Pick Your Rock and Metal

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Too much metal for one day!

There are doubters, naysayers, trashtalkers and plain obtuse critics, who forget the exhiliration that pure metal can bring. Last week devastation was wrought when Slayer unleashed virtiolic riffage in the shape of Christ Illusion. Still there are those who chose not to dip into their pockets to sample the Slaytonic delights.

This week Iron Maiden and Motorhead release new albums - I've already had one person requesting that I copy said CDs. Errr, no mate, that's why shite music gets into the charts and pure metal assults are relegated to a 'rock' chart - you actually have to pay for music

But, then again, radio friendly chirp along songs will not be found on Maiden's 'A Matter of Life and Death', nor on Motorhead's Kiss of Death - so Radio 1 will not be playlisting the tracks that lie within.

In fact Maiden especially are getting heavier! Yep, muscular production, taut and insistent riffs, trademark Harris bass runs are here aplenty. But what sets this apart is...dare I say it....a whiff of concept. There's no clear storyline, á la Seventh Son. Instead there are lyrical concepts woven together as all members of the band seem in contemplative form; the ordinary soldier in 'These Colours Don't Run'; the horror of nuclear warfare's relevance in a post 9/11 world; the contrast between questioning religious sources (For the Greater Good of God); through to asking what exactly is this Lucifer thing all about (Lord of Light).

Lyrically it is a challenging album, and a few, very brief times, even Bruce's voice struggles with the higher registers. Musically it is even more challenging. There are more time changes than an atomic clock on speed. But unlike widdly conceptually metal the changes knit songs and mood together. None better than on album closer, The Legacy. And on that track there is a riff that is so good it brings tears to the eye.

When Different World launches this album, there's a traditional Maiden play-off between tight rhythms and a melodic chorus, reminiscent of parts of Dance of Death, but there most comparisons (apart from the Arabic phrasing on the Pilgrim echoing Powerslave) from what has gone before end.

This is Maiden all grown up, angry with what they see in the world, asking questions. This is Maiden let loose - finally the three guitarist structure given full rein, and riffing heavier and more intense than ever. This is Maiden setting new boundaries for the pretenders to aspire to reach, let alone surpass.

Motorhead, in contrast, have set their own boundaries a very long time ago (well Lemmy is 60!). They are the bastard sons of blues and hard rocking metal, illegitimate sons of Jack Daniels and Marshall amps - unpretentious and unafraid, always delivering on the promise of a gravel-throated party.

Except on Kiss of Death 'Head have taken the party further. Sweat-soaked and hazy with booze, this is the party where clichés have been ditched.

Sucker opens the album up - no nonsense, no fear and the promise of a "Smack in the mouth." From there blues metal propels the sonic assault, with stand-out tracks Devil I Know, Living in the Past, Christine and Going Down, just about managing to eclipse a platter of joyful Motorhead excess.

That is with one exception - God was Never on Your Side. Here Lemmy is asking questions uncomfortable for Christian fundamentalist and Islamic Jihadists alike; questions neither party can answer easily. And there a comparison with Maiden must be made. All styles of rock, punk and metal has rarely been more popular, and with that comes the right to ask questions of the established order. It is only right and proper that Dickinson challenges Blair's war policies (The Legacy) and Lemmy challenges religious nuttery.

But while both bands are asking these and musical questions, there can be no doubt that young and old pretenders alike can not afford to rest on laurels. Maiden and Motorhead have not - and that is why they are more than elder statesmen in the metal pantheon of icons - they are at the vanguard, ready to rock.

And if you want to copy these albums, the answer is no - buy them, you're ears will love you for spending a few quid for such majestic metal.

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