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Brave New World was a return to form by a band that had been struggling with it's own identity a bit ever since the inception of the 90s and all the horrid musical changes that followed. Though Steve Harris and those that remained after the exodus of Adrian Smith and later Bruce Dickinson never bought into the ridiculousness of the Grunge, Neo-Punk Alternative, Punk Ska and Swing Scenes, the tone of their music was affected a bit by the musical bankrupcy that surrounded them.
What this single represents, in it's most basic form, is the element that kept Maiden accessable to a wider audience than the symphonic and progressive metal fans who eat up all of Steve Harris' long-winded epics. Adrian Smith has put together, with help from Harris in keeping the formula from being too cliche, is an instant metal classic in a time period where the genre was enjoying a renaissance in mainland Europe, but still was in severe recession in the States and the UK. The Wickerman is more than just a collection of catchy riffs, idiomatic leads, and musical devices, it is a loud declaration that the Maiden of old has returned with a vengence.
The version of this song that is on the rare single version I have carries a strong set of backing vocal tracks that, unfortunately, are not present on the studio version. This alone gives the song a more anthemic quality that keeps it fresh, rather than the repetitive sound that has defined many of Maiden's more recent compositions.
The rest of the tracks that appear on this single are solid performances by the 6 person line-up while on the Ed Hunter Tour. Suffice to say, Bruce has gotten his voice back and preforms the older Maiden material that he originally sung as great as ever, and he clearly outshines Blaze at singing the newer material. However, as always, his rendition of "Killers" just doesn't cut it. Nobody sings that song the way Di'anno did, and I can't listen to a performance of it without comparing it to the original version. With the exception of "Iron Maiden" and "Running Free", Bruce has never been able to truly perform the Di'anno era stuff well, his screams are just too throaty and over-the-top.
In conclusion, this is a re-awakening for a band that had been in a state of sleep for the better part of a decade. Although I would recommend getting the entire studio album of "Brave New World" first, this single is also worth tracking down, especially if you can get the one with the Radio editted alternate version of Wickerman, which is not easy to come by. Recommended highly to fans of older Maiden, particularly the atmospheric music from "Somewhere in Time" and "Seventh Son".
The Wickerman is one of the stronger tracks on Brave New World, as it nicely combines the elements of old and new Maiden. It's fast and very catchy, and it of course features the outstanding sing-along chorus. The video included here is one of Maiden's better ones, certainly nice departure from the standard live style that characterizes most of their recent videos.
The real treats here, however, are the b-sides. We get to hear a couple of songs from the Blaze era, sung by Bruce Dickinson, and as both of them are fast and up-tempo, his vocals are more suited. It gives a little insight into how the Blaze albums would have sounded with Maiden's best singer. The other two songs are much older, and while Killers has been a b-side twice before, it's a song one never gets tired of hearing. Powerslave is another oldie they brought back for the 1999 reunion tour, and its always been a favorite of mine.
All in all this is a great single, and a great release to re-introduce Bruce. My only complaint is that the alternate, radio-edit, of Wickerman should have been included, since it is a bit hard to track down.