The heavy metal community was virtually celebrating in the streets on Feb. 10, 1999 when it learned that British legends Iron Maiden would be welcoming fan-favored vocalist Bruce Dickinson back into the fold after a six-year absence (and guitarist Adrian Smith after a decade).
After all, as anyone who was there can tell you, the ’90s were not particularly kind to Iron Maiden, nor, for that matter, any of their ‘80s-dominating metal brethren, due to the grunge revolution. And that’s before we even consider take Dickinson’s successor, Blaze Bailey, into account.
Both studio albums released during the band’s half-decade association with the likeable but charisma-deficient former Wolfsbane singer – 1995’s ‘The X Factor’ and ‘98’s ‘Virtual XI’ — had fared none too well on the charts and saw Maiden relegated to playing small theaters in America for the first time in forever.
So drastic measures were clearly required to salvage their career, and, since Dickinson himself had only experienced modest solo success during his “lost weekend,” his reconciliation with Maiden’s stalwart bassist, Steve Harris, was all but inevitable.
Even better, though, was the news of Smith’s invitation to the party, since his songwriting skills had often provided a crucial foil to Harris’ and Dickinson’s, and because it meant that Iron Maiden’s “classic” lineup — completed by guitarist Dave Murray and drummer Nicko McBrain – was to be revived in all its glory — plus Janick Gers, for a fearsome three-guitar frontline.
The ensuing reunion tour found Maiden instantly catapulted right back to the very top of the heavy metal heap, commanding sold-out arenas filled with grateful fans across the globe — even before a single new note was committed to tape for the band’s hotly anticipated comeback album, ‘Brave New World,’ which arrived in May 2000, and did not disappoint.
In fact, ‘Brave New World’ was an almost unchallenged commercial and critical triumph, which served to reinvigorate the Iron Maiden juggernaut and return it to its rightful place at the leading edge of heavy metal as the new millennium began to unfold.