Today is May 29th, 2020, which means that exactly 20 years ago today, IRON MAIDEN released “Brave New World.” “BNW” was truly a comeback for MAIDEN, as not only was it the first album with Bruce Dickinson back on lead vocals, but Adrian Smith returned as well, turning IRON MAIDEN from a 6-piece into a 7-piece. The brilliant stylings of Smith and Dave Murray were now topped off by Smith‘s replacement, Janick Gers, giving the band freedom to push the guitar work even further.
But you all know that already. This album has been important for many reasons and to many people. For me, it was the album that, more than anything, sucked me into the world of heavy metal.
Back in the late ’90s and early ’00s I had been yet another zit-faced teenager trying to find myself in this world. Back in middle school I had been big into pop. You know, SPICE GIRLS, BACKSTREET BOYS, AQUA… the classics. However, a few years later I had found myself growing eternally more and more bored of love songs, especially since I was a geeky young fantasy nerd girl without a lot of friends and certainly not a lot of romantic potential.
Music was running a risk of losing its special place in my life at that point because I was no longer connecting with all the basic love songs on the radio. If my brother hadn’t driven me around town playing “The Flight of Icarus” by IRON MAIDEN, who knows what might have happened to me.
It was one of those small moments that left such a fundamental impact that I’ve remembered it ever since. In grade 6 in Canadian middle school, we had studied Greek mythology and I had loved the subject. The song reminded me of the story of Icarus and I mentioned as much to my brother and he gave me that older brother attitude, saying something like, “Pffft, this song is called ‘The Flight of Icarus,’” and I needed to know more. He gave me some of the mixed tapes he had made which had music from IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST, Ozzy Osbourne, and a few others. Heavy metal was a treasure trove of magic just waiting to be found. Imagine my delight when I found out my favorite teacher also listened to that stuff!
That must have been sometime around the year 2000 because a lot of the music on one of those mixed tapes was from “Brave New World.” I was immediately sold on songs like “The Wicker Man,” “The Fallen Angel,” and “The Nomad.” I was so enthusiastic that I actually checked the eponymous book by Aldous Huxley out from the library and read it (admittedly disappointed that it wasn’t a fantasy novel with nomads and fallen angels). The idea that songs could contain anything other than love stories was an entirely novel concept to me so I went to Napster and its descendants to dive into everything I could find. It was a mess back then with so many mislabeled songs, but I found all sorts of jewels like BLIND GUARDIAN, HELLOWEEN, and so many more. But my favorite, the album I loved most of all, was the one my friend gave me for my birthday in high school: “Brave New World.”
You would not believe how much I loved this album. From the intense catchy fun of “The Wicker Man,” the haunting mystery of “The Ghost of the Nagivator,” all the way down to the pair of longer epic masterpieces, “Out of the Silent Planet” and “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” “BNW” filled my head with ideas and mystery and magic. I would learn the basic melodies on the violin just for fun when I was bored. It was in my car until it was scratched beyond recognition. In airbrush practice in art class, I made an Eddie in blue and purple clouds. To this day it remains one of my all-time favorite albums.
The heavy metal genre fundamentally changed my life from there on out. As a young, budding writer, many of my stories from my teenage years were directly influenced by IRON MAIDEN and other bands. I had one book called “Dream of Mirrors” and a full character and backstory written about “The Nomad.” There is a sacrificial wickerman in an old story too, definitely.
It influenced my love life as well. If it weren’t for a random fellow having a JUDAS PRIEST song title in his MSN name, I wouldn’t have met my first love. I may never have moved to the mountains… or Europe! Truly, a lot of the interesting things I’ve done in my life have been thanks to that moment in the car when my brother accidentally got me to fall in love with IRON MAIDEN.
So with all of that said, happy 20th birthday, “Brave New World.” It’s been a great 20 years and I look forward to listening to you for 20 more!
Written by Bear Wiseman