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RANT 20

The Classics of our Time

Andrew

My musical tastes are the most eclectic of anyone I know; I number among my favourites, CDs from a wide cross section of genres. Living in India with the ruinous taxes imposed by the government on CDs rendering them 5 times the price of analogue cassettes, I think carefully before spending the quarter of my monthly allowance on a CD... and I'm still spoiled for choice among the limited selection available here. Bach, Mozart, B*Witched, Hanson, Goo Goo Dolls, U2, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath are just a few of the names I need to choose from.

However there IS a "dark side" to the music world... a side that I recently decided to introduce myself to via the wonderful "audiogalaxy" file sharing service. This side is called "Death Metal". It actually is what many of our parents say that good old traditional Heavy Metal is... NOISE! This is a personal opinion of course...

Give me the raucous but still melodious Maiden, or Saxon anyday. I really fail to understand how Death Metal is considered music. Sepultura's 'Arise' is an initially deceptive example. The synthesised beginning leads into a series of thrashing chords reminiscent of the old Cliff Burton era Metallica. But then the vocal line begins... I remember commenting in an informal debate among friends that rap music was nothing more than talking... Well this is nothing more than screaming... in my humble opinion I hasten to add.

But it gets even more morbid. There is a group of people wielding guitars, rejoicing in the name of Cannibal Corpse. After reading the reviews, I'm not wasting even 15 mins of download time on them."If vomit was a movie, this would be its soundtrack"wrote one critic.

So how is Maiden, and how are Maiden fans (at least the TRUE fans) different??? Easy! On the occasions that Maiden music expresses the horror of the world, which sadly it is necessary for them to do quite often, they do so in a rational and musically coherent way. They are definitely not fatalists, as proved by 'Mother Russia', which of all their songs, for me has lyrics that Christ would have been proud of: Precise, closed to misinterpretation wilful or accidental, encouraging, while acknowledging the failures of the past it also heralds the great traditions, and it asks the questions that few politicians had the guts to openly ask during Glasnost, and were forgotten in the confusion of the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Why do I say lyrics that Christ would have been proud of??? Because I am a devout Roman Catholic, attending Mass on an average of 3 times a week, I listen to pipe organ and polyphonic choral church music. But like Christ, I HAVEN'T DENIED THE AWFUL TRUTH OF THE STATE OF THIS WORLD. And this is what, according to me, distinguishes the true Heavy Metal artists and connoisseurs. Accepting that serious changes need to be made, and that they CAN be made. Speaking to one priest in my local chapel about this, he revealed that while he didn't listen to Heavy Metal, he had followed many of the court cases in the USA involving charges of blasphemy and the like, and he agreed that the acquittal of almost every single musical artist (read as Heavy Metal groups) was merited.

So, since Maiden and other people like them are representing the sentiments of our world, I humbly put forth this contention: that true Heavy Metal is "classical" music.

This is not just due to the philosophy and emotions behind it. Bach's organ music incorporated similar elements and rhythms to Iron Maiden music: the recurring themes in different keys, the sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious but always exhilarating twists and changes in the rhythm (The final 3 choruses of 'Out Of The Silent Planet', and the transitions between the various sections of 'Phantom Of The Opera'), the powerful bass that can provide a delicate counterpoint one minute (particularly, listen to the end of 'Wasting Love' from A Real Live Dead One, as an example) or a superb rhythmic complement to the drums, (I'm intrigued; does McBrain follow Harris, or vice versa?... a little bit of both, probably)

There is one aspect of Bach that Maiden haven't touched on yet, (obviously they're not emulating him, but are a distant yet close parallel, pertinent to our times); that side is the one representing the beauty that still exists within the world that we're killing... different people find it in different places, but all people need to find it to remain sane. Bach's 'Jesu, joy of man's desiring' is an example of this wonder, expressing joy at the birth of Christ... perhaps one day Maiden will judge the world ready to receive a Heavy Metal parallel to this masterpiece, one of the most famous pieces of religious music in the world. It is a hope of mine that with 3 guitars, they would simply would do this piece itself, adding their own sterling interpretation as to the use of distortion and how McBrain would fit in, (the piece has no words, but 'Transylvania' and 'Genghis Khan' proved that Dickinson won't be too bothered about that) while sticking strictly to the notes of the music itself... maybe one day!!!!! For the time being, may God bless them, and UP THE IRONS.

Andrew
29th May 2001

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