A tour de force of progressive instrumentation and conceptual lyrics.
“Brave New World” is another of the most progressive of Iron Maiden’s albums and this one comes after Bruce Dickinson’s brief hiatus away from lead vocalist of the group. The previous singer could not hold a candle to the powerhouse vocals of Dickinson. So after two very mediocre albums Iron Maiden return with a vengeance on “Brave New World”. All killer, no filler, the album is a tour de force of progressive instrumentation and conceptual lyrics. Smith and Murray are joined by Gers and the triple guitar work is masterful, featuring synth guitars as well as traditional speed picking and high energy string bends. The band are motivated on this album and it spawned the Live In Rio DVD where I first heard a lot of this album. I was inspired by the DVD to get hold of this album as it is such a fantastic bunch of songs. I was taken with the masterpiece “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” but this album is even better; an absolute brilliant metal powerhouse.
'The Wicker Man’ is the first track with a killer riff and a fast tempo. Dickinson’s vocals are multi layered with harmonies. The lyrics are fast and tell a story, “You watch the world exploding every single night, Dancing in the sun a newborn in the light, Brothers and their fathers joining hands and make a chain, The shadow of the wicker man is rising up again, Your time will come, Your time will come...” The lead break is replete with very fast hammer ons and pull offs and high pitch notes. It ends with a “woah” section that I can imagine every member of the audience chanting along to with fists pounding the air. A great way to begin the album.
‘Ghost of the Navigator’, my favourite song on the album, stamps it’s authority with a fantastic melody that locks in immediately with clean guitars. The distortion kicks in soon and then a chugging riff drives it along to Dickinson’s enigmatic vocals, “I see the ghosts of navigators but they are lost, As they sail into the sunset they'll count the cost, As their skeletons accusing emerge from the sea, The sirens of the rocks, they beckon me.” The time sigs change several times before we get to the familiar tune that once in your head will never leave, “Take my heart and set it free, carried forward by the waves, Nowhere left to run, navigator's son, Chasing rainbows all my days...” The verses continue after this with all the time changes till we get to the lead break, and what a break! Arpeggios and sweep picking at high speed. The fret melting work of Smith and Murray with Gers are backed by pounding drums of McBrain and Harris’s awesome basslines. This is Maiden at their best! The power metal on display here is simply awesome.
‘Brave New World’ is another definitive Maiden track that begins with a solid guitar line that all Maidenheads love. It sets the pace and the strong melody. The tranquillity and soft vocals are so ethereal they send shivers down the spine. The guitars chug in and Dickinson’s vocals move to ‘Air Raid Siren’ mode; “Wilderness house of pain, makes no sense of it all, Close this mind dull this brain, Messiah before his fall, What you see is not real, those who know will not tell, All is lost sold your souls to this brave new world, A brave new world, in a brave new world...” The time sig changes in the chorus and the audience will be singing along every time, as indeed they are on the live DVD. The pace really picks up in the next adrenaline charged verse. The drum and bass rhythm machine is relentless and motorvates along till we get to the lead break. The guitars trade off duelling in trademark style, with very fast speed picking and note for note perfect speed work up the frets. Then the wonderful melodic harmonics of the three guitars takes it to another level; it is sheer bliss when the band are in full flight.
‘Blood Brothers’ features a lot of bass and an orchestra reminding me of Ayreon or Therion. The strings are majestic and the vocals are more subdued. It almost sounds like a bizarre waltz feel. I am not a huge fan of this track but it does have a nice melody and is a different beast among all the intricate metal blasts.
‘The Mercenary’ is next with some effective riffing and strong powerful lyrics; “Toe to toe throw the line, Everyone's caught hand tied, Iron will iron fist, How could it have come to this?”
‘Dream of Mirrors’ is a lengthy track with a consistent rhythm and melodic chorus; “I only dream in black and white, I only dream 'cause I'm alive, I only dream in black and white, To save me from myself.”
‘The Nomad’ is an excellent 9 minute mini epic with a majestic sweeping lead riff. The pace quickens and slows at intervals. The chorus is catchy and easy to sing along to; “Nomad, you're the rider so mysterious, Nomad, you're the spirit that men fear in us, Nomad, you're the rider of the desert sands, No man's ever understood your genius.” The rhythm is kept by distinct 11 to 12 syllable rhyming verses; “Those who see you in horizon desert sun, Those who fear your reputation hide or run, You send before you a mystique that's all your own, Your silhouette is like a statue carved in stone.” The middle section is a quiet guitar passage reminding me of the middle of ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. The guitar is rather pretty and melancholy. The melody is one that an audience can sing to with ease. There is a unique style in the melody that is foreign sounding, almost Egyptian or Spanish. The steady pace is maintained throughout, with a simplistic tune but one that is very effective, making this a definite highlight of the album.
‘Out of the Silent Planet‘ begins with a solid lead riff that repeats for a while until a quiet vocal begins over acoustic arrangements. Metal guitars enter soon and another great song is belted out.
‘The Thin Line Between Love & Hate’ runs for 8 and a half minutes at a steady pace, with trademark chugging riffs, and multilayerd vocals. The chorus is infectious as ever; “There's a thin line between love and hate, Wider divide that you can see between good and bad, There's a grey place between black and white, But everyone does have the right to choose the path that he takes, I will hope, My soul will fly, So I will live forever, Heart will die My soul will fly, And I will live forever.” The progression repeats again and then a scorching lead breaks in at 4:50 with high pitched sustained bends and sweep picking. The song quietens to a minimalist clean guitar and hi hat cymbal beat. The next lead break is wonderful, and Dickinson has a brief but strong vocal passage. The lead returns much faster with harmonics and arpeggios over a moderate paced riff. It slows again with that soaring lead break. It is incredible music and one of the highlights of this album.
Overall "Brave New World" may well be the greatest thing Iron Maiden have done along with “Powerslave” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. These three albums are the pinnacle of the proggiest albums from the band, as such deserve full recognition.