Despite the obvious parallels between the lyrical content and current global affairs, Harris denies the work is politically motivated. “A lot of it is what happened over the past 500 years, throughout history really, not just what’s happening now. We’re basically saying that we haven’t learned from our mistakes. It’s not really political or anything, it’s just stuff that we’ve been observing, and writing about history as well,” says Harris.

Behind the bleak and depressing song topics, Iron Maiden’s ever-present smile manages to peek its way through. In this case it’s found at the very start of the disc with a rather amusing exclamation. “That’s just (Nicko) McBrain messing around. It’s one of the little things he’s always done,” remarks Harris. “Some of the lyrics are fairly serious so we thought we’d leave it in for fun.”

The band’s apparent joy for delivering over-the-top music transcends their studio work and into their live performances. Whether they’re striking poses with their guitars, using the power of rock to fend off the 10-foot tall monster known as Eddie, sprinting across the stage at superhuman speeds or throwing their guitars over their heads to get the solo just right, Iron Maiden do it all with either gleaming smiles or stone-cold seriousness (which is equally outlandish).

“We really are enjoying what we’re doing, so it’s not difficult to have a smiling face when you’re enjoying yourself. We do what we want to do. We don’t compromise in that way,” Harris continues. “We please ourselves first and foremost. When the fans are getting into it, it’s hard to not have a smiling face, like when people are singing the melodies.”

Flashy onstage antics do present the risk of injury. “Everyone is running around, but I’m most worried about Janick’s guitar. I suppose someone is going to end up crashing into someone eventually, but so far so good… well, Janick fell off the stage once and hurt himself pretty bad. We’ve had a few Spinal Tap moments in our career and I think there were certainly some parts taken directly from us, but it’s funny,” concedes Harris.

Even the happiest band in heavy metal has its down days. Last summer when the band played their final show on Ozzfest, they were pelted with eggs and various other objects from members of the Osbourne camp. This was supposedly in retaliation for Bruce Dickinson’s candid and not so positive comments about Ozzy and Ozzfest. As one can tell, Harris’ response to the topic is quite indirect.

“Two years before, we were headlining the same sort of places in the States. We have a hardcore following in the US, as we do in the U.K., but we played the Ozzfest as a conscious effort to get across to some other fans as well. It was a one-off that I don’t think we’ll ever do again,” says Harris. “The States is such a vast country, it’s very difficult to get across to new fans. We’re greedy and we want them all.”

Established fans and new fans alike should take heed: half of the set, six or seven songs, will be off the new album. This is not a change by any measure. For years, Iron Maiden have focused their setlists on their newest material. Put simply, “People should do their homework,” advises Harris.

Is it necessary that an element of persuasion be added to convince one to attend an Iron Maiden concert or pick up A Matter Of Life And Death? The answer is “No.” Those who know anything about killer (and hilarious) stage shows, exaggerated hard rock theatrics and the magic of flashy hammer- on guitar solos will come out to support Maiden. Join the fun- loving metalheads for some serious rocking while you attend a crash course in world history.

Catch Iron Maiden on tour at Nassau Coliseum (Oct. 12) and Continental Airlines Arena (Oct. 13). Their new studio release, A Matter Of Life And Death, is available in stores now.

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