[Music/Metal] Iron Maiden Book @ Isleta Amphitheater (Albuquerque, NM – 06/27/2017)

I know, you may wonder why write down about a live concert two weeks after attending it? Well, sorry not sorry. A lots of writing have been thrown on my face: one paper in revision sent back to a journal, another paper submitted to another journal, a grant writing and some experiments. So, finally I was able to catch some breath and bring some of my feedback on the biggest concert I have even attended.Long time Iron Maiden fan (since I was a teenager in the early 90s), don’t ask me why and how it took me so long to attend one of their concert.
When I saw Iron Maiden came in Albuquerque, NM that was a big game changer. First, it was a drivable distance from where I live. I either have Albuquerque or Oklahoma City (4 hours each either West or East) or drive all the way to Dallas (5.5 hours). Second, I don’t know about other concert places, but tickets to attend the Iron Maiden concert was also more affordable than attending Metallica (that was negotiating about $100+ for a decent seat). One thing I have omitted that I got scooped on was the VIP parking. It cost you a $20 extra but honestly I think it worth the investment (I will explain later).
So here I was, quickly taking the road after work toward New Mexico. The good thing about entering the state is switching to Mountain Time, saving me one hour. The venue was at the Isleta Amphitheater, just near the airport. It is nicely located out of town to avoid the nuisance, but also well designed for a concert event. The thing I was not anticipating was the queue. A damn long queue, bumpers to bumpers.

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A good 2-miles at slow speed, with sellers selling you some bootleg tees along the road. Later on, Bruce announced we were about 15’000 fans up to the Hill to attend that event. Nice! But it was also a nice opportunity to enjoy the desert landscape of New Mexico. Albuquerque gives you the desert and the mountain skyline to enjoy. Neat!

 

Arrived at the parking spot, it took me another 30-40 minutes to finally reach the stage. I basically missed the whole Ghost performance but was not a big loss. I already saw them las October as the main act and second the recent turmoil with Tobias Forge and his former bandmates put me a bit into cold feet.
Of course, the ritual was at the march booth to grab an official Iron Maiden tee and find my place. I can tell, the Isleta venue is very well organized place, well designed. The only caveat? The parking! A good 20 minutes walk in, 20 minutes walk out. You don’t want to get stuck in traffic on the return thus you have to leave the event early. This is why I think investing $20 for the VIP parking worth its weight of pesos.
Iron Maiden like their stage and you can feel it by the details they put in the decoration.

The A/V was good, so even with a fairly-priced ticket you could enjoy the show. Sure the pit has its added value, but such as its price ticket. Bruce definitely knows how to pull the show. It was great! Bruce knows how to nurture the fans and likes it! I have captured some videos on my Phone (note to myself: invest in a iPhone with a bigger capacity next time!)

The only piece of criticism (that other people also mentioned) is that Iron Maiden played a good half of the show titles from the current album. Its an okay album but you know there are way much better songs in Maiden repertoire. There were some oldies played (Children of The Damned, Powerslave…..) and the classic “awesome” ones (Fear of The Dark, Iron Maiden, Number of the Beast…..) but you know feel a bit hunger. Bruce clearly stated once he is against playing classics in concert, leaving it to tribute bands. The complete setlist can be found here:

http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/iron-maiden/2017/isleta-amphitheatre-albuquerque-nm-13e4ddf9.html

I left by the beginning of the encore, in order to save being stuck in traffic but also I was exhausted from a long day. It was amazing to see how Iron Maiden transcend generations (like a Dad came with his teenage son and his 3-4 years old son. Seeing the little one brandishing his horns was cute!). I was amazed by the Latin-American fanbase that came in force, I don’t see that much Latin-American in my local gigs but I guess Mexican fans came in force and Latin folks know their metal very well.

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If you have a chance to attend an Iron Maiden concert in town, go on. Their metal is very accessible and it is impressive to see 40 years later the band has still the vigor and the charm live, reminding me why I loved Iron Maiden at the first place.

 

 

[Videogames/Metal] Brutal Legend – XB360 (80%)

Sometimes you never know what you can find in a Gamestop “dumpster” (you know the $5 or less /$20 or less games holding on some cardobard shelves). One was Brutal Legend. I had my eyes on when I have played once the demo downloaded from Xbox Live. I really liked it for two reasons:
Firstly,  it was a game heavily influenced by metal and there are very few that come in mind. I still remember the attempt of Motley Crue to cash on Crueball on Genesis (a pinball-based game, also used by Kiss in one of these PC budget games), Motorhead on Amiga/Atari ST (a beat-them up developed by Ocean somewhere in 1992) or Iron Maiden Ed Hunter featuring Eddie in a kind of “Operation Wolf” game.
Secondly,  for what seemed a cool storyline. The story features Eddie Riggs, a “roadie” setting up the stage for a rock band called Kabbage Boy, lets say Eddie is rightfully not fond of his performance. As Eddie sets stage, a element of the stage falls on directly aiming one of the band member. Eddie jumps to his rescue only to get crushed by the scenery element. Eddie wakes up in a complete strange world, directly taken from some of the best heavy metal album artworks. Here Eddie becomes an anti-hero fighting demons with his mighty axe and his guitar riffs.
After playing back-and-forth with the game during the last month, I finally finished it up tonight. There are the good, the very good and the very annoying part of the game.
The good thing about the game is its very high fidelity of the game towards the material it got inspired by. It is heavy metal at its finest with the contribution of kings of the genre   appearing as cameos such as Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne,appearing as the guardian of metal, the shop to go to upgrade your weapons and your car), Rob Halford (Judas Priest, posing as the Fire Baron), Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead, the bass-playing Kill Master), Lita Ford (presented as Lita, one leader of the human resistance)……
The second good thing (if you ignore the annoying part) is this semi-open space allowing you to drive through the heavy metal hell, ramming through the wildlife and allowing you to complete some side quests and unlock some uniqueness (monuments, dragons…..) that will buildup your combat skills.
Then comes the very good part: the storyline and the damn good playlist. The storyline is simply awesome as you end up fighting hordes of glam/hair metal villains, with the stereotype of the hair metal bands that flourished in the 80s, followed by a dive into the depressive doom and gloom of gothic/doom metal genre (with some of the best enemies to fight, straight out of a Tim Burton mind) and finally a quick insight into industrial metal (at the very end). For most of these, you have a remarkable playlists of metal bands that perfectly match the missions: fighting off glam metal troops with Motley Crue “Dr. Feelgood”, only to escape the crumbling White Lion palace through the soundtrack of of the UK powermetal band Drangonforce “Through the Fire and The Flames”. Just playing this part of the game in which you are slaloming between dragons breaking bridges and blocking roads with that blowing in the background music worth its amount of pesos. It is not one, but over 100 songs in that playlist that you can play through driving in the metal Hell, something very similar to a GTA game. Some of the best and most versatile metal playlist I have ever heard into a video game: Dragonforce, Judas Priest, Motorhead, Scorpions, Motley Crue, Carcass, Dimmu Borgir, Accept, Megadeath…..
Just for that the game worth the purchase.
Now comes the very annoying part of the game: the simile-RTS game sequence. At some point in the game, you will be asked to play a sort of real-time strategy game (you know the type of Dune II, Command & Conquer, Warcraft…), in a very primitive form, using the metal as a source: The stage being your main base/barracks; the march store towers being the source of energy to harvest and troops from the basic headbangers grunt to the juggernaut unit capable to blast off towers. The idea is great, the put into practice? Meh…….it felt more than a pain than anything else as you have to go back and forth to get to the units. The other thing that also made me quit the game halfway is that mission in which you have to capture wild feral cats (looking as KISS-like panthers) by circling them with a circle of fire. The controls were just terrible and makes you really want to give up. As a sidenote, the presence of redudant sidequest (ambush enemies, defend your tower, race against the same foe) felt like a lot of deja-vu. You have to do them to gain skill points to upgrade your character but felt more a curfew than anything else (especially at a certain point of the game you have so much skill points accumulated but nowhere to redeem the upgrades).
In conclusion, if you love heavy metal and looking for a good game really doing a service  to the genre, grab a copy and play it. The game is far from perfect, there are much better adventure games and real RTS games to quench your thirst than this one. But in my opinion, this was the PERFECT metal game ever I have been playing so far and really wish someone decides to renew this experience.

[Metal/Powermetal] Seven Kingdoms – Decennium (90%)

Getting my hand on Seven Kingdoms latest album “Decennium” was kind of the wanderlust on betting on a band you don’t know much about and give a small helping hand with crowdfunding. The album was teasing me for the last few months (to be honest since January) and what I can tell it worth all that wait.
Seven Kingdoms is a FF Power Metal band from Florida, USA. Little I knew that once I pressed the “play” button on my iPod Classic that it would take me into a full-speed roller coaster through 14 tracks and lasting 72 minutes.
It is fast-paced, heavy riffs, fully pumped on energy making you to want to ride over a battle cat (armed with eye-lasers of course) and slash some demons and dragons with a legendary Bat’leth. But lets get back to the essential and go through the album.
It is a 72 minutes of damn good of power metal fueled by lyrics heavily inspired by heroic fantasy.
It starts with “Stargazer”, an engaging power metal melodics, transitioning into “Undying” (one of my favorite) and “In The Walls” into a perfect suite, giving little space to breath into your legendary battle. “The Tale Of Deathface Ginny” brings into  some of the best time of heavy metal from the 80s with its storytelling. “Castles in the Snow” continues into the heroic-fantasy, a good one but kind of feel a bit setback. Then comes one of the piece de resistance. “Kingslayer”, bringing the cannons of Navaronne, the Stalin’s Organ. That stuff that makes you get up from your chair, take a sword and rush to the battle.

You think you are done? Wait the call for the battle is still going one with “The Faceless Hero”. Things starts slowly to settle down with “Never-ending” bringing on some good heavy metal vibe but kind of setting the fervor on the back burner, just for this song.  “Hollow” brings you back in the heart of action and finishes with “Awakened from Nothing”, slowing on the pace but keeping on the powerful melodic ballads.

The rest of the album provides an alternative version of “In The Walls” that I found have this small extra-punch and “Undying” bringing you an extra-dose of adrenaline rush. Finally, we have  a remaster of “The Bloody Meadow” and “Stormborn”. I don’t know these titles as they maybe from previous releases but enough to make me dig in deeper into the troll cave and discover the previous albums.

As they are releasing the album, so are they also starting their US tour, if you have a chance to, check them out, they surely blow on stage.
My final word? Buy this album! This is my album of the month without hesitation. Take your cloak and run get this album.

[Metal/Heavy] Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast 35th Anniversary

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” release. 35 years and this beast has not any inch of its stamina and elegance. A damn good album it was, certainly one of my favorite from Iron Maiden by its consistency and its engaging lyrics. It was an 40 minutes beautiful album spanned over 8 tracks.
It starts with “Invaders” telling the story of Viking invaders ready to raid, loot and set ablaze. A sort of setting the path to what we refers as “Viking Metal” nowadays. It is followed by “Children of The Damned”, playing on one of the melodics that give the Iron Maiden sound, with engaging lyrics and remarkable Bruce storytelling. The third track, “The Prisoner” is directly inspired by a 60’s British TV series called “The Prisoner” in which people are trapped in a prison island, strapped from their name and referred as Numbers, with Number 6 being the main character.
The fourth track “22 Acacia Avenue” gives on the energy of Bruce and Iron Maiden, a very pleasurable experience.
Then comes one of the masterpiece of the album “The Number of The Beast”, the fifth track of the album. Introduced by Vincent Price (a master writer in science-fiction and horror), it starts into a grandiose shredding going up crescendo until Bruce starts with his mythical “Yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!”. The archetypical Iron Maiden song, if you never heard about Iron Maiden before, this should be your first song to listen!

We continue in the apotheosis with the legendary “Run To The Hills” marking the sixth track. Damn if there is a top 10 Iron Maiden songs, this one should be in the top 5. You get into an exalting drumbeats and guitar melodics, with the story of Native Americans told by Bruce, witnessing the arrival of the European explorers and other conquistadors. Oh yeah, thats Iron Maiden baby!

“Gangland”, the seventh track is in my opinion one of the weakest track of the album, if not the weakest one. Its good but not much arousing to my ears. But this is not enough to eclipse the last track of the album “Hallowed by Thy Name”. This has to be in your top 5 Iron Maiden songs. If I have to pick one song from this all album this is the one I pick!
Great lyrics, great melodics, great everything!

[Metal/Videogames] Iron Maiden – Speed Of Light

[UPDATE]: Iron Maiden published a playable version of the 8-bit video game “Speed of Light”, directly playable through your browser: http://speedoflight.ironmaiden.com

After five years, Iron Maiden released “Speed of Light” from their upcoming album “The Book of Souls”. Forty years after the creation (1975), the behemoth of the British heavy-metal is still alive and kicking hell! If you are looking for new artistic directions, you will be disappointed. It is Iron Maiden and feels like being in a time machine, being back in the 80’s, the glorious age of the heavy-metal scene :).
Iron Maiden still keeping it classy, bold and metal after all these years. Hail for the elders!

Now if you watch the video, I found it was a great homage for one thing that also stretch back from the 80’s: videogames! Iron Maiden giving homage using Eddie covering the 8-bits era with its iteration of Donkey Kong, the 16-bits era with the classic action platform “jump’n’run” (reminiding me somehow the Robocop versus Terminator) and its own iteration of Mortal Kombat II, to morph into an FPS straight from an Xbox360 game and finally bugging at the end to reveal it was an arcade room.

How more 80’s it can be? Man, I wish I can jump right now into a time machine to end up into the early 80’s, attend a live concert of Iron Maiden during their prime age and spend my stash of quarters into coin-op games.