To live comfortably among the hip, one must be acquainted with their music. Therefore, noting a preponderance of vintage Motörhead and Iron Maiden T-shirts hugging the ribs of L train patrons, I resolved to immerse myself in said bands’ new albums. But WTF? Neither platter sounds a speck like Sunn0)))!!!
Motörhead, besotted with titty-bar rhythms and horizontal honky-tonking, thrive on cartoonish priapismisms—Lemmy the lecher abetted by gruffly swinging, shit-stained blues guitar. The Jeremiah-approved “God Was Never on Your Side” is borne aloft on a bed of plaintive acoustic guitar only to come crashing down on a shore of cataclysmic power chords. Spiritually accurate album closer–tribute “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” is a frenetic, frivolous, rock ‘n’ roll rush, but ultimately, Kiss of Death is rote Mote. Mostly everything sounds fun, but hardly anything sounds dangerous. It’s 13 inconsequentially enjoyable stompers that won’t keep bikers from ambling to the beer line, patiently waiting to hear “Ace of Spades.”
More to my bubbe’s liking, Iron Maiden’s music never unclenches enough to allow any sex or fun to get in. Life and Death is a portentous juggernaut, 72 bloated minutes of precision-tooled riffs, hi-def solos, and dive-bombing vocals. But length itself is no virtue, and galvanizing as it can be to hear Bruce Dickinson shatter a vowel with his air-siren wail or the guitars do their double-teaming deedly-deedling, what kills for four minutes is dead after five and stinks past six. That’s bad news when the average track here runs seven. Just like so many younger, hipper, equally self-important metal bands, Maiden wring every last ounce of vitality from their formula—guitarpeggiated intro, loud riffing, solo, rinse, repeat—and then drag the remains past enjoyment into mere appreciation. Maybe that explains why, in my neighborhood anyway, Maiden icon Eddie’s zombie scowl graces more chests than Snaggletooth B. Motörhead’s iron smile. But hey, Sunn0))) are not a ton of fun either.
Iron Maiden play the Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York, October 12 and Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, New Jersey, October 13.