Whoever has seen a show of the current tour or follows the band on social media platforms knows that Iron Maiden have decided to blow the dust off Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace and to add “The Clansman” to their setlist.
No big deal. Especially considering how fond some Iron Maiden fans are of the album Virtual XI (1998) and how warmly they speak of it. It is really no surprise that it is one of the major songs of a tour which commemorates the biggest successes in band history (“The Legacy of the Beast”, 2018).
So, if it is not its impact and success, what is it then that makes “The Clansman” special?
Well, the longing for freedom is still something that dominates our lives. Many things imprison each and every one of us in one way or another. May it be the pressure often encountered at work, the confinement of normative society or the drudgery of daily routine. “The Clansman” expresses this longing for freedom perfectly; there is no doubt about that. We all can sympathise or see ourselves in it. We can become William Wallace for a moment. Although, of course, no-one of us can beat Bruce Dickinson at being William Wallace who has the required fencing skills to handle the just as much required claymore.
Yet, remembering Scottish independence right now gains new meaning when seen in the context of British politics. I wouldn’t pay much attention to it were it not for the fact that during the last tour (“The Book of Souls”, 2016, 2017) the focus of attention lay, among other things, on the rise and fall of empires. Of course it was all about the sudden disappearance of the Mayan Empire, the narrative of the eponymous song of this tour, “The Book of Souls”. Despite the context of a vanished high culture in Mesoamerica, I cannot help seeing it as an anti-Brexit comment.
Drawing attention to Scottish independence now makes me think of the Scottish referendum which preceded the Brexit referendum. In combination, both references, the fall of an empire and Scottish independence, seem to point towards the current political situation in the UK.
I do not want to say that Iron Maiden press political opinions on us. It is rather that they seem to invite us to contemplate, to think, to use our brains.
I just say that everyone who thinks that Iron Maiden, being a heavy metal band, only produce noise and the odd hearing damage is far off the track. They constantly reflect and comment upon their own culture.
- Iron Maiden, “The Book of Souls”, The Book of Souls, Parlophone, 2015
- Iron Maiden, “The Clansman” Virtual XI, EMI, 1998.
- “The Clansman” in Setlist of “The Legacy of the Beast Tour”: https://ironmaiden.com/media/gallery/4_clansman.jpg [07/15/18]
- Comment upon the disappearance of a civilisation during the “Book of Souls Tour”: Iron Maiden, “The Book of Souls” (The Book of Souls Live Chapter), posted by Iron Maiden, YouTube, https://youtube.com/watch?v=i0G9nSAULIU (11/14/17) [07/15/18]