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A Matter Of Life And Death – Cover

A Matter Of Life And Death

25th August 2006

1. Different World (Smith, Harris) [04:17]
2. These Colours Don't Run (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) [06:52]
3. Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) [06:18]
4. The Pilgrim (Gers, Harris) [05:07]
5. The Longest Day (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) [07:48]
6. Out Of The Shadows (Dickinson, Harris) [05:36]
7. The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg (Murray, Harris) [07:21]
8. For The Greater Good Of God (Harris) [09:06]
9. Lord Of Light (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) [07:23]
10. The Legacy (Gers, Harris) [09:20]

 
Lyrics Various Pressings
 
Singles: Tour:
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg single
The Reincarnation
Of Benjamin Breeg

14th August 2006
Different World single
Different World
1st January 2007
Different World DVD single
Different World
1st January 2007
DVD
Different World picture disc single
Different World
1st January 2007
7" vinyl
A Matter Of Touring
A Matter Of Touring
October–December 2006
March–June 2007

Who would have thought that they still had it in them? Iron Maiden's 14th studio album is probably the most consistent since The X Factor and one of their best contributions to Heavy Metal since the heydays of the 1980s. This is not to say that Virtual XI, Brave New World, and Dance Of Death weren't good, as they all contain a few gems, but some songs were significantly weaker than others and gave the impression to be mere fillers on the albums. Now, with A Matter Of Life And Death, things are quite different!

The songs weave a common thread about death, destruction, and the way Mankind seems to be doomed if no one does anything. There are, however, a few elements of hope that weren't observed in the previous albums, and even a ballad dealing with the beauty of birth, despite the shadow of death that falls onto the newborn as soon as he draws his first breath.

The cover has, once again, raised a debate in the Maiden community. Made by a certain Tim Bradstreet, who is more used to draw comics with a certain dose of violence and grimness, it shows Eddie in the unusual company of corpse soldiers in the middle of a battlefield. Whereas it depicts quite well the theme of many of the songs on the album, this artwork seems clumsy and far remote from the illustrations made by the precedent artists. One could sarcastically mention that, this time, it was a good idea that Rod Smallwood didn't let his 5-year-old nephew add CGI characters to the artwork, unlike for the cover of Dance Of Death. It should be noted, though, that Melvyn Grant's illustration for the Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg single is far superior to Bradstreet's piece and that it might have been a good idea to use it for the album instead. Well, who am I anyway to tell Maiden's management what to do?

Back to the music itself, let's just say that this album has been labelled "Progressive Metal" by some 'enlightened' music critics who supposedly know better than the rest of us. Although this superficial analysis could sometimes apply in a few song, the progressive elements in the music have been wisely used and are far less susceptible to induce the boredom of a "real" progressive album – no, I never said that Dream Theater were boring... or did I?

A Matter Of Life And Death is in any case a great album. It will surely attract many more new fans to the music of Iron Maiden, as well satisfy the "old guard" who will be glad to see their favourite band in top form, both musically and lyrically. Get hold of the album and you'll see what I mean.

A Matter Of Life And Death – Back cover

 

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  Different World (Smith, Harris) Different World – Commentary Different World – Lyrics

Different World singleOnce again, the first sounds of the album are those of the unflappable Nicko, this time screaming one of his famous "AYEEE!!!" Musically reminiscent of "The Wicker Man", "Different World" is in fact lyrically closer to "Wildest Dreams". This is once again a punchy opener with a great riff and a text about life and the necessity to live it to the full to make it worthwhile.

This time, however, the hopeful message present in previous songs like "Wildest Dreams" does not seem to be so strongly present in the lyrics of "Different World", but instead gives way to a more realistic uncertainty. The protagonist of the song doesn't know what he wants, although he still intends to apply the "seize-the-day principle" and to "take hold of whatever comes [his] way". The grass supposedly always looks greener on the other side (wherever that may be), but he is nonetheless aware that he may not like what he finds there, which makes him therefore quite unwilling to take the risk.

We all see the world differently, hence the title of the song, and the 6 billion humans on the planet have some 6 billion different views on life, some being very close to each other, others being vastly apart. Only the acceptance of these different views and the tolerance that goes with it will make the world a better place. Wars are too often waged because some people want to impose their own views and exterminate the ones that are too far remote from theirs.

All in all, this song is a message advocating the enjoyment of the "little things" in life, as well as its careful planning, keeping in mind that situations can change unexpectedly and that we should be able to adapt to those changes. Is life really worth living if you're not willing to take a risk from time-to-time and to thrive for something better?

Different world
Different world


 

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  These Colours Don't Run (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) Commentary Lyrics

This is once again a war song seen through the eyes of a soldier, like many other Iron Maiden songs before from "The Trooper" to "Afraid To Shoot Strangers', to name but those two. However, if war is present, it is only in the minds of those who are about to go, and the scenes of war are more hinted at than actually described. The intro, like the ending, is soft and reminiscent of the calm before the storm – war – that explodes in the middle section of the song to quieten down again after the ordeal is over. This is yet another of many example of how Iron Maiden's music can evoke the visualisation of a story and summon up images in our minds.

Unlike in other Maiden war songs, the lyrics offer us here a glimpse of how those who are "left behind" feel, with the silent dismay to see a loved one go and risk his life far away from home. Those who enlist in the forces know that they will have to face real action at some point, and those who are close to them are also perfectly aware of that. Still, the emotion remains the same when the time comes.

The last sentence of the first verse, "and so you go to war" sums up in only a few words how horribly simple this all is. A very simple statement indeed, but loaded with incredible feeling.

The second verse describes the horrible reality of an armed conflict, where the combatants are more or less left to their own device. They probably also feel let down by the country they are supposed to serve – "There is no one that will save you" – yet they keep going on and face death without a second thought. The lines "On the shores of tyranny you crashed, a human wave" constitute an interesting link to "The Longest Day', the song about the 1944 Normandy landings of the Allies and that features on the same album.

These colours don't run
These colours don't run
Picture: © Ross Halfin (reproduced with kind permission)
The pre-chorus seems to echo the usual propaganda that goes on in every country to get young people to enlist, depicting a somehow fairly unrealistic and quite romantic view of the reasons to join – "for the passion, for the glory" – whereas the majority of those who end up in the military in fact consider essentially the assurance of having a secure job and a regular income as main incentives to become soldiers.

The flamboyant chorus, however, evokes this notion of loyalty – loyalty to the flag, emblem of the country the soldiers are fighting for, and mostly loyalty towards the "comrades in arms", those who suffer the same ordeal as you when you face a war situation. This is this uncompromising attitude that is exacerbated in the song, and in its powerful title. As Bruce Dickinson rightly said, "certain areas of morality are not negotiable", and this is true regardless of the country the soldiers are supposed fight for.

"These colours don't run" is incidentally what Bruce said to the audience while holding proudly the Union Jack during the infamous "eggfest incident" at the San Bernardino gig of 2005, where the Iron Maiden set was rudely disrupted by eggs being thrown at the musicians and various other unpleasant things happening due to the "Ozzy camp". Maybe this sentence struck the rest of the band and they decided to write a song around it. You never know...


 

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  Brighter Than A Thousand Suns (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) Brighter Than A Thousand Suns – Commentary Brighter Than A Thousand Suns – Lyrics

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty one...
I am become Death,
The shatterer of Worlds

Quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita, a Hindu sacred text
 
It worked!

Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, on 16th July 1945 at 05:29 Hrs, upon witnessing the very first atomic detonation by mankind.

What can be brighter than a thousand suns but another, much bigger star... or a nuclear explosion. This song deals with the birth of the Atomic Age, the creation of the scientists of the Manhattan Project between 1942 and 1945, that eventually led to the Cold War and the delicate balance of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD – a very appropriate acronym!). Lyrically close to "2 Minutes To Midnight", it seems also somehow related to "Tailgunner", but in a much more serious vein. No irony here, this is no joke. Mankind has now in its possession the means to destroy itself for good after a suicidal arms race that started in July 1945 with the detonation of the very first nuclear device in history and that still somehow carries on, even long after the end of the Cold War.

Ivan – also known as "Tsar Bomba" or "King of Bombs" – the most powerful weapon ever constructed by mankind, was exploded over the island of Novaya Zemlya, in the Arctic Sea, on 30th October 1961.
The development of nuclear weapons contributed to what was known as the "balance of terror" during the Cold War, ensuring that both main blocks could deter the other from attacking by knowing that the counter-attack would be at least as destructive as the initial strike. Many other countries, however, have tried to gain some kind of independance from the major forces in presence, which led to their owndevelopment programmes. The second half of the XXth Century saw therefore, after the first US atomic test in 1945 and that of the USSR in 1949, the entry of various other countries into this insane nuclear race: the UK in 1952, France in 1960, China in 1964, and India in 1974 – incidentally with a bomb code-named "smiling buddha", a desecration of the name of Buddha who is normally the most peaceful deity you can find in any human religions and who would find there certainly nothing to smile about! Even almost a decade after the official end of the Cold War, a country like Pakistan did its first nuclear test in 1998. Who's next, one may wonder...

What "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" deplores is the birth of this nuclear age that led to the fear of global nuclear warfare until 1989, then to the worrying knowledge that this kind of power could fall into the hands of fanatics ready to blow up any target in the Western World for some preposterous – usually religious – reason. Whereas nuclear energy remains an efficient, cheap and reliable source of power when controlled properly (forget the dubious reactors like Chernobyl, this is not what this is about), the military use of this wonderful discovery was not acceptable in 1945, nor is it today, for whatever reason.

Back to Iron Maiden's brilliant lyrics, one could disagree with the first line of the song as, according to the legend, humans are supposed to have been made in the image of God. The Ancient Testament, in the Bible – along with the Torah and the Qur'an – relate the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities destroyed by God himself. Aren't Hiroshima and Nagasaki a modern version of this ancient myth? In this case, we are indeed the sons of God – a chip off the old block, some would say – as we are capable or the same mindless and inescapable destruction as Him. We have indeed "crossed the path He trod".

 
Dr. Strangelove
Dr. Strangelove [1964]
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb is a 1964 Stanley Kubrick film based loosely upon the straight-faced thriller novel Red Alert by Peter George. Refashioned as a black comedy from the source material, Dr. Strangelove's subject matter satirizes the fragile nature of the Cold War conflict and the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. The film opens at an Air Force Base, where an insane general has just ordered a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. The rest of the film follows the President of the United States, his advisors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and an RAF officer as they all scramble to recall the bomber-wing in order to prevent a nuclear apocalypse.
The "strange love" mentioned in the lyrics is, of course, a reference to Stanley Kubrick's 1964 black comedy about the nuclear threat, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Likewise, the "trinity reformed" is an allusion to the code name of the site where the first atomic bomb was detonated, on 16th July 1945 in a desert of New Mexico, USA. This name, coined by no one else than Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, then scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory, and known nowadays as "the father of the atomic bomb". The name "Trinity" seems to have originated from one of John Donne's Holy Sonnets that Oppenheimer's former lover, Jean Tatlock, who had committed suicide a year earlier, had introduced him to. In any case, this symbol of death constitutes a pretty ironic link to the Holy Trinity of the Christian Church!

Oppenheimer [1904–1967], the famous "Robert" who "made war with the sun" in the lyrics, was a physicist heading the Manhattan Project and in charge of developing a nuclear weapon before the enemy would get a chance to do it. A lot of research on nuclear fission had been going on in industrialised countries in the 1930s, hoping to use it as a powerful source of commercial energy. Unfortunately, due to the political instability in the relationship between some countries, it was naturally envisaged that this source of energy could also be used as a weapon. Some Jewish physicists who had emigrated to the United States aired their worries that Nazi Germany may have set up a programme to make a powerful weapon of mass-destruction (although this particular term was not used at the time) out of this research. They drafted in Albert Einstein ("e=mc2 you can relate"), also a Jewish refugee and world-renowned scientist, to give more weight to the argument. They wrote a letter, known as the Einstein-Szilárd letter, that convinced President Roosevelt to create a research committee as soon as 1939 to investigate the possibilities to produce a nuclear weapon based on uranium fission. Progress was slow, as the whole concept wasn't taken very seriously by those in charge, but independent research from the UK soon speeded things up, as it was demonstrated that only a small quantity of uranium would be sufficient to detonate a bomb whose power had never been seen before. Eventually, an "all-out effort" was authorised by Roosevelt to develop such a bomb as soon as possible. From 1942 to 1945, scientists raced to be the first ones to detonate a nuclear device, which they did on three occasions in 1945: on 16th July a test bomb exploded at the Trinity test site in New Mexico, on 6th August a uranium bomb (romantically code-named "little boy") was dropped over Hiroshima, and on 9th August a plutonium bomb (code name "fat man") razed Nagasaki to the ground. The nuclear age, with its threat of total destruction of mankind, had started.

The irony of it all is that the German physicists of the time didn't do any serious research in this field and were in fact convinced that the reports they heard about their colleagues' work in the United States were mere propaganda. The "nuclear arms race" didn't actually exist during World War II and was run only by one side. Despite the fact that a petition was circulated among scientists of the project, pleading not to use the bomb against civilian populations, as it would be both immoral and unnecessary, Oppenheimer opposed it and the infamous destruction we all know of ensued. Although he later confessed feeling horrified and guilty, he never seems to have expressed any real regrets to have headed this programme of destruction. He merely stated that:
In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humour, no overstatement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin; and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose. 

This rather scary statement is echoed in the very last line of the song.

The Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project refers to the effort to develop the first nuclear weapons during World War II by the United States with assistance from the United Kingdom and Canada. Formally designated as the Manhattan Engineering District (MED), it refers specifically to the period of the project from 1942–1946 under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under the administration of General Leslie R. Groves, with its scientific research directed by the American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
J. Robert Oppenheimer [1904–1967]
J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist, best known for his role as the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to develop the first nuclear weapons, at the secret Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. He is the older brother of another physicist Frank Oppenheimer.
Known colloquially as "the father of the atomic bomb", Oppenheimer lamented the weapon's killing power after it was used to destroy the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he was a chief advisor to the newly created Atomic Energy Commission and used that position to lobby for international control of atomic energy and to avert the nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union.


 

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  The Pilgrim (Gers, Harris) The Pilgrim – Commentary The Pilgrim – Lyrics

Originally based on the story of the Mayflower – at least according to Steve Harris himself – this song with both Celtic and Oriental sonorities is essentially about any journey undertaken to find a better place, a better world. The "coming to America" is illustrated in the sentence "pilgrim sunrise, pagan sunset", which evokes quite obviously both a westward journey and the arrival of a religious community in a "pagan land", as well as the waning of the beliefs of the inhabitants of this land. One organised superstition basically replacing another.

Although they were a bunch of religious zealots that England didn't tolerate anymore, the pilgrims of the Mayflower constituted a real "kingdom of heaven to hell", as the hardships of their new life on the American continent almost killed them all (their first winter, 1620–21, saw the death of about half of the colonists). Regardless of their beliefs, the real miracle there was not "changing the water into wine", but their sheer survival in the extreme conditions they encountered.

It has also been mentioned that this song could also somehow be related to the crusades, due to the oriental sound of the music and the line "holy battles take their toll". However, there aren't any other elements in the song that could indicate that the pilgrim in question is a warrior. The notion of landing onto a new world seems to make more sense when you consider the song as a whole, although it could rightly be argued that the crusades were also about arriving into another world. The song needs therefore to be interpreted in a more general way than just focussing on a particular era or historical event.

The Mayflower was the ship that transported the Pilgrims from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in what would become the United States, in 1620. It left Plymouth on September 6 and dropped anchor near Cape Cod on November 11. This voyage was inspired by the successful establishment of the first permanent English settlement, Jamestown, by the London Company of Virginia in 1607.
The Crusades
The Crusades were a series of military campaigns waged in the name of Christendom and usually sanctioned by the Pope They were of a religious character, combining pilgrimage with military warfare. When originally conceptualized, the aim was to recapture Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the Muslims while supporting the Byzantine Empire against the Muslim Seljuq expansion into Anatolia. The fourth crusade however was diverted and resulted in the conquest of Constantinople. Later crusades were launched against various targets for a mixture of religious, economic, and political reasons, such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Aragonese Crusade, and the Northern Crusades.


 

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  The Longest Day (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) The Longest Day – Commentary The Longest Day – Lyrics

In the same vein as "Paschendale", this fantastic war epic deals with Operation Neptune, the landings in Normandy – representing the first step of a campaign code-named Operation Overlord (mentioned in the song) to gain a foothold on continental Europe – on 6th June 1944. The music, along with Bruce's fantastic vocals, depicts vividly the approach of the landing crafts towards the beaches and the hellish confrontation of the invasion itself. Bruce's singing style brings up the crescendo perfectly until the explosive verses that make us visualise the fights on the beaches. Other parts of the song, and mostly the chorus, also evoke the slow progress of the troops and the listener can almost see those men dragging their feet in the sand in a painful and mortal advance towards the enemy defences.

Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching Omaha beach.
Unlike "Paschendale", however, "The Longest Day" has some victorious and hopeful melodies intertwined with the harsh riffing reminiscent of the advance of the troops. Indeed, the landings in Normandy were, despite the horrendous human losses, a first step towards the victory over an evil regime that needed to be erased for good, unlike the battle of Passchendaele, which was a useless bloodbath that benefited no one. Apart from this major difference in the mood of the melodies and the aim of the battles, both songs are similarly grandiose and typical Iron Maiden epics.

The weather was a decisive factor for the landings and, whereas May had seen fair weather, the beginning of June didn't have the optimal conditions, forcing the Allied troops to wait until "the gathering storm abates". A full moon was also necessary, both for light and spring tide that would facilitate the landings. Among many others, the German command made the mistake to believe that an attack was not possible due to the fairly rough weather at that time. The troops had trained for the landing, not "all summer's long" as the song says, but during many spring weeks, and postponing the landings another month would have also vastly affected the morale of the soldiers who were as ready as they could be for a large-scale assault of the coasts of German-occupied France.

The D-Day landings in Normandy.
After the initial approach of the landing crafts with their cargo of "wretched souls puking, shaking fear", five landing points saw the formation of beachheads by the Allies. The Canadians arrived at Juno Beach and suffered a very high casualty rate during the first wave. The British landed at Sword and Gold, the latter being also the scene of heavy losses, and the Americans at Utah and Omaha, this last one seeing the highest number of soldiers killed of all landing grounds. A number of Free French and Polish units also entered the battle after the initial phase, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Although the songs doesn't mention them, the airborne units also contributed significantly to the success of Operation Neptune.

As it is mentioned that "the cliffs erupt in flames", the song may describe the action at Gold Beach, but the scenario was roughly the same at every landing point, and "remorseless shrapnel" was raining wherever Allied troops were trying to gain a foothold on land. The lyrics, vocal harmonies, as well as the music itself, are very reminiscent of the terrible – and some would say unnecessarily long – scene at the beginning of the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, and evoke vivid images of the slaughter that took place. In the three months that followed the D-Day, almost 72,000 Allied and about 200,000 German lives had been lost. The campaign was a success, albeit a costly one, that constituted one of the major steps towards the fall of a despicable regime.

The Longest Day
The retelling of June 6, 1944, from the perspectives of the Germans, the US, Britain, and the Free French. Marshall Erwin Rommel, touring the defenses being established as part of the Reich's Atlantic Wall, notes to his officers that when the Allied invasion comes they must be stopped on the beach. "For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be the longest day. The longest day."
Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 Academy Award winning film, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, set in World War II.
This film is particularly notable for the intensity of the scenes in its first 25 minutes, which depict the Omaha beachhead assault of June 6, 1944. Thereafter it takes a heavily fictionalised route built around the search for a paratrooper of the United States 101st Airborne Division, which was inspired by a true story.


 

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  Out Of The Shadows (Dickinson, Harris) Out Of The Shadows – Commentary Out Of The Shadows – Lyrics

Out of the shadows and into the sun
Incredibly melodic, "Out Of The Shadows" is one of the very few "power ballads" ever written by Iron Maiden, the others so far being "Prodigal Son", "No Prayer For The Dying", "Wasting Love", and "Journeyman". However, it is much better than the previous ones, with the notable exception of "Prodigal Son". This little musical gem has lyrics that deal with life, and essentially with its beginning: birth. Being born is indeed being brought out of the shadows and the newborn is – in Dickinson's words – "king for a day". The beauty of birth is however overshadowed by death, like all life, and one can't help but think about the sentence "as soon as you're born you're dying" in "The Clairvoyant".

The interesting – albeit quite futile – question of the meaning of life is once again raised, like in many other Iron Maiden songs – "what purpose to it all?" – and here again, no answer is given, provided there is one! Likewise, reincarnation is hinted at in the last sentence of the chorus – also a recurrent theme in their songs and another tie with "The Clairvoyant".

Nevertheless, this is a song of hope, like the hope that arises with every newborn child. Every new human life represents beauty as well as pain (ask any mother how it feels!) – the pain of birth and, naturally, the pain simply caused by living. This is inescapable, but we must indeed endure it during the short time we are "into the sun" to make life worth living before we return to oblivion, to those shadows we originally came out of.


 

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  The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg (Murray, Harris) The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg – Commentary The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg – Lyrics

Painting by B. Breeg
 
Benjamin Breeg was born in London on September 3rd, 1939.
After the deaths of his parents in a house fire in September, 1947, Breeg was sent to an orphanage in the East End. The cause of the fatal fire, to this day, remains unexplained. Breeg himself was present in the house at the time but escaped unharmed.

He was a bright child but very solitary, prompting one of his carers at the orphanage to state: "He has the demeanour of a child who seems to bear more weight upon his shoulders than any person should. What goes on behind his eyes makes one wonder what's troubling him." As well as his academic interests, Breeg also became interested in The Bible and expressed a desire to join the clergy.

Breeg was fostered by three families between 1947 and 1950 but each time, he was returned to the orphanage, unable to settle in any of the new homes that had offered to raise him. It was on his tenth birthday in 1949, that he began to experience nightmares that he himself later described as "the most vile and tortuous I have ever endured." Despite this, he went on to develop incredible talent as an artist and produced a large number of drawings, sketches and paintings. However, none of these survive and are believed to have been destroyed by Breeg himself. To this day, no one knows why. The subjects of these paintings, however, supposedly caused great consternation and distress among those who Breeg allowed to view them.

The verdict of one close friend who saw some of Breeg's work is as follows: "He says he paints what he sees. If this is true, I can only thank God I have no window into his mind."

Breeg's first job on leaving the orphanage, in 1954, was at a local Undertakers, where he was given the task of engraving headstones. His interest in the Bible had by now turned into what a colleague deemed to be "obsessive". He lived alone and little is known about his life between 1955 and 1959 other than that his interest in joining the clergy diminished. His obsession with the Bible, however, did not.

Breeg travelled widely between 1960 and 1970, visiting many different countries. Living for two years in Haiti before travelling to Eastern Europe where he lived between 1966 and 1969. He was forced to flee from Romania in 1969 following local Police investigations. He returned to England in March 1971. Upon his return, he was offered a position with the International Institute of Paranormal Investigation which he accepted.

Breeg wrote four books between 1971 and 1977. None of these, as far as can be ascertained, remain in print. All, however, concern the sights and cultures Breeg experienced while travelling. The emphasis in all four volumes is on the Occult practices of the countries visited.

Benjamin Breeg disappeared from his home on June 18th, 1978. All efforts to locate him proved unsuccessful.

From:www.benjaminbreeg.co.uk (dead site)

 

 
The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg single – Commentary
Based on a completely fictitious character that quite interestingly became a powerful marketing tool for the band, this song may be the weakest on the album. Its release as a single before the album itself has caused some disappointment among a few fans, but it must be said that, as part of the album, it blends perfectly well with the rest of the songs. It has a similar feel to the others and conveys the same sense of gloom and suffering as most of the songs on A Matter Of Life And Death both musically and lyrically. Anyway, being a weak song on such a brilliant album doesn't mean much. This is still an excellent piece.

For weeks after the announcement of the titles of the songs on the official site, everyone has been raking their brain to find out who Benjamin Breeg really was. A website about him even appeared out of the blue – supposedly set up by his cousin, a certain "A. Breeg" – telling a nice fictional story about this man of mystery (see above). This technique is known as "viral marketing" and consists in exploiting the interrelationships that exist within a community to spread a message through word-of-mouth in pretty much the same way as a viral infection travels from host to host. It is a cheap and very efficient technique that has been used successfully by many companies, but this seems to be the first time that it is employed by a Rock band (once again, Maiden are pioneers). In the present case, the most efficient tool was used: the Internet. Iron Maiden and their marketing people are aware that this medium of communication is extremely powerful (remember that Maiden was one of the first Rock bands to have a website) and made the most of it to make themselves known all over the Web. This gimmick wasn't necessary to promote the name and works of the band, as they have achieved more than their share of fame, but it nonetheless kept the Maiden world-wide community entertained, with the most ludicrous hypotheses about the real identity of Benjamin Breeg emerging here and there from fans with too much time on their hands.

The story is however quite interesting and many parallels can be made between the "life" of Benjamin Breeg, as described on the fake amateur website, and events related to the career of the band and its members (essentially Steve Harris). The following is a little compilation whose source is essentially the(now defunct) www.benjaminbreeg.com fansite and forum:

Benjamin Breeg was born in London on September 3rd, 1939.
Besides being the date of the declaration of war by the UK and France against Germany that led to the Second World War (war being a strong thread throughout the album), 1939 is also the release year of The Man In The Iron Mask, the film that inspired Steve Harris for the name "Iron Maiden".
After the deaths of his parents in a house fire in September, 1947, Breeg was sent to an orphanage in the East End.
Steve is himself from the East End of London and the rehearsals of the band took place at his grand-mother's, away from the parents (hence the notion of "orphan").
He was a bright child but very solitary, prompting one of his carers at the orphanage to state: "He has the demeanour of a child who seems to bear more weight upon his shoulders than any person should. What goes on behind his eyes makes one wonder what's troubling him." As well as his academic interests, Breeg also became interested in The Bible and expressed a desire to join the clergy.
Although the official biography doesn't dwell much on Steve's childhood, it hints that he was not exactly outgoing and sociable. The "interest in the Bible" is quite obviously a reference to Steve's love for football and to the fact that he considered becoming a professional fooballer ("a desire to join the clergy").
Breeg was fostered by three families between 1947 and 1950 but each time, he was returned to the orphanage, unable to settle in any of the new homes that had offered to raise him.
The "three families" are most probably a reference to Steve's tenure within three other bands, namely Influence, Gypsy's Kiss and Smiler, which he left to form Iron Maiden, as he was "unable to settle".
It was on his tenth birthday in 1949, that he began to experience nightmares that he himself later described as "the most vile and tortuous I have ever endured."
Steve is known to take inspiration from his nightmares, with "The Number Of The Beast" being the most famous example, albeit not the only one.
Despite this, he went on to develop incredible talent as an artist and produced a large number of drawings, sketches and paintings. However, none of these survive and are believed to have been destroyed by Breeg himself. To this day, no one knows why. The subjects of these paintings, however, supposedly caused great consternation and distress among those who Breeg allowed to view them.
Steve trained as a draughtsman and, according to the official biography, had some interest and talent in drawing. However, this could also be a reference to Derek Riggs (sometimes dubbed "the sixth member of Iron Maiden" during the 80s, due to his fantastic artwork that promoted the band as much as the music did). The subjects of the paintings revolving around the concept of Eddie, they have caused "great consternation" among some narrow-minded people – just remember the fuss some Bible-thumpers kicked when they saw the cover of the Number Of The Beast album!
The destruction of the paintings is probably only there to spice up the story, the only remaining one having incidentally a colour scheme reminiscent of the Soundhouse Tapes.
Breeg's first job on leaving the orphanage, in 1954, was at a local Undertakers, where he was given the task of engraving headstones. His interest in the Bible had by now turned into what a colleague deemed to be "obsessive".
Could the funeral company be that of "Eddie & Son", as depicted on the Death On The Road album cover? In 1974 (notice the 20-year shift), Steve was working as a draughtsman, which gives yet again an interesting tie withthe history of Iron Maiden. Besides, he was also as mad about football as ever.
He lived alone and little is known about his life between 1955 and 1959 other than that his interest in joining the clergy diminished. His obsession with the Bible, however, did not.
Whereas Steve had given up the professional football career (the "clergy"), his interest in this sport (the "Bible") never waned. Notice that there are hardly any recordings of Iron Maiden, and no official ones, between 1975 (year of the inception of the band) and 1979 (at the end of which they released the famous Soundhouse Tapes). There again a difference of 20 years.
Breeg travelled widely between 1960 and 1970, visiting many different countries.
The band toured extensively around the planet during the 1980s.
Living for two years in Haiti before travelling to Eastern Europe where he lived between 1966 and 1969.
Haiti is the country known for its practise of Voodoo, as described in the song "Dance Of Death" and "666" is an obvious reference to "The Number Of The Beast".
He was forced to flee from Romania in 1969 following local Police investigations.
Romania has a famous province called Transylvania, which is also the title of Maiden's first instrumental. Breeg's flight could also be a reference to "Running Free".
He returned to England in March 1971. Upon his return, he was offered a position with the International Institute of Paranormal Investigation which he accepted.
Some have mentioned a (rather dubious) link between the return to the motherland and the song "Sanctuary". This is however quite far-fetched.
Breeg wrote four books between 1971 and 1977. None of these, as far as can be ascertained, remain in print. All, however, concern the sights and cultures Breeg experienced while travelling. The emphasis in all four volumes is on the Occult practices of the countries visited.
Someone mentioned that some musicians of Iron Maiden played in four bands prior to joining: Gypsy’s Kiss (Steve Harris) 72–73, Smiler (Steve Harris) 74–75, Evil Ways (Dave Murray/Adrian Smith) 72–74, and Urchin (Adrian Smith) 74–77. The link here is not so clear, and the "20-year shift" hypothesis does not quite match either, although Bruce Dickinson did publish two books in 1990 and 1992.
Benjamin Breeg disappeared from his home on June 18th, 1978. All efforts to locate him proved unsuccessful.
The Soundhouse Tapes were recorded six months after Breeg's disappearance, but does this mean that Iron Maiden is his reincarnation? The 18th June is a famous date in war history (and therefore a link to the A Matter Of Life And Death album main theme), as this is the day Winston Churchill delivered his "finest hour" speech at the House of Commons in 1940 – and this ties also with the Live After Death version of "Aces High".
If the "20-year shift" hypothesis is to be extended to 30 years – and this need to be taken with a rather large pinch of salt – this could indicate that the "demise" of Iron Maiden is planned for 2008, with the release of their 15th and final album and subsequent touring. Although it is a plausible theory, it remains quite doubtful. Only time will tell...

In any case, whoever Benjamin Breeg is, this particularly tortured character seems to be suffering from a lot of guilt – "the sin of a thousand souls" – but nothing is clear when it comes to the reasons for this pain. The lyrics of the chorus can somehow be put in parallel with those of "Infinite Dreams":

Someone to save me
Something to save me from myself

    The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg 

 

Help me – help me to find my true self without seeing the future
Save me – save me from torturing myself even within my dreams

This interesting link raises therefore an obvious question: could it be that Benjamin Breeg is the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son? The question remains open to discussion...

With this obsession of trying to figure out who Benjamin Breeg is, only very few people really decided to deeply look into the lyrics. It's a shame, really, because they offer more than you would think at the first glance.

The title suggests, and a line in the lyrics support that, that the song is about reincarnation. The idea that a person or a soul dies and lives again seems ridiculous to some and very believable to others. Entire civilisations were built around this idea, and it is something that has moved humanity for almost as long as it exists.

The song introduces us to a character that, taken at face value in combination with the title, is the reincarnation of a thousand souls. This character knows that (s)he is a reincarnation and is plagued heavily with it. As the reincarnation of a thousand sinners, (s)he is haunted in his/her dreams, and the burden is a too heavy one to live with.

To me, however, there is another possible interpretation of the lyrics which, I hope, does not sound too wacky.
Most of us are, at one point in our lives, confronted with situations we feel, to say the very least, very uncomfortable with. There are situations that touch us deeply, and may as well wound us very deeply. When we are finally out of this situation, the memory may still be so unbearable that the common belief that time is a perfect healer proves to be wrong. Even years later, we look back and still feel the same pain or insecurity – to name but these two sentiments – as we did back then. Depending on how cutting the experience was, the memories return more or less frequently to haunt us, be it in our dreams or be it in situations when some sort of impulse brings us back all the memories.
With this background, let us examine this song.

The first verses are a careful introduction into the character's story. We are told of dreams and hopes, the natures of which are not specified &ndash and can remain open to interpretation. Are the dreams literally dreams that come to the character while (s)he sleeps or are they his/her hopes mentioned in the second verse?
The things that happen may be those incidents that inflict in him/her the burden (s)he carries the rest of his/her life.

The next lines imply a terrible incident in the character's past. Most likely, the character did something terrible that put a lot of guilt on him/her; on the other hand, it is also possible that the character simply made experiences (s)he can't be held responsible for but that left deep and painful marks. It is possible, though not likely, that a person is simply confronted with a situation which is simply impossible to resolve without getting yourself or somebody else hurt; likewise, such situations can simply appear without anyone consciously or unconsciously contributing to it. Yet, in the aftermath, the "victim" of this situation can feel guilty for all the pain (s)he inflicted on him/herself and possibly on others (though the latter case often just takes place in the mind of the "victim"). – I won't be forgiven 'til I can break freeMy sins are many, my guilt is too heavy

In other cases, a person may lose his or her dreams, which is the mildest possible case. Some see their dreams brutally slaughtered and will recover from that setback only very slowly, if ever.

The reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg, in that case, is not a literal reincarnation, but a metaphorical one. Out of the ashes of a person who lost – in this case – his dreams and hopes (which he said he'd tell you of in the song's introduction), who lost the life he was leading to that point. He started a "new life" (a term that is very overused, in my opinion) and became the reincarnation of his former self – Benjamin Breeg.
Yet, there are moments when memories of Ben Breeg's former life come back to him and haunt him still. Whatever it was that he did or that happened to him, he wants to rid himself of the memory. He is able to see things that happened in his/her past and has to live with the pressure of hiding what [he knows in order to lead a normal life. He feels he is going insane by himself, and the last part of the song is a cry for help; for someone to save [him], to bring salvation (...) to exorcise this hell. What nature this help is to be of always depends on the person looking for it.

Perun (from the MaidenFans forum) – 24th September 2006

I knew Nicko would be the one to spill the beans. He's too laid back to keep a secret:

FoundryMusicRob: First thing I want to ask about is what is probably on most people's minds, who is this Benjamin Breeg character? There are lots of theories out there and they all sort of come back to theme of war, about how Eddie is Benjamin, or Benjamin is a metaphor for war, perhaps the third World War that seems to imminent these days.

Nicko McBrain: ::Laughs:: That's a secret. ::laughs:: I really can't tell ya, I don't even know myself to be very honest with you. All I know is that it's an idea that Steve came up with, with Shaun Hutson, who is a horror writer. I think it's an alter ego of Eddie, or a part of Eddie's past, is all I can make out of it. Until I'm clued in completely, 100%, I can't… ::laughs:: Ya know? I mean, you're asking one of the band and I don't even know. ::laughs::

FoundryMusicRob: There are a lot of theories out there...

Nicko McBrain: Well, that's what we wanted. We wanted to keep it a bit vague and let people make up their own mind. Is it Eddie? Is it a reincarnation of some kind? Is it a brother? Is it an alter ego? It keeps you thinking, like a good thriller, see? ::laughs::

Source: FoundryMusic.com

Gor (from the MaidenFans forum) – 27th September 2006

Countering many of the opinions stated here, I'll say that The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg is a masterpiece. I find that it is in fact one of the best songs on the album, and I'm going to explain why... but one thing first. Have you listened to this song really LOUD? I mean, have you turned up the volume knob just in the pause after the intro and before the song gets going, and then been blasted away by those powerful riffs that drive this song? In fact, this and the guitar solo are the parts that make this song so great to me.

Of course it's a simple song. The riffs can easily be replayed by any hobby guitarist, the groove is extremely straightforward, there is no definitive chorus in the song. When I first heard it before the album, I wasn't sure what to think. But it takes time, and in the flow of the album it fits perfectly and feels like it belongs there. It doesn't give me a feeling like, "this is not Maiden". In fact, I think this is how I wish Maiden to write more songs in the future (only a few, but some). It's refreshing because it's different, and just because it's simple doesn't mean that it is easy to create such a song! I'm a drummer myself and yes, I can play the drums of Breeg after a few runthroughs, they're not complex. But it's tough work to keep the drive. It requires skill and finesse to get a song going like this, and keeping it on the track like this. The drums are extremely powerful, they push the song forward and at the same time lay back with some hits on the bass and snare drum, which makes it feel all the more "live" and natural, and adds pressure. This is a feeling that is hard to reproduce when anyone plays drums. Furthermore, Nicko adds some very fitting and enhancing fills, starting with little double strokes on the hihat and breaking up the song with nice quick tom rolls. It's little detail, but it makes the otherwise straight groove even more interesting.
Same goes for guitars; I don't think that the song would have such a drive if the guitars did not repeat the riff throughout the song, only changing harmonies and varying the riffs in parts. But it doesn't feel repetitive to me at all, it feels ambitious. Of course many Maiden songs have been written with more complex guitar work (more like melodies as the lead instead of riffs) and I love them just like I love this song. But discrediting Breeg just because of a different guitar style isn't the right approach in my eyes. Looking at the whole purpose of the song, it tries to represent aggression, fear, suppression and sadness, and the guitars, including the solo, convey these feelings a lot. They leave a lot of room for the vocals to unfold on top of them and these are powerful too, expressing stress and anger with long tones rather than many words in a line.

The solo feels thrilling to me. It's not much like what we expect from Maiden since it is rather slow and concentrated (one could say "simple" here too), but it hits the right tones to produce a feeling of sadness and depression, someone being lost and desperate, and for this purpose the solo is perfect. It seems to me that many of you miss the fast and beautiful solo work of Dave that we are used to, and many say that this solo does not mean much or that it is the "weakest solo on the album", but it has a purpose and musical message. In fact the usage of the word "weak" to describe the solo or the whole song is wrong to me. The song is not weak at all, it is powerful and emotional, and I wonder why people who dislike it cannot find more appropriate words such as "uninteresting", "unfitting", "unspectacular". Of course Breeg is not comparable to For The Greater Good Of God, but the two songs have different purposes. One describes a state we have in our world that lead to catastrophic results while the other explores the psyche of a mysterious character. Put the songs in perspective and compare them, and you cannot have ten Greater Goods on an album. This should not make songs like Breeg seem "weak" or inferiour.

Of course there is personal taste over anything. If you don't like the song, that's your entitled opinion which is most probably based on intuition. But I have found that by examining songs, especially their construction, feeling and lyrics, they can become much more interesting and enjoyable whereas you might have found them unspectacular before.

Just something to think about.

MadMax (from the MaidenFans forum) – 4th October 2006

Quote from: Perun on 24th September 2006

Most of us are, at one point in our lives, confronted with situations we feel, to say the very least, very uncomfortable with. There are situations that touch us deeply, and may as well wound us very deeply. When we are finally out of this situation, the memory may still be so unbearable that the common belief that time is a perfect healer proves to be wrong. Even years later, we look back and still feel the same pain or insecurity -to name but these two sentiments- as we did back then. Depending on how cutting the experience was, the memories return more or less frequently to haunt us, be it in our dreams or be it in situations when some sort of impulse brings us back all the memories...

The things that happen may be those incidents that inflict in him/her the burden (s)he carries the rest of his/her life...

It is possible, though not likely, that a person is simply confronted with a situation which is simply impossible to resolve without getting yourself or somebody else hurt; likewise, such situations can simply appear without anyone consciously or unconsciously contributing to it. Yet, in the aftermath, the "victim" of this situation can feel guilty for all the pain (s)he inflicted on him/herself and possibly on others...
The reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg, in that case, is not a literal reincarnation, but a metaphorical one. Out of the ashes of a person who lost -in this case- his dreams and hopes (which he said he'd tell you of in the song's introduction), who lost the life he was leading to that point. He started a "new life" (a term that is very overused, in my opinion) and became the reincarnation of his former self- Benjamin Breeg.
Yet, there are moments when memories of Ben Breeg's former life come back to him and haunt him still. Whatever it was that he did or that happened to him, he wants to rid himself of the memory. He is able to see things that happened in his/her past ...

Hmm, everyone seems to have ignored these comments and gone back to wondering who Benjamin Breeg is as though he were a real person. I like the idea that he is a metephor. Perun describes, I think, something we can surely all relate to, or am I just an unlucky person who stumbled into an impossible situation that I still feel regret over handling the wrong way. In all conceivable outcomes someone somehow would have and did get wounded. Sometimes the most random things bring the memories back and I have to stop and take a deep breath before I can go on. I don't know how you got this idea from the words of the song, I wouldn't have seen it in a million years. I like this forum, the song made me feel as though I was putting on an old, comfy pair of threadbare socks anyway, but I wouldn't have found this theme to relate to if I hadn't read your comments. The song has new meaning for me. Music is an amazing medium, the way we can all find something to relate to in the voice of another, even though those things may be different and personal to each one of us. And probably, not what the writer was thinking of at all.

Oddly enough, this seems to tie in with your comments on the lyrics to Different World. The starting a new life, whilst pining after the old one. Some memories die hard. But then, they make us who we are... Deep stuff. Emotions are immense waves; the sea is turbulent.

I like studying faces in the parking lot
cause it doesn't remind me of anything
I like driving backwards in the fog
cause it doesn't remind me of anything
 – Doesn't remind me by Audioslave.

ophelia (from the MaidenFans forum) – 25th May 2007


 

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  For The Greater Good Of God (Harris) For The Greater Good Of God – Commentary For The Greater Good Of God – Lyrics

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. 
Seneca [ca. 4 BCE–65 CE], Roman philosopher
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. 
Steven Weinberg [born 1933], American physicist and Nobel prize 1979

About religious fundamentalism and fanaticism, this rather long song is a typical Harris epic, with a fantastic instrumental part leading to blinding solos. The lyrics themselves are a sharp criticism of the worryingly spreading extreme religious views from various confessions. When a "man of peace", which is what a priest or a "good" believer of any faith is supposed to be – at least if you are to believe the scriptures of most religions – becomes a "man of holy war", the blind followers can become a destructive and uncontrollable force. Steve Harris is trying to rationalise all this throughout the song, but it is well known that "reason is the worst enemy of faith", as the saying goes.

Those dubious preachers with their "too many sides", encourage the distrust and all too often the outright hatred of whoever, as a people or individuals, does not follow the same faith – or even have no faith at all! As Voltaire [1694–1778] so rightly put it, "those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". What is hard to understand is that the hateful actions sometimes undertaken in the name of religion are supposed to be done "for the greater good of God", as the powerful chorus of the song sarcastically reminds us. The pre-chorus itself asks essential questions that tend to be too often ignored, as religions are supposed to deal with life and spread a word of love. If this is the case, let's not forget what war is – bringing death and hatred – and let's remember once again what life is. There too Voltaire can appropriately be quoted when he wrote that you should "think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too" – in other words, live and let live.

The three abrahamic religions of the planet – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – all have their share of intolerance against one another, and history shows that this has been the cause of countless massacres and of the shedding of far too much innocent blood, even among different branches of the same basic faith. It would be pointless, and would take too long, to list all the atrocities and genocides – sometimes attempted, other times successful like in the case of the Cathars who were eradicated by the Catholic Church (for more details, see another great Maiden song: "Montsegur") – committed for the glory of some god or another. Likewise, with the notable exception of Buddhism, non-abrahamic religions have also been encouraging the slaughter of many a people who didn't share the same religious ideals. Whatever god people may worship, human psychology explains otherwise seemingly illogical behaviours ("Their actions beyond a reasoning"), and the sheep-like aspect of most religious communities can appropriately be summarised by the following quote:

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd. 
Bertrand Russell [1872–1970], British philosopher, logician and mathematician

This "herd instinct" is often used by so-called religious leaders who instill fear into the minds of the people, making them easier to manipulate. The US government, under the George W. Bush administration, has used the same method, although on a more secular level, on its citizens with the so-called "fear of terrorism", but priests have been using it for millenia. After all, even the Bible states that "the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalms 111:10). This rather dubious affirmation is also repeated in the Torah and, although in different terms, in the Qur'an. Many dictators have used this fear quite efficiently by using religion to support the totalitarian rule of the state, as well as the fear of God as a weapon against those who otherwise would question their regimes. Likewise, some religious leaders have obtained great followings throughout history, and even today, by talking about sin, hell, damnation, and fear, and how any kind of disobedience to the god they pretend to serve can be "redeemed" by their intervention. As long as people will believe that they can be subjected to some kind of divine punishment – or reward as well, like reaching Valhalla in the case of the Viking warriors of old, or receiving a number of virgins directly from Allah in the afterlife in the case of the islamic murderers of innocent people – those self-righteous Jewish, Christian and Muslim priests will continue to blurt out sermons about this god who loves one minute, and murders the next.

This herd-like collective fear can only be thwarted by individuality, as the basic beliefs of those groups are not necessarily wrong. It is simply that institutionalised practices and selfish interests tend to corrupt any kind of clear thinking, making it more difficult for organised religions to adapt quickly, whereas the individual believers most often can – provided that they use their intellect as well as their faith. Naturally, as the most intelligent people are frequently those who tend to have a more critical view, all religions have been challenged, both internally and from the outside, by those who have an appropriate intellect and who make the effort to use it. As a general rule, education and intelligence oppose blind faith and unfounded beliefs, and intelligent philosophers throughout history have been trying to air whatever questions, doubts and concerns they may have had over the beliefs of popular religion. All too often, attempts to silence these people, by either murder or imprisonment, have been made by the accused authorities, although this seem to be a much less common practice nowadays – at least in the Western world, and let's hope that this freedom of speech will also reach other parts of the planet, and not the other way around.

Obviously, intelligence allows an individual to doubt dogmas presented as facts, as well as unfounded assumptions, as it is well-known that assumptions and faith are among the main postulates of so-called "intellectual" religious beliefs ("The blind leading the blind"). However, it must be stressed that emotional belief is quite different, as intelligent people can also be religious due to social or emotional factors. An intelligent person can have beliefs in a god, but still remain critical and open-minded when it comes to institutionalised religion – his or her own, as well as that of others. But let's face it: God does NOT exist and it would be time for Mankind to grow out of those ancient creeds and use reason instead of superstition.

The apparent wave of fundamentalism that is currently washing over all religions, abrahamic or not, is however nothing new, and history shows that "dark" ages come and go, with periods of enlightenment. This song reflects on the current emergence of one of those eras where the "greater good of God" seems more important than that of the people. The very last verse reminds us of one of the main creeds of the Christian Church – although Jews and Muslims are equally concerned – that a man called Jesus, whose historical existence is sometimes disputed but whose impact on our civilisation was tremendous whoever he was, supposedly died for "for all of those who never mourn his loss". As the song goes, "it wasn't meant for us to feel the pain again", but this was without counting on human nature, full of vindictive violence and unable to live in peace. The herd-like notion embodied by the phrase "the Lord is my shepherd" shows then its full significance and causes man to become a wolf for man, except that, here, the sheep are the dangerous ones!


 

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  Lord Of Light (Smith, Harris, Dickinson) Lord Of Light – Commentary Lord Of Light – Lyrics

Lucifer. The Light-bringer. The Lord of Light. This song deals with this former archangel who, according to the legend, rebelled against God and was subsequently cast down to Earth. Being a fallen angel, he obviously doesn't see this "strange world" quite the same as the rest of us and wonders why humans are so blind – "Nothing hidden still you fail to see the truth" – and keep perpetrating massacres upon each other – "Why the slaughter of the brotherhood of man".

Lucifer by Franz von Stuck [1863–1928]

Still according to the legend, Lucifer is supposed to be at the origin of all evil in our world, but the song makes us see our own lives through his eyes, highlighting the fact that we, as humans, are the ones responsible for this evil. There is even an appeal to us to change – "Revenge is living in the past, time to look into a new millenium" – although, from what he witnessed of his stay on Earth, "we are not worthy in [his] black and blazing eyes".

The sentence "all our sins to you we give this day" makes an interesting tie with another song that also deals with a demon residing amongst humans, namely "The Fallen Angel". Lucifer and the other demons are usually blamed for our low deeds. But it's all too easy to find scapegoats and put all our sins on them, so we can just go on and commit new ones. The chorus admonishes us to "free [our] soul and let it fly" (note that similar lines can also be found in "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "The Thin Line Between Love And Hate") and to "give [our] life to the Lord of Light", as he seems to be the only one who can guide us "in this lonely promised land" after we were "cast out by our bloody father's hand" (i.e., God).

The last line – "In our nightmare world, the only one we trust" – sums up very well the state of the world since humans appeared on the planet, making each other's lives a misery and only trusting the symbol of evil that this Lord of Light traditionally represents. However, the meaning could be reversed and we could interpret the message of this song as a sign that we should trust science and reason, as this is what Lucifer stands for, bringing light to the civilisation and making it progress forward. So, let's not hesitate to metaphorically give our lives to this Lord of Light and try to make this world a better place by pushing back the remaining shadows that still plague too many people's minds.

It should be stressed that no one actually needs a god or a devil to satisfy his or or her thirst for knowledge. This commentary does not by any means encourage Satan worshipping, notwithstanding the fact that He is only a symbol and – like God – does not exist. We can all follow our own desire to learn and follow in the footsteps of those who have had the same desire before us.

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!

Charles Baudelaire [1821–1867] – Translation copyright© 1999 by William A. Sigler

Lucifer

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heav'n.Paradise Lost [1667], Book I, 263
(Lucifer by Gustave Doré [1832–1883])


 

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  The Legacy (Gers, Harris) The Legacy – Commentary The Legacy – Lyrics

The start of "The Legacy", sounding like some eerie lullaby, sets the scene of what could be a political thriller, with the "tale of the men all dressed in black" who are "sent off to war to play little games". These men are quite evidently special forces on an undercover mission, an assignment that seems to be ultra-secret, as the survivors "can't name no names" when they return, and also particularly dangerous because the story-teller states that "most of them [are] not coming back".

Jacob's Ladder
The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.

New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Though his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain.
There is a mention of a "strange yellow gas" that "played with their minds", reminiscent of the story of the 1990 film Jacob's Ladder, where US troops in Vietnam are subjected to a drug that alters their perception of reality and renders them extremely aggressive. Although the "gas" of the lyrics seems to elicit a different response than the drug in the film, the mind-altering effect, as well as its potential lethality, are clearly obvious.

Then, the story shifts to some character laying on his death bed after a life of political intrigues, deceit and seemingly various evil deeds as a leader, including that of sending out those men on some secret mission. Behind the mask of peace achievement ("You had us all strung out with promises of peace"), this character has done nothing but render the world even more unsafe than it was before, putting the lives of innocent people at risk with "prophecies [that] will send us all to hell as well". One cannot help but compare with the current situation worldwide, with governments waging wars, secretly or not, that endanger the lives of all of us due to the threat of terrorism that these conflicts generate – after all, most bomb attacks in Western countries stem from the politics in the Middle-East of some so-called leading industrialised nations, and cause innocent civilians to pay that price with their lives.

The second and last part of the song, after the solo, enlarges the picture to something more general (notice the progression from the specific secret mission of the "men all dressed in black", to the leader who ordered the mission lying on his death bed, then to a broader worldwide situation). Although there is hope while there is life, some still consider that "life is cheap" and blatantly disregard the basic respect for other human beings, may they be their own troops sent to the slaughter, or simple citizens who die as a result of their dubious political manœuvres.


 

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