Iron Maiden being heroes is a sentiment you'll have heard from plenty of diehard metalheads across the decades. After all, how many bands over 40 years into their career are still putting out albums of such ass-kicking quality and scope as last year's epic, double-disc monster, Senjutsu? Piss-all, that's how many.
In 2014, however, Maiden's apparent air of invincibility was rocked by the news that frontman Bruce Dickinson was battling throat cancer. While Bruce was thankfully able to eventually beat the disease, getting the all-clear in 2015 after undergoing intensive treatment, his bandmates were happy to admit that the diagnosis scared the bejeezus out of them, and that his recovery was nothing less than inspirational.
“I think that it affected everybody, really,” said bassist and band leader, Steve Harris. “There’s this general feeling that it’s brought the whole band closer. I definitely think that me and Bruce are closer, and I think he’d say the same thing.”
Few echoed the sentiment more than drummer Nicko McBrain, who had glowing words for his bandmate when we interviewed him during Maiden's three-gig stint in Mexico in early 2016 - part of the Book Of Souls World Tour, Bruce's first post-recovery.
“He’s my hero,” said Nicko. “What happened with him was very, very frightening, but he fought it well, he studied it, he had great people working with him, and now he’s back stronger than ever.”
During the tour, Nicko was able to get an up-close and personal view of Bruce taking his first steps onto a stage for an Iron Maiden show since the cancer diagnosis, and wasn't shy in admitting that it was a particularly poignant moment for him.
"The first night when we got up onstage, I’m right underneath him,” Nicko recalled. “He had the intro tape going, and then he just belted. I’m hearing it au naturel, ’cause I can’t hear the PA, and man, I just got a shiver. There was just something, I can’t even explain the feeling I felt. I’m so proud of him for battling through that terrible, obnoxious disease, and coming back through that, and then learning to fly [Maiden's Boeing 747, Ed Force One]… he’s my Miracle Man, he really is."
Bruce wouldn't look back after that point, and the band have remained in formidable form since, nailing two legs of the Legacy Of The Beast world tour (with another to come) and releasing Senjutsu to critical acclaim in 2021. Thank Eddie it all worked out OK.
Senjutsu is out now. Iron Maiden headline Download in June