The Metal Files

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Posts Tagged ‘nicko mcbrain

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier Review

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What a terrible album cover!

I’m at a loss for words (pun intended) on trying to review this album.  Anyone that knows me knows I always have words, especially when it comes to talking about music.  But this is a little bit difficult.  But now I am reviewing an album by my all time favorite band ever…EVER!  There is no other band that could be #1 for me, it’s just not possible.  But for the sake of my adoring public *cough*, I’ll try to scribble out some drivel for your voracious reading palettes.

I don’t need to go back into the annals of The Metal Files and rehash my love for Maiden, it’s all there for you to peruse on your own.  But for as much as I have loved them since 1984, I have not been so blinded by fandom to think that they can do no wrong.  They’ve released their share of shit over the years.  What?  You want that list?  It’s ugly and many will disagree, but here goes:

  • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (I can tolerate it better now than when it was released, but I detested it for years upon years)
  • Fear of the Dark
  • The X-Factor
  • Virtual XI
  • Dance of Death

Did you notice that The Final Frontier didn’t make the list?  Look again, it’s not up there.  Don’t get me wrong, this album is not ‘awesome’ or ‘great’ or ‘brilliant’ or even ‘ground-breaking’, but it is quite a solid album…with some warts.  It’s the album that I expected after A Matter of Life and Death, which I loved.

I heard 30 second clips from each of the songs about a month ago and noticed something going on with either Bruce’s voice or the production of his voice.  It sounded raspy, unclear and low in the mix.  I honestly thought Maiden leaked rough mixes as a joke to fool their adoring public.  I was wrong.  Bruce sounds tired on this which is a bit surprising as he sounded great on the tour.  While I don’t hear any auto-tuner done on his voice,  it is pretty clear that much of his vocals were punched in.  There are too many areas where even the mighty Air Raid Siren would physically not be able to catch his breath if he tried to sing some of this stuff straight through.  And that’s not a big deal, bands have been recording vocals like this for decades.

When first seeing the tracklistings and the lengths of the songs, I knew what we were going to get; lots of intros and outtros and long repetitive choruses.  We get some of that on this record for sure, but it doesn’t seem as much of the repetitiveness as we’ve seen on recent recordings by “Ron Maiden and the Dixie Chickens” (aka Iron Maiden).

Something I noticed on this album and the last one is the “absence” of Steve Harris.  Sure you can hear him in the intros and in the main parts of the songs clanking along on his P-bass, but where are the signature ‘Arry bass runs?  I just don’t hear them and have missed that in recent years.  There are some areas where Nicko’s right foot still lets you know that he’s a bad mofo, but some of his fills seems to lack the energy and creativity that my favorite drummer used to have.  Yes, he’s always been “Mr. 4-on-the-floor”, but it seems to happen way too much on this album.

While it pains me to say this, my favorite track on the album was penned by Jannick Gers:  The Alchemist.  It’s the shortest song on the album clocking in at a mere 4’29”.  It’s also the most energetic and upbeat song on the record.  Everything else is mid-paced with a few bursts here and there.  But still, get Jannick out of the band already!  Sure he’s been there for 20 years now but make him go away.

Adrian Smith has writing credits on 6 of the 10.  Some of his stuff in the classic Maiden era were Maiden’s best songs.  He’s a talented guy and I loved his solo album, but what I am hearing on here doesn’t have the classic “H” feel to it.  Of course, this isn’t your father’s Maiden either.

Dave Murray gets some credit on The Man Who Would Be King.  Upon my first listen to that track, I thought to myself, “Self?  This one must’ve been written by Dave Murray.”   It just seems like a Dave song, I don’t know any better way to explain it.  Neither good nor bad.

I’ve read some other reviews of this album where people are giving accolades to the closing track When The Wind Blows.  It’s 10+ minutes long, Maiden’s 3rd longest song ever.  In general I don’t care for it.  I don’t like the way that the guitar follows the vocals or vice versa.  But the last few minutes of this song give us a flash of classic Maiden.

It took me a few listens but I realized something…this album reminds me a lot of one of their older albums…No Prayer For The Dying.  I’m not sure exactly why it brings back memories of that album but it does, sans the retardedly goofy lyrics of NPFTD.  Since Dance of Death, Maiden has been plodding along, playing it safe.  It’s worked well on some songs, on others not so much.

All in all, The Final Frontier isn’t terrible and I’ll spin it several more times before this week is over, but it won’t rank up there in my favorite Maiden albums, not even close.  Still, it’s better than what some of the other “classic” metal bands have been putting out in recent years (Nostradamus anyone?).  If you’ve liked Maiden’s stuff since Brave New World (or anything from the Gers era), then you will not be disappointed.  If you only care for the pre-1990 stuff, don’t bother with this.  It will be a waste of time for you.

6.5/10 is my rating.  It could have been a lot worse, and like anything else, it could have been a lot better.  I guess I really wasn’t at a loss for words…big ‘orra!

Written by The Metal Files

August 18, 2010 at 8:16 am

It was a cold night in February 1988…

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…when I met Nicko McBrain. He had come to town to do a drum clinic for Sonor Drums and Paiste Cymbals. As a zit -faced, poofy-haired kid who loved Iron Maiden more than just about anything, this clinic was like a taste of Heaven. There were only about 30 people there as Whitesnake were in town touring for the ’87 LP. I was one of 2 people who actually got to get up on stage and play his drums with him standing right there. It was awesome. During one of his rambles, he mentioned the size of the crowd being small due to Whitesnake being in town. Under my breath from the front row I said “Fuck Tommy Aldridge.” Nicko stopped his speech and said, “Steve, give that man a beer!” So his tech handed me an ice cold Heineken which I had Nicko autograph after the show. I still have that bottle, unopened and it’s all chunky inside. I didn’t drink at the time so there was no reason to open it.

Here it is:

Written by The Metal Files

January 10, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Iron Maiden – Night Of The Living Dead (Live 1982)

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Here’s a GREAT live show from the New York Palladium, June 29, 1982.  This apparently was a radio broadcast.  The only thing that could have made this show better for me was if they had played Total Eclipse.

Tracks:

01. Murders In The Rue Morgue
02. Wrathchild
03. Run To The Hills
04. Children Of The Damned
05. The Number Of The Beast
06. The Prisoner
07. Hallowed Be They Name
08. Phantom Of The Opera
09. Iron Maiden
10. Sanctuary
11. Drifter

Download it here.

Written by The Metal Files

January 2, 2010 at 10:18 am

Iron Maiden – The Whole Population Of Hackney (Live 1985)

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Here’s a sort of rare Maiden bootleg that I used to have on vinyl ages ago.  I used to be a bigtime Maiden record collector and had well over 200 records.  Those old days of trading records through magazine ads and the early alt.newsgroup days are long gone thanks to the advancement of the Internet.  Good times though.  Never a deal gone sour!  I sold off most of my entire record collection around 2000.  Sometimes I wish I still had it all but I used to move a lot and lugging those crates around were a bear.

Anyhoo…The Whole Population of Hackney (aka The Entire Population of Hackney).  This was an odd little show and technically it’s not even an Iron Maiden show.  You can read about the history of this recording here.

One of the things I liked about this is that some of the songs ended up being recorded by Adrian under his ASAP project.  I love that album and wish he would have done a followup.

Tracks:

  1. EastEnders theme/”Juanita” – 4:32 (Marshall Fury cover)
  2. “See Me Through” – 3:22 (original by James Buster Band)
  3. “Reach Out” – 3:36 (Written by Dave Colwell for the project)
  4. “Chevrolet” – 3:38 (Stray Dog cover)
  5. “Lady” – 6:55 (Urchin song)
  6. “Silver and Gold” – 6:21 (Later used with ASAP)
  7. “That Girl” – 5:06 (composed by the first instance of FM band with Andy Barnett on. Circa ’84)
  8. “Fighting Man” – 5:33 (Written by Dave Colwell for the project)(later appeared on the ASAP single, Silver and Gold)
  9. “School Days” (with extended drum solo) – 5:51 (Originally written by Colwell for his band 720) (later appeared on the ASAP single, Down the Wire)
  10. “When She’s Gone” – 5:30 (Not the Black Sabbath song. Later appeared on the ASAP single, Down the Wire)
  11. “Try” – 4:06 (Written by Kenny Mountain, who also co-wrote Rainbow’s Gold)
  12. “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)” – 4:11 (from Iron Maiden’s Powerslave) (Steve Harris and Dave Murray enter the stage)
  13. “2 Minutes To Midnight” – 6:11 (from Iron Maiden’s Powerslave) (Bruce Dickinson enters the stage)
  14. “Rosalie” – 4:33 (Bob Seger cover)
  15. “Tush” – 4:29 (ZZ Top cover)

Download it here.

Pat Travers – Putting It Straight

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When I was still collecting vinyl, Iron Maiden was my #1 interest.  As you probably know they released a ton of stuff and I had a good selection of itPUTTING thanks to Unicorn Records, Skinnies Records, Electric Smiles, Fantasy, eBay and trading through some pen pal type things from the backs of magazines.  Oddly enough there were never any problems with the traders.  I never got ripped off once.  Honest lot those metalheads!  As a subset to collecting Maiden stuff, I also was trying to collect everything that Nicko McBrain had played on.  Not an easy task as there were some pretty obscure British things out there.

So my former supervisor and I were good friends and he told me about his record collection that had been sitting in his closet for 15 years.  Knowing Mark like I did, I knew these were in near perfect condition.  The guy was meticulous about everything.  So I randomly stopped by Mark’s house one day (1993ish?)  when I was in the neighborhood and we were just hanging out and catching up a bit as we hadn’t seen each other in a while.  After a while I asked if he still had his records.  He said he still had them and wanted to sell them.  I wasn’t in the market to buy the collection but I surely wanted to peruse his crates.  So he pulls out these 3 huge crates of records and I start flipping through one by one.  Tons of 70s rock. You know, BOC, Zeppelin, Stones, Bob Seeger, Poco, America, etc etc.  Nothing too obscure and surely nothing that a record collector would have paid more than 3-4 dollars each for.

There near the end of perusal, there it was.  It was one of those heavenly “ahhhhhh” moments where it seemed like the clouds parted and the sun shone down on this box of records.  Pat Travers’ Putting It Straight with Nicko on drums!  Mark still claims to this day that I was shaking when I was holding it.  I don’t doubt that I was.  I was pretty excited.  I said, “How much?”  He responded, “Not for sale.”  What a douche!  But he did tell me to take it with me until I found my own copy.  It was in pristine shape.  PERFECT even.  Shortly thereafter I found another vinyl copy at Skinnies and a year or 2 later he had the original and rare Jap pressing of the CD which I also bought.

I adore this album.  It’s got Nicko’s signature drum licks written all over it.  My favorites are Life In London, Offbeat Ride, Gettin’ Betta and It Ain’t What It Seems.  The album as a whole is good and I highly recommend it if you’re into 70s hard rock.

Around 1994-1995 Pat came to town to play Wicker’s in Portsmouth, VA.  I did my usual “show-up-to-the-gig-super-early” routine to hopefully meet the band.  I lucked out as they were all inside getting ready to eat.  I walked up to Pat and asked him to sign a few things for me and he was really cool.  He signed my vinyl copy of this album and my CD cover.  I asked him to talk about how it was to play with Nicko and he didn’t have many nice things to say.  “Good drummer but a complete asshole after that whole Iron Maiden thing.”  Apparently after Nicko joined Maiden, he landed his helicopter in Pat’s yard and bragged about his success.  Who knows?  I wouldn’t be that surprised if it was true.  Not important to me either way.  The guy that was sitting with us while we were talking about Nicko was Aynsley Dunbar.  Of course I didn’t know that at the time.  Had I known he was drumming for Pat, I would have brought my Jefferson Airplane and Journey stuff!

Nicko also played on Makin’ Magic which is also worth tracking down.

Iron Maiden – Flight 666

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It’s no secret that Iron Maiden is my all-time favorite band and has been since Flight_666___The_49e6eea3d4247Powerslave came out in 1984.  They always possessed a certain kind of power in their music that stuck with me.  I’m not a total fanboy and have been vocally critical of them, as I am with any band that graces my ears, positive criticism or negative.  Maiden’s put out some stinkers: Fear of the Dark, Dance of Death, the 2 with Bayley on vox…But generally they always right themselves.  They really did a great album with A Matter of Life and Death.  To me that was their best album since Somewhere In Time.

Now here we are in 2009.  They finished an ambitious leg of the Somewhere Back In Time Tour by having Bruce Bruce fly the band and all of its crew and equipment all over tarnation while being filmed.  The result of this being the Flight 666 documentary.

I received my copy Friday and watched some of it before going out and finished it over the weekend.  What a power presentation.  I am always blown away by a band’s fans of this magnitude.  worldwide I think that Iron Maiden may be more popular than Metallica.  Since I don’t pay much attention to Metallica I really shouldn’t make such claims, but whatever.  This is my party.

The behind the scenes footage of the band going from city to city, country to country is pretty amazing.  It’s amazing that no one got hurt.   There is one particular scene in the Colombian section where a guy apparently caught one of Nicko’s sticks and he’s standing there in tears after the show with a female friend.  You can just see how much the show in general meant to him and even that much more to being home a piece of it from a supposed hero of his.  I get it.  I really do.  I’ve been to a few shows over the years that were really emotional for me, religious experiences even.  This last tour was one of those experiences.

One of my best friends came to town from Arkansas to attend the show with me and it made it that much more special.  The band was amazing.  Bruce sounded great. Nicko seems to have gotten better over the years.  Dave and Adrian and Steve and the consistent rocks in the band.  I’d never seen them play at such a high level?

…and there’s Jannick Gers.

Since day 1 I have not been a fan.  I never will be.  It pains me to see him playing some of Adrian’s solos with “H” standing right beside him.  I should add how poorly he plays them.  He’s completely sloppy, always.  He was in 1991 when I saw him and he was last year when I saw him.  This video is even more proof of it.  Sure Dave and Adrian aren’t perfect, but their playing is fine.  VH-1 has been running the concert footage from this regularly so I have been able to see it several times now.

But back to Iron Maiden and this great documentary.  My friend Jeff made a great observation about Maiden and it’s best that I quote it instead of paraphrasing it:

And what is the essential element that makes them so successful? Without regard to anyone in the band’s personal politics, the band itself is VERY socially conservative. They don’t have lyrics about getting wasted, f****ng chicks, teenage rebellion, rebellion against society, songs promoting social change, none of that tot. And they’re very healthy, non-destructive, and constructive in their own individual lives.

Up the Irons!

Amen.  Up the Irons!
Flight 666 get 5/5 Stars

Written by The Metal Files

June 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm