29th March 2004
Dance Of Death Souvenir EP
Dance of Death
World Tour May 2003–
Death On The Road 2nd February 2006
Dance of Death is probably the most controversial album of Iron Maiden so far, and this in several aspects. The first thing that can be noticed, like every time a new album is released, is the cover. This particular cover, made by a certain David Patchett, has been the subject of many arguments among the fans, and this even long before the album was officially released and anyone had a chance to listen to its actual content. Deemed ugly and unworthy of an Iron Maiden cover by many fans, it has caused more polemic than the cover of The X Factor, which also constituted a radical change from Riggs's artwork at the time, and that marked the end of an era – that of the Maiden–Riggs collaboration.
Although Eddie is still present – albeit in a slightly different form than Riggs would have painted him – he is surrounded by computer-generated characters that shocked many fans when the cover was officially unveiled. Eddie himself is depicted as Death, which gives a strange déjà-vu impression. Isn't Death also portrayed on every Children of Bodom album cover? As for the weird cgi people surrounding Eddie, the controversy has arisen prior to the release of the album itself. Did Iron Maiden give a fake preview of the Dance Of Death cover in order to mock the hordes of fans that regularly check the Internet for an exclusive peep at the cover of the future albums? Many fans couldn't believe that Maiden was actually going to release an album with such an untypical (and, let's say it, ugly) cover. These computer-generated characters are not even done properly: if you look closely, the "cgi woman" in the foreground has something horribly wrong with her neck and the rest of her articulations, also the baby's backside is not even actually touching the white wolf, and there are many other details that do not quite match with a correctly made picture. Only the background, with the shrouded monks, indicates that some real artistry has taken place during the design of the cover – sadly to be mainly occulted by the foreground characters.
The cover, although it is not mentioned in the credits, was made by David Patchett, the artist behind the Cathedral covers. Reportedly, Patchett's cover only included Eddie and the monks, but Rod thought it was really empty, so he hired someone from ironmaiden.com to design the characters surrounding Eddie using the programme Poser. Then, he gave the roughs back to Patchett and asked him to work on the skin and mask textures. Patchett did so but was unimpressed with the result and asked not to be included in the credits. The masks used on the Dance of Death cover were made by Goblin Art, a company based in Portland, Oregon (USA). Although they bear a striking similarity with those that can be seen in Kubrick's 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut, Goblin Art never provided the masks for the film.
The official explanation given by Bruce about the album cover was that the cgi characters belong to Patchett as well, but he only gave them to Maiden as a rough, and they said they didn't want him to work on it anymore, because they "liked the vibe".
The CD booklet, on the other hand, contains some good surprises in the form of the originality of the pictures within. Photographer Simon Fowler has portrayed the members of the band with some ghostly figure dancing around them. It is plain for all to see that the figure in question is an almost naked woman wearing a mask. These pictures make a refreshing change from those of the previous album, Brave New World, were the band looked like they were terminally ill or beyond all tiredness. The erotic element is also a new aspect of the band, linking Death and Lust as it was in the infamous works of the Marquis de Sade. This erotism is not echoed in the lyrics of the songs on the album, though, and Sade doesn't seem to have been of any inspiration for the compositions. The whole feel of the booklet, however, is very reminiscent of the 1999 darkly erotic film Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick (1928–1999), complete with the masks whose eyes are always wide open – but never see anything.
This album is not by any means a concept album, but the central theme of Death is recurrent in one form or another. From the necessity to live life to its full in "Wildest Dreams" or the urge to make things right in "Rainmaker", to the thoughts of someone who know his time is up in "No More Lies". The band also proposes a detour into the minds of those who had a close encounter with Death, like this strange surreal meeting with the undead in "Dance Of Death", or the remisniscence of centuries-old death in "Montségur", or, closer again, the head-on crash with the absolute horrors of war in "Paschendale". There are of course a few off-topic songs, like "New Frontier", that deals with the manipulations of life, or songs pointing out the sorry state of the world today – a subject dear to Steve Harris – like in "Face In The Sand" and "Age Of Innocence". There is even what seems to be a criticism of the "Internet Generation" in "Gates Of Tomorrow", with the allusion to the World Wide Web and the worry that it may represent our only future.
Only "Journeyman" stands out as an uncharacteristic Iron Maiden song. This is the first time that the band records a fully acoustic song, and they did a great job of it. Some will comment that it is an attempt to reach a broader audience, like Metallica did with "Nothing Else Matters", but I beg to disagree here. "Journeyman" is an acoustic piece like only Iron Maiden could create, and they certainly remained true to themselves. On the other hand, if it can introduce other people – who would otherwise dismiss them – to Maiden's music and act as a gateway to the fantastic sound of this band, I certainly cannot complain. After all, more fans means more great albums to come.
All in all, it can be said that Dance Of Death is a pretty excellent Iron Maiden album, albeit uneven in the quality of the songs it contains, and that it has its place in Maiden's career alongside with some of the albums of the Golden Era. Many older fans will complain that there is nothing really new and ground-breaking here, but the band cannot release a Piece Of Mind or a Powerslave every time they put an album out on the market. With Dance Of Death, they have done a brilliant Metal album that will still please some of the older generations, while introducing the newer fans to the world of Iron Maiden's great music in an even better way than Brave New World had already done.
The scans of the commentaries from the tourbook have been generously provided by Gor.
Wildest Dreams (Smith, Harris)
Yet again a good standard Maiden album-opener. Smith's signature is easily recognisable and he gratifies us with a blinding solo. All in all, there is nothing special to say about this song. It was a made-to-be single track with lyrics similar to those of "Wasted Years" (another Adrian Smith composition), reminding us that life is short and that there's no point moping around whereas we could be out there having fun. The rumour has it that it could also be a reflection of Steve Harris on his divorce.
The main particularity of this song is that it was the first song of the album to have been disclosed to the audience during the "Gimme Ed... 'Til I'm Dead" tour that took place prior to the release of the Dance of Death album, and Bruce warned the audience at every concert that he didn't care if the song was illegally recorded and posted as an mp3 file on the Internet, as long as people were going to buy the album on the day of its release. This marks the beginning of a new attitude towards the diffusion of music files over the Net, far remote from Metallica's who initiated court cases during the infamous "Napster Incident", and thus made themselves very unpopular.
Iron Maiden have understood that the mp3s anyone can download from the Net should be an appetiser, either before an album release or to get to know an album before buying it. People who download music without ever buying the albums are committing a crime by law – such a crime's name is simply "theft" – and are abusing this great system that allows the sampling of an album before its purchase. Steve commented quite rightly a few years ago that, because of such an electronic diffusion of music, they would have to re-think the way they do things in the future, and that's exactly what they did. Not a single note of the album was to be found on the Internet prior to the release of Dance of Death, and "Wildest Dreams" was only known through the poor-quality live recordings that were made during the tour. This manoeuvre actually raised the fans' curiosity and constituted a pretty good marketing gimmick. Maiden had cleverly turned illegal diffusion of music files to their advantage, and fuelled more interest in their upcoming album than before.
One last thing to note about "Wildest Dreams": the album doesn't start with the music right away, but with Nicko counting the beat. Most albums have Nicko talking at the end of some track or another, but this one is special in the way that "Mad McBrain" is the first one to be heard on an album before the music even starts. Nicko can also be heard before "King Of Twilight'" the B-side of the Aces High single, and on "Justice Of The Peace", the B-side of the Man On The Edge single, as well as at the beginning of "Losfer Words", the instrumental featured on the Powerslave album. What may be the reason for that? Just for fun? Probably.
Rainmaker (Murray, Harris, Dickinson)
Musically, "Rainmaker" is an excellent fast piece, a typical "Murray-style" rocker that is also a taylor-made single for Maiden. Although the lyrics are somewhat repetitive, the chorus is really remarkable and sticks to your mind long after the song is over. The instrumental part is also great, with a brilliant solo by Dave Murray, and should certainly have been longer. An instant classic in any case.
The song itself has nothing to do with the 1995 novel of the same name written by John Grisham that was made into a courtroom drama in Francis Ford Coppola's 1997 film. It has nothing to do either with the Vanden Plas song of the same name, which can be found on the German band's 1997 album The God Thing. This is in fact once again an allegory of life, with the desert portraying our existence. When it rains in desertic areas, the vegetation comes out extremely rapidly and the whole landscape is changed, making it more adapted to life as we know it. The metaphoric rain in the song probably tries to render this impression and the message may be that, at times of rain – or happiness as the case may be – our life changes and feels more enjoyable. Who is this character who can start the rain and that the lyrics seem to blame for not doing it? This is a bit of a mystery.
Can we actually start the rain, and can this life-supporting water flow more often? It seems doubtful that this rain can fall on our lives on its own accord, and this address to an external person seems futile. Why count on others and wait for the good times to roll our way whereas we could take measures to find happiness ourselves? The cracks in our lives, like the cracks on the ground that are washed away by the pouring rain, can be healed only by our own doing. Some say that "Time is a great healer", but Time itself needs sometimes a little help that we can only provide ourselves. After all, we should all try to find whatever can make our personal "garden of life" flourish and we should be our own rainmakers.
Rudy Baylor is a jobless young attorney. However, he is also the only hope of an elderly couple whose insurance company will not pay for an operation that could save their son's life. In this judicial drama, Rudy learns to hate corporate America as he falls in love with a battered young married woman. Will he be up to the task?
With a cool Celtic-sounding soft intro, this song is reminiscent of "The Clansman" in its very beginning. The main reproach that could be made to this song is that the chorus is very repetitive, although it does eventually seem to fit to the rest of the song. After a few listens, it seems obvious that the repetition of the words "no more lies" is an inherent part of the song and blends quite nicely with the rest. The instrumental section contains extremely good guitar solos, respectively by Dave, Adrian, and then Janick, and show an excellent use of the three-guitar attack. This piece ends softly, as it had started, and leaves the impression of yet another Maiden classic that will certainly become a concert favourite.
The lyrics deal with a character who knows that his time has come, with the darkening sky representing the beginning of the end (Steve Harris has himself mentioned that the lyrics quite match the story of the Last Supper in the Bible). However, this particular character seems to have lived his life to the full and does not express any regrets to leave this world. There is a hint as to the possibility of reincarnation ("Maybe I'll be back some other day"), as is customary in many Maiden songs that deal with death. The title "No More Lies" itself could have different interpretations. It could be that, when the end comes, there's no more time to lie about how we see our life. The illusions we had about our past simply vanish and we're confronted to the truth, no matter how much we tried to hide from it before. On the other hand, it could also represent the hope that, if there is a next life, it won't be filled with lies as the previous one was. Wipe the slate clean and start all over again, with truth and honesty – "I'm coming back to try again". Even if there is such a thing as reincarnation or another life, it seems doubtful that truth will prevail then, as it never did before anyway.
For most dying people, there is this crazy and unfounded hope that things won't stop there ("don't tell me that this is the end"), and that our conciousness will go on forever. All we've experienced and the knowledge we've gained throughout our lives would otherwise go to waste, and we would be like some piece of electrical equipment that would have served its time just to be switched off one last time before ending up in a scrapyard. We all like to believe that this is not the case and that we can carry on indefinitely. No one knows for sure if this is true, though...
Montségur (Gers, Harris, Dickinson)
Based on the true story of the Cathars (Bruce Dickinson was on a holiday in the area of Montségur, in Southern France, and was so fascinated by the tale that he wrote a song about it), this song starts with an intro reminiscent of "The Fallen Angel" and of some of the best rockers on the Piece Of Mind album. This is without doubt the heaviest song on the Dance Of Death album, with a very strong metal guitar riffage and massive drumming, all accompanied by Dickinson's fierce and powerful voice. Quite sadly however, the pre-chorus (the part that starts with "As we kill them all...") sounds a bit too light-hearted for such a dark topic and unbalances what could have been otherwise a great song.
The Cathar faith came into this fetid atmosphere like a breath of fresh air. Its advocates were called 'parfaits' and were known collectively as 'les Bons Hommes' or 'the Good Men'. Rich and poor alike were eager to offer them hospitality just to listen to their teachings and many lords and ladies openly became followers of the Cathar way.
The Cathars were a gnostic Christian sect that arose in the 11th century, an offshoot of a small surviving European gnostic community that emigrated to the Albigensian region in the south of France. The name "Cathar" comes from a Greek work meaning "Pure Ones", a noble enough sentiment but one that would get them into a lot of trouble.
In 1243–1244, the Cathars – a mysterious heretical sect – were besieged at Montsegur by ten thousand Royal Catholic French troops. In March of 1244, the castle finally surrendered and the Cathar defenders were burned en masse in a bonfire at the foot of the pog.
The Cathars were a medieval Christian sect whose reality became a myth over the centuries. Contrarily to the Catholic dogma that stated that God was all-powerful, they instead believed that there were two equally powerful gods – one of good and one of evil. They equated the god of evil to that of the Old Testament, a god that was vengeful and murdering, and rejected this part of the Scriptures, hence the line "The book of Old Testament crippled and black, Satan his weapon is lust". They also had faith in a good spiritual world, as opposed to the evil world of the flesh ("Living this evil damnation of flesh back to the torture of life") and death was more a deliverance than a punishment as far as they were concerned. Likewise, sex and pregnancy were seen as evil, and children were only considered human beings after they had consciously accepted their baptism, long after their birth.
The organisation of the Cathar hierarchy comprised two major casts: the credenti, or Believers, who constituted the vast majority of the community, and a minority of perfecti, the Perfects, who were considered the leaders of the Cathar church. The Perfect followed scrupulously the Cathar laws of sexual abstinence and strict vegetarianism (as they believed that reincarnate human souls could live in animals, the consumption of meat was forbidden – probably by fear to commit the sin of cannibalism). But what really disturbed the early XIIIth century society, and mainly the governments of Western Europe, was not their manichean beliefs or the way they had chosen to live, but the fact that they occupied a vast territory that was halfway between the kingdoms of France and Spain, but which neither of them owned at the time.
Under the pretext of a holy crusade to wipe out the heretics, the Catholic Church and the King of France decided to eradicate the Cathars and launched a crusade against them in 1209. It took many years before the fight became effective, as local sympathising warlords were covering for the Cathars and hampered the Inquisition's efforts to destroy them. The final blow came with the siege of Montségur, were the Cathars had established the centre of their community. The 10-month siege ended on 16th March 1244 with the Templar mercenaries serving the Cathar cause let free to go, along with those who had officially abjured their Cathar faith. However, over 200 Perfects chose to die burned at the stake, onto which they willingly stepped rather than abdicate their faith. The line "the Perfect would willingly die at the stake and all of their followers slain" is not entirely accurate, as the followers were set free – an unusual clemency for that time – provided that they first solemnly declared allegiance to the Catholic Church before the Inquisition.
The Templar Knights were a monastic order of knights founded in 1118 A.D. to protect the pilgrim along the path from Europe to the Holy Lands (Jerusalem). They took a vow of poverty which was rare for knights who usually had to supply themselves with a horse, armor and weapons.
According to the legend, the Knights Templar Order was founded in 1118 to protect tourists headed for Jerusalem. There, the small band of warrior monks established a headquarters. In due course, they somehow managed to gain possession of the Ark of the Covenant, which they hid for safekeeping.
The Cathar era became popular and romanticised with time, making them the first Hippies in History long before the 1960s' Flower Generation. They were thought to be a permissive and equalitarian community because women were represented in an almost equal number to that of the men within the Perfect. Iron Maiden probably wanted to mention the Cathars as a symbol of freedom and resistance to oppression, as they did brilliantly with the story of William Wallace and the Scottish fight against the English in "The Clansman", and this is very commendable. Unfortunately, the fact is that the Cathars were just another sect that was eventually eradicated by the most powerful sect of that time (and still nowadays) – the Catholic Church – under some religious pretext, whereas the real reasons of their demise were politics and territorial disputes. Indeed, we are "still burning heretics under our skies" (although in a figurative sense these days) and "religion's still burning inside".
I was reading the Commentary on "Montségur" again today, and I was looking at the last paragraph you put in, Maverick, and I disagree with you about it. The song to me is not talking about a "Clansman" style quest for freedom. It's about religious hypocrisy. That the Pope talks about enlightenment and the Gentle Christ, but orders his knights to butcher a sect for taking advantage of the God-given (in the Bible anyway) right to make a choice.
LooseCannon (from the MaidenFans forum) – 27th September 2003
Dance Of Death (Gers, Harris)
Originally inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal, the song starts very softly and ominously with the lyrics warning of an awful story to unfold, a "story to chill the bones". The soft music builds slowly in a crescendo as the story is being told until a little Celtic-/Eastern European-sounding melody starts and the song litterally explodes. The instrumental part makes the best use of the three guitars, and the solos follow each other with each of the guitarists showcasing his great personal musical ability. The song ends once again quietly with the lyrics trying to find a moral to this macabre story, that we should live life as if we were going to die tomorrow, a topic that has re-occurred quite a lot in Iron Maiden's songs lately. This is yet another good Maiden epic that benefited of the composition talents of both Janick Gers, mainly for the original idea, and Steve Harris, essentially for the lyrics.
"Dance Of Death" is not referring to the medieval dances of death, a series of ancient plays that have reached us through paintings and engravings, the most famous of which being Holbein's (1497–1543). Instead, the story takes us to the deep South of the United States, where Voodoo has taken place and is still said to occur regularly still now. The setting of the story is the Everglades, a marshy area and a national park at the southernmost tip of Florida, and somehow quite close to where Nicko McBrain lives, although there is no indication that the drummer inspired the location of the tale. The lyrics are reminiscent of those of "The Number Of The Beast", although the character of the story is here actively participating to the gruesome ceremony and there is no mention of Satan (the undead may have "ascended from Hell", but they seem to be on a night out without the "boss").
An evil, imaginary religion, which we will call Voodoo. It has been created for Hollywood movies, complete with "voodoo dolls", violence, bizarre rituals, etc. It does not exist in reality, except in the minds of most non-Voduns.
Firewalking has been practiced for thousands of years by people from all parts of the world. The earliest known reference to it is an Indian story, from about 1200 B.C. Since then it has been observed as an organized event in many different cultures and religions. Although it was, and still is by some, thought to be a paranormal phenomena, it has actually been fairly well understood, and has been explained using the principles of Physics for at least the last half century.
Voodoo, or Vodun, is an actual religion that takes its millenary roots in Africa and was exported to the Americas with the shipments of slaves. The Voodoo rituals, with their strange and evil traditions aimed at summoning the dead, have been mostly imagined by the film industry and Hollywood many years later (it all started in the 1930s), whereas the original creed has nothing to do with the zombies that appear on the screens. During the ceremonies (the real ones, that is), a lot of dancing is involved and the participants usually work themselves up into a trance, as depicted in the song. Basically, the song's lyrics follow more the common clichés of Voodoo, as most of us know it from films, than the actual reality of this religion, which still doesn't prevent it from being a "nice little story" in Steve's words.
Attention can also be paid to the lyrics about walking on coals unharmed. This is believed to be part of the Voodoo ritual, although there isn't any documentation about it as far as I'm aware. This pratice has been somehow made popular to a broader audience nowadays, and associations such as "The Fire Energy Experience" or the National Firewalking Association introduce common people like you and me to this unusual practice. Although physical evidence indicates that this is no supernatural feast and that the firewalker doesn't need to be in a trance or in any particular state of mind to be unharmed by the heat, I find it difficult to understand why anyone would want to do that. Anyway, this adds a little more visualisation to the lyrics of the song and, even if its a collection of cinematographic clichés, makes "Dance Of Death" an enjoyable horror story a bit like those black-and-white outdated zombie films that are so good to watch on tv at midnight on a Friday or Saturday night.
Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal) is a 1957 film directed by Ingmar Bergman, most notable for the scene in which a medieval knight (played by Max von Sydow) plays chess with the personification of Death, with his life resting on the outcome of the game. The film was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1957.
The "Dance of Death" was originally a species of spectacular play akin to the English moralities. It has been traced back to the middle of the fourteenth century. The epidemics so frequent and so destructive at that time, such as the Black Death, brought before popular imagination the subject of death and its universal sway. The dramatic movement then developing led to its treatment in the dramatic form.
Great site, helped a lot to my understanding of a great phenomena called "Iron Maiden". I just wanted to contribute with few observations on "Dance of Death" song and its link to "Number Of The Beast". You wrote it was a horror story happening in the Everglades, connected it to Voodoo (walking on coals) and found it simply as easy piece reminding on those old outdated Zombie movies you watch on Friday nights.
I find this song very strong in it's allegory. First, it carries the name of the album, and Maiden is not a band that would make just like that a simple boogy tale for the brainless crowd (I guess the Misfits is a kind a band who would do this). The cover of the album is really a reminder of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's insight into occult background of so called "rational" society. It also looks like a nice illustration of a Edgar Alan Poe's tale "Masque of Red Death"... It is all about a grim vision of life as a crazy masquerade with lost personalities behind those masks, dancing (living) till the death strikes them, persons deprived from their inner selves, lost, cursed, "ascended from hell".
Romero's movie Night of the Living Dead is a key issue here. Although it was low budget, trashy horror shot back in 1969, it actually had a much more serious message – it was great allegoric critique of American consumerist society in total decay. Gools (zombies) in the movie represent vast population of brainwashed, soulless creatures as a product of modern society, lurking around trying to pull those few sober ones in their "circle of dead/undead".
Religious concept is – if humanoid has no soul he is dead, even if he is biologically alive. Going back to song "Dance of Death" I can conclude it is about a sober man ("had one drink but no more", ok... maybe under gas a bit ;) ) who is driven in a mad circle of life, which is full of empty-headed humanoids – no mind, no creativity, no imagination, no soul – well, really dead/undead ones. People we see all around us, automats for producing/consuming, in a constant clash to each other, skirmishing – but all together dancing "the Dance of Death".
And then our story teller manages to escape that enchanted circle... his soul is coming back to him, he manages to hold his inner self, and what were the concluding lyrics at the end?
"To this day I guess I'll never know
Just why they let me go
But I'll never go dancing no more
'Til I dance with the dead"
So, not to be a part of this crazy masquerade called "common life", but be on our way, till we depart from this world and dance with a really dead ones!
It really has similarities with "Number Of The Beast" song, which is also an album title! But it was 1982, and band was in its breakthrough period. The song was more picturesque, when you listen it you really have a feeling of going trough Quake III Tournament environment ;) It was "IN" those years to burn some fire with such lyrics. Nothing unusual, movies were full of it and I guess newspapers also focused on many satanist activities, so it was a common subject. People like it, just recall the success of movies: back in 60s – Rosemary's Baby, 70s – The Exorcist, The Omen and so on...
But again, not just a horror dream, nor a possible script for Vincent Price and Roger Corman, but strikes in the core of our reality! Biblical truth is – 666 is the number of the man, and the beast. The words from St. John, revealed to him by God himself. What Bruce sings about is the actual state of affairs in this world. Behind the scene there is the Prince Of The Earth, Lord Of The Flies, Illuminated One... call him as you wish, but "the evil that men do lives on and on". 6 is a sign of carnal, imperfect man, refers to animal instincts within him. 7 is the number each human should strive for spirituality, taming the beast and getting closer to God. So I take this song as a kind of reminding and warning. There is nothing negative to be complained about.
Great songs, great band... there is nothing like Iron Maiden. Have a nice day.
Ivan Peric (zgodt from the MaidenFans forum – 15th April 2006
In Greek mythology, the white-robed Moirae or Mœrae (the "Apportioners", often called the Fates) were the personifications of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcæ, "sparing ones", or Fata; also equivalent to the Germanic Norns). They controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death (and beyond).
This strange little song suffers from a lack of originality and is probably the weakest on the Dance Of Death album. On the first verse, Bruce Dickinson adopts once again this harsh and raspy way of singing that characterised the decline period of Iron Maiden when No Prayer For The Dying and Fear Of The Dark were released. The main riff shows no real creativity and Janick's solos are quite horrendous, giving the impression that he's clumsily trying to pile up as many notes as possible in the shortest time available. "Gates Of Tomorrow" has besically the feel of a B-side and seems to have been included on the album as a filler.
Pictures reproduced without permission from Canadian artist Janet Stahle-Fraser's website
The lyrics are somewhat unclear and seem to allude to some super-natural entity whose main goal is to deceive unsuspecting humans and lead them astray. On the other hand, this character is paradoxically quite willing to free the emprisoned souls by cutting the threads of the web and then show them what the future has in store for them. Hearing the lyrics, I cannot help but think of the Fates (or Mœrae), these ancient Greek divinities that, according to the mythology, ruled the mortals' lives. They were three of them: Clotho, spinning the threads of life; Lachesis, who wove them and therefore deciding of human fate; and Atropos, who randomly cut the threads of life, thereby being an early representation of Death. The song may then refer to humans being "trapped in the web" of life, from which there no escape.
Another explanation – that many fans find plausible – is that this is a reference to the Internet, hence the "Web". There has been a lot of controversy about the diffusion of music files over the World Wide Web and Iron Maiden have obviously tried to prevent the copying of their music prior to the release of the Dance Of Death album... and it worked quite effectively. Moreover, they seem to have thwarted all attempts to unveil the mysteries of the new album – including the cover art – over the Internet and seem to have had a lot of fun with it. Think of all the arguments that surrounded the release of the official cover artwork, and how so many fans thought that it was a joke and not the real cover. Could have Iron Maiden "cut the threads" of the World Wide Web? This seems unlikely, but if this instrument is supposed to be the "Gates Of Tomorrow", the future looks on the one hand very bright, as the Internet is the greatest encyclopædia that ever was if you know how to use it properly, or pretty grim on the other hand, as abuses of the system and hours-long isolation in front of a computer screen announce ominously a slow but inevitable de-humanisation of the users.
I think the commentary is off the mark on this one. I think it's more a general argument about the perils of trusting religion to guide one's life. Really, the point at which the song comes out and tells you what it's really about is the line "There isn't a god to save you if you don't save yourself." The speaker in the song wants to disrupt the power of religion to "deceive our eyes and delay our goals." That's what all the thread-cutting is about...
zgodt (from the MaidenFans forum) – 9th February 2004
New Frontier (McBrain, Smith, Dickinson)
After twenty years in the band, this was bound to happen: Nicko McBrain eventually wrote a song for an Iron Maiden album. He wrote the basics and the bass-line, and the musical result is quite decent for a first song. The song is a standard Maiden fast tune, and has mainly been salvaged by the two excellent solos by Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, although, like "Gates Of Tomorrow", it has the feel of a half-baked song that should have ended up as a B-side on some single. However, it would be unfair to Nicko to discourage him, and I hope that he will write more songs in the future.
However, the lyrics are in my view the weakest point of "New Frontier". Not only are they a shallow and inane religious blurb (like anything about religion anyway), but they are also pretty offensive to scientists and, as a biologist, they appalled me quite a bit. This is the kind of pamphlet that led to physicians practising abortion being murdered in the United States, and that could incite feeble-minded religious extremists to do the same with any scientist dealing with the living. A very grim outlook indeed!
The story tells us of a crazy scientist who, like Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein, overstepped the mark of scientific ethics and cloned a human being. Cloning is a perfectly normal tool used by most scientists working in molecular biology, and simply consists in introducing a foreign DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sequence into a given cell for various reasons, may they be within the context of basic research or for applied genetic engineering. Quite sadly, the term "cloning" has a different meaning in the mind of non-scientists and is often associated, thanks to the sometimes dubious information provided by the media, with horrible genetic experiments that give birth to unnatural monsters. This has raised a few questions that can easily be answered. Cloning is in fact a very powerful tool as well as a marvel of the twentieth century, following the steps of James Watson and Francis Crick who elucidated the structure of DNA, and has been used to the benefit of Mankind – and not against it, as some dimwits may think – with such examples as recombinant insulin for the diabetics or transgenic crops resistant to pesticides that improve harvest yields. After all, genetic manipulations are not new to the world, and humans have been doing it for quite some time now. Species like roses or wheat did not naturally arise, but were selected by Man and are in fact the result of patient cross-breeding that molecular biology, if it had existed in that time, would have significantly accelerated.
Given that the ethical barriers were crossed and that humans could be cloned legally, this doesn't mean that the resulting individuals would be monsters in any way. The sentence "create a beast, made a man without a soul" is absolute nonsense, given that, if there is evidence of conciousness in Man and some other animals, there is to date no proof of what the soul could be, provided it even exists (which it most probably doesn't). Moreover, the lines "Cursed by the Angel Who Fell, who saves me from Hell? And who is my god? And where is my soul?" are absolute religious rubbish. Would a cloned individual be condemned to Hell – provided that such a place actually existed – and wonder what god he should worship (as if worshipping some imaginary deity was necessary to life!)? Let's be realistic here. A cloned human would be a human like any other, with the same mental specificity that make him an independent thinker before the religious zealots of a confession or another try to force into him the fear of their preposterous and fictitious god. Let's remember that, according to the Judeo-Christian myth, the Angel Who Fell, a.k.a. Satan, was expulsed from God's Heavens for being the one who gave humans the knowledge they naturally seek – not unlike the ancient Greek legend of Prometheus who was punished by Zeus for giving fire to humans, thus conferring them an advantage over the other animal species. Are scientists devil-worshippers? If they are not, they should think about it, as Satan – who most probably doesn't exist anymore than God does – is supposed to have given us this thirst for knowledge in order to make things better for Mankind. This would be in any way much better than worshipping a god that treats us like sheep. "The Lord is my Shepherd", hey? Well, sod that!
Religious bigots have throughout the ages tried to hamper the advancement of science for a better life, with examples such as Galileo, who was threatened to be burned at stake for saying that the Earth is a spinning sphere, or Darwin, who was ridiculed for his evolution theory, or even the modern-day biologists who strive to do their jobs against a sea of hatred from ignorant Bible-thumpers. They think that scientists "play God without mercy and without fear", whereas they only try to make things better (after all God would be the fearless one without any mercy, just read the Bible, with its tales or murder and destruction, to realise that). I personally do not believe in a devil, like I do not believe in the existence of a god of any sort, but I would like to let an old friend of mine conclude in his own words – words that can also be found on the front page of my Ph.D. thesis – and that sum up what I would think if I were in any way inclined to believe in the legends people are brainwashed with by the three major religions of the planet:
Gloire et louange à toi, Satan, dans les hauteurs
Du Ciel, où tu régnas, et dans les profondeurs
De l'Enfer où, vaincu, tu rêves en silence!
Fais que mon âme un jour, sous l'Arbre de Science,
Près de toi se repose, à l'heure où sur ton front
Comme un Temple nouveau ses rameaux s'épandront!
Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Which translates as:
Glory and praise be with you, Satan, in the heights
Of the Sky, where you reigned, and in the lightless nights
Of Hell, where now, overcome, you dream in silence!
May my heart, one day, under the Tree of Science,
Rest close to you, at the hour when around your head
A new Temple will rise and its branches will spread!
As I am in Medicine school (it god damn never seems to end by the way), I found the lyrics to NF to be really BS. Your commentary really puts thing into perspective man! Any way, morality cannot and should not prevent experiments/discoveries, it should prevent wrong applications of these discoveries. Because otherwise anything since the fire shouldn't have been invented, because, like cloning, each invention can be used for benefit or destruction...
Gor (from the MaidenFans forum) – 22nd September 2003
Paschendale (Smith, Harris)
The first thing you hear in the song is Nicko's rhythmic hits on the hi-hat in a similar way to Morse code, the old communication method consisting of short and long signals on a broadcast, and that was used quite a lot for communication during WW I. Then the intro starts in earnest with periods of melodic calm alternating with more intense blasts of music, reminiscent of the quiet periods in-between times of heavy shelling that took place during the trenches war. The scene is quickly set and Maiden's music renders once again visions of war and assault, like it does so realistically with songs such as "The Trooper", for instance. Only instead of horses charging enemy lines, this is here a story of mud-filled, horrid death and absolute horror like only the Great War has shown in recent history. This is also probably the most poignant Iron Maiden song, depicting with vivid images what the life – and death – conditions were on the front at that time. The ending of the song is soft, containing verses that attest of the absence of hatred between the parties at war, as both sides of the front line were ordinary people thrown into the slaughter by their respective mindless leaders and all suffered equally. This is a fantastic epic song that is bound to become a classic.
"Paschendale" tells us of the horrors of the First World War, taking the example of a battle that happened in Belgium, but the story could have taken place on virtually any battlefield of that time. Here, a new light is shed on the atrocity of war, as this one (like WW II) was fought essentially by conscripts who were dragged into this terrible nightmare, unlike most recent wars like the First Gulf War depicted by Iron Maiden in "Afraid To Shoot Strangers" – wars that were fought by professional soldiers whose job is to guarantee peace after the famous Latin proverb "si vis pacem para bellum" (if you want peace, prepare for war).
Amidst this terrible pointless massacre that was called World War I, or the "Great War", or sometimes referred to in an unintentional irony as the "war to end all wars", the third battle of Ypres – also known as the battle of Passchendaele, as this was the name of the village that was the main objective of the Allied troops – sticks out as a symbol of useless massive loss of lives and of the ugliness of war. During the period from 31st July to 12th November 1917, a total of over half a million lives (300,000 British, including some 38,000 ANZACs and 16,000 Canadians, and 250,000 German) were wasted for an advance of a mere few miles into the enemy lines. Although the offensive was conducted by British troops under the command of a British general – Sir Douglas Haig, then commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France and Belgium – the troops were also largely composed of Canadian soldiers and of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), which is why these countries still nowadays retain a more vivid memory of Passchedaele than others.
Haig has been largely criticised, including by British Prime Minister of the time David Lloyd George, for the way he handled the campaigns he had been assigned, namely the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and Passchendaele in 1917. For his defence, it is known that the French put much pressure on him to relieve the strain of the Verdun offensive further South and distract the attention of the German war machine away from an area where the French troops were having terrible difficulties (that subsequently led to mutiny in the ranks of the French army that same year). However, Haig seems to have been an incredibly arrogant and stubborn person who disregarded entirely human life (like many Generals of that time, regardless of their nationalities) and who did not even pay attention to the advice of the general commanding the area of Ypres, General Sir Hubert Gough, to stop the battle due to the heavy rain conditions that rendered the battlefield incredibly muddy and completely impracticable. The order was simply to push on, no matter what.
Flanders, in Belgium, is an area reputed for its heavy rains and unpredictable weather, mainly in the autumn, and the fields had an intricate drainage system that prevented them from returning to the marshy zone they were pried from by the local population in the nineteenth century. During the offensive, the shelling by both sides at war created a huge bog area where no gravel was present to quench the flooding of the battlefield. To add to the misery, the rains of 1917 were the heaviest recorded for the region in 75 years. The mud was knee- to waist-deep and many soldiers, wounded or simply exhausted, weakened by fighting, sickness and the lack of food, simply drowned in it. Many disappeared without a trace, although bodies of unknown soldiers have been recovered regularly in the area for many years afterwards, some as late as 2003!). About 42,000 allied troops went missing in action, their bodies never recovered.
Australians and New-Zealanders were relentlessly sent to the slaughter by "Butcher" Haig who still wanted to press on despite the steady downpour of rain and the horrifying losses due to the deadly efficiency of the German strategy. They fought bravely during those weeks of constant advances followed by forced retreats. They eventually took the village of Passchendaele, only to fall back in front of German fire, as the British troops that were supposed to provide reinforcement were unable to support them. As Haig retired the ANZAC from the battle, he sent in the Canadians who, in the voice of their commander General Currie, refused to go until the weather had improved and the adequate logistics made available. The Canadians eventually took the village – or whatever was left of it – and the battle finally ended.
In the song, the line "German war propaganda machine/Such before has never been seen" is somewhat strange in the sense that Germany was not the only country to have had an extensive propaganda during the conflict, although it was the first time in History that it was used to such extent on either side of the front line. All nations engaged in the war had all sort of posters advertising the war bonds to support the war effort (money is indeed the nerve of war) or promoting the enlistment of the young men in the armies of their respective countries to join in the bloodshed.
The purpose of the taking of Passchendaele had originally been to break through the enemy lines to eventually progress to the ports of the North Sea and prevent further attacks of the Kriegsmarine (the German navy) whose submarines were the scourge of the Allied ships. By the time the battle was over, the plan had changed and the harbours were not the main objective anymore. But Haig had set his mind on taking Passchendaele, and it is exactly what he did. But at what cost!
This battle remains in history as a blatant example of the cruelty and uselessness of war. A bloody tribute to the evils that can surge from the human heart, as well as a homage to the bravery of those men who surpassed themselves in front of sheer horror. This is well summed up in this short poetry from Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967), a writer who fought in the Great War and became famous for his anti-war stance resulting from the way mindless generals were mercilessly sending men to the slaughter, and who wrote in his poem Memorial Tablet:
...I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele) my wound was slight
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light
"Face In The Sand" is yet again a statement about the ways of the world and how people react to the horrors that happen on a daily basis. The intro is a long intrumental piece with a few Celtic nods and grows into a great crescendo, with Nicko using a double-kick for the first time on an Iron Maiden recording – although he admitted himself that he had suffered a lot playing this song, and would be rather pleased not to have to play it live, which is a shame as it would be a great moment during a concert. The syths are put forward in a brilliant way and create a special atmosphere that is most enjoyable. This is a powerful piece that manages to convey a lot of emotion, and whose instrumental intro could fit in quite well as an ending to "Paschendale".
The lyrics, not unlike those of "Brave New World", seem to deal with the general state of mind of the western world whose populations have become dependent on news that are pre-digested and sometimes warped. "Everyone's waiting for something to happen/Everybody's waiting for something to see" attests of a life of passive boredom, just to be fed with disasters depicted on a tv screen ("looking at death from the sky" is probably an allusion to satellite tv). Even "lunatics" are "waiting for bigger disasters", which they sometime even engineer themselves. Could it be a reference to the attacks on New York and Washington on 11th September 2001? It is possible, although the main suspect of these attacks – namely Ossama Bin Laden – seems to have been more of a calculating and patient mass-murderer than a lunatic. A man driven by hatred, but by no means insane.
But no one learns the lesson of the past and a short memory span characterises our civilisation, as "Everyone is looking but no one's listening". People simply take interest out of misplaced curiosity, like those sad cases who slow down on the motorway to better watch an accident in the sick hope that they'll see a bleeding corpse or two. Besides, "Everyone's looking for the reason why", as they do not seem to fully comprehend what they see, as it was the case when the terrorist attacks on the US territory occurred. People around the planet were in shock and could not understand that anybody could plan and execute such horror, and many just stated that this was the work of a "lunatic". The right question to ask, though, would have been "how come some people hate us so much that they go to such horrifying lengths to try and destroy us?" Indeed, why should the nice brave Western world be the target of such attacks? Think about it.
The only thing left to do is, according to the song, watch and wait. Praying for an answer and a stop to all these disasters and wars may not do much good, but it shows anyway a step in the right direction in the form of a positive attitude and the hope that the catastrophes will end. They probably will continue until the end time, when there's no one left to continue the strife and impose misery on the world: "But the end never came and we're digging the graves/And we're loading the guns for the kill". Iron Maiden tell us that the "signs of the end time" are already visible to those who know where to look. Could they be right? Let's just wait and see...
Notice that, although bruce has explained what the song is about, he hasn't actually referred to why the song is called face in the sand. I really liked a though Megan (from the official BB) had about it, which deviates from the common (and wrong imo) explanation that face in the sand comes from the phrase "bury ones head in the sand" which reffers to people who avoid facing a problem thinking it will go AWAY.
Megan has pointed out that the phrase might be reffering to the face on Mars, symbolising that our planet may end up uninhabited and "dead" like Mars.
Another intresting explanation coming from the official BB was that the title was inspired by the movie Planet Of The Apes (the old one), in which, the statue of liberty is shown buried in the sand, with only it's face showing, symbolizing the destruction of civilization as we know it. This movie is one of Bruce's all time favorites btw, which makes this explanation more possible.
Gor (from the MaidenFans forum) – 15th May 2004
Age Of Innocence (Murray, Harris)
This song is Steve's response to the outrage of the current situation in the United Kingdom (and probably elsewhere), where the official figures of the crime rate are supposedly decreasing as compared to the last century, although other more independent surveys seem to show the contrary. Reports indicate that, whereas the average criminality is on the decline, violent crime is however on the rise. And, last but not least, England and Wales have been shown to be the highest-ranking areas for criminality in a survey covering 17 industrialised countries around the world, including the United States, a country that has usually a bad reputation when it comes to this subject.
A lot of controversy has arisen following the discussion of the song's lyrics and they have been a particularly hot topic even on the official Iron Maiden bulletin board. The band have been accused of dishing out "bad Tory tabloid nonsense", but is someone's revolt regarding the state of the country he lives in so shameful? Times have changed and there is here a longing for the so-called "good old days", as they where – according to Maiden – the "age of innocence". Let's bear in mind, though, that Steve Harris and Dave Murray, to name but only these two, have grown up in a pretty though area where the East End mafia, an organised criminal institution in which by the infamous Kray brothers were heavily involved, was still very active and up to no good. Could we call this a safer time than now? It is doubtful although there was at the time some sense of honour among these structured organisations and they would seldom – if ever – strike blindly at innocent people.
In our current society, crime has become almost exclusively a "spur of the moment" type of thing and anyone can become a victim, should the potential villain(s) see the right opportunity. Elderly people as well as younger ones are constantly at risk of being mugged, "even in [their] own home". Opportunist crime is probably nowadays the most widespread and the most dangerous, as the attackers do not have any specific plans in mind and simply violently lash out at their victims. Most are young and their inexperience often leads them to panic and to become extremely aggressive.
The case of Tony Martin comes to mind when listening to the lyrics of the song, notably with the lines stating that no-one is safe, even at home, and that the "judicial system lets them do it". Tony Martin, a Norfolk farmer, has been tried for killing a 16-year-old and wounding another with a shotgun blast during an attempted burglary by the two teenagers back in August 1999. In The Guardian's words – an independent and fairly impartial newspaper in the UK – "[Tony Martin] was depicted as the ordinary man who, plagued by burglars and let down by the police, had struck back but was now being persecuted for his actions", but he was also "always an odd kind of hero [who] thought of himself – and few contradicted him – as an 'eccentric' who preferred the company of the three rottweiler dogs he lived with on his dilapidated farm, Bleak House". Some see Martin as a victim who had suffered repeated burglaries and who, before the lack of an adequate response from the law, decided to do justice himself and to defend his property. Support associations have even been created to demand his release from prison and stronger laws that would allow every citizen to defend himself as he sees fit. On the other hand, Martin has also been depicted as a strange loner whose misanthropy had led him to lead a secluded life in a booby-trapped farm guarded by three rottweilers. The accusations went as far as to pretend that he had embushed the two boys and that his act was not one of a panicked old person, but that of a mentally-disturbed man whose hatred had led him to murder.
In any case, whoever Martin is, can we take the law into our hands and punish so severely those that are not properly penalised by the justice? I do not necessarily think that "A life of petty crime gets punished with a holiday", although it is sad to see that the justice is sometimes slack and that some "Assailants know just how much further they can go". The whole judicial system would need a good clean-up and a revision in order to satisfy the victims' claims to compensation for their ordeal. Some crimes are punished, others are not, and it is this last category that is intolerable and that sometimes push otherwise law-abiding citizens to unlawful action. On the other hand, wrong or unnecessarily harsh convictions can also make things worse and otherwise decent young people who serve time for petty crimes may turn into hardened criminals when they come out. Sometimes, the remedy can be worse than the disease itself.
Repression is one thing, education is another. These so-called petty crimes would not occur if people were educated in the respect of others and of their property. As the whole society seems nowadays assisted by some unclear "higher instances" that provide them with easy pre-digested information, easy fast food, easy welfare state money, and the like, some take indeed the easy way and steal the property they would like to own but are too lazy to work for (or simply destroy it if it cannot be stolen – "if I can't have it, no-one else will"). This pathetic mentality, sustained by the lack of proper guidance, leads to the civilisation of mugging, rape and burglary that we currently live in. This state of our society will not change unless people learn to respect each other and recognise that work, as hard as it may sometimes be, is often rewarded by the ability to eventually own what you wished for. I cannot believe that there is more satisfaction in stealing something than in actually earning it.
Musically, "Age Of Innocence" is a very good piece that starts softly to explode into a blinding riff and heavy rhythm. The instrumental part is Maiden at their best, following a brilliant solo by Dave Murray. The rapped part ("You can't protect yourselves...") is at first a bit surprising and unusual for a Maiden song, but after a few listens you'll realise that it is an integral part of the song and that it blends in quite nicely with the rest. The song ends softly, as it had started, in a melancholic statement that the "age of innocence" – whatever that may be – "is fading like an old dream".
This song is very polarizing to me.
The lyrics are a matter of taste. Lines like "And all the politicians and their hollow promises" are a bit simplistic to me.
While I agree with what this particular line is trying to say, it is just a phrase that has been said too often for my taste. It has become a standard phrase, as hollow and meaningless as what it's trying to criticize.
There are a few phrases like that, and I sometimes get the feeling that the lyrics are just very shallow and superficial- like the political talk of bar regulars around their table. Very disappointing to me, because I am used to deep, thoughtful and meaningful lyrics from today's Maiden.
Perun (from the MaidenFans forum) – 9th August 2004
Journeyman (Smith, Harris, Dickinson)
"Journeyman" is the long-awaited all-acoustic song of Iron Maiden. It has been compared to "Prodigal Son" for this similarity, although "Prodigal Son" contains some non-acoustic elements, whereas "Journeyman" doesn't. Maiden are not renowned for their acoustic pieces, but when they compose one, they really give their best and the result is an unusual although very recognisable Maiden tune of very high caliber.
There isn't much that can be said about this song, except that it is a brilliant piece that is probably – along with "Paschendale", but for different reasons – the best song on the Dance Of Death album. The lyrics are not in any apparent way related to the Orson Scott Card novel of the same name. A journeyman is someone who has learned the skills of a particular trade and who travels around a country for a few years to exercise this trade before finally settling somewhere as a master of his trade. Journeymen hold nowadays a certificate in their trade indicating that the holder has met certain standards and learned the skills of the trade.
The journeyman of the song doesn't seem to have any other trade than that of living, which he has exercised virtually everywhere on the planet, "From the red sky of the East to the sunset in the West", indicating that we are all journeymen in our own right, but never becoming a master in the art. The philosophical aspect of the lyrics show that although "We have cheated Death" – and indeed the human lifespan has vastly increased in recent years – "He has [also] cheated us" in the way that a longer life still inevitably ends at one point anyway, and whatever we have undertaken in our lives is just a dream (the "strange illusion" that is mentioned in "Hallowed Be Thy Name"). Life is just made of subsisting memories of our deeds, good or bad, and our achievements are nothing but "shadows we made with our hands" in the eye of the Great Leveller.
This is basically a song of hope, inciting us to "turn to the light" that burns in the darkness of our lives instead of chosing desolation (a verse that seems to be whispered once again by Bruce during the soft instrumental break). This is our own individual choice – that no-one can take away – and, as journeymen, we can practise our trade the best we can to try and make things better for ourselves and for those around us. A brilliant song indeed, both musically soothing and lyrically deep.
I just read the lyrics again, and saw something I hadn't seen before. The lyrics portray life as a dream (for example, "We are sleeping and we'll dream for evermore") and suggest waking up from the dream ("If you turn to the light that is burning in the night, then your journeyman's day has begun"). This reminds me of the Eastern concept of Mindfulness. According to Buddhism and other Eastern traditions, a person has to wake up from the ordinary routine of life and become fully aware and alive within the present moment before they can even begin the journey to enlightenment.
I can't guarantee this is what Bruce was thinking of, but it makes sense to me at least.
SinisterMinisterX (from the MaidenFans forum) – 25th April 2004