Saturday, September 20, 1997

Shaking rust off the metal

By KIERAN GRANT -- Toronto Sun


Bruce Dickinson knows the iron-clad days of heavy metal are all but the stuff of legend now.
 He was there, after all, leading Iron Maiden -- a band named for a medieval torture device -- through the dark ages of hard rock, the '80s, armed with goth-gusto and sword 'n' sorcerer anthems.
 So consider his new solo album, Accident Of Birth, a return to the days of yore, a shot in the arm for musical metalurgy.
 "The state of hard rock and metal at the end of the '80s was pretty diabolical," says Dickinson, who plays the Warehouse tomorrow night.
 "There were all these fake, poseur hair bands being signed by middle-aged record company executives looking for a second childhood. It was very undignified and had nothing whatever to do with why metal had gotten back on its feet at the beginning of the '80s.
 "Metal had lost its courage."
 Accident Of Birth has no shortage of courage. Dickinson belts out songs like Toltec, Taking The Queen and The Magician in his epic falsetto wail.
 Metallic, but not ironic -- it's just uncool enough to work.
 "It felt so right, and I had such a blast making it, that I just didn't care," says the affable Dickinson. "Somebody's got to kick the ball off.
 "You have to take the chance of being accused of being medieval or Spinal Tap-ish. If you do it well enough, it will just fall on the right side of the line between what's really cool and what's a parody of itself. All great rock music does."
 He adds: "Quite often it does cross over, and eventually the bands realize. But to be able to walk that line is what makes it so exciting to be a part of this."
 Dickinson left Iron Maiden amicably in 1992. It took two solo albums, Balls To Picasso and Skunkworks, before Dickinson found his metal shanks again on Accident Of Birth.
 He even rushed ahead of the pack in '92 with an electronic album, which he scrapped.
 "Part of me felt like I was trying too hard to be clever," he says. "Did I really feel like having electronic anvils, smashing lumps of metal, hissing noises? Nah."
 The singer says his new album was "written from instinct.
 "Metal is irretrievably tied up with American music right now. The Marilyn Mansons of the world have been sniffing around the edges of metal. Soundgarden were a metal band but wouldn't own up to it because it was too uncool. No one's come out and made an unashamedly heavy metal record and said: This is not industrial, it's not hardcore, it's heavy metal."
 Dickinson says that though he thinks hard rock went through a renaissance in the first wave of "post-Nirvana alt-rock, it's been diluted to the point where it's ludicrous."
 He is a fan of artful rock bands like
Radiohead and Catherine Wheel. The latter are fronted by his first cousin, Rob Dickinson.
 "I actually helped them get off the ground," he says proudly. "I did their lights, actually, and engineered some very early demos for them, very badly.
 "I love what they're doing. Black Metallic, from their first album, is one of my all-time favorite tracks.
 "The only thing that sticks in my throat a bit is that rock fans don't know as much about them as they should. That's a great, heavy rock band."