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Who is Benjamin Breeg? Why is the year of his birth unknown, and yet the year of his death seems to coincide with the beginning of Iron Maiden’s existence? These are likely questions that anyone who has either purchased this single and gazed on the cover art or has struggled to comprehend the lyrics printed for track 7 on their recent LP “A Matter of Life and Death” would ask, and unfortunately I’m not privy to the answers. Some have speculated that the name was their mascot Eddie’s name before he became the corpse and staple of the band’s image, but no confirmation is given from any of the band members. From a marketing standpoint, this saga would make for a great ploy to sell future albums, much in the same way that the Charlotte the Harlot series did for them earlier in their career.
Although quite a long song for a single, “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” is a good representation of the colossal work that “A Matter of Life and Death” is. There are a series of contrasting sections ranging from the dark and dreary intro that could easily fit in with the gloomy graveyard illustrated on the album cover, followed by an equally dark and heavy body section that reminds me slightly of “The Ghost of the Navigator”, one of my favorite tracks off of the first album of the band’s reunion. It’s not often that Dave Murray gets his name attached to the first single put out for an album, mostly because his songs tend to be outliers when compared to the bulk of the pertaining album’s sound, probably most blatantly in the case of “The Prophecy” off the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” release. But in this particular case the song is a clear indication of the direction of the album it has been lifted from, which is a heavily progressive album with a lot of long epic songs.
The accompanying track is a recent version of an old Maiden classic “Hallowed be thy Name”, which features the 3 guitar arrangement that has been in service since the year 1999. Amongst the various remakes of this song that have popped up over the years, this is one of the better ones in terms of vocal delivery as Dickinson’s voice is in good shape, although it will probably never be quite as powerful as it was when “The Number of the Beast” was originally recorded back in 1982. The atmosphere of the song is denser than the original, owing both to advances in recording technology and the newer instrumentation, and climaxes at the end with an absolutely kick ass free time ad lib that gives the song a live performance feel minus the audience applause (which tends to be annoying on live CDs after a while).
Although a worthy pair of songs, this single isn’t really worth hunting down unless you’re a rabid Maiden collector like me. The Radio 1 Legends version of “Hallowed be thy Name” can also be found on the Different World single as well, a single which would be more worthwhile as it also contains a solid remake of “The Trooper”. The album art is almost enough to make up for the lack of fan perks to be found on here, but music is what makes the album, not the artwork.