The rumours were true. After weeks of speculation, conspiracy theories and breadcrumb-following dominating Metal Twitter, Iron Maiden have officially unleashed their first piece of brand new music in six years: The Writing On The Wall. Many had already put two and two (or should that be 222, 222 and 222?) together, working out that the sneaky messages hidden in tour art and all the Belshazzar’s Feast shenanigans were pointing to something much grander than another video game update or, you know, a 289th live album.
Still, it doesn’t get much bigger than this, and Maiden have decided to pull out all the stops for their new single, accompanying it with a blockbuster, retinal-searing animated video featuring a ton of colourful characters, buckets of symbolism and, most excitingly of all, a brand new Eddie.
The song itself – a composition by Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson – is a big departure from the majority of Maiden’s post-2000 lead singles (if, indeed, that’s what it is – news on a full-length album remains MIA). Starting off as an acoustic jaunt that morphs into a mid-paced, stomping, outlaw rocker, it forgoes the urgent heavy metal attack of a Wicker Man or clanging, galloping gung ho-isms of a Speed Of Light or Wildest Dreams. The Writing On The Wall is altogether less frenetic, sounding more campfire-country-ballad-on-steroids than full-tilt, horsebacked charge to the gates. It’s a different vibe for Maiden, and it totally works.
Bruce is in sneering, imperious form, sounding angrier than we’ve heard him in some years as he spits out some particularly evocative lyrics: ‘A land of hope and glory building graveyards for the brave,’ he seethes at one point, later lamenting: ‘Once our empires glorious, but now the empire’s gone.’ It all starts to sound a bit flag-wavy, but we reckon there’s something a bit deeper at play here…
The chorus, meanwhile is as classically simplistic and impactful as only Maiden seem to manage: ‘Can you see that writing on the wall?’ Bruce snarls. ‘Can you see that writing?’ After one listen it’ll stick in your brain. After a couple of listens it’ll set up residency there and claim squatter’s rights.
And then, of course, there’s the video, created by former Pixar bods Mark Andrews and Andrew Gordon. We’re going to put our necks out and suggest the cigar-puffing lad in the stretch decked with a US flag is a caricature of a certain, recently exited US President, but there’s so much else going on. A zombie-looking fella! A druid! Faceless British fellas with their trousers down! Mysterious humanoids! Four Eddies on motorbikes! And, the pièce de résistance, a whole new Eddie – a hard-looking motherfucker in full Samurai getup, and seemingly happy to dispatch of our other newly acquainted, animated friends.
But what does it all mean? Are we actually getting a new album? Are Maiden going to go full-on medieval Japan for their next chapter? Do the band think Britain has its trousers down? (Bruce’s recent comments about Brexit would certainly suggest there’s a lot going on he’s, er, not happy with).
One thing’s for sure, though: Iron Maiden’s new era has started with a bang, and we’re going to be analysing these lyrics (and that video) for quite a while yet.
Keep your eyes peeled for a whole lot more coming from Metal Hammer and Iron Maiden soon