This was Bruce Dickinson's fourth solo album, the previous three being Tattooed Millionaire
(1990), Balls to Picasso
(1994) and Skunkworks
(1996). Dickinson was the lead singer of the British metal band Iron Maiden from 1981-1993. He replaced Paul Di'Anno
, who had a distinctive raspy singing style. Dickinson, on the other hand, had loud, distinct, and powerful vocals which earned him the nickname "the air-raid siren" (his interest in flight helped this). After six critically acclaimed albums, he adapted a similar singing style for the less popular albums No Prayer For the Dying
and Fear of the Dark
. When he left the band to pursue his interests, he was replaced by Blaze Bayley, who recorded two albums (both with X in the title) until Bruce returned in 1999.
Dickinson: "'Accident of Birth' is about a family from Hell. Except they're in hell and one of them has accidentally been born, and they want him back and he doesn't want to go. For all the same reasons that you wouldn't want to go back to your family if they're a pain in the ass, he doesn't want to go back to his family. Ok, so they're in Hell, that makes a little difference too."
The songs Dickinson wrote for the album had a general "alchemy" theme (alchemy is the psuedo-science in which the practicers of alchemia attempted to make gold from other metals) "and specifically the poetry of William Blake, which is very much based on the philosophy of alchemy." Dickinson also said: "Each song has a sort of frame in which it operates. The first song is about fear, the second song is about tragedy, the third song is about union. You could pick a theme or a topic for each song so that's what the song is about and then you put it in a frame. For example, one of the songs is about failure and the song is called "The Trumpets of Jericho." In the story of the trumpets of Jericho in the Bible, the walls fall down when the tribes of Israel walk around the city and blow they trumpets. Except in this song they don't, it doesn't work. You're done everything right, everything's cool but the wall's still standing. And what do you do? How do you face up to that fact? And it's all part of the whole alchemy thing. What were the alchemists trying to do? They were trying to achieve something that was virtually impossible, they spent their whole lives trying to do it, and all of them failed, or pretty damn near all of them failed. So, what does that feel like, and how does that work, and why keep carrying on. So that's the way the songs kind of work. And you don't have to go into them in all this detail, you could just sit back there and let it hit you over the head like a sledgehammer cause the album works it's just a really heavy album. But it's all there if you want to dig through the words."
Dickinson resumed his previous, more popular air-raid siren vocals for his solo albums, much to the delight of critics and fans.
The cover art was designed by Derek Riggs, who designed all the early Iron Maiden cover art and created most of the different incarnations of the band's mascot, Eddie. He also designed the art for the single of this song. They both depicted an insane, club-wielding jester jack-in-the-box draped with the Union Jack. Derek named him "Edison" after Thomas Edison.
Most of the songs on the album featured Roy Z on guitar. His real name is Roy Romeriz but, in his words, "back in the '80s it wasn't really all that cool to have an ethnic last name, so I flipped it around and it became 'Zerimar.' Eventually, people just started abbreviating it for convenience sake's and called me 'Z,' and it stuck." However, the song "Ghost of Cain" (which was featured on the single) had Adrian Smith on guitar. Smith was the guitarist for Iron Maiden from 1980-1990 until leaving for his solo project, ASAP (Adrian Smith And Project). "Ghost of the Navigator" was the name of a song on Brave New World, the first Maiden album released after Dickinson rejoined the band.
Bruce Dickinson, about the album: "The truth is never clear... until it clobbers you over the head. That's what happened when I decided to make the ultimate metal record. My favorite stuff, legends, sci-fi, fairy stories, dark deeds of the occult, set to slamming riffs, soaring vocals and great tunes."
One line is "Jesus had his day off when they pulled you through." The album was rife with anti-Christ lyrics (for instance, "Man of Sorrows" is about Satanist Aleisteir Crowley, "Road to Hell" implies that Jesus was a sinner [and makes reference to a "brave new world," the name of the first Maiden album after Dickinson's return in 1999], and "The Magician" contains the line "I'll put Jesus in his place"). Rod Smallwood, manager of Iron Maiden, never let him use such controversial content under his management.
Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for all above