This week it’s time look at a much-anticipated album that marked a reunion. It wasn’t to be just a reunion album though, it would kickstart a new chapter for the band that now marks their longest era and has continued to this day.
Iron Maiden – Brave New World
Released May 29, 2000 via EMI
My Favorite Tracks – Blood Brothers, Dream Of Mirrors, Ghost Of The Navigator
Brave New World was released to the world with a lot of suspense and anticipation. What were Iron Maiden going to sound like in the new millennium? The group had ruled the 1980’s with their epic take on heavy metal, yet the 90’s saw the band founder as times and members changed.
Maiden were an afterthought by 1998, when former singer Bruce Dickinson released an acclaimed masterpiece with The Chemical Wedding. (My post on that album here). The album saw Dickinson working with former Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and the consensus was that the two ex-members outdid Steve Harris and the remaining group.
In 1999 the two entities decided to reconvene and start a new chapter for the once-legendary Maiden. Dickinson’s replacement Blaze Bayley would exit, but rather than jettison Adrian’s replacement guitarist Janick Gers, the group made the decision to function as a three-guitar outfit. The group toured a “hey we’re back!”/greatest hits set and then got to work on was going to be a highly judged reunion album. Nostalgia tours are fine and honestly probably the best way to reintroduce one’s self, but could Iron Maiden be a relevant force in the 2000’s?
The answer would be yes, as we’ll see in the 10 tracks with a run time of 67 minutes.
The Wicker Man
Iron Maiden have a solid history of hot opening tracks and The Wicker Man would add to that. The song is a simple one with an identifiable riff and with the world’s easiest chorus to sing along to, a stated goal of the tune. The title is borrowed from the 1973 British film but the song’s words do not tell that tale, instead presenting a hodgepodge that keeps the song moving.
Ghost Of The Navigator
This song heads back to the high seas, a place the band previously explored on their beloved epic Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. The lyrics use a difficult sea voyage as a metaphor for life and death. The music is bright and melodic while also moving and hitting hard – after several years of sounding dark and dour, the signature Iron Maiden sound is back.
Brave New World
The title track is vintage Maiden – galloping riffs and bass lines, guitars all over, and a one-line chorus that repeats many, many times. That repetition is a sticking point for some listeners but it never really bothered me.
A song written by Steve Harris after the death of his father. The song highlights the hardships of mortality and the “great beyond” after life. Blood Brothers was a much-discussed track when the album released and has been featured in Maiden’s live set several times in the years since. The chorus has been a rallying cry for Maiden fans in the reunion era.
We’re on to one of a handful of songs from the band’s prior era that was used for this album. It’s a pretty simple affair about a soldier of fortune. While not being one of the album’s standout moments, the song still gets the job done well and is far above “filler” status.
Dream Of Mirrors
Another track conceived during the Virtual XI sessions. The song is a long epic, running over nine minutes and providing the first hint that reunion-era Maiden were unconcerned with song length. The song depicts the confusion and non-linear form of dreams and how harrowing they can be. The band knocked their first reunion epic out of the park and provided a template for many more to come.
The Fallen Angel
An uptempo number about good and evil, this song is one of the least-heralded among the fanbase from Brave New World but still isn’t lacking for quality. It’s nice to hear the band let loose a bit after keeping things mid-pace (save The Mercenary).
Off into another nine-minute monster and this time we’re in the desert on high adventure. Steve Harris stated the song was inspired by the epic film Lawrence Of Arabia. The Nomad does not suffer for its length – the atmosphere invoked by the music and each guitarist getting a solo keeps things moving along just fine.
Out Of The Silent Planet
We’re getting to the close with the penultimate track and also the album’s second single. The song was based on an old sci-fi film called Forbidden Planet, about aliens who tore their own planet up and are now targeting us. Although the song was released as a single, it was rarely played live during the touring cycle for the album. While the song gets mixed reactions I personally have no issue with it.
The Thin Line Between Love And Hate
We close with another lengthy track at over eight minutes. It’s your usual song about the choices between good and evil and the ultimate consequences of those choices. You know, typical pop fare. The song doesn’t break any new ground or anything but is still a nice way to close out this epic return to form record.
Brave New World marked a huge milestone in the career of Iron Maiden. The album charted well across Europe and was beloved by a long-suffering fanbase that thought the group’s best moments were 20 years behind them. Tours for the new album saw half or more of the record being aired out live, Maiden were not content to go out as a pure legacy act. The line between playing classics and new material would be an issue several years later but that is another story unrelated to this album.
This album was very, very important in so many ways. It brought the band back into the spotlight, it rejuvenated the fanbase and it succeeded as a recording without leaning on past glories. Maiden were able to record songs they wanted to on their own terms, they didn’t try to revisit the past or move in some experimental direction.
And most importantly – it was just the beginning. The “reunion” era of Iron Maiden is now in its 23rd year, with the group having cut six albums and are heading out on tour yet again. Their reputation and legacy have only grown in the past two decades and they are rightfully heralded as one of heavy metal’s most significant acts. While opinions on their reunion albums differ, there is no arguing with the success they have had in this period.