ON TRACK: Iron Maiden every album, every song – Steve Pilkington
Steve Pilkington adds a third tome to his On Track track record. Having covered key periods in the The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple/Rainbow outputs, he goes the whole hog and delivers on the full Iron Maiden library of work. Always a pleasure to read his easy style with tongue, more often than not, slightly in cheek. Never pompous or overly opinionated. Never one to dress up his thoughts in language you have to read several times to attempt to decipher some meaning. A genuine fan who has something worthwhile to say.
As always, a brief history lesson opens the lesson. How many musicians in Iron Maiden in their first four years? Sixteen! Funny how you never think about it until someone points it out. Plus the fact that the six-man line up has remained unchanged since 1999.
Following the usual format, this time and deservedly so, the album covers also get an appraisal. A band always known for their attention to detail in the image and branding, taking in the latest incarnation of Eddie is always part of the Maiden experience. From Derek Riggs’ iconic work (a toss-up for me between Powerslave – Steve’s choice – and Somewhere In Time) to Mark Wilkinson and others who have had a go at their version of Eddie. Some more successful than others. We won’t mention Dance Of Death (the cover or the song) but hey, we just have. The strength of that image works well. As pointed out, the band usually seems slightly uncomfortable in band portraits.
Meanwhile, the song by song analysis reveals the Maiden template for Heavy Metal success. Steve Harris and his penchant for writing songs about soldiers in wars. Different viewpoints, different reference points, different wars. And despite his obvious enthusiasm and knowledge, his knack of testing Bruce Dickinson’s delivery skills to the limit by cramming as many words into a line as possible. However, by Starblind (from The Final Frontier) Pilkington concedes that Bruce is a better wordsmith. Check Revelations or Powerslave (and Empire Of The Clouds…)
The recurring themes soon become clear – the pre-chorus trick, the ‘gallop’ the bass intro, quiet bit, loud bit, kitchen sink bit. It may be a bit flippant but it’s been the basis for a longevity that few bands, never mind Metal bands, can boast.
There’s also an informative ackground to some of the historical characters and events that may have passed us by in the rush to get banging our heads to the latest songs. Cultural, literary and cinematic references add to the trivia while musically, there are moments where you nod sagely in agreement. Of course, there are the occasional time when you’re, well, not disagreeing violently (he has a pretty sound grip on what works – the opening volley on the Brave New World album and what doesn’t – Wasting Love/The Angel & The Gambler…) You have to be bold and pin your colours to the mast – for me, I LOVE the little headbanging/air guitar zombie guys in the Wildest Dreams videos…
What’s also of major use is how the solo guitar parts are identified – who played what solo – which for dullards like me isn’t always obvious. Ultimately, the book is about the journey from Prowler to Empire Of The Clouds. The latter song, the final song on their most recent album, typical of one that confirms what Vim Fuego meant when he said “we’re more than just a stupid heavy metal band.”
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