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Iron Maiden's Top 10 Songs About History

By Realizingresonance @RealizResonance

The philosophical theme for Realizing Resonance in July is History. Rather than attempt to scour my musical files for a rounded sample of songs about history, I am going to draw on songs from just one band, the legendary metal titans Iron Maiden. Ranging from pre-history through the 20th century, Maiden has penned many a tune with a historical theme. Some of the songs are accurate play by play accounts of past events, while other tracks are inspired meta-artistic interpretations of poems and novels that have historical themes. I have to credit Maiden with inspiring a lot of my own passion in history, and I think their lyrical focus on worldly themes, have made them a global phenomenon that continues to draw crowds of young and old metal heads everywhere they touch down. Rather than rank the songs in a normative sense like I normally do, I have ordered them chronologically from earliest to latest, in terms of the time they are about. Some of the lyrics below are a bit graphic, and they deal with war and death, so consider that before you read further.

78000 BC: “Quest for Fire”

Like many Maiden songs this one is based off a book and movie of the same title. While not historically precise, it is about prehistory and the discovery of fire, in the time of the Neanderthal.

“And they thought that when the embers died away, that the flame of life had burnt and died. Didn't know the sparks that made the fire were made by rubbing stick and stone.”

3000 BC: “Powerslave”

This song is about ancient Egypt, and the Pharaohs who believed that they were living gods. It turns out that they were still slaves to the power of death.

“Into the abyss I'll fall, the eye of Horus, into the eyes of the night, watching me go. Green is the cat's eye that glows in this temple. Enter the risen Osiris, risen again. Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave. I don't wanna die, I'm a god, why can't I live on? When the Life Giver dies, all around is laid waste. And in my last hour, I'm a slave to the power of death.”

356-323 BC: “Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.)”

The title of the song speaks for itself I think. An epic track, with a detailed biography of the legendary Macedonian conqueror, it seriously inspired me to learn more. One of the most interesting things about Alexander the Great was that he was tutored as a boy by the Philosopher Aristotle.

“A Phrygian King had bound a chariot yoke and Alexander cut the Gordian knot, and legend said that who untied the knot, he would become the master of Asia. Hellenism he spread far and wide, the Macedonian learned mind. Their culture was a Western way of life. He paved the way for Christianity.”

851 AD: “Invaders”

A fast and fun track about Viking raids. In 851 the Danes invaded England with 350 boats, and the Vikings went on to defeat armies from the ancient Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria, Kent, and Mercia.

“Longboats have been sighted, the evidence of war has begun. Many Nordic fighting men, their swords and shields all gleam in the sun. Call to arms, defend yourselves, get ready to stand and fight for your lives.”

1244 AD: “Montségur”

Montségur is a medieval fortress in the Languedoc region of South Eastern France. The Albigensian Crusade, or Cathar Crusade, was about eradicating the Gnostic Christian sect of the Cathars, due to the Catholic view that this sect was heretical. In 1244 the Cathars at Montségur surrendered after being beseeched by 10,000 French soldiers, and 220 of them were burned in a bonfire.

“As we kill them all, so God will know his own. The innocents died for the pope on his throne, Catholic greed and its paranoid zeal. Curse of the grail and the blood of the cross. Templar believers with blood on their hands, joined in the chorus to kill on command. Burned at the stake for their soul's liberty, to stand with the Cathars, to die and be free.”

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1620 AD: “The Pilgrim”

Heavily symbolic, I think this song captures the sentiment of the Pilgrims feelings about journeying to the New World and leaving Europe behind.

“Now give us our holy sign, changing the water into wine. So to you we bid farewell, kingdom of heaven to hell. Spirit holy life eternal, raise me up take me home. Pilgrim sunrise, pagan sunset, onward journey begun.”

1600-1900 AD: “Run to the Hills”

One of Maiden’s most popular songs, and a still a staple for rock radio. It is about the conquering of the Native Americans, but the Europeans.

“White man came across the sea, brought us pain and misery. Killed our tribes killed our creed, took our game for his own need. We fought him hard we fought him well; out on the plains we gave him hell. But many came, too much for Cree. Oh will we ever be set free?”

October, 25th 1854 AD: “The Trooper”

This song is based on the poem, “Charge of the Light Brigade”, by Lord Alfred Tennyson, which describes a particularly tragic British military maneuver in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, a war between Russia and an alliance between the British, the French, the Ottomans, and the Sardinians, for control over territory.

“You take my life but I'll take yours too. You fire your musket but I run you through. So when you're waiting for the next attack, you'd better stand there's no turning back. The bugle sounds, the charge begins, but on this battlefield no one wins. The smell of acrid smoke and horse’s breath, as I plunge on into certain death.”

1917 AD: “Paschendale”

The Battle of Paschendale was fought between British and German troops in Belgium during World War I.

“Dodging shrapnel and barbed wire, running straight at canon fire, running blind as I hold my breath, say a prayer symphony of death, as we charge the enemy lines, a burst of fire and we go down.”

June, 6th 1944 AD: “The Longest Day”

This song is about D-Day, the day that allied forces launched a coordinated attack at several German positions on the coast of Normandy, and executed an amphibious assault in order to establish a beach head in France. This was one the dramatic turning points in World War II.

“The rising dead, faces bloated torn, they are relieved, the living wait their turn. Your number's up, the bullet's got your name, you still go on, to hell and back again. Valhalla waits, valkyries rise and fall, the warrior tombs lie open for us all. A ghostly hand reaches through the veil, blood and sand, we will prevail.”


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By  Realizingresonance
posted on 24 July at 04:51
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