This has been out a week now, so apologies for the dated-ness.
But, datedness is sort of the theme of this post! Iron maiden's new album is out next month, and in advance of this their new single 'Speed of Light' was released to the internet just over seven days ago.
The song is pretty cool - something of a throwback to early Nineties Maiden with Bruce Dickinson's growly voice, and a more rocking feel than the progfests of recent albums. That said, it's an opening track, and the band tend to have form on this tactic - 'El Dorado' was the taster for Final Frontier, 'A Different World' was AMOLAD's opener, and it's arguable whether either was indicative of their parent albums.
But hey, I like it. It's got a lovely Ritchie Blackmore style riff to kick things off, some nice leads from all three guitarists, Bruce sounds great (pre-cancer diagnosis, it must be said), and there's more cowbell working hard here than Waikato Stadium in a home game.
To be honest, though, it's the video that's the drawcard. I love a good video, and with Maiden I think they're something of a rarity: the early days are very much live performance-based with movie cutaways; in the Nineties these turned into slicker products that somehow didn't really sell the band or Eddie very well - some of them just tried too hard. On the whole, however, it's when Eddie'in the visuals that the videos work best, and 'Speed of Light' is a great example, being almost all about the history of Eddie and Maiden's most memorable album covers, as experienced through the medium of... video games! I have fond memories of mashing rubber ZX Spectrum keys to the background sounds of Number of the Beast and Maiden's debut album (point of fact: both games and music were likely loaded on the same tape deck.) Iron Maiden are around the same age as your common or garden home entertainment system, so the synergy of the band's evolution alongside that of digital gaming works really well. Eddie is back in his rightful punkish fright wig original form, it's witty, deferential, self-referential (count those nods!*) and, I think, more than a little essential.
A brief pause to reflect that this is not the first time the worlds of Maiden and video games have crosed paths, as the mid-Nineties compilation/video game Ed Hunter attests. Reception in the gaming mags was not kind, apparently, and it goes to show that despite heavy metal making an excellent gaming soundtrack, getting the right mix is a delicate art. I think they've cracked it this time, though. Hell, I'd buy it :)
UPDATED: Thanks to Dave R's observations, it appears I got my wish!
*Visual references I noted:
1. 'Donkey Kong' section: The East End street location from the debut, Killers et al, Eddie's Killers axe, thrown 'eye' TV sets from the 'Holy Smoke' single art 'Charlotte', the Club Paradiso poster, bin bags and Bat Signal from 'Bring Your Daughter... to the Slaughter'
2. 'Future City' section: Live After Death, Powerslave and Somewhere in Time album covers; Cyborg Eddie, foetal Eddie from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son; Alien Eddie head from The Final Frontier; Trooper Ale
3. 'Mortal Kombat' section: 'Number of the Beast' and 'Run to the Hills' single covers.
4. 'Real World' prologue and epilogue: Console from 'Wasted Years' video, gaming cabinets for A Matter of Life and Death, No Prayer for the Dying and Final Frontier; score table with current band members, Eddie and Rod Smallwood included.