Rockumentaries come in all shapes and sizes, but there can be none on a more colossal scale than this debut cinematic offering from one of metal’s most monolithic acts, Iron Maiden.
While acclaimed, emotionally conflicted efforts in the ‘Spinal Tap’ vein such as ‘Anvil – The Story of Anvil’ and Metallica’s ‘Some Kind of Monster’ have focused on the struggles and trials of making the big time – and hanging onto it – ‘Iron Maiden – Flight 666’ is rarely anything but an unashamed celebration of supersized rock stardom. Iron Maiden, after all, are not a band unduly troubled by self-doubt or crises of confidence.
This 2 hour documentary treads a fine line between concert film and road movie as it charts a six-week world tour in the band’s customized Boeing 757, ‘Ed Force One’, piloted by none other than lead vocalist, ‘Captain’ Bruce Dickinson. Seeing the plane in midflight, crossing over so many geographical terrains, in all it’s ‘Ed-decored’ glory is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s quite simply the epitome of heavy metal – no pun intended.
Kicking off with a notably warm reception in Mumbai, India, the tour then takes the band to Australia, Japan, North and South America and finally Canada, which is coincidentally where the makers of the film, Banger Productions (of ‘Metal, A Headbangers Journey’ fame) hail.
At each stop there’s a good helping of live footage amidst the token off-stage antics, the band playing through the classics that form the bulk of their ‘Somewhere Back In Time’ set. Though at times the film seems dangerously close to careering into Michael Palin territory when the band are off exploring, the youthfulness with which they hammer through hits such as ‘Can I Play With Madness’ and ‘The Trooper’ is infectious enough to pull you ever deeper into Maiden’s mythos.
Comic relief comes courtesy of drummer Nicko McBrain. Described by manager Rod Smallwood as the ‘social face of the band’, his madcap eccentric manner adds as much to the movie as it always has onstage. Not to say the other members don’t get a word in, but McBrain and Dickinson seem to easily steal the most screen time.
A few guest appearances crop up when the band reach California. Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich both turn up to confess their undying admiration, while Slayer’s Kerry King mutters something about his pass not being good enough. Fanboys, eh?
By the time the band reach Chile the number of fans attending their shows is reaching critical mass, and though it’s somewhat disillusioning to see these aged gents running for cover while their zombie horde of fans are banging on the hotel doors, you can’t help but feel admiration for a band that’s managed to become so huge with such a relative lack of media attention behind them.
If nothing else, it’ll make UK metal fans proud to be British. Up the Irons indeed.
‘Iron Maiden: Flight 666 – The Movie’ is in cinemas April 21