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Iron Maiden at Talking Stick Arena

September 17, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 11:30 pm

Iron Maiden are an institution. Over the course of nearly 40 years they have come to embody a spirit of fearless creative independence, ferocious dedication to their fans, and a cheerful indifference to their critics that’s won them a following that spans every culture, generation, and time-zone.

A story of gritty determination and courageous defiance of the naysayers, theirs has been an adventure like no other, and with the rapturous receipt of their 16th studio album they’re showing no signs of slowing down. An album that neatly encapsulates Iron Maiden’s huge creative range, The Book Of Souls is nothing less than a 92-minute masterpiece – a cannon-blast of exuberant, anthemic bravado that serves as cast-iron confirmation of just how much they have left in the tank. From the infectious, stadium-skewering hooks of The Red And The Black to the lofty ambition of the 18-minute Empire Of The Clouds, it’s the artistic summation of everything that’s given Iron Maiden such deep resonance and universal appeal. Like the breathless excitement and scale of their stage shows, their remarkable new double-album is emblematic of a stout-hearted refusal to do anything by half-measures and an irrepressible sense of fun.

Founded by bassist Steve Harris in the mid ‘70s, Iron Maiden were already firmly established as heavy metal’s brightest hopes when they stormed the world with their third album (and first with vocalist Bruce Dickinson) The Number Of The Beast in 1982. It would kick off a decade of classic releases and dogged touring that would come to epitomise the unrelenting, uncompromising, unswerving commitment they are now so well known for. That marvellous decade would also yield seven new studio albums, one live album, seven World Tours, as well as the creation of Eddie – one of the most iconic and recognisable figureheads of our age and the calling card of the most impassioned fan-bases anywhere.

What makes these qualities even more notable is that they developed almost entirely without the acknowledgement of mainstream media. While celebrity culture and the next big thing occupied the airwaves, Iron Maiden were embarking on the marathon 192-date 1984/5 World Slavery tour, playing at Rock In Rio in 1985, and mounting a command performance at the biggest-ever Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington in 1988 with 107,000 fans in attendance. But it’s really Iron Maiden’s iron-clad resolve to always push the boundaries that gives their career such astonishing distinction. From groundbreaking performances in Poland behind the Iron Curtain in 1984 at the height of the Cold War, around South America in 1992, through the Middle East and India in 2007, and Indonesia in 2011 among many others, Iron Maiden’s relentless forward momentum has left an indelible impression on the globe.

The ‘90s proved to be a difficult time for heavy metal bands in general, but Iron Maiden ploughed forward, notching up yet more success with albums like 1992’s acclaimed Fear Of The Dark and even weathering the departure of Bruce Dickinson in 1993. The band made two strong albums with new singer Blaze Bayley and continued to honour their commitment to intensive touring. However, it was the return of Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith (who originally left the band in 1990) in 1999 when Iron Maiden became a six-piece, that established the ultimate Iron Maiden line-up of Bruce Dickinson on vocals, Steve Harris on bass, Nicko McBrain on drums and “the three amigos” – Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers – on guitar, heralding a new golden age with the release of Brave New World album in 2000. With both 2003’s diverse and ingenious Dance Of Death album and its dark and daring follow-up, 2006’s A Matter Of Life And Death, they dazzled fans and critics alike. With each successive tour, whether revisiting classic songs from their first few albums or refusing to succumb to a nostalgia by playing A Matter Of Life And Death in its entirety, Maiden have accrued countless new young admirers by never being predictable while remaining predictably brilliant.

This brave new Maiden era reached an astonishing zenith during the band’s Somewhere Back In Time Tour that began in February 2008 and initially took the band 50,000 miles around the world in 45 days, flying in their own specially chartered Boeing 757, Ed Force One, piloted by Bruce Dickinson, a qualified airline captain, traversing the planet, from India to Costa Rica, Australia to Argentina, Sao Paulo to Tokyo. Ed Force One made TV news headlines around the world and the coverage of that tour was subsequently turned into an award-winning film and DVD Flight 666.  Released in 2009, that stunning document of life on the road (and in the air) hit the No.1 slot in the music DVD charts in 25 countries, the same year the band picked up their first ever Brit Award for Best British Live Act.

More feats would follow – from reaching the number one spot in more than 28 countries simultaneously as well as reaching an all-time high of #4 on the Billboard with The 2010’s The Final Frontier, to the ensuing tour aboard Ed Force One which saw them hitting five continents in 66 days, to earning their first ever U.S. Grammy for Best Metal Performance for the song El Dorado, Iron Maiden’s most recent chapter is testament to their startling vitality.

In 2013 the Maiden England world tour took the band into Europe, the States, and South America, most notably hitting Brazil yet again for Rock In Rio which sold out 90,000 tickets within hours. That year also saw a return to UK’s Donington Park on the 25th Anniversary of the band’s legendary headline 1988 performance during the Seventh Son World Tour. This was a record fifth time that the band topped the bill at Donington, following two Monsters of Rock performances (1988 and 1992) and two spectacular Download Festivals (2003 and 2007). Iron Maiden closed their Maiden England world tour in July 2014 headlining at Sonisphere Festival, Knebworth, delighting the crowds by having The Great War Display Team featuring Bruce Dickinson among its pilots, stage a sensational aerial dogfight in the skies above the Festival with Bruce flying his very own WW1 German Fokker Dr1, just hours before taking to the stage. The ensuing Maiden show marked the final chapter in the band’s trilogy of tours performing their 80’s repertoire.

2016 saw the band once again take to the road and the skies on tour with their first-ever studio double album, The Book Of Souls. This time with Ed Force One upgraded to a larger and more powerful model – a 747 Jumbo Jet piloted by Bruce Dickinson – enabling the band to reach over a million and a half fans in six of the seven continents visiting 36 countries including first-ever performances in China, El Salvador and Lithuania.

With over 90 million album sales, more than 2000 live performances in 63* countries, tens of millions of fans and 16 studio albums of unerring quality and power to their name, Iron Maiden have more than earned their proudly-held status as one of the most influential and revered bands of all time. In 2018 the band continue to traverse the globe, continually pushing boundaries, visiting new places and returning to cities not played in decades. Sure to be history in the making it’s more than mere proof that the fearsome tenacity that first propelled Iron Maiden into the stratosphere all those years ago is still there. It’s cast-iron confirmation of the heroic, indefatigable qualities that have given Iron Maiden such enduring, universal appeal.

THE RAVEN AGE//words: Amit Sharma

“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” –The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

In the modern age of tight budgets and even tighter playlists, it’s all too tempting for today’s artists to dilute their vision into a one-size-fits-all, radio-friendly framework that leaves little to scratch beyond the surface. When such compromises are made, history has proven time and time again it is the art which undoubtedly suffers.Harlow hard rock quintet The Raven Age, however, are very much doing everything on their own terms.

Following the release of 2017 debut Darkness Will Rise, which saw them conquer some of the world’s biggest stages under many a metal legend, the group have now put the finishing touches to their next conceptual masterpiece, titled Conspiracy, which unveils the second chapter of their cryptic voyage…

“The album title came from the term for a collective of ravens,” reveals founding guitar George Harris, sat beside singer Matt James, guitarist Tony Maue, bassist Matt Cox and drummer Jai Patel in the down-time between soundcheck and their performance at the O2 Forum Kentish Town supporting Tremonti.“It was partly inspired by the artwork,” continues George. “We’re big fans of massive stories that get told through both music and imagery.There’s so much more to get excited about. We could just put any old logo on our music and stick it out, but why not create something that gives people a much more all-encompassing experience?This band was named after the ravens of the Tower Of London. Our debut represented them leaving the Tower and taking over. This time we wanted to show the other side of that story in this fantasy world.”

The 12 tracks that soundtrack this new take on The Raven Age fantasy world are as brilliantly catchy as they are deviously heavy, delicately balancing classic and modern metal influences with an alt.rock twist. From epic opener Bloom Of The Poison Seed right through to grand finale Grave Of The Fireflies,the latest opus traps lightning in a bottle and laces cinematic flavours within concrete heaviness in a way very few have done before –dragging the listener deeper and deeper inside their dark dystopian reality.

Truth be told, this is a band that are every bit as explosive as a blockbuster movie…“The ravens are actually being held captive at the Tower, they aren’t there of their own accord,” continues George. “Their wings have been clipped and they’re prisoners of the Tower to keep Britain from falling. The ravens actually come from this castle that you can see in the artwork, inside dwells this character known as a timekeeper. And he’s on this journey to reclaim the ravens – being almost like a grimreaper in that he comes for you when your time is over, using the ravens as scouts –back from the Tower, with all sorts of twists and tangents…”This sophomore installment in what is set out to be part of a bigger story, where clues are left in the artwork and lyrics pointing to what may later come to pass, also marks the arrival of new singer Matt James. The frontman joined ranks in early 2018, ahead of their arena tour with metal masters Iron Maiden. It’s been an exciting rebirth for the group who were awarded Best New Band 2017 by Planet Rock and championed as “the UK’s next brightest metal hope” by Metal Hammer…“I grew up with a lot of alternative rock music,” says Matt, on the newer influences he has brought to the table. “That very first song I played felt so natural, it just worked and none of us could put our fingers on why.We’d rather experiment and invent something totally new that has substance than conform.There’s a combination of influences there that’s unusual but still has all the things we love about metal –the power, the ferocity, the anger –with added mood and theatrics.“The imagery around our band is so important because it creates our identity. Sometimes members need to take a backseat and let the band have its own identity.George is a fantastic lyric writer, you could read his lines off paper without melody and they would tell a beautiful story. I love how bands like Avenged Sevenfold or Nightwish have always had that extra level of meaning to their lyrics.”After weighing up the pros and cons to signing a big record deal, The Raven Age have chosen to release Conspiracy via their own Corvid(the raven/crow family of birds) label,allowing the members to oversee every step of their success and retain full recording rights and creative control. Along with grand designs for their music, imagery and career as a whole, this latest venture looks set to also become something bigger than the five members in the band.“We want to know exactly what’s happening with every aspect of our band,” says George, who has overseen much of the band’s operations since their formation in 2009. “It’s not being big-headed, we’ve just learned that the more people you involve, the more your vision changes or slows down. We wrote the songs, recorded and produced it, came up with the artwork… so why not just go for it? There was more collaboration this time round–Tony and MJ brought some great ideas forward,which we all worked on together to make the album more diverse. Lyrically there are stories of desperation and inhumanity,which get told through different periods of time. I enjoy delving into the lives and experiences of people from years ago when times were totally different, alongside expressing current personal issues which I generally dress up in metaphor.”“There’s a good sense of business in this band,” adds Matt. “If things go as well as we hope, we’d like to sign other bands and bring that into our little crow family. With our career, we know where we stand. If something doesn’t happen, we only have ourselves to blame and, as weird as it sounds, that’s a good place to be! ”2019 finds these ravens in a very good place indeed. After focusing on prime-time support slots underneath rock’n’roll’s heavyweights, their March tour will see them conquer UK and European towns and cities as headliners in their own right.“We’ll be hitting the UK harder than ever before, visiting more areas than your standard run down the middle,” enthuses George. “We’re mega excited to be going back to Europe and show everyone our new music, which as far as I’m concerned blows everything else we’ve done out of the water. Then we’ll be supporting Maiden in the US from mid-July to October… that’s one massive tour! It’s awesome to showcase these songs on a big scale, we’ve dreamed big so will be making the most of it.”“We know how to present ourselves on a massive stage,” agrees Matt. “For some bands, that can be intimidating. It was for us, to start with! But we’ve learned how good we are through it. We know how lucky we’ve been, a lot of bands would kill for the opportunities we’ve had, but we wouldn’t be still here if we couldn’t pull it off. We’ve supported everyone from Mastodon to Killswitch Engage to Gojira and have always held our own.”The proof, as they say, is always in the pudding. The Raven Age have risen to every challenge thrown their way and look primed for metal glory. Get ready for the year of the Raven…