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Real Troopers: There is always a market for heavy, aggressive music with a melody, figure the guys in Iron Maiden.

Metal Mariners

Forget grunge--Iron Maiden ignores fashion and keeps metal alive

By Bob Calhoun

WHILE OTHER '80s metal bands were cranking out anthems about groupies, booze and parties, Iron Maiden drew its lyrical inspiration from history and English literature, with songs like "The Trooper" and "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner." The group's sound was hard but melodic, combining loud guitar harmonies, soaring vocals and galloping rhythms. Maiden never recorded a monster ballad or won the kind of radio airplay and MTV rotation that Bon Jovi did, but it packed arenas to capacity anyway--in fact, it still does.

"Iron Maiden isn't a band that follows fashion trends," guitarist Janick Gers told me in a recent phone interview. "We don't look at the market and decide what we are going to play--there is always a market for heavy, aggressive music with a melody." In the mid-'90s. Iron Maiden's brand of epic hard rock suffered a blow as grunge and alternative won over America. "The American audience is more fashion conscious," Gers said, pulling no punches. The veteran axe man continued, "MTV is about fashion and advertising first and music last. It is about marketing a pair of Nikes to a certain demographic. America is a very TV-oriented place."

Throughout that time, the band played more intimate shows in smaller venues in the U.S. but still filled stadiums in Europe, Japan and South America. On their latest CD, Brave New World, Gers promises that the band has gone in a more progressive direction while staying true to their roots. "I like being in a cult band," he said. "It means being successful on our terms. We didn't do a grunge or rap album just because that was popular. Our fans love us because we won't sell them out." On its latest tour, Iron Maiden sports three guitarists instead of the usual two. Adrian Smith, whom Gers replaced in 1990, is back in the band, along with Dave Murray, making the band's guitar harmonies heavier than ever. "We have seven trucks of equipment," Gers said excitedly. "Not many bands nowadays have that. We always put on the best show we can. We never shortchange our fans."

Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Halford perform Saturday (Sept. 16) at 6:30pm at Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View. Tickets are $18-$38. (650.541-0800)

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From the September 14-20, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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