Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: Iron Maiden's The Trooper

(Note: Over at The Cimmerian, fellow blogger Deuce Richardson asked if we could supply posts to commemorate October 25th, which has resounded throughout military history as a date for epic, bloody battles. Following is my tribute to a famous charge and the heavy metal song that immortalized it, at least in my eyes).

Not everyone who comes to appreciate history arrives via the same path. Some have their interest piqued in school by reading traditional textbooks. Others learn from wisdom passed down in tales told by grandparents and great-grandparents. Still others get hooked from watching the (occasionally) fine programming of the History and Discovery channels.

Then there are those who learned about great historic battles at the feet of those long-haired, spandex-encased professors of heavy metal, Iron Maiden. I count myself in this crowd. ‘Twas Maiden who got me more interested in learning about the horrific World War I battle of Paschendale. ‘Twas Maiden that helped provide the impetus for my lifelong love of World War II with their take on the Battle of Britain, “Aces High.” And of course, it was Maiden that helped spark my interest in that famous engagement of the Crimean War, the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava.

This insane, glorious charge of horsemen into the roaring mouths of Russian guns was of course made famous by British poet Alfred Tennyson in his poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” But for those denim-jacketed outcast teens growing up in the 80’s, the Charge was immortalized by Maiden in their smash-hit, “The Trooper.” I've always thought of Iron Maiden as the heavy metal band that catered to the semi-nerdy crowd. If you were smart, you liked history and of course you liked Iron Maiden.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian web site.


JB said...

I was smart, liked history, and LOVED Iron Maiden (still do). But I know many who were into them simply for their musicianship...they are fantastic all the way around.

Heh, an American I've learned a lot o the struggles of the Brit military from researching the origin of songs like Paschendale. You ain't alone, man.

Word verification: hotdin
The sound coming out of my speakers as I fire up Piece of Mind...

Andy said...

I'm sad to say I have yet to see Maiden in concert. That's going to change next time they make it to my area, though. Nothing will hold me back then :)

Totally agreed on their lyrical content. Montsegur's another excellent song by them with historical blood-and-thunder content. Other bands have sort of tried to do what Maiden does but none of them have ever done it as consistently well.

Brian Murphy said...

JB: Agreed, Maiden is great on so many levels: Musically, artistically, viscerally... great verification word, by the way.

Andy: You must see them in concert. Rumor is they are hitting the studio in 2010 and will be touring after that. Don't miss them! You never know when these classic metal bands are going to hang it up. I'm still kicking myself for missing Heaven and Hell on their last tour.

Agreed, Montsegur is another great "historical" song.

Scott said...


Nice article! As a longtime Maiden fan, it's nice to read others' take on them. Have you seen 'Flight 666' yet?

-p.s.- I've seen Maiden three times, and Bruce solo once.

andy said...

I caught Heaven and Hell at the end of August and they were absolutely brilliant. They just seem ageless on stage and the version of Heaven and Hell they played was an 18 minute monster.

I thought Flight 666 was really cool (along with Sam Dunn's other metal documentaries) although I have to say that for a movie produced by the band, the band members still seemed curiously distant. Bruce and Nicko came across great but I don't think I know anything more about Steve Harris now than I did before I saw the movie. The main impression I got was what consumate professionals they are.

Brian Murphy said...

Scott: I haven't seen Flight 666 yet, but am hoping to soon. I'll have to check if Netflix has it. If they do, I'll add it to the queue.

How was Bruce solo? I'm jealous, I wish I him caught him then.

I've seen Maiden 7 times, starting with No Prayer on the Road around 1991 or 1992. I saw them on the Ed Hunter tour when Bruce came back, and every successive tour since then (supporting Brave New World, Dance of Death, and A Matter of Life and Death), as well as the Ozzfest (during which they played their real old stuff), and the last tour, which featured material from Number of the Beast through Seventh Son.

Andy: Now I'm really bummed out that I missed H&H. 18 minutes of one of my top three all-time favorite metal songs? Damn.

I've written posts about it here before, but my favorite incarnation of Black Sabbath was with Dio at the helm. Heaven and Hell is my no. 1 all-time Sabbath album.

Scott said...


Bruce solo was awesome. I saw the show at a small club, so it was more up-close than an arena show. Adrian Smith was with the was the tour for Accident of Birth. This may sound blasphemopus to some, but I like Bruce's solo output as much as his Maiden stuff, with the exception of Skunkworks, maybe. Accident of Birth, The Chemical Wedding, and Tyranny of Souls are all Metal masterpieces in my book, with Balls to Picasso and Tattoed Millionare being pretty good as well.

Taranaich said...

Iron Maiden occupies a special place in my heart for a great number of reasons (not least that "Alexander the Great" was a partial inspiration to my mother in choosing a name for her bundle of mischief!) As with Robert E. Howard, Mam was the one who introduced me to Iron Maiden & metal. It probably helped that she kept listening to metal even while I was in the womb: one suspects I was almost primed for the experience.

I'm with Scott on Bruce's solo stuff: I don't think it quite reached the upper echelons of some of Maidens' best, but it was still really great, intellectual metal. The Chemical Wedding was quite a marvelous concept album: William Blake + Rosicrucianism + metal = great stuff.

So yeah, up the Irons!

Falze said...

I feel like such an infidel for liking Skunkworks. I don't like it more than Wedding or Birth, but I think it's my third fave - about equal with Souls. "Inertia" is probably my favorite Bruce solo song, actually. Well...most days...when it's not "The Tower".

Kinda funny, ain't it, Brian? All those years we were dying to see Maiden and were shut out when they pared back on tours, finally seeing them in Providence when it looked like they were starting to gasp...and then we've ended up seeing them a solid handful of times since then, even playing the stuff we never thought we'd get to see them play live.

That Orpheum show was just brutal, though.

(what's with the shot at Luke Skywalker in my word verification? "hothreck" ;) )

Brian Murphy said...

Scott: No need to qualify, I also think Bruce's solo material is as good (or almost as good) as Maiden's best. I'm a major fan of Accident of Birth, The Chemical Wedding, and Tyranny of Souls.

In fact, I wrote a post extolling Dickinson's virtues a little while back.

Taranaich: Your mom listened to metal? F-ing awesome, man.

Falze: The Orpheum show was still the hottest I've ever been. My shirt still has salt caked in from that show. Probably worth a blog post some day.