Brave New World is the long-anticipated reunion album featuring the return of Maiden powerhouses Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. Due to the high emotion surrounding the Maiden's return to their golden-era lineup, this album faced almost impossibly high expectations of the sort that are rarely if ever fully met. But amidst all of this hype, Iron Maiden has exceeded all expectations and produced an album that is the equal of any album since their golden era of the 80s.
At first glance, Brave New World is a progressive album which fits most closely into the same category as Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Although the guitar and bass synths have been jettisoned in favour of a real keyboard (played by Steve Harris himself), the overall style and mix of the synthesizers are similar. Likewise, the guitar sound has returned to that of the late 80s and Bruce's vocals are once again in top form. Yet upon further introspection, Brave New World seems to be an amalgamation of many different elements drawn from each of the albums since the late 80s the occult themes of Seventh Son..., the social awareness and politics of No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark, the personal introspection of The X Factor and the emotional depth of Virtual XI.
Brave New World is somewhat of a misnomer in that the album blazes very little new ground, but instead reiterates the brilliant genius which has carried Iron Maiden throughout their career. All of the best elements from the previous 15 years are combined into one amazing album which is sure to please both old and new fans alike, as well as put to shame certain other formerly heavy metal bands who have abandoned the true path. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the album is Janick "underrated" Gers, who has fully arrived into his own golden era and, in my opinion, is fully the equal of Dave and Adrian in both songwriting and musicianship, even in places surpassing them. His songs are beautifully composed and his guitar solos brilliantly inspired in both complexity and emotional depth that was only hinted by The X Factor and Virtual XI.
Taken as a whole, Brave New World has all of the elements of an instant Iron Maiden classic, including the deep intelligent lyrics, nonstandard song structures, masterful musicianship, as well as a return to the complex artistic genius of Derek Riggs. If I could change anything about Brave New World, I would have written more and longer guitar solos and more interplay between the three guitars, as well as improved the quality of the photos in the CD booklet. Yet these are only minor points in the face of this excellent album which has lived up to and surpassed all of my expectations.
Here is what Bruce said about the album's title in an interview with C. Bottomley for VH1.com:
Bruce Dickinson's comments are extracts taken from an interview by Essi Berelian for Classic Rock Magazine and can also be found as "Bruce's Track By Track Guide To Brave New World" on the official tour programme.
his fast-paced song musically reminiscent of 'Aces High' is an excellent album and concert opener. The opening riff and Nicko's precise hammering are the signs that the Iron Maiden of the Golden Era is back. The song itself has a quick tempo, with heavier parts and rhythm changes typical of Maiden, and Adrian Smith does a great solo.
The lyrics seem to highlight the general apathy of our modern society and our egoistic disinterest in what is happening in the world until something actually happens to us and we get "knocked to our feet". Watching "the world explode every single night" refers probably to those who watch the evening news and who have an overload of grisly images of wars and sufferings, and who become gradually de-sensitised and de-humanised.
This selfishness is further portrayed by the refusal to pay the "ferryman", most probably Charon, who according to the Greek mythology was ferrying the souls of the recently departed across the river Acheron, and not the Styx as many may think, from the land of the living to that of the dead incidentally, Styx was the name of Bruce's very first band (nothing to do with the famous American rock band, though). The image seems once again to emphasize the fact that the modern world is more and more inhabited by zombies whose feelings are either dead or dying.
The symbol of the new rise of the wickerman, a figure of paganism, might imply that we are slowly going back to ancient "evil" ways. The ritual was once performed as a fertility rite for the land in former Celtic tribes, where a giant wicker man was burned with living beings inside, mostly farm animals but also sometimes humans too, then the ashes were spread on the fields as fertiliser. Technically, the system was good as the ashes would contain a lot of elements beneficial to the crops, mostly a fair amount of nitrogen from the animals, but there are nowadays many very efficient fertilisers on the market that render this method quite fortunately obsolete.
The 1973 British film The Wickerman, starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward, should be mentioned as the original source of inspiration for both the song and the video. This film was made in various versions and remains nowadays a cult film for the fans of the genre.
With an acoustic intro building up into a manic crescendo, this is another maritime epic in the same vein as 'The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'. The instrumental part summons up images of a ship struggling in the middle of a storm. During this particular part, Nicko's fast foot gives the impression of a double-bass drum. This spurred a polemic among the fans, some of them saying that it was the first time that he used double-kick mechanism. In fact, Nicko has never used a double pedal so far. He uses instead a technique called "cradling the pedal", i.e., hitting toe-heel alternately, thus giving this impression of a double-kick. His speed and technique place Nicko among the best rock drummers ever.
The lyrics are a metaphor of life, with the ship sailing West towards the setting sun representing death. The "ghosts of navigators" could be an allusion to all of those who go through life without really realising it, being therefore "lost" and not in control of their navigation. This sentence could also refer to our forebears who have sailed the sames 'seas' as us and whose memory still remains. In any case, "nothing's real until you feel" is probably an advice to experience life to the full, with its ups and downs, or run the risk to have wasted this short time between the cradle and the grave.
Based on the 1932 novel by Aldous Huxley , this is once again a classic-to-be of Iron Maiden. A soft intro gives way to powerful riffs and singing, and the catchy chorus is ideal for crowd participation a la 'Fear Of The Dark' during the concerts. The song ends as it started in an acoustic and melancholic way.
The story that inspired the lyrics of the song takes place in what was at the time of Huxley's writing a futuristic world state with the motto: "Community, Identity, Stability". Every inhabitant of this state consumes daily doses of an anti-depressive drug called soma, babies are conceived and born in specialised laboratories, and the most popular form of entertainment is the "feelies", a movie that can not only be watched but also felt with the senses of touch and smell. The main character in the book revolts against this system that controls every single aspect of human life and ends up becoming a sort of circus attraction (the "Savage") for the rest of the world. When we take a look at the current state of our planet, it becomes quite obvious that Huxley was disquietingly right and that what he described as Utopia was very close to the world we live in nowadays. Today's Western society with its constant search for entertainment, sometimes to the extreme, and gradual extinction of individuality is the proof that Huxley's imagination in the 1930s was in fact a form of prediction of what was yet to come.
The title itself is taken from Shakespeare's 1612 play TheTempest, in which the character of Miranda exclaims:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in't!
Act V, Scene I
lthough there are, as Bruce rightly mentions below, no "dying swans" in Brave New World, Huxley did also write a book published in 1939 and called After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. In this novel, Huxley ironically analyses American culture, mostly what he saw as its narcissism, superficiality, and obsession with youth (already then!). The title originates from a line of Lord Tennyson's poem Tithonus, about a character of the Greek mythology to whom Zeus gave eternal life but not eternal youth. In Huxley's novel, a Californian millionaire hears about an English nobleman who discovered a way to vastly extend the human life span. He then travels to England and finds the nobleman still alive, but he has degenerated into an ape-like creature; the millionaire decides to extend his life anyway. This is another fine example of narcissism, although this one is on an individual scale whereas Brave New World extends it to the entire society.
Although he is mentioned in the lyrics, this song is not quite only about Steve's father, but mainly about life and what might eventually be beyond it. The image of the departed father is mostly there to highlight that the main thread between life and life after death is the memories of those who left ("And in a moment the memories are all that remain, And all the wounds are reopening again"). After all, there is no certainty of any kind of survival of the conscious self or soul for those who are religious but what is sure is that the departed ones that we have loved still live in our memory.
The song is also about being ashamed of what is going on in the world ("And as you look all around at the world in dismay"). History repeats itself seemingly endlessly and horrors still happen regardless of the lessons of past events ("...do you think we have learned? Not if you look at the war-torn affray"). This seems to follow what was hinted at in 'The Wicker Man', that no one seems to care anymore and that the ones who do care haven't got much weight in front of all this adversity.
Once again, like in 'No Prayer For The Dying', the question of the meaning for life arises ("Will we ever know what the answer to life really is?"). Only this time, it is not asked to some god who is very unlikely to answer anyway but in a more general way ("Can you really tell me what life is?").
Steve Harris summed up perfectly the meaning of this song in an interview with Johnny B. soon after the album was released:
"Basically it is saying that we are all made up of blood and tissue and there is good and bad in the world, some people are unlucky in life... things like that all rolled into one."
The music gives this excellent brooding feel of the one who reflects on the ways of the world, and the Celtic touches here and there add to this almost magical atmosphere. The chorus is perfect during the concerts, creating a bond between the band and the audience... like "Blood Brothers".
This fast song brings the tempo back up again after the quiet ending of 'Blood Brothers'. There is not much to say about the music, except that it's a traditional Maiden fast track.
According to Bruce, the song is basically about a bounty hunter, but they apparently didn't want to call it 'The Bounty Hunter', probably because 'The Mercenary' sounded better as a title for this song. The lyric are in the same vein as those of 'The Assassin', about somebody who hunts and kills for a living.
It was brought to my attention that the lyrics were maybe based on the 1987 film Predator, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this film, a creature called "Diablo" by the natives is hunting down humans in some South American jungle to "make trophies out out of men". All this seems to make sense, but as none of the band members has mentioned this in any interview I've read, I doubt that the film actually inspired the song.
This is yet another song based on reoccurring premonitory, re-occurring dreams, pretty much like in 'Infinite Dreams'. The similarity between the two songs is striking when you examine the following lyrics:
"...scared to fall asleep again, In case the dream begins again"
"Scared to fall asleep and dream the dream again"
'Dreams Of Mirrors'
Steve Harris is known for having these dreams which, without being particularly premonitory, inspired many Iron Maiden songs ('The Number Of The Beast' comes to mind). He actually said himself in an interview with Johnny B. that the song was about the dark side of things, about people's thoughts and the suffering that may result from them, mostly at night.
Musically, it is a brilliant piece with a manic semi-instrumental part in the middle. The music matches the lyrics to perfection, giving the soft and disquieting tones of the one who is plagued by his dreams and who wonders about their meaning.
Inspired by the age-old theme of Good versus Evil, this fast track has a brilliant Thin Lizzy-like intro followed by a powerful verse and a very catchy chorus. Azazel, the fallen angel mentioned in the song, refers to the scapegoat that was sent to the desert by the ancient Hebrews. This goat was symbolically carrying all their sins and was given to the demon Azazel in a gesture of atonement. The name comes from the Hebrew "azazel" which literally means "goat of departure". It is formed from the words "ez" meaning goat and "azal" meaning "to go away", hence the "escape goat". This ceremony is described in the bible (Leviticus 16). Some think that the name of Azazel also refers to Satan himself and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Azazel was the personification of uncleanness and in later rabbinic writings was sometimes described as a fallen angel.
With an atmosphere reminiscent of Lawrence Of Arabia, the 1962 film with Peter O'Toole, this song is probably one of the best on the whole album. Although the lyrics are pretty straightforward and just deal with the people of the desert, it is an epic quite similar to 'To Tame A Land'. The music brings up images of the desert and of its immense wastelands of sand, and the arrangements are fantastic, mostly during the quiet instrumental part where the keyboards sound like a whole orchestra playing (it never fails to send some shivers down my spine). This is a real masterpiece!
Beckett The instrumental part of 'The Nomad' has been borrowed from Beckett's 'Life's Shadow', a song featured on their one and only self-titled 1974 album. Obviously, it has been re-arranged to fit Iron Maiden's style and sound, but the similarity is absolutely unmistakable. Incidentally, 'Life's Shadow' also contains lyrics that Steve Harris used for 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'. Some may consider this plagiarism, but I doubt that Maiden would have used this material without prior consent of the original artists. Besides, there's nothing wrong with a little inspiration from another band when you write such a great piece of music. In any case, Beckett may have released only one album, but they sure influenced Steve a lot!
Supposedly inspired by the 1956 science-fiction film Forbidden Planet with Leslie Nielsen, this is another great Maiden song that starts quietly to build up into a powerful track. There's a very nice Celtic-sounding intro then the song starts in a musical explosion. It ends like it started in softer tones, with the little Celtic melody of the beginning.
It is interesting to note that the film Forbidden Planet, mentioned by Bruce as the basis for the song, is itself an adaptation of The Tempest, the play written by Williams Shakespeare and in which appears the "Brave New World" quote. However, I have seen this film several times and I find it hard to make a link with the song. This song is lyrically reminiscent of 'Public Enema Number One' in its apparent political meaning, and the lyrics seem to me to deal with the current state of our planet and can be analysed almost line-by-line.
"Withered hands, withered bodies begging for salvation" is a phrase that summons pictures of famines and death-camps, the awful images that are shown in their almost unbearable uglyness on the news and various other TV programmes. It highlights the misery of too many people on the planet.
These people are "Deserted by the hand of gods of their own creation", which could be that of their "worshipped" leaders. In many under-developped countries, the governments take power through violence, and usually also end in violence, the period in-between being spent in luxury for the few at the top, while the people still struggle to survive. Another meaning of this sentence could be that whatever god we may worship, it is only an illusion, and that any religion is a fallacy. Action is always better than prayer, although religion is also an excellent way to manipulate the masses and make them forget about their poor living conditions.
"Nations cry underneath decaying skies above" could refer to atmospheric pollution or even to the infamous hole in the ozone layer, or could be also a "poetic" view that the heavens above are in a no better condition than the earth below.
"You are guilty, the punishment is death for all who live". Well, doesn't anything that lives die one day? Maybe the "punishment" for not looking after our environment is increasing pollution and natural disasters that will eventually lead to the complete extinction of the human species.
"The killing fields, the grinding wheels crushed by equilibrium". This is yet another vision of war, wherever it happens and whoever is involved. I am not sure about what the "equilibrium" referred to may be. Could it be the second law of thermodynamics, which states more or less that order tends towards chaos? In other words, that "what is will eventually cease to be". Anyway, this particular sentence is not clear to me and remains open to interpretation.
"Separate lives no more disguise, no more second chances" could be a warning that we'd better "get our act together" before it's too late and we reach the point of no return to extinction.
"Haggard wisdom spitting out the bitter taste of hate" refers probably to all those who encourage hatred against whoever looks or thinks differently. This "haggard wisdom" makes me think of religious leaders who fuel the disdain against those who do not share their religion. May they be Jews, Christians, or Muslims, the fanatical extremists are the ones who spread hate by giving words of "wisdom" they claim to hold from some dubious god.
"I accuse you before you know the crime it's all too late" may be directed at the human species in general, who is in its vast majority unaware of the depredations it is doing on the planet. The crime is the destruction of the planet, and it will be too late to turn back by the time the Earth becomes a "silent planet".
Although there probably isn't any relation with the song, Out Of The Silent Planet is also the title of a a book written by C. S. Lewis (18981963), who is mostly known for The Chronicles Of Narnia. In this particular book, the Earth is known as the "Silent Planet" because no communication can pass between it and the rest of the universe. The lyrics "out of the silent planet we are" would also make sense within this context
A heavy intro rhythm opens a pretty lengthy standard Maiden song, with a long instrumental before a quiet end. Right at the end, Nicko can be heard saying: "Awww... I fucking missed it!", as he thought he'd messed the end of the song, although he hadn't.
The vocal line on:
I will hope, my soul will fly, so I will live forever
Heart will die, my soul will fly, and I will live forever
is reminiscent of:
All my life ... I've run astray, let my faith ... slip away
All my life ... I've run astray, allowed my faith ... to drift away
from 'The Unbeliever' on The X Factor album. Is it coincidental? Probably.
The lyrics deal essentially with the free will of a person to turn good or bad, and that, although "we all like to put the blame on society these days", it is everyone's choice to decide on how to lead his life. The question of when the path is determined arises ("At what age begin to learn of which way out we will turn"), along with that about what determines how things will turn out ("But what makes a man decide, take the wrong or righteous road"), but the final decision, conscious or not, belongs to each individual and "the trail is there to burn".
Somehow, this song seems to be related to 'Judgement Day', on the Man On The Edge single. As it goes, it indicates that our deeds during our present lives will influence our "after life". This concept appears in the three main monotheistic religions of the world, where there is the punishment of Hell for those who misbehaved and the reward of Heaven for those who had a "virtuous" life. This particular notion can also be found in Buddhism, where it is believed that the next reincarnation is influenced by the way the former life was led. Obviously, Steve is convinced that he behaved like a decent human being, as his "soul will fly" (reminiscent of 'Hallowed Be Thy Name''s "Catch my soul it's willing to fly away") and he "will live forever". If there is any such this as an "after life", I'd agree with him, although he is most likely to "live forever" through his work, and I am sure that his compositions will still be played long after his demise.
Another Steve lyric. It almost sounds like a UFO track in places. It was quite an unusual thing we did on the vocal on this 'cos it's more of a rock'n'roll/hard rock rythm going down and we actually put a harmony on the entire verse. So it's quite an unusual sound for Maiden. It's basically about karma. In other words what goes around comes around and you reap what you sow and only you take the responsibility for it. There's the hope if you've done the right stuff, otherwise down you go to the pit of hell!