It’s been a heck of a teaser campaign. #WOTW. It all began back at Castle Donington… No I’m not farting on about Monsters Of Rock 1988 again. Nor the Fear Of The Dark 1992 set, nor the myriad times they’ve done Download since the sites rebrand of their metal festival and the expanding of it into a weekend event. I’m talking about some suspicious bits of photocopied A4 which started to appear on the hoardings and partitions in the backgrounds of the band interviews at The Download Pilot Festival. They didn’t even have the words Iron Maiden on them.
Even the most eagle eyed fans might not have made the connection at first. On site sludging about in the Friday mud or finally basking in the sun by Sunday. After all flyers are not uncommon at festivals. Posters adorn every surface at Download every year. Apart from looking comically black metalish the only thing that stands out about the Belshazzar’s Feast poster is nobody has ever heard of the band. If they are a band. But cryptic clues do lie in wait. There’s a hotmail email address at the bottom. Not exactly cutting edge tech. Photocopies and free online emails. There’s also the words “Man or Beast” and “Heaven Or Hell” in a very metal German Gothic. “Live Forever”? Are these song titles? Lyrics? And there’s a date. 15/07 and a cryptic IMXVII. Is that image Mount Doom less Sauron’s eye? Is it a Mountain? An Iceberg? A church? Ahh skulls. Lots of skulls. We like skulls. Very metal.
All very quick, all very clean. If you weren’t at Download or weren’t looking for new underground Death Metal bands to find out about you could pass this by without a thought. Then they interviewed Frank Turner for the TV about playing to a live crowd again at last… and he had one of the Belshazzar’s Feast T-Shirts on. Wait a minute. Bruce Dickinson was on TV the other day talking about Brexit (he voted for it, an end to freedom of movement and was now surprised bands were struggling to tour Europe?!?!? Did he play with madness? Hardly clairvoyant of him was it? We’re all strangers in a strange land now. When we used to be in the Sanctuary of a union from The Isle of Avalon to Transylvania) and he had the same shirt on!
More and more rock and metal stars and influencers were seen wearing the lo-fi white on black T-Shirt. Never calling it out, just semi visible under their regular gear. Fans started to scan back over the last couple of weeks. This has been going on a little while. Hidden in plain sight.
The pennies started to drop all over the planet when Iron Maiden’s own socials started with some word play. Many tweets were constructed of words that spell out four letters #WOTW. Then five #TWOTW
The bit of their social media that promotes their video game empire Legacy Of The Beast started featuring a Wallpaper Of The Week for fans to update their phones with. The images of band mascot Eddie seemed to be pointing at the hashtag. Then the Euro’s finally got underway. (Fans of Football since the beginning) Iron Maiden started speculating would England’s captain play Walker On The Wing?
Very quickly the internet fakers got to work. A Track supposedly called Writing On The Wall (actually) by a band called Black Phantom was posted by a web-user called Daniel Belshazzar as if it was a Maiden leak (the tracks real name is Redemption and can be found on their 2020 album Zero Hour). Possibly the same guy behind the hotmail account.? If you messaged it in the days after Download you got a very cryptic reply full of WOTW’s. Then that stopped.
Black Phantom really do sound rather Maiden-ish and Zero Hour has had a few spins on the strength of this ruse alone. You can buy it here BigCartel/BlackPhantom. A convincing bluff. Using a mocked up photoshop image of the famous Rembrandt painting of the bible story all this is referencing… Belshazzar’s Feast… The Story Of The Writing On The Wall. The Sunday School attendant among you may already be joining the dots. It’s common for Maiden to take bible stories as their inspiration for songs. Revelation has often been the favourite but they’ve helped themselves to bits of The Lords Prayer, The old testament and lit some Holy Smoke under the pyre of TV evangelists in the past too.
A Twitter account for @Bels_feast was spotted. It’s banner picture a shot of the church in Walton On The Wolds (talk about cryptic, that’s a tiny village in England). It followed 16 other accounts. Each one a tenuous link to one of Iron Maiden’s 16 albums. At 16 days before the date on the poster it began counting down. A caption card a day building from 16 to IMXVII.
Drummer Nicko is very open about his faith. He also runs a Barbecue restaurant Rock And Roll Ribs (the two facts are not connected I don’t think unless we’re barbecuing Adam’s ribs). Their menus currently feature this image.
The hype machine kicked into overdrive about a week ago. The bands Stories features on IG and Twitter featured doctored versions of their album covers. Usually accompanying clips from the songs the band had featured on their Legacy Of The Beast Live Tour
All the album covers got a similar treatment. Fans started pitching in. Photos from fans in Eddie Masks chalking the letters on their walls or tweaking posters, a single cover in Phototshop or spotting Feast Posters out in the wild.
A Feast poster appeared on our noticeboard at work about ten days ago. There was a WOTW etched into the wall beneath Light Brigade Eddie on the Tour Poster. That poster has been in the public domain for months. Playing the long game like it’s the Longest Day.
I’d say Maiden have played a blinder with this campaign. They’ve kept it fun for the fans. They’ve not teased too long without adding more info. On Friday night the week before the possible release date the band were scheduled to play Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son along with Tim’s Twitter Listening Party. An invention from the wonderfully community spirited mind of Tim Burgess of The Charlatans.
Tim has been gathering music fans together of all genres to sit down at a set time with a nominated album and all listen as one. During lockdown when we couldn’t go out at all it really helped with the communal vibe that was now missing because gigs could kill. Iron Maiden had previously done one of his shindigs for Powerslave. It was the biggest Listening Party of them all. Tens of thousands of people all logged on at the same time and dropped the needle or hit play at 8pm GMT before the guitars of Aces High kicked in. Some even cued Churchill’s Speech in Tweets before it started (that bit isn’t on the album, It’s in the promo video and on Live After Death). Considering there has been no band Tim couldn’t reach (He get’s the stars to join in and tweet along with the album too, telling stories from the recording studio, the road and the ideas behind the songs) for Maiden to be the biggest (by far) is a far better endorsement of their standing than any Hall Of Fame nonsense.
I myself have attended parties for The Cult, Transvision Vamp, Ramones, Chemical Brothers, The Hold Steady, Pearl Jam and Frank Turner as well as being right in there for Powerslave.
I love talking about music. That’s obvious. These parties give fans a chance to feel like they’re back in the crowd or queuing at the bar chatting to other gig goers. I’ve delighted in seeing shared pictures of tour shirts, ticket stubs, vinyl variants and tattoos. And we all compare stereo set ups and listening spaces with envy.
While lifting a stylistic exit strategy from TV detective Columbo (and using a gif of Columbo himself) after the acoustic outro of Only The Good Die Young on Friday night a video of Bruce appeared online.
And now. It’s here. The first new studio recording from Iron Maiden since The Book Of Souls in 2015. A firecracker of a single that has brought the band back to the fans. From its acoustic intro with Eastern tinges to blazing, galloping and charging in their signature style. This six minute plus epic talks of globalisation, the falling of empires and horsemen of the apocalypse. The songs a widescreen technicolour experience alone. It’s epic animated video scratches so many Heavy Metal itches it’s spectacular.
After a serious battle with Cancer for Bruce the frontman he’s back writing, doing spoken words shows and (now we know) coming up with video treatments that knock all other Maiden promos into a cocked hat. It was a long wilderness between the conclusion of the Souls World Tour and into tying up one of their touring heritage shows due to covid. The germ may have messed with the master plan but they’re finally back. Is ‘Shazza’s Feast the album? Will there be more animated videos? Shows? Can I buy a record with a superb painted cover very soon please?
Since TBOS seen their brewing partnership with Robinson’s go from fun idea to a full range of quality booze sought after by rockers the world over. The Sun And Steel Eddie from the lager bottle appears to star in this new video. They finally got Eddie the video game he deserved after the false dawns of Melt, Ed Hunter and Speed Of Light. It may come as no surprise that they seem to have secured rabid fandom in yet another generation of metalheads. Boys and girls (and everyone inbetween) of every age on every continent wear the T-Shirts, play the records and clamor for the big show. Since Book Of Souls there’s been solo and side projects. book deals, triple live gate folds and remastered remasters remastered again in box sets aplenty. Now at last. They’re back to making new music. #WOTW
Feast on this Beast…