Fashion was never a consideration. Metal always existed outside the realms of time anyway, and Iron Maiden were its prime old-skool sorcery’n’riffs exponents. They survived everything the ’80s threw at them, but now, with sports metal prowling, this is no time to go soft.
For the most part they haven’t. With longest-enduring singer [a]Bruce Dickinson[/a] back in their number, they still want to rattle your grey matter. Accordingly there are no hip-hop beats, no rapped choruses, just reassuring masturbatory solos and the high camp of men obsessed with monsters and goblins. It makes ‘The Wicker Man’ a rough-house tumble of operatic silliness, while ‘The Mercenary’ unleashes the dogs of war in guitar form.
But there’s a problem – that very dismissal of the outside world, which kept them safe all those years, now leaves them looking rather obsolete. It’s not just their ongoing fondness for cap-sleeve denim jackets and mullets, nor the risible face of skeleton mascot Eddie staring from the cover. Iron Maiden were always prone to [I]Dungeons & Dragons[/I] hilarity and pretension (the tradition kept up by the dire orchestral portent of ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Dream Of Mirrors’), but in the face of Korn and Slipknot offering more authentic rage and violence, they’re no longer the high priests of the black arts, and seem almost innocent by comparison. And that, surely, is as far from the point as it’s possible to get.