Caught By a Spell: Iron Maiden’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner- An Essay on the Band's Adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." (Published 2009)
The postmodern is sometimes said to flicker ephemerally, sliding us over a slick surface without depth or history. In contrast to empty simulacrae, Iron Maiden’s Powerslave (1984) offers us history, myth, presence and power and a path to differance in that Orwellian year. Closing with “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a thirteen and a half- minute song-epic based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1797 poem, this album did not scatter one’s subjectivity on postmodern surfaces. Rather, Iron Maiden infused listeners with musical and lyrical nostalgia for wonder. Iron Maiden sought transcendence in that liminal space between high culture and pop culture, myth and materiality, and cracked through the bland, conforming surfaces of Thatcherism and Reaganism. If “The World Is Too Much With Us” in its scope and ambition, as Wordsworth’s poem of that title claimed, Steve Harris’s reworking of Coleridge’s poem was a modernist metal tour de force that renewed modern life in driving rhythms and mythical imagination. Iron Maiden takes up Coleridge’s haunting poem about recollection. Shifting into new keys and tempos, they decenter the narrative, placing the song after the title cut about an ancient Egypian king. We listeners are invited into other times and places, into a region of wonder that collapses history and replaces it with an overlapping bricolage in which all times are one. History is no longer linear and hegemoic, but cyclical, as in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner itself. This panoply of affective changes, images, and sounds mirrors the displacement or dislocation of history, as Robert Walser has observed (53-54). Yet, in its resistance to this decenteredness, the Ancient Mariner enacts the quest for unitive mystical experience in which, as the mystics say, all times are one and all history is now. This quest reflects Deena Weinstein’s assertion that metal’s “core audience really seeks a true ecstatic experience,” one that “removes the everyday-life world” (214). The weaving of sound and myth in Iron Maiden’s song, reflecting that bricolage that Robert Walser has viewed as postmodern, is akin to this quest for unitive vision, in which all time is present in the mystical moment. To listen to Iron Maiden’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is to be entranced. The listener is absorbed in the guitar lines of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson’s vocals and theatricality, Steve Harris’s forceful and extraordinary bass lines and Nikko McBrain’s driving rhythms. Like Coleridge, Iron Maiden’s members give themselves up to visions and offer dreams and gesture toward extraordinary consciousness. They explore “tensions between reality and dream,” as Robert Walser has pointed out (152). The stories of an ancient Egyptian king, or that of an Ancient Mariner, draw listeners toward unusual and mythical realms of thought. With Iron Maiden’s songs on Powerslave, listeners are invited both into narratives and into other times and spaces, into a region of wonder. To listen is to be caught by a spell as Iron Maiden’s Powerslave enacts the romance of metal. In their songs, Iron Maiden embraces the power of mystery that is found in mythology, astrology, alchemy, esoterica, war, dueling, or the Biblical Book of Revelation. Heroism and mishap clash as Iron Maiden’s music powers through songs, in tension and release, echoing a sense of a struggle for survival. The band reaches for the breakthrough vitality conveyed in technically precise octave leads, or dual guitar lines. Throughout Powerslave there is a battle for vision and life, an appropriation of symbols of power and quest for what Robert Walser has identified as the “experience of power and transcendent freedom” that can overcome the anxieties and discontinuities of the post-modern world” (55). Songs represent what Deena Weinstein has seen in metal as “challenges to the sources of disorder, fighting the good fight” (41). There is a call to the heroic journey, a summons to adventure and wonder. Formed through “the dreams and ambitions” of Steve Harris, Iron Maiden’s adventure began when they were offered a record contract in 1976, if they were willing to “go punk.” (Wall 10-15, Christe) However, in the early days of the band, with vocalist Paul Di Anno, there was an innovative sound that broke with British punk and Iron Maiden went their own way. They adopted the Faustian heavy metal attitude that Philip Basche began to document in Heavy Metal Thunder, which appeared shortly after Powerslave in 1985. Iron Maiden, with Sanctuary (1980), Killers (1981), and The Number of the Beast (1982), took a turn toward power chords, lyrical leads, motivic development, Gothic mysticism and horror. On Powerslave, repeatedly, the band’s musical arrangements echo their songs’ lyrical content. Amid darkness and combat, songs seek vitality, action, transcendent flight, and heroism. For example, there is sword and sorcery in Dickinson’s “The Duelists” and an overcoming of duality, as music, lyrics, and sound are woven into one, in the duel of guitars. “Aces High” and “Two Minutes To Midnight,” both of which were hits on the U.K. charts, recall with fierce energy the Battle of Britain and a fight with impending doom. Iron Maiden brings their audience images from literature, history, and myth to reflect human aspiration. “The Rime” also bears one line from Tennyson (“water, water everywhere / nor any drop to drink”). Tennyson’s poetry also appears in the 1983 hit “The Trooper,” a version of “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” a poem referring to heroism and mishap. In 1986, Iron Maiden pointed to Alexander the Great, paraphrasing Plutarch in their opening lines: “My son, ask for thyself another kingdom, for that which I leave is too small for thee” (Plutarch, Alexander 6.8). Such an appeal to the heroic and to the attempt at flight is found in “The Flight of Icarus,” and, perhaps more successfully in “Aces High.” Listeners were fascinated by Iron Maiden’s Powerslave (1984). Rich in energy and drive, the record borders on being a concept album. It signals the band’s awakening tendency toward progressive metal. On Powerslave, producer Martin Birch and the band create an atmosphere of energy and mystery. From the striking beginning of “Aces High,” launched by the fierce guitars of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, the record dwells in narrative and mythology. Steve Harris’s lyrics tell stories and touch upon themes that recall myth, heroism, science fiction, and ancient worlds. The lyrics suggest struggles: a duel for life in the 1984 world. The ancient mariner suggests a kind of mental and spiritual entrapment. On the title song “Powerslave,” an Egyptian Pharoah wonders why he has to die when everyone around him is telling him that he is a god. There is a Romantic nostalgia for ancient worlds and a yearning for more vital prospects. The Music It is significant that Harris, a bassist, a musician from the rhythm section of the band, was the composer who adapted and set Coleridge’s poem to music. Harris’s bass emerges as a lead instrument and sets rhythmic patterns in novel ways. His experiments with rhythm correspond with the experimentation that lies at the heart of the romantic poetic enterprise. Harris, who Iron Maiden biographer Mick Wall identifies as the creator of “the songs, the idea and attitude” of the band (14), plays an instrument that anchors many bands and establishes rhythmic figures within a song. His development of Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” attends to themes of growth, decay, change, and dynamism. This song-poem is a narrative ballad that captures a movement in time through varying time signatures. Chords, guitar hooks, rhythms and melodies engage listeners with energy, or evoke haunting atmosphere. Iron Maiden and producer Martin Birch create an atmosphere that is by turns energetic and haunting. Iron Maiden’s song is haunted, washed in sound, driven forward by Steve Harris’s basslines much like the Mariner’s boat has been driven by the sound made by spirits. As in Coleridge, the band’s version emerges with spell-like, incantatory patterns. The song is filled with highly coordinated transitions and carefully timed tempo changes that maintain interest across more than thirteen minutes. The motifs demand change. They push, like the Mariner, toward horizons and vary from a dynamic and energetic pulse to a haunting middle. There is order in the crashing guitars, just as there are patterns in waves breaking. We are held spellbound by Iron Maiden’s music much in the same way that Coleridge’s wedding guest is held spellbound by the Ancient Mariner’s story. With rhythmic shifts we move between tension and release. Tonal relations organize the piece and riffs supply melodic figures, motifs that push the song from one tonal area to another. The song moves in a manner consistent with Romantic form. The establishment of a dominant tonal center and mood is followed by a departure. The song comes back home, recalling an earlier musical theme, and then moves with a difference. It recalls the past but explodes into new exploration. Iron Maiden takes us on a journey. The spell comes over us as motifs build, diminish, and then return. Musically, the song is carefully structured. The song opens explosively with a guitar run of five sixteenth notes landing on an E. Immediately, it begins to travel on a driving pulse in E that is established by Steve Harris’s bass. Several measures into the song, at nine to ten seconds, the opening guitar riff returns, punctuating the driving march pattern in a circular phrase of quick eighth notes repeating the first four notes over and over, then resolving at the end of the phrase on E. Here the rhythmic pattern is doubled by bass and by drums, as McBrain rolls across several tom-toms. Dickinson’s vocal follows, beginning the lyric with words like “mesmerizes,” “trance,” “spell,” “nightmare,” that suggest a haunted oceanic consciousness. “Hear,” he says in the first line. “See,” he says in the second. We are called to be witnesses by opening ourselves to listen and to see the vision of the mariner. The song rocks into tightly executed riffs about three minutes in. As Dickinson continues the story, the dominant harmonic and rhythmic pattern breaks up and the bass begins doubling notes in cut time in rapid sixteenth notes. This hugely energetic bass- driven movement continues until 4:58, where the bass stops. It is somewhere after five minutes has passed that the eerie interlude begins and the song dips down into an atmosphere propelled by Steve Harris’s bass. The “spacey” interlude begins with guitar-like bass arpeggios, a creaking deck, and the narrative voice-over. Dickinson’s singing/speaking is gentle and an entranced hush appears to have settled over the song. This is the mariner’s moment of repentance: music and character change together. At 7:30 a melodic bass functions again much like a guitar and the singing resumes. Then at 8:40, a scream erupts from Dickinson-mariner for about ten seconds, ending in a grisly laugh. The band burst out with a return of the bass pattern followed by a burst of lead guitar. The bass begins to accelerate and the singing resumes, accompanied by guitar riffs. Some listeners have found the middle of the song to “sag.” However, the spacey interlude provides musical contrast and suggests alternative consciousness. As a movement, it dwells in the uncertainty of the musical journey before it recapitulates and returns home. From the quiet bursts a fitting climax: a guitar leads breaks into life; with a powerful soloing, it sails across a stormy sea. There is a build up into the crescendo in this final third of this song. Some nine minutes into the song, the tempo increases, a lascivious laugh issues forth, and the band pulses into blistering solos. From this exuberance comes the return to a motif from early on in the song. At ten minutes, as if carefully timed for 10:00, the guitars move into lyrical octave leads that are anchored by bass and drums. Thirty seconds later (at 10:30) they join the bass pattern. At 11:00, we return to the original bass pattern, announcing musically the return of the mariner, breaking from his nightmare, coming home to a newfound wholeness. This is indeed a musical return and there is a rejoicing of intertwining guitar leads. The story is told and brought to a culmination, rising to climax and we breathe again. The song ends after 13:20, as its final line drifts: “And the tale goes on and on and on,” suggesting that it never ends. This story has an enduring quality because the recounting of it perpetually is the mariner’s penance. Likewise, Iron Maiden concludes with the suggestion that neither will the echo of this album or its legacy end. The Lyric Steve Harris’s reworking of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is a tour de force. Harris’s lyrical compression, summary, and careful selection of elements from Coleridge’s poem organizes the way in which Dickinson’s vocal works within Iron Maiden’s sound. The listener is invited to listen to the story, entranced by music that complements the words Dickinson sings: “mesmerises,” “nightmares of the sea,” “caught by his spell.” Dickinson becomes the conjurer of the spell. Incantatory patterns emerge The poem is told by a haunted sailor who has been cursed for his crimes against nature: the shooting of the albatross. From its opening riff, the song demands attention. Harris deftly weaves Coleridge’s poem into a song lyric with summary and quotation, and supports it with ambitious composition, filled with rhythmic changes. The changing time signatures themselves remind us that music dwells in time and that the fortunes of the mariner hang suspended in changing time. The tale of the mariner is a lengthy story told by the mariner to wedding guests. He has shot down the albatross for sport and has doomed his crew to die at sea of thirst. The mariner repents and is spared but must tell his story over and over, wherever he goes. His theme is that one must be reverent and appreciative of the natural world and all creatures. Dickinson’s voice matches this voice of repentance in the haunting interlude and ultimately breaks into a blood-curdling scream. Many have called Iron Maiden’s song “an epic” because it lasts for more than 13:20. However, it is also epic-like because it tells a tale and proceeds as a recollection of a journey. Iron Maiden’s musical creativity provides a temporal unfolding. The lyrics set forth imagery and use sound to organize time. Bruce Dickinson sings: The Mariner’s bound to tell of his story, To tell his tale wherever he goes The Mariner’s story, like the tale of Odysseus, is a recollection. The romantic lyric poet is a singer and Dickinson projects a theatricality that makes this song work as a live performance. Dickinson’s vocal renders this narration dramatically, projecting the sense of Dyonisian ecstacy in performing of which he has spoken of with Weinstein (88). On the World Slavery Tour, Iron Maiden could unleash their virtuoso guitar playing, and Harris’s bass alongside Bruce Dickinson’s soaring vocals. The theatricality of Dickinson’s stage presence reflected the image of a Romantic virtuoso, such as Franz Lizst, of whom Eduard Hanslick once said, “ Not only does one listen with breathless attention to his playing, one also observes it in the fine lines of his face […] all this has the utmost fascination for his listeners” (Hanslick 110). Steve Harris’s lyrics and music record an experience and perform a reenactment of it. Iron Maiden’s rendering of Coleridge’s poem is quite consistent with Coleridge’s poetics. Meter and rhyme, says Coleridge, support recollection and a song or poem is memorable partly because of its sound devices and repetitions. There is “a rapturous or singing tone” in much of Romantic poetry, as Thomas MacFarland observes (383-87, 400-01). Dickinson’s vocal emphasizes this sense of rapture. Iron Maiden thus performs the work that Coleridge himself saw in the best poetry. Their song is one in which sound excites attention and meter and rhyme lift us from ordinary emotions and meaning. From the opening riffs, we are beckoned to listen. Dickinson launches into the lyric with a call: “Hear the rime of the ancient mariner.” “Hear” begins the first line, “see” begins the second. Dickinson has a great deal of story to tell. However, the song is structured to allow for a good deal of instrumental space apart from the singing of lyric. Following most passages of the narrative, guitar leads respond to the lyric. The mariner and Dickinson as vocalist are conflated: he will sing the story. “Stay here and listen to the nightmares of the sea.” As we accept the invitation, we are enrapt in the story, caught like the mariner in a spell. “And the music plays on” come the chorus and we are propelled into the tale. As the voyage begins, we are set upon a musical journey “to a place that nobody’s been.” In imagery of snow-fog we enter the chill of a “land of snow and ice” and we “see” the figure of the albatross, bird of good omen: “Hailed in God’s name/ hoping good luck it brings.” The chorus resumes – “And the ship sails on” – underscoring the interminable voyage. Then disaster strikes: The mariner kills the bird of good omen His shipmates cry against what he’s done The crew joins with him, however, and the spirit of the albatross exacts its vengeance upon them: “a terrible curse, a thirst has begun.” Blaming the mariner for their ill-fate, the sailors hang the dead bird like a weight, or talisman of ill-will, around his neck. “And the curse goes on and on and on at sea.” The lyric personalizes this thirst, as Dickinson-mariner sings “for them and me.” As in Tennyson’s poem, the speaker finds no means to slake the thirst. There is “water, water everywhere/ nor any drop to drink.” It is at this moment that the ghost ship appears. The narrator wonders at the sight: But how can she sail with no wind in her sails and no tide?” In sighting the ghost ship, the narrator again beckons to us: “See.” He asks for vision, pointing toward the ghostly ship of the doomed in the distance. The song is taken up in a living death, a liminal suspension. It is entirely appropriate that now a ghostly passage of musical change comes upon the listener. As the sailors drop down dead, so too does the music, into a haunted reverie. This is the quiet center of a tornado, the “eye” of the storm in which the mariner is held in abeyance, in an apophatic darkness before his awakening. Here music drops out of the vocal and the narrator tells us the tale starkly. As the deck creaks, fragile tilting wood upon a vast open sea, we are buoyed up into the misty atmosphere of the music. Dickinson sings: One after one by the star dogged moon Too quick for groan or sigh Each turned his face with ghostly pang And cursed me with his eye The gaze of the dead mesmerizes, as did the wedding guest in the opening lines of this song. The gaze challenges the speaker with dread. It is now a collective stare, charging the mariner with profound guilt. Sound is frozen here in a recollection of moments when the stunning hypnotism of this gaze cursed him “too quick for groan or sigh.” Music – and the human groan or sigh of emotion- has vanished and the soul once moved by music is paralyzed, suspended by this cursing challenge to “see.” Then we hear the “heavy thump” of bodies falling: life arrested, the vitality of music itself arrested. The mariner too wishes to die but the life force within, the natural world of the sea creatures and within himself lives on. And now, so too does a music of energy. It reappears, like the animation at the heart of creation. The mariner, now centered in a prayer for the natural world “blesses them/ God’s creatures all of them too.” The music revives: “Then the spell starts to break.” The weight of death eases and the bird around his neck drops away. Now comes sound and music again: “Hear the groans of the long dead seamen.” Their resurrection is accomplished along with musical rebirth. Again we are “Cast into a trance and the nightmare carries on.” The musical return comes with the transformation of the mariner. As in nineteenth century Romantic composition, Iron Maiden has orchestrated a series of movements away from the tonic and the motifs that the song opened with. There has been a difficult passage through musical tensions, changes in time signatures, and a modulation to a new key. Now the music comes home again with a difference. Strikingly, this return is very much in the mode of the mythical heroic journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell and others. Such heroic myth echoes the flight of “Aces High” at the beginning of the album, bringing this recording full circle. And now the curse is finally lifted And the Mariner sights his home. The mariner is released from the “prison” of spirits, who “Form their own light.” A familiar boat sails toward him. “It was a joy he could not believe.” Ship and sin sink with the past into the sea. “And the hermit shrieves the Mariner of his sins.” The word “shrieve” is an archaic form of the Middle English word “shrive,” meaning to impose penance and grant absolution. Dickinson sings: “The Mariner’s bound to tell of his story/ To tell his tale wherever he goes.” It is a tale that goes on and on. Iron Maiden closes this album with the open-ended notion that what we have just heard also will go on and on. Iron Maiden’s Musical Adaptation Are we to read Iron Maiden’s transposition of Coleridge’s dark poem as a paean to wonder and imagination, or as a fearful warning of spellbound disillusion? How might Coleridge himself have heard Iron Maiden’s version? Likely, Coleridge would have appreciated Iron Maiden’s celebration of imagination. In the thirteenth chapter of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria critics see one of the most profound reflections on imagination in all of English literature. Perhaps with this in mind, the poet Robert Penn Warren, in 1946, called Coleridge’s “Rime” “a poem of pure imagination.” He argued that in the poem imagination itself is redemptive. Nineteenth century readers were often simply baffled, finding Coleridge’s poem ambiguous and weirdly mysterious. Heavy metal fans have responded in a variety of ways to Iron Maiden’s version. Steve Harris, however, appears to have found something in Coleridge’s poem that spoke to his time and expressed the image and role of Iron Maiden. The parallel between Coleridge’s mysterious poem and heavy metal culture is striking. In Iron Maiden’s song, imagination and sonic intensity seek peak experience, the pleasures of transcendence and awe. This however, comes with subjection to peril, to the grotesque, and the potential for anarchy. As Deena Weinstein puts it, “ideal metal concerts can be described as hierophanies in which something sacred is revealed” (232). In Iron Maiden’s song we encounter hypnotic dread, and recognize, as Weinstein has indicated, that “the focus on vulnerability to the horrors of chaos is a very significant feature of traditional heavy metal” (42). Mariner and singer welcome the listener into a state of vulnerability, an occult encounter with dread. The spell one is caught in is central to the band’s musical exploration. As Walser notes, “Iron Maiden is among the most mystical and philosophical of heavy metal bands” (151). With the song’s musical spell, Iron Maiden makes an appeal to something other-worldly. Clearly, Iron Maiden appeals to elements of the supernatural that pervade the poem. The poem’s journey through a kind of altered consciousness may also have encouraged Harris’s musical exploration. Harris likely saw the occult philosophy at work in Coleridge’s poem, as John Livingston Lowes noted in his influential The Road to Xanadu. Symbolic readings of Coleridge’s mariner are an important aspect of the poem’s critical tradition. They emerged with Maud Bodkin in Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (1934) and her view that the poem expressed the Jungian archetypes of rebirth. G. Wilson Knight in The Starlit Dome (1941) brought together psychoanalytic theory and Christian mysticism to expound upon the poem’s imagery. In Kenneth Burke’s and Richard Haven’s readings the mariner is a psychological projection by Coleridge of his own relationships and issues. There is something similarly psychological and symbolic in Iron Maiden’s treatment: an appeal to haunted consciousness and transformation. In the imagery of their lyrics and in the graphics on their album covers that feature their mascot “Eddie”, Iron Maiden frequently appeals to symbolic imagery. This symbolic imagery is very present in “The Rime” and throughout the Powerslave album. W.H. Auden’s socio-political approach to the poem may suggest something else beyond these psychological approaches. Auden observed that the ship is a symbol of society. Following Auden, we might suggest that in Coleridge’s poem- and perhaps in Iron Maiden’s treatment- the state and society is creaking through an uncomfortable political and moral condition. Such a socio-political lens may provide us with another way of looking at Iron Maiden’s voice in 1984, as an indirect comment of life in the Thatcher government’s Britain. This is particularly relevant when one considers that the image of a decapitated Margaret Thatcher lies beneath the figure of Eddie on the cover of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The political edge of Iron Maiden’s work is barely touched in Run to the Hills, the anecdotal biography by Mick Wall, or in Iron Maiden: Thirty Years of the Beast, the unauthorized biography by Paul Stenning. Neither make mention of the political context that Coleridge’s supernatural poem emerged from. As a young man Coleridge had been a ‘pantisocratic’ admirer of the French Revolution. Coleridge biographer Richard Holmes describes this as “a turning point” for all of Coleridge’s generation (33). With Powerslave, Iron Maiden, likewise, may have been expressing romantic ideals within what they experienced as a generally stifling social and political environment. Heavy metal is Dyonysian and rebellious, as Weinstein points out. It provides a “transvaluation of the values of respectable society” and, in her view, offers “a cultural coping mechanism.” It is “inherently vitalizing, to tweak a devitalizing, bureaucratic, inauthentic, iron-caged, and unfair world” (Weinstein 262-63). Iron Maiden’s appeal to heroism and the heroic journey is as fundamental to tweaking the world in our times as it was in the age of the Greek classics. It is an enduring aspect of that mythic core that Joseph Campbell identified in The Hero with A Thousand Faces. Yet, as in Campbell’s model, the hero setting forth faces initiation and encounters adversity, darkness, and peril. Could charismatic metal gods duel with chaos and disaster with sonic power and rhythmic innovation? We may wonder what goes “on and on” at the end of Iron Maiden’s last song on the Powerslave album. Is their rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” an affirmation of redemptive potential for society? Or are they suggesting that the story that goes “on and on” is less promising? Critics have been divided about the message of Coleridge’s poem. John Beer, in Coleridge the Visionary, like Warren, emphasized the redemptive aspects of the poem. He also found sources behind it in the mysticism of Jacob Boehme, the allegory of Odysseus’s homecoming, and the ballad collections of Walter Scott. However, other critics suggest there is only interminable retelling and a radical disjunction. Does Iron Maiden, with its adaptation, hold out a concern about alienation with a hope for the possibility of a new coherence? It appears that they achieve what Warren, referring to Coleridge’s poem, once called “expressive integration.” It has often been said that artists are among the first to articulate what is “in the air” in a society. If this is true in Iron Maiden’s case, what was the band saying through this album about consciousness in 1984 Britain? What cultural memory of heroism were they attempting to evoke in “Aces High” or with the Odyssey of the Ancient Mariner? In what sense was Iron Maiden positioning itself as “romantic” and “heroic?” Does Iron Maiden reflect “the romantic ideology” that literary critic Jerome McGann was writing about at the same time? Mc Gann reaffirmed that Coleridge’s poem dwells within romantic ideology and is Christian-redemptive in its theme, as well as Hegelian. In Harris’s compression of Coleridge we can in fact see this ‘Hegelian’ three part structure of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, or musical statement, drift to another key and time signature, and return to a new synthesis. All of this reflects the Romantic tendency in musical form. As Weinstein notes, British new wave metal, deriving from bands like Iron Maiden and “famous for spiritual themes and strong tenor vocalist, often borrows from nineteenth century symphonic music” (289). As in many of Beethoven’s works, beginning with his Third Symphony “Eroica,” one experiences in Iron Maiden’s songs on Powerslave a contestation with chaos. The poem and Iron Maiden’s musical adaptation appear to gather up the minstrel tradition, themes of imagination, the role of the Gothic, the fated hero, nostalgia and the melodrama that are all at work in English Romanticism. Gothic terror, the reality of death, a sense of the natural world, and nightmare are all figured in poem and song. So, in our “willing suspension of disbelief” as listeners, are we meant to hope for resolution? Does this journey through the “archaic, inhuman, uncanny” liminal world of the mariner bring us to a point of hope in the end? Or, does it interminably dance with chaos – on and on, forever? As Odysseus once recalled, there is ambiguity in a heroic journey. Iron Maiden made use of the archaic, the symbolic, and the imaginative reach of mythology. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” fit well with the “heroic” motifs throughout their album, as well as with the notion of being enslaved to powers, as is the ancient Egyptian who speaks on the title track. Further, the Coleridge poem provided the band with a vehicle for instrumental virtuosity. Their song, like this poem, makes a journey across the boundaries of speech. Music is brought to bear upon the difficulty with language that critics have noted in the poem and this music underscores the poem’s theme of transformation. “The Rime” is truly a performance piece. Dickinson’s vocal invites a reader response/ listener-response approach in which we experience the song as in a dialogue with us. The Rime also gives the band an opportunity to shine as soloists. Dickinson, in particular, becomes the “ventriloquist” that critic Max F. Schultz saw in Coleridge. Dickinson adopts this alien voice of the mariner and makes it his own, projecting it toward us. It is a song of mesmeric power. Each time one listens to it, in memory, Iron Maiden takes the stage again and the story goes on and on and on…
Auden, W.H. The Enchafed Flood, or Romantic Iconography of the Sea. New York: Random House, 1950. Basche, Philip. Heavy Metal Thunder. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1985. Beer, John. Coleridge the Visionary. London: Chatto and Windus, 1959. Bodkin, Maud. Archetypal Patterns in Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon Press,1934. Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1949. Christe, Ian. Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. New York: Harper Collins, 2003. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Biographia Literaria. _____________________. Collected Works. Haven, Richard. Patterns of Consciousness: An Essay on Coleridge. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1969. Holmes, Richard. Coleridge, Early Visions 1772-1804. New York: Pantheon, 1989. Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin, 1990. Knight, G. Wilson. The Starlit Dome. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941. Lowes, John Livingston. The Road to Xanadu: A Study in the Ways of the Imagination. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1927. MacFarland, Thomas. Coleridge and the Pantheist Tradition.Oxford: Clarendon Pressm 1969. McGann, Jerome. The Romantic Ideology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. Iron Maiden. Powerslave. _____________. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Schultz, Max. F. Poetic Voices of Coleridge. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963. Stenning, Paul. Iron Maiden: Thirty Years of the Beast. Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2006. Wall, Mick. Run to the Hills. London: Sanctuary, 2004. Walser, Robert. Running With the Devil- Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Middletown, CT.: Wesleyan University Press, 1993. Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal- The Music and Its Culture. New York: DaCapo, 1991, 2000.