Iron Maiden The Bell Centre, Montreal QC, April 1

Iron Maiden The Bell Centre, Montreal QC, April 1
Photo: Chris Bubinas
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Iron Maiden are a relentless global force, nothing short of heavy metal royalty. After arriving in Montreal a day prior on their Flight 666 — a 747-400 jet dubbed Ed Force One in loving honour of their undead mascot Eddie — the band stormed onto the stage at the Bell Centre in Montreal last night (April 1).

But wild-eyed mascots and jaw-dropping transportation aren't what make Iron Maiden one of the most respected bands in the history of heavy metal. Though currently touring in support of their sixteenth studio album The Book of Souls, the band has been amassing a rare richness of incredible tracks that collectively defy any one particular genre and assembling a global cult following since 1976. The band really started to make its mark, however, in 1981, when the wailing, operatic and athletic front-man Bruce Dickinson joined the band.

Last night, they stood behind the stage at the Bell Centre, with sixteen thousand ravenous fans howling for them to start their performance, six of the most consummate musicians in metal, preparing to assault the senses of Montreal for the nineteenth time.

Bands that have been around a long while tend to enjoy playing a considerable amount of material from the latest album, and this show was no exception. The band opened with the brooding, eerie and massively atmospheric "If Eternity Should Fail", with Dickinson kneeling behind a dimly lit altar that was belching fog down onto the stage. "Here is the soul of a man!" Dickinson pled with the altar over haunting ambience, before the stage erupted in pyro and his bandmates rushed onto the stage to join him.

Lucky for the fans, the new album is some of the finest work by Iron Maiden in a long time. The first single "Speed of Light" proved a rapid paced riff fest, blazing, accessible, very '80s sounding — and with cowbell! "Tears of a Clown" offered a plodding but earnest tribute to the late Robin Williams and featured one of the most intense, gut wrenching guitar solos seen in a long time. "Death of Glory" was a relentless romp, and the title track "The Book of Souls" was absolutely intense and mesmerizing. "The Red and the Black," however, seemed rather customary, and it was pretty tough not to think about the multitude of vintage tracks they could have played in its place.

With older material, Iron Maiden really sent the crowd ballistic, though. Tunneling as far back into their catalogue as 1980s debut album Killers, the band unleashed a torrent of classics, especially in the back half of their set. "The Number of the Beast" and "Powerslave" sent the crowd into a frenzy, "Wasted Years" and "Hallowed be Thy Name" was awe-inspiring, presenting rich compositional layers stacked with riffs, causing an array of sounds to jut out of the stage and dance together.

Hands down, the standout performance of the night was the 1992 masterpiece "Fear of the Dark". It was an experience that should be added to the bucket list of any metalhead, and while it is known as a crowd participation classic enjoyed around the world, Montreal really outdid themselves on this night. Singing and chanting throughout the entire song, the audience became as predominant a part of that performance as anyone on stage. It was mesmerizing, it was eerie, it was beautiful and it was absolutely breathtaking.