Heavy metal is one of the richest and most complex forms of art on the planet, yet it's rarely given the respect it deserves by institutions outside its own. While undoubtedly a byproduct of its cartoonish perception, the fact of the matter is metal at its best provides an intersection for traditional storytelling, musical athleticism and virtuosity, and a breeding ground for outlandish and fantastic visual aesthetics, the likes of which have found their way into the mainstream of art and fashion time and time again for decades.
One constant phenomenon of the metal condition has been the ceaseless cycle of splintering into subsects and microgenres. Though "metal" now signifies a net wide enough to include something for just about everyone, there's one thing almost all metal fans agree upon: Iron Maiden is still the titan against which all others are to be measured.
Metal, being the relatively young art form it is, retains many of its stalwart heroes and original founding groups. For better or worse, a form of Black Sabbath is currently on its fifth or sixth farewell tour. The Big Four thrash revolutionaries have all released new albums in the past year or are working on a record (Metallica is currently in the studio); however, save for Judas Priest — a band still putting out kick-ass records and taking names on the road with its original potency — none of the most hallowed names in metal have remained as consistently strong in their own releases nor stayed as true to their stylistic guns as Iron Maiden. More important, few have managed to continue growing this far into their careers.
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With the release of last year's critically lauded The Book of Souls, Maiden has continued its streak of unbelievably strong late-career albums that show not only what a band that's been kicking it around since 1975 is capable of but also how much is left to say in a form if it remains pure and focused. The album is an epic in the tradition of classic double albums, serving as a triumphant victory lap following frontman Bruce Dickinson's recent round of cancer treatments. This alone is reason to get your shit together and go see Iron Maiden on the band's impending tour. Would you really want to be the person who failed to see one of the greatest bands of all time — arguably the greatest metal band of all time — while it remained a true force of nature in a live setting? Would you be all right with yourself if a member of Maiden left this Earth and you had missed your opportunity to scream along to the classics (and the future classics) with hordes of other true believers? What kind of metal fan would you be if you didn't pay respects to Eddy when given the opportunity? You'd be the kind that fakes the funk, that's what kind of fan you'd be.
And if you do intend to join the other faithful at BB&T Center in Sunrise on Wednesday, you'd do well to find time beforehand to enjoy some of Maiden drummer (and South Florida resident) Nicko McBrain's excellent barbecue, at his restaurant Rock N Roll Ribs in Coral Springs.
7:50 p.m. Wednesday, February 24, at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets cost $55 to $150 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.