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RANT 19

If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Gho§t in the Machine

Iíve had this on my mind after the recent purchase of Blazeís Silicon Messiah.

Metal music, and sub genres in general, seem doomed from their birth to their demise. Metalís distinctions serve as standards, and inhibitors of excellent music. Of course, there are the creative and imaginative progressive metal bands, but it seems bands like Power Symphony, Trans Siberian Orchestra, and Neurosis stray too far from metal into something more obscure. As said before, staying within the boundaries of metal can often eliminate the originality of the music. Iron Maiden comes to mind. How does a band maintain such a vast and loyal fan base? Simple: they put out the "same album" almost every time.

I have somehow made the distinctions from the Maiden eras so far, but they are very vague and insignificant in the almost omniscient perspective. The Paul albums seem to be simply rock oriented, lacking the maturity of structure and quality lyrics, yet writing original music for its time.

The first 3 Bruce albums in general, seem to be the time in Maiden where Bruce takes over as the siren of a front man all of metal has come to recognize. I was impressed at first. But Dickinson sure enough, became more tasteless with his singing the more I heard of him. Throwing around his range at almost every chance, I became annoyed with such wailings as 'Invaders', 'Aces High' (or should I say, "Rangeís High"), and the 'Flight Of Icarusi. Even more so, his singing live was horrible. Out of key, blasting away like the primadonna heís known to be, I cannot believe why these 3 recordings receive such high praise. The music itself, is basic metal. Judas Priest with less crunch, it seems. A little Deep Purple too.

The two progressive albums, restored my faith in Maiden though. Itís apparent that Dickinson can show his ability to use his range tastefully in 'Wasted Years', a steady, sorrowful wail in 'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner', and also as a melodic chant ('Heaven Can Wait'). Despite the 'Can I Play With Madness', Dickinsonís vocals are steady and seemingly secondary in Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. The album has a small allusion to a new vocal style, which shall be mentioned later. The music of both Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son are simply phenomenal. Intricate synthesizer, vocal, and guitar melodies, weaving through each other so beautifully. This is where I believe, Maiden reaches their apex of music.

The rest, is almost a down fall. No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark are clearly Di'Anno rocker albums: white washed with political anecdotes and some of the most horrible Dickinson vocals recorded. It is clear that Dickinson attempts to emulate Brian Johnson on tracks like 'Be Quick or Be Dead', and to gather some sort of morbid yet playful image in pieces like 'Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter' and 'From Here To Eternity'. And the only seemingly redeeming songs are only relapses of what has been done: 'Fear Of The Dark' a melodic twist placed on 'Powerslave', and 'Mother Russia' seems to be a more grittier 'Sea of Madness'. The only original tracks are 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers', which is more clean guitar oriented than the generic Maiden epic, 'Judas Be My Guide', for being a very melodic up beat track, and 'Run Silent, Run Deep' for its heavy, bruising, almost non Maiden rhythm.

The X Factor had already been done before, however a much more dark and brooding ambiance becomes deceiving. With the exception of 'The Sign Of The Cross', filled to the brim with melodies and brilliant rhythm shifts, the rest is mediocre, and shares only some of the genius of 'Cross' ('Judgment Of Heaven' and 'The Aftermath' come to mind). 'Virus' also, an excellent, ground breaking song. Combined with political allegory, this track is not white washed however, the music itself (deprived of lyrics and vocals by all means) is brilliant, and speaks for itself. Virtual XI, was much more sullen and morose, and seems to only yield 'Futureal' as a true staple of creativity. Though very similar to 'Judas Be My Guide', 'Futureal'ís riffs are pure staccato delight. Even 'The Clansman' seems to lack creativity, it seems to be a mix of 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' and 'Virus', building up in a familiar manner and then retreating at its end.

Brave New World is most definitely a re-rendering of old material. 'The Wickerman' is a plain, rocking track, with a more upbeat and electric feel of 'Revelations', mixed with a slower version of 'Flight of Icarus'. 'The Ghost of the Navigator' almost shares the same riff of 'Can I Play With Madness', and 'Blood Brothers' is like 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers' with structures and rhythm shift times changed slightly. 'Brave New World', though incredibly powerful, canít help but suffer from traces of 'Fear Of The Dark' chorus styles and melodies. 'Dream of Mirrors' is the slowest building epic of the Maiden category, almost like 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' on several depressants. That, and of course, what would be a Maiden album without a song employing the "galloping riff"? 'Out of the Silent Planet' sounds much like 'Run to the Hills' (as Bruce has shared), and 'The Nomad', with all of its musical genius, is a softer repeat of 'To Tame A Land.'

Of course, the dedicated fans ensure Maiden that "if it ainít broke, why fix it?", but there has be to a fusion with another style somewhere, because Maidenís ability to write attractively original music is fading away. Iím surprised how refreshing Blazeís Silicon Messiah was, and thus, other metal bands are steering me away from the classic monster Iron Maiden. Itís the same disease genres like power and death metal suffer from. Sure, there are your Blind Guardian and Carcass quality bands, but the rest are only knock offs of each other, creating a painfully amusing stereotype of an anti-stereotype (Manowar comes to mind...)

Gho§t in the Machine
14th March 2001

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