Everyone loves a treasure hunt, and the internet has gone wild over the past 72 hours as online sleuths, metal nerds and Iron Maiden super fans have started piecing together a trail of cryptic clues and not-so-subtle prompts, and concluded that a new album from Steve Harris’ legendary band is on the way… and soon.
It should be noted that Iron Maiden are saying nothing, declining to confirm or deny the increasingly frenzied speculation. But then, they would wouldn’t they, because that only adds to the fun.
Before we dive in to this web of intrigue, we must salute the forensic investigations of Metal Hammer’s own Edwin McFee, who deserves great credit for connecting dot after dot, like a Northern Irish Sherlock Holmes, fortified by Trooper beers rather than opium.
I know people are talking about Bruce Dickinson today for another reason, but I noticed his shirt (might) say "Belshazzars Feast" AKA the story of The Writing On The Wall. "WOTW" has shown up in the background of @IronMaiden tour artwork recently...do I win a prize @metalhammer?June 28, 2021
The story begins with a rather cunning piece of old school theatrical misdirection. When Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson appeared on Sky News on June 28 to rail against the British government’s seemingly tone deaf dismissal of deeply held concerns among the UK’s music community in regards to the impact of Brexit upon touring artists and the ecosystem surrounding live music, many questioned his wisdom in doing so, given that he has previously been vocal in advocating for the benefits of Brexit: Dickinson has been open about the fact that he cast a ‘Leave’ vote in the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum held on 23 June 2016.
While Dickinson’s passionate arguments on behalf of his peers, and an emerging generation of young British artists, are not easily dismissed, it has been suggested that there were ulterior motives at play in his decision to face the cameras, given that, as one of metal’s most self-aware and intelligent figureheads, he would surely have foreseen the backlash he would face in seeking to argue against legislation which he actively voted for.
And if this were the case, perhaps there was more going on here than initially met the eye.
When asked what plans lay ahead for Maiden, Dickinson maintained that he was not at liberty to say, remarking “I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s right in front of you.”
At which point, for Edwin McFee, the singer’s choice of T-shirt for his TV appearance assumed a new significance, as noted above. The writer noted that Dickinson’s T-shirt, styled in the manner of US crossover punk acts circa 1984, appeared to feature the words, Belshazzar’s Feast, a tale related in the Old Testament’s Book Of Daniel, known as the story of the Writing On The Wall. What if, McFee wondered, this oblique reference, was a nod towards the unexplained appearance of the letters WOTW on recent Iron Maiden tour artwork? What would that mean?
This private musing spilled into the public realm when mysterious posters / flyers emblazoned with the words Belshazzar’s Feast were spotted at the Download Pilot festival.
“After a full examination of the poster, I spotted a few things,” Edwin McFee wrote in Ireland’s Hot Press magazine. “Exhibit A: IMXVI is written in the bottom right corner. Once translated from Roman Numerals it could mean Iron Maiden 17 (the follow up to 2015’s The Book Of Souls would be album number 17 from the metal titans). Exhibit B: There are three titles - “Live Forever,” “Man Or Beast” and “Heaven Or Hell.” Could these be song titles, or lyrics to new material?”
The poster also featured a date, 15/07, and an email address: email@example.com. Inquisitive souls sending a message received a set reply, as shown below:
I have received the following communication.@bels_feast #Belshazzarsfeast pic.twitter.com/P54ddSTwMJJune 29, 2021
Elsewhere backstage at Donington Park, at the end of an interview with Total Rock radio’s Neil Jones, noted Iron Maiden fan Frank Turner was asked to comment, in a totally-unscripted and not-at-all gratuitously crowbarred-in fashion, upon rumours of a new Iron Maiden album emerging. This prompted Turner, a nice chap, but not a man likely to give Daniel Day Lewis or Sir Anthony Hopkins sleepless nights with his acting ability, to unzip his hoodie for the last 30 seconds of his 10 minute interview to reveal that he was wearing - a-ha! - the exact same T-shirt sported by Bruce Dickinson!
There‘s more of this, but enough, frankly: the internet’s collective conclusion now is that there’s a new Iron Maiden album coming on July 15. Wahey!
Alternatively, perhaps, the misdirection in Dickinson’s Sky News interview isn’t the most telling sleight of hand here, but merely the first act in a merry goosechase proving just how easy it is to fashion fake news stories with just a handful of carefully selected ‘actors’ feeding titbits to gullible media companies who'll print or broadcast almost anything they’re spoon-fed without checking sources or facts. In which case WOTW could then be a reference to Orson Welles’ fake radio news broadcast about an invasion from Mars, in War Of The Worlds…
Not that Maiden would confirm or deny this either, obviously.
Roll on July 15 then…