"If it ain't broke, why fix it?" – Indeed!
I'm pretty sure that Rant 19
If it ain't broke, why fix it? must have sparked quite a few reactions.
As far as I am concerned, it is not quite the rant itself that made me react and I do
not intend to cast the first stone to its author as he has every right to express his opinion,
but it's more this strange impression of déjà vu. I have indeed
heard the same argument countless times over a period of several years. It seems
to me that this is a constant thing in the music world, and that whenever someone
doesn't like (or doesn't like anymore) a certain band or a certain style, the excuse
is every time: "it's always the same" (may it be because one has never
made the effort to really listen, or because it actually is always the same, it's up to you
to decide). Judging from his extensive knowledge on the subject, the author of Rant 19
has apparently made the effort to listen to the music, and I consider this a good point.
Therefore, there is certainly a lot of truth in what he says, and a question arises:
why are we, the "loyal" fans, such blind dimwits who don't even realise
that Maiden is not good? Indeed my impression is that many people consider the fans
(may they be "loyal", "die-hard", or anything you like)
of Iron Maiden a bunch of close-minded people who don't understand anything
about anything. It seems somehow fashionable in certain places to say things like
"Oh yes, Maiden... I like them but I gave up in ... (take your pick: 81, 84,
88...)". It seems like giving up Maiden ressembles quitting smoking or drinking,
like some kind of public health action. Could Maiden really be some sort of drug
on which we, the fans, would be hooked? That would mean that the band could
re-hash always the same shit and we, brainless junkies addicted to our regular fix
(one album every other year) and sometimes close to the overdose (best of,
re-releases, picture discs,...), would not react at all.
I honestly think that there is another explanation.
It's true that Maiden's style, and let me stress the word mot "style",
hasn't changed much since the beginnings. It will always be inevitable to find
some reminiscence of this or that song for those who are fussy, and even, I admit,
without being fussy at all. However, the examples given in Rant 19 haven't all
convinced me. The similarity between the riffs of 'Ghost of the Navigator' and of
'Can I Play With Madness' has been very well observed, and the same can be said
about other examples. On the other hand, I find it harder to find any ressemblance
between 'Powerslave' and 'Fear of the Dark' or between 'Mother Russia' and 'Sea
Of Madness', but this is only my humble opinion. It could be added that the
middle part of 'Ghost of the Navigator' (again!) is a somehow reminiscent of the
end of 'To Tame a Land' in its chord changes, and I'm sure many other similarities can
be found. In fact, the main critic made to Maiden is that they play "Maiden-style".
Well, it seems to me that they are the perfect band to play according to this style.
By the way, what is "Maiden-style"?
– "it's the 2-guitar harmonics!" says one
– "it's the galopping riffs like in 'The Trooper'!" says another
– "it's the rythm shifts!"
– "it's the slow intros building up in a crescendo and then exploding!"
– "it's the 8-minute epic songs!"
– "it's the ternary fast songs like in 'Phantom of the Opera'!"
– "it's the quiet parts in the middle with a good bass line and moods!"
– Yes, right, ok, ok! ...
To cut a long story short, it's hard to imagine Maiden playing song without incorporating
the famous Maiden-style, as it is what makes the originality, quality, and diversity
of their music. Diversity indeed! If the style remains more or less the same from
album to album, there is however a vast array of atmospheres within any given album.
If a Maiden album contained only 'Wickerman'-style songs, or only 'Clansman'-type
of tracks, I'd say that it would be a shame. This is unfortunately too often the case
with many bands who release 12 tracks sounding all the same in the hope
that maybe one of them will become a hit. Then a year later, they release another
12 identical songs, but with a slightly different style so they can pretend that they
have evolved. Try to imagine a Maiden album containing only their fast tracks,
then another album with all their epic songs, etc... Some could have said that
was some musical evolution, but it would have been pointless! Their albums
would have been just as exciting as the Black Album of you-know-who,
or Nevermind of Nirvana: the first track is a great opener, the second one
is still good although already a bit boring, and the others are completely dull
and do not contribute to the rest of the album!
The word 'fusion' was used, and I have to admit that it worries me a bit. I find it
hard to imagine Dave Murray as a D.J., with Steve Harris playing the trumpet
on a background of tasteless heavy guitars.
To conclude I'd like to go back to a detail I noticed in Rant 19: I entirely agree with
the author when he says that Maiden reached their apex of music with Seventh Son.
This album is as close as you can get to perfection, Steve Harris himself said that
it was their best album by far, and its commercial success was tremendous
(although this is not necessarily a sign of quality). However, the author of the rant
says that, in order to maintain a vast and loyal fan base, Iron Maiden "put out
the 'same album' almost every time".
Have Maiden put out out a Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son 2 in the past 13 years?
No. They never even tried. No Prayer was a complete reaction to Seventh Son.
I am convinced that, on the contrary, if they had tried to release the same album again,
the band would be dead by now.
20th March 2001
PS: One thing is certain, and that's that Blaze's album is absolutely wonderful.
We were really lucky last June! I'm looking forward to the release of the next albums...
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Extension of Lib's rant:
By Gavin Anderson
I just wanted to point out a very important musical factor in Iron Maiden's style
which Lib touched on briefly in Rant #19.2 which needs to be added to the list
of reasons why Maiden songs sometimes have similarities. This factor is something
I've come to refer to over the years as "The Maiden Chord Sequence"
and it is the use of starting with a power chord, often E minor, moving down 2 whole
tones to, in this example, a C-power chord, then up to the D-power chord before
returning to the tonic chord of E minor again.
This sequence, I think you will find, is used in roughly 95% of all Maiden songs
(albeit starting with different tonic notes), and seems to be most prevalent in
the songs penned by Steve, although it is also often present in tunes written
by Bruce. Listeners to Bruce's solo albums will also recognise that he employs
this technique away from Maiden in numerous songs; obviously the influence
from such a long stint with the band.
There are many occasions where Maiden start "The Sequence" in
the tonic chord of a tune and transpose it into other tonics in the bridge of a song,
one of the latest examples being the bridge of 'Ghost of the Navigator', and then
return again to the base chord from the start of the song.
I would contend that over the years, it has been mainly this sequence that has
made a tune recognisibly "Maiden-esque" and would also suggest
that this sequence has now been made timeless in the subconscious minds
of true Maiden fans. This is the thing that continually gives the band it's strong
following, because it has been used down the years from 'Phantom of the Opera'
all the way up to the present day Brave New World songs, and I would
suggest that it reminds listeners of classic Maiden songs and in turn serves
to make newer songs in which the sequence is employed also seem in their
own way "classics".
To my ears, Maiden have never written a bad song, and when I hear "The
Maiden Chord Sequence" employed in their newer material, I still get
shivers down my back, because it is, it's fair to say, such a damned good chord
sequence and no matter how often I hear it, it can never be repetitive since it
brings back such wonderful memories of songs and albums past whilst still
creating the backbone for modern Maiden classics.
I would like to hear any comments other fans have on this email, and hope to find
their experiences of the classic nature of Maiden similar to my own.
Thanks for listening!
20th March 2001
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