Some bands and musicians I will never tire of no matter how old I get; Iron Maiden is one of those bands. Each and every time I revisit their catalog, I’m instantly transported back to being that fifteen year old kid, still trying in earnest to figure out any and every Steve Harris bassline I could in my old bedroom. And when I finally saw the band live in 2011 after years of admiration, I must have had the most visibly dopey smile around that night as I sat in the audience in complete awe.
So it didn’t take much to get me through the door at The Plaza Live for frontman Bruce Dickinson’s Orlando stop on his new spoken word tour, which just kicked off this week here in Florida. While worlds away from a Maiden or even solo performance, the charismatic singer spent the evening going through both his professional and personal life experiences with enough energy and one-liners to rival just about any stand up comedian.
Beginning with his early life and leading up to his joining bands like Shots and Samson during his college years, he eventually lead up to his induction into Iron Maiden and many of the adventures that naturally came with it, using slides along the way like a professor teaching his course. Of course he also discussed his career as an airline pilot and battle with cancer as well. But don’t expect to hear much singing at these shows; aside from brief a cappella lines from “Run to the Hills” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be” weaved within his storytelling, there was not a whole lot of it to be found.
After a brief intermission, where the video for the latest Maiden single, “The Writing on the Wall,” was displayed, Dickinson returned to answer questions from fans who turned in handwritten cards handed out before the show. This lead to some of the night’s most comical moments, with one particular, KISS vs. Slade inquiry posed from a Liverpool fan being one of the highlights.
I could see this perhaps not going over too well for a mere casual observer. But for a die hard fan, it was just the right amount of history (although I must confess, I was already familiar with many of his stories, having already read his autobiography). Dickinson has no doubt lead a fascinating life, and if you’re able to go in with an open mind, you might just be glad you did.
Originally I had debated reviewing a certain other metal album that also came out last week, but swiftly decided I’d rather spend my time on some good, non-preachy metal that’s not actually lead by some delusional, hypocritical tool (sorry, Al). I’m beyond glad I went with KK’s Priests’ Sermons of the Sinner instead, which reaches epic proportions in no time.
When guitarist K.K. Downing originally left Judas Priest in 2011, I was legitimately disappointed; in my book, he was the driving force behind the band, and as irreplaceable as Keith Richards is to The Rolling Stones. But I was glad to hear of this new project of his called KK’s Priest, which also features one time Judas Priest frontman Tim “Ripper” Owens on vocals. To say what K.K. has assembled here is a winning combo would be an understatement.
Like the last effort from counterparts Iron Maiden, unrelenting guitar riffs and empowering lyrics are immediately in full swing here, even with album opener “Hellfire Thunderbolt” being one of the weakest numbers throughout. Tracks like “Raise Your Fists,” “Metal Through and Through,” and “All Hail the Priest” reawaken that primal, youthful spirit in a way that only metal truly can.
Is it perfect? No. But Sermons of the Sinner is without a doubt the Judas Priest album I’ve been hoping for for years now. And if the two factions can’t find a way to ever merge forces again, I suppose this really is the next best thing.
It’s been six years since Iron Maiden released their last studio album, 2015’s The Book of Souls. At the time, Rewind It Magazine still didn’t even exist (although I did review the album for another publication at the time), nor did half of the lunacy that has since plagued humanity. But leave it to good old reliable Iron Maiden to stick to their guns and continue to grow their metal catalogue with ease in a way that only they know how.
Senjutsu (their second double album, and seventeenth overall), is just as epic as anything the band has released yet. The eight minute long title track starts the record off promising, but things really pick up by “Stratego,” a rallying battle cry reminiscent of the band’s 1983 classic “The Trooper.” At no point does Maiden disappoint or let up, continuing to get deep and explore multiple themes on tracks like “Lost in a Lost World,” “Days of Future Past,” “Darkest Hour,” and “Hell on Earth.” The only “complaint” one might be able to find here (if looking for one) is the actual length of many of its songs.
Those who “get” Iron Maiden will always understand their genius. They’re not some washed up nostalgic act forced to rely on their material of yesterday, as so many acts from their era so often do. After years of admiration, I was lucky enough to finally see them live in 2011 for The Final Frontier tour; to this day, it remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended, and I would go see them tour for Senjutsu in a heartbeat as well. We’re beyond lucky to still have them around, and at the top of their game at that.