Bruce Dickinson : The "son-rise" of Iron Maiden

Samarjit Kambam *

Bruce Dickinson at the Iron Maiden concert @ Bangalore on March 17, 2007
Bruce Dickinson at the Iron Maiden concert @ Bangalore on March 17, 2007 :: Pix - Ringo Pebam

For those who can't live without music, those with music in their blood, those who eat, sleep and drink music, those who draw inspiration from music and more particularly those metal heads who like all kinds of rock genre, this piece of writing may come as an embracing one. Those who loathe music have the liberty to skip reading this piece from the very end of this very sentence.

I am a music lover. It's an intrinsic part of my life. I think my life would be too insipid, bland and meaningless without music. Music became a part of my life when I was a kid of eight. My liking for music started during those yonder days when I used to listen to songs of Beatles, Rolling Stones, CCR, Smokie, The Stones, The Yardbirds, The Animal, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the likes. But we were unaware that music is also an ever evolving entity with its genres fissioning exponentially.

Chuck Berry and Muddy waters changed the scenario in the domain of music when they mixed up blues with rock n roll. Jimmi Hendrix, considered as the Guitar God was the vantage point of blues, rock n roll, and rock. Now the names of genres of music are almost endless. There are folk rock, folk punk, punk rock, funk rock, glam rock, hard rock, soft rock, indie rock, new wave, college rock, heavy metal, progressive rock, power metal, alternative, grunge, thrash, crossover thrash, death metal, hardcore, horrorcore, speedcore, techno, trance, trap, industrial, electronica, trip hop, christian metal, R&B, modern soul, neo-soul, cock rock, grind core, hair metal, math rock, psychedelic, surf, reggae motown, bounce, d'jent etc etc., the list is endless.

Out of all the different genres of music, the one which struck the chord of my heart is Heavy Metal. Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Europe, Nazareth, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Guns 'N' Roses etc (there are too many, the names of all heavy metal bands will overflow this page) introduced us to the world of heavy metal out of which Iron Maiden turned out to be the longest lasting and the most influential one to me.

What sets Iron Maiden apart from others it that it may be considered as one of the most successful pioneer heavy metal bands that uses of power vocal, power riffs, power scales, power performance, powerful yet melodious guitar solos and creepy lyrics yet very well composed and tuned and most of all the dominating presence of Bruce Dickinson as the main vocal cum frontman and his legendary bandmates viz, Steve Harris (Bass guitar), Adrian Smith (Guitar), Nicko McBrain (Drums), Dave Murray (Guitar), Janick Gers (Rhythm Guitar) and Michael Kenney (Keyboard) (Many former band members are not mentioned here).

Being a great band, they were never short of new members in instrumentals when former ones quit. Iron Maiden influenced US based legendary bands like Metallica and Avenged Sevenfold with Metallica's drummer Lars Ulrich commenting that he has "always had an incredible amount of respect and admiration for Iron Maiden". Many other bands such as Slayer, Anthrax, Trivium, Slipknot, In Flames, Fozzy, 3 Inches of Blood, Aria, Opeth, Dream Theater , Wheatus, Machine Head, Ayreon, Threshold, Within Temptation and many more are greatly influenced by Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickinson in particular. Iron Maiden's songs have also been featured in soundtracks of several video games such as Carmageddon, Grand Theft Auto, Vice City, Guitar Hero, Pro Skater 4 etc. etc.

Iron Maiden is an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. Before Bruce Dickinson joined the group as lead vocalist, there were a series of lead vocals viz Paul Day, Denniss Wilcock and Paul Di'Anno. Iron Maiden's eponymous 1980 release, "Iron Maiden" debuted at No. 4 in the UK Albums Chart including early favourites such as "Running Free", "Transylvania", "Phantom of the Opera" and "Sanctuary".

In 1981, the band released their second album christened "Killers". With Di'Anno's self-destructive spree through abuse of cocaine, he was replaced with Bruce Dickinson, who previously was a member of the band called Samson. With Bruce, the band skyrocketed to world-wide fame. Before making any major release after hiring Bruce, the band played "Children of the Damned" and "22 Acacia Avenue" introducing fans to the vocal of Bruce towards which they were progressing.

In 1982, with Bruce as the frontman, Iron Maiden released "The Number of the Beast" with the album climbing straight to UK Albums Chart No. 1. The band is considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, having sold over 90 million copies of their albums worldwide as of 2015. So far, the band has produced thirty eight albums including sixteen studio albums, eleven live albums, four EPs and seven compilations.

Iron Maiden achieved initial success during the early 80s and still going strong. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of UK and US platinum and gold albums including 1983's "Piece of Mind", 1984's "Powerslave" featuring the all time favourites "Two Minutes to Midnight", "Rimes of the Ancient Mariner", "Aces High", 1985's "Live After Death", 1986's "Somewhere in Time", 1988's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", 1990's "Tattooed Millionaire" and "No Prayer for the dying" and "Fear of the Dark" in 1992, the title track itself achieving their third No. 1 in the UK albums chart which is considered so far as one of the most beautiful work of Bruce Dickinson by Iron Maiden fans.

The album also included some great works such as "Be Quick or Be Dead" (No. 2 single) and "From Here to Eternity" (No. 21 single). Iron Maiden also released their albums "Doctor Doctor" in 1996, "Accident of Birth" in 1997, "A Matter of Life and Death" in 2006 and "The Book of Souls" in 2015, their latest album till date. So far, the band has played more than 2000 live shows.

When Bruce went solo for some time, Blaze Bayley, and Paul Day played the part of lead vocals in tandem but they couldn't manage and maintain the uniqueness of Iron Maiden the way Bruce did. Even when he went solo, he produced many albums such as "Tattooed Millionaire", "Balls to Picasso" (with the song "Tears of the Dragon" as one of my favourite), "Skunkworks", "Accident of Birth" and "The Chemical Wedding". The smashing album "Brave New World" was released in 2000 after Bruce returned to Iron Maiden after his solo career in 1999.

By the time most of the heavy metal bands faded into obscurity due to emergence of various newer genres of music but Iron Maiden wasn't disheartened and released "Dance of Death" in 2003, their thirteenth studio album which was met with worldwide critical and commercial success. Their fourteenth studio album "A Matter of Life and Death" received the Album of the Year Award, on 5th September 2007 which was also performed in front of 30,000 audiences in Bangalore Palace Grounds.

The band then announced their "Somewhere Back in Time" World Tour with the first part of the tour commencing in Mumbai on 1st February 2008. Conveyance for the worldwide tour was made with their private jetliner "Ed Force One" piloted by Bruce himself. Since return of Bruce Dickinson as lead vocalist and guitarist Adrian Smith in 1999, Iron Maiden's fan including myself got overwhelmed with joy and the band has undergone a resurgence in popularity.

Their sixteenth studio album, The "Book of Souls" attained huge success and became the band's fifth UK No. 1 Album which consists of beautiful tracks such as "Empire of the Clouds" and "Speed of Light". Still, Bruce was so energetic that in 2005, he further produced one solo album called "Tyranny of Souls". Their 2010 studio offering "The Final Frontier" also peaked at No. 1 in 28 countries and received worldwide critical acclaim

Iron Maiden's music is timeless. The uniqueness of Iron Maiden is the gallop riff style, gallop rhythm which is reflected in "Run to the Hills", "The Trooper" and "Caught Somewhere in Time" and their dual guitar works which fancies many. The band's heaviness seemed to be inspired by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple with a bit of bit of Led Zeppelin sewn in.

Iron Maiden's popularity, no doubt, is the sole result of splendid team-work performance but without the showmanship, ability to connect and strike a chord with the audience, energetic stage presence, operatic vocal style and talent of Bruce Dickinson, the band would have become history long time ago. Instead, they are going strong and liked by many regardless of age old or young.

Bruce Dickinson is a multi-faceted personality. He's an MBA, joined Territorial Army for six months, a professor in History as well as an honorary music doctorate. Over and above a singer, he's a songwriter, airline pilot, entrepreneur and a broadcaster presenting his own radio show on BBC Radio 6 Music from 2002-2010, an international fencer who founded a fencing equipment company under the brand name "Duellist', hosted TV Documentaries, authored novels and film scripts, created his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company by the name of Cardiff Aviation, created a successful beer called "Trooper" with Robinsons Brewery, the recipe formulated by himself.

He's kinda man who doesn't seek inspiration from other sources but one with inspiration leaking from his brain. He's involved in an air ship venture to manufacture lighter than air drones with a contract to supply the US Army. He's a man with so many pursuits in life. In fact, as Intelligent Life named him, he is a living example of Polymath.

He's is also a borne survivor for he has also won the battle with tongue cancer. With a captivating style, sense of humour and wisdom, Bruce's presentations and performance entertain and motivate audiences. He's too sophisticated a man to be described in words. He has written a number of novels such as The Adventures of Lord Iffy, The Space Coyotes, Iron Maiden – a Matter of Life and Death, The Missionary Position etc.

Now, his 2017 novel christened "What Does this Button Do?" is on the verge of circulation throughout the world which may be termed as another feather in the cap of Bruce's achievements. Fervently waiting for this latest novel of Bruce.

The readers may be wondering why this lousy writer is giving so much emphasis to Bruce Dickinson. Well, there are hellotta talented heavy metal singers throughout the world which entertains their fans to the zenith. But, no one comes close to Bruce when it comes to multifaceted credentials. Bruce, no doubt, is a source of inspiration for millions around the globe. Iron Maiden is not just a heavy metal band but a phenomenon and Bruce Dickinson is not just a singer but a diva. Up the Irons !!

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 17, 2017.

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