the likes of Black Sabbath, Zeppelin and even Queen.
"A lot of people have pointed out that this album has a really classy edge," nods Bruce. "It's still Maiden but it's got hooks and it's got really adventurous songs. A few people have told us that the closest band they can compare it to is Queen. That's incredibly flattering."
A 10 track, 70 minute effort, 'BRAVE NEW WORLD' is both resolutely heavy, yet stirring and ambitious. Tracks like the fired-up 'Fallen Angel' and the stomping 'The Mercenary' showcase Maiden's cut'n'thrust style. The brooding nine minute-plus 'Dream Of Mirrors' sees the band in epic form, while the percussive drive of 'Nomad' is a soaring piece of Steve Harris-penned melodrama. Elsewhere, 'Blood Brothers' sees the Maiden leader reflecting soberly on the subjects of loss and fear set against a backdrop of strings and lush orchestration, and topped by a rousing chorus. The title track and 'The Thin Love Between Love And Hate' are both equally progressive and cerebral, while 'Ghost Of The Navigator' and 'Out Of The Silent Planet' boast a grandiose feel.
"I think people will be genuinely surprised by this record," states Bruce Dickinson. "Whichever way you approach it it's got loads of integrity and it sounds fucking great. To me it sounds like the best Iron Maiden record you ever heard."
"I'm proud of this album," concurs Steve Harris. "Whether it's flavour-of-the-month or whatever I don't know and I don't really care. It's never been about that with Maiden. We've never been fashionable and we probably never will be. But we've stuck to our guns, done what we've wanted to do and taken the knocks. To me, the only ambition we've ever had is to make sure that we never let our fans down and I hope we never do."
On the strength of the aptly titled 'BRAVE NEW WORLD' there seems to be little danger of that right now. More likely is Maiden's continued ability to tear up the miles, roar onto the stage and continue to deliver the goods to legions of fans worldwide on another ambitious, lavish and globe-straddling world tour . The Beast, as they say, is well and truly back. And the timing is perfect. Phil Alexander - Editor, Kerrang! Magazine London, England - 2000