How Iron Maiden Rebuilt Their Classic Lineup for ‘Brave New World’
The '90s were something of a lost decade for heavy metal, as countless major names from the genre's glory years were killed off by grunge. Even the ones who survived were hobbled by dwindling sales or key personnel defections. So, it was rather fitting when Iron Maiden reformed in their classic lineup as if to proclaim a new millennium comeback for metal behind 2000’s Brave New World.
Officially the band’s 12th studio album, Brave New World marked the return of both vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith. They paired again with guitarists Dave Murray and Janick Gers, drummer Nicko McBrain and bassist/ringleader Steve Harris after a decade of separation during which Iron Maiden had soldiered on with two poorly received projects fronted by singer Blaze Bayley.
This newfangled, three-guitar front line proved itself roadworthy throughout the second half of 1999 on what was dubbed Ed Hunter Tour, and increased attendance hinted at fans' newfound interest in another Iron Maiden album. On May 29, 2000, it arrived, with a title that referenced the future but content that seemed to turn back the clock – resurrecting many of the band's legacy-building sonic hallmarks.
In fact, Brave New World songs like “The Mercenary,” “Dream of Mirrors,” and “The Nomad,” had actually been sketched out during the waning days of the Blaze era, but the remaining material saw an intense level of collaboration between all band members save for McBrain. Smith and Dickinson brought in “The Wicker Man,” the album’s lead single, for Harris to finalize with the unmistakable Maiden imprimatur. Dickinson also provided his imaginative lyrics to the Harris and Gers songs “Ghost of the Navigator” and “Out of the Silent Planet,” as well as the anthemic, Murray/Harris-penned title track. Harris worked with Smith and Murray, in turn, on “The Fallen Angel” and “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate,” before taking full credit on the emotional “Blood Brothers” – a song dedicated to his father and, later in concert, to Ronnie James Dio and others, as the situation called for it.
Along the way, Brave New World delivered at least a handful of new-age Iron Maiden standards, no small feat in light of both the troubles faced by the band and the changing of musical fashions over the previous decade. The six-piece Iron Maiden made good on that sense of promise too, going on to release the acclaimed follow-ups Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Final Frontier. But it took a stellar return-to-form like Brave New World to set it all in motion.