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