Illustration - Photo: Wikipedia

Iron Maiden, Groupama Aréna, Budapest, June 7, 2022

Music and an instrument of torture

Heavy metal is surely one of the lowest, least cerebral forms of rock music – fortunately rock is a broad enough umbrella to embrace both the ugliest and the cleverest – but it has its audience, and perhaps Iron Maiden’s show at Ferencvaros Football Club’s stadium, Groupama Aréna, in Budapest on June 7 is the perfect choice of venue. Who will let off the most pyrotechnics – the band or the ultras, who perhaps prefer head-banging to Talking Heads, and could be in attendance in numbers?

Like so many big international tours, Iron Maiden’s planned continental outing has slipped for a year or two thanks to the pandemic, but the “Legacy of the Beast” run of 29 European dates is finally on this summer. And since the handover of the 21,689-seat Groupama Aréna in 2014, the stadium has hosted a number of events in addition to Fradi’s domestic matches, serving as a venue for concerts, conferences and other sporting events.

Iron Maiden will have two support acts, Lord of the Lost, who will open the evening, and Shinedown. “Legacy of the Beast” refers to their 1982 album “The Number of the Beast”, their third, which is clocking up its 40th birthday. The band has been around even longer than that, having been formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris, the only original member still playing with them today.

The iron maiden after which they are named was supposedly a medieval torture device, although we read that there is no real evidence to show that it was ever used in such a manner. Essentially, it was a standing sarcophagus with numerous spikes lining the inner walls and the door itself, so when the victim was placed inside and the door closed, the spikes would pierce the flesh and vital organs. The spikes were just short enough to not cause instant death, instead the victim would bleed to death over what could be many hours. Spikes were also placed near the face, especially the eyes. Ouch. Iron Maiden, the band, is more an assault on the ears.

They made their live debut in May 1976 at St Nicholas Hall in Poplar, London, following it up with many appearances at the Cart and Horses pub in Stratford, London. The original line-up of Paul Day, Dave Sullivan, Terry Rance, Steve Harris and Ron Matthews changed six times before Iron Maiden released their debut self-titled album in April 1980.

Paul Day was the first singer from 1975-76. However, the first recording lead vocalist was Paul Di’Anno who provided the voice to “Iron Maiden” (1980) and “Killers” (1981). Bruce Dickinson followed for “The Number Of The Beast (1982), “Piece Of Mind (1983), “Powerslave” (1984), “Somewhere In Time” (1986), “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” (1988) “No Prayer For The Dying” (1990), and “Fear Of The Dark” (1992). Blaze Bayley then replaced him for “The X Factor” (1995) and “Virtual XI” (1998) but Dickinson rejoined in 1999 to release “Brave New World” (2000), “Dance Of Death” (2003), “A Matter Of Life And Death” (2006) “The Final Frontier” (2010), “The Book Of Souls” (2015) and finally “Senjutsu” (2021).

Described as pioneers of the new wave of the British heavy metal movement, whatever that means, the bombastic band achieved initial success during the early 1980s, with a series of United Kingdom and United States platinum and gold albums. They have also unleashed 10 live albums, a couple of “Best Of”s and seven DVDs  This being heavy metal, these all feature some of the most tasteless artwork ever to adorn record sleeves.

Maiden became a six-piece in 1999 following the departure of Bayley and subsequent rehiring of Dickinson, who had quit the band in 1993, and Adrian Smith, who had left in 1990. Since the band’s formation in 1975 there have been 23 different members across 13 different line-ups. Dickinson is the longest serving vocalist and Steve Harris is the only one to have remained a full-time member since their formation. The current line-up is bassist Harris, guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, vocalist Dickinson and drummer Nicko McBrain.

Since the return of Dickinson and Smith, Iron Maiden has undergone a great resurgence in popularity, with their 2010 offering, “The Final Frontier”, peaking at number one in 28 countries and receiving “widespread critical acclaim”, a term that is bandied about by the media, the industry and others.

Their sixteenth studio album, “The Book of Souls”, was released in September 2015 and apparently peaked at number one in 45 countries (presumably in appropriate heavy metal charts) including digital charts. The latest album was “Senjutsu” in September last year. This is a band said to have brought epic, bloody storytelling to heavy metal.

Despite little radio or television support, Iron Maiden are considered one of the most influential and successful heavy metal bands in history. The Sunday Times, which we thought would take greater care to be accurate, in 2017 threw out that lazy – but nice and round – figure that the band has sold over 100 million copies of their albums worldwide.

Their releases have been certified silver, gold, platinum nearly 600 times worldwide (another nice round number). The band’s collection of music awards including (among what are said to be many others) Brit Awards, Grammy Awards, Emma-Gaala Awards, BPI Awards, Echo Awards, Juno Awards, Silver Leaf and the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002.

Iron Maiden has played more than 2000 shows to nearly two million fans in 63 countries around the world throughout their career. It just shows what can happen if you stick around long enough. For 40 years the band has been supported by their famous mascot “Eddie”, who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows.

The “Legacy of the Beast” tour began in May 2018, including a 100,000-strong Rock in Rio festival performance in Brazil in 2019.  After the latest European leg ends in July will come four dates in Brazil and one in Mexico, followed by extensive gigging in the United States and Canada through September and October.

The six geezers in the band have their own airplane. Dickinson is a pilot, having qualified in the 1990s. Now he flies Iron Maiden around on their world tours in a plane dubbed Ed Force One, covered in Iron Maiden branding and Eddie’s face on the tail.

Eddie also appears onstage during concerts, terrorising the band until he is ultimately defeated – during the “Book of Souls” tour, Dickinson ripped Eddie’s beating heart out of his chest.

Their concert opens with a replica Spitfire flying over the stage, then follows what the band describes as “a two-hour theatrical journey of ever-evolving interlocking stage sets with multiple incarnations of Eddie, pyrotechnics and special effects including muskets, claymores, flame throwers, a giant electrified crucifix, a noose, gallows and a gargantuan Icarus to name just a few”.

This is heavy metal.

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