Monday, January 19, 2009

"Murders in the Rue Morgue"

Iron Maiden, "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (from Killers)

Few writers are more suited for headbanger interpretation than Edgar Allan Poe, who would've turned 200 today. Supposedly both Seattle prog-power metal band Nevermore and NWOBHM also-rans Raven took their names from Poe's best-known narrative, but Poe's most undeniable influence on metal lies in "Murders in the Rue Morgue," an awesome track on Iron Maiden's second album.

At a time when metal was seen as even less literary than it is today, bassist/writer Steve Harris reassigned the narrative voice of the original Murders in the Rue Morgue to the culprit. Thankfully, Harris managed to retell the story without giving away the ending to those of us who might want to read it, and he also threw in some meaty riffs for Adrian Harris and Dave Murray to chew on.

Paul Di'Anno, the singer on Maiden's underrated first two albums, is an expert interpreter who gives "Murders in the Rue Morgue," a garagey edge that the band never reached again. However, Bruce Dickinson is unquestionably the greatest singer to ever front Iron Maiden. Di'Anno owns "Murders in the Rue Morgue," but it's hard to resist the urge to post a live version with Dickinson singing.

Just as EC Comics adapted The Tell Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado to emphasize the drawing talents and storytelling skills of the Tales from the Crypt staff (and to scare the crap out of the rest of us,) Iron Maiden retold Poe's pioneering foray into detective fiction because they could do a great job with it. Whether or not they also intended to get thrill-seeking adolescents to check out a great writer, it was a welcome side effect.

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