One of the longest-running acts of the metal era, rock band Iron Maiden stand as elder statesmen — sagely head-bangers armed with massive stacks of gear, Spinal Tap-esque stage props, and dozens of fist-raising anthems. In their early years, led by bassist Steve Harris, Iron Maiden were leaders of the so-called "New Wave of British Heavy Metal."
These days, the Maiden men are on top of the world — literally. After over 30 years of work (and several lineup adjustments), Harris, singer Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain, and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers recently reached a new pinnacle when they announced the premiere of Iron Maiden: Flight 666 — a documentary film following the band on its 2008 Somewhere Back in Time tour in support of a new "best of" compilation.
"We like to break ground into new territory, and that's how the idea of doing a documentary of the whole tour came about," says McBrain in his cockney accent, speaking by phone last week. "It was only a year or so ago that we did these shows, so it's very fresh."
Maiden traveled to 13 countries in 45 days in a custom-fitted Boeing 757 dubbed "Ed Force One" (in reference to the band's grim mascot "Eddie"). Working in association with Banger Films, EMI Records, UMe, and Arts Alliance Media, filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn caught it all on high-def digital video. Flight 666 opens in limited release across the U.S. on Tuesday.
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"We had a special premier in South America in March on the last leg of this last tour," McBrain says of his first official viewing of Flight 666 with all of his bandmates by his side. "I'd seen it quite a few times already, but the rest of the guys hadn't seen it. The whole band were sitting in the audience. [Lead guitarist] Dave turned around to me and said, 'Nicko, this is weird. You look handsome ... you look really good up there!' It was frickin' weird, us being in the audience, watching ourselves perform for an audience."
Travelling by plane allowed the band to play in countries that had previously been logistically impossible for them to perform — places such as India, Ecuador, and Colombia. Much of the film documents the intensity and challenge of the hefty tour schedule.
"What really worked for us was the fact that the Banger Productions guys were fans of the band prior to getting into making the film," says McBrain. "The live footage is absolutely stunning. They managed to capture the essence of the band live without a bunch of cameras all over the stage. It's incredible how they did it. I'm very psyched about it.
"For someone who hasn't been into Maiden, they'll take away from this why it works," he adds. "The true stars of the movie are the fans — three or four generations of fans. Plus, they'll see the passion in how we play, the way we are as individuals, and how we tick, if ya like. For those who are like, ' Who is this band? You don't hear them on the radio, you don't see them on the telly ... they don't make 45 rpm singles, write pop songs, or do reality shows. What is it that makes them so big? What is it that people love about them?' All of that will be answered here."
The single participating cinema in S.C. is the Carmike James Island (1743 Central Park Road, 843-795-9499). Flight 666 screens at 8 p.m. on Tues. April 21. Visit www.ironmaiden.com for more.