Want to be slapped by something unexpected?
Start downloading and listening to this song
(11.6mb). It's Iron Maiden from the mid-90s.
I used to love Iron Maiden. Back in high school, I remember rambunctuous (sp?) trips to the movie theaters packed in either my old truck, or one of my friends' cars, with
ye old Maiden going full volume hot.
I used to think I was "hot shit" picking up some of the older Iron Maiden albums in the used and collectible music stores. Afterall, Eddie (Iron Maiden's "mascot") is this mummified, undead zombie guy, and the album covers always had him either sitting in an electric chair, holding a bag full of flaming skulls, shooting some kind of sci-fi ray gun or flying some sort of Gothic spaceship shooting out flames (for actual examples, look here
), which is really super-cool and hardcore if you're in high school, I guess.
Anyway, I loved Iron Maiden back in high school just because of it's connotation - rowdy, wild, crazy rock music, whatever. Plus, nobody else was really into it, so it was a safe space for me to expand into and claim as being unique to me, or at least to me and some of my friends.
One of my old friends, John Wade, and I used to have this thing where one of us would yell, "IRON!!!" and hold up his forearm. Then the other person would yell, "MAIDEN!!!" and then we'd shover our arms together in an "X" shape. It was pretty cool. Come on, even now, sitting there reading this, you're thinking to yourself, whoa - that's cool! I know.
I was more into the general sound than the specifics of the music - like the not-so-original chord progressions, easy to predict drum rolls, straightforward 80s rock, etc - all of which was fine, but nothing to get really excited about. The coolest thing about it was that it was mine. And I had fun being into Iron Maiden because sometimes people didn't know much about Iron Maiden other than their most famous song is called "The Number of the Beast" and is about Satanic ritual, and then they might extend some kind of association to you from that. Oh, how mysterious this dude is! Kinda like how it's still sometimes cool to wear my one surviving Metallica tshirt. People look at you and don't really know what you're about right away. You can almost see their gears working, evaluating this big guy wearing a black 'Tallica shirt. It's not until after I give them my goofy smile that they know I'm a meek baffoon. Which is refreshing because everybody that knows me knows exactly who I am - what you see is what you get with me, I don't present you with complex mind games. One example of this might be that you probably know that I'm telling the truth right now. Anyway, I digress.
I never really listened to the lyrics, since they weren't really that important. And now, unless I'm completely mistaken (it sure doesn't strike me as being facetious or mocking), one of my old favorite songs from one of Maiden's mid-90s album "The X Factor" called The Sign of the Cross
has some lyrics that certainly caught my attention now that I'm listening to them again a bit - anyhow, these lyrics are distinctly Catholic sounding, and very much acknowledging of what you could consider to be Christian values or a Christian ethos.
Eleven saintly shrouded men
Silhouettes stand against the sky
One in front with a cross held high
Come to wash my sins away
Standing alone in the wind and rain
Feeling the fear that is growing
Sensing the change in the tide again
Caught by the storm that is brewing
Feel the anxiety hold off the fear
Some of the doubt in the things you believe
Now that your faith will be put to the test
Nothing to do but await what is coming
Why then is God still protecting me
Even when I don't deserve it
Thought I am blessed with an inner strength
Some they would call it a penance
Why am I meant to face this alone
Asking the question time and again
Praying to God won't keep me alive
Inside my head feel the fear start to rise...
They'll be saying their prayers
when the moment comes
There'll be penance to pay when it's judgement day
And the guilty'll bleed when the moment comes
They'll be coming to claim,
to take your soul away
The sign of the cross
The name of the rose...
A fire in the sky
The sign of the cross
They'll be coming to bring the eternal flame
They'll be bringing us all immortality
Holding communion so the world be blessed
My creator, my God, will lay my soul to rest
Lost the love of heaven above
Chose the lust of the earth below
Eleven saintly shrouded men
Came to wash my sins away
Hmmm... talk of salvation, judgement, sin, guilt, penance, faith, Communion from IRON MAIDEN?!?!
What kinda of strange world is this? I thought I knew Iron Maiden and that they were the usual mix of hedonism and nihilistic self-glorifying rockers. Apparently I was mistaken.
Okay, so I've just done a little bit of amateur reading. That line about "The name of the rose..." might be a reference to a book of the same name (which was used as the basis for the movie with Sean Connery) written by an Italian professor, Umberto Eco, a semiologist (I think this is someone who studies the psychological role that signs and symbols play in human understanding).
"The name of the rose" is a phrase without - as far as I can tell - a specific meaning. There is no one "name of the rose" because, as we all know, a rose by any other name would be just as beautiful, so in this case an assigned word "rose" fails to be equal to the thing it describes. So the rose itself is a useful sign to indicate that words, names, rational constructs associated with it, are all arbitrary, and so there is no "name" of the rose. I think this is what is usually meant by bringing up the phrase "the name of the rose."
Could the Iron Maiden lyrics then be equating that general idea with the "sign" of the cross? Or saying that the Cross (represented by the "sign" of the Cross) is the fulfillment of all things - it is, in fact, the name of the rose - the name of beauty, of goodness, purity - all the things that are usually associated with the rose?
Put another way, the immortality and existence of the Messiah beyond and through the Cross of this world makes it able to be the name of the rose. One could consider the Old Testament to be our best try at the name for the rose - words describing the Law of Moses (God's law) but not God Himself, not the rose itself. With the New Testament, the most important part of which (the crux, if I can call it that (Latin pun intended)) is, in fact, the death and ressurection of the Christ, we have the very keys to salvation - Christ in us, or with us, or however you want to describe it. That's the most important thing - the real name of the rose, you could say. Or what Maiden might be saying. Whatever.
(Did I really just try to extrapolate theology from an Iron Maiden song?
) EDIT: Actually, no I just got side-tracked into a discussion about what some authors mean when they bring up the idea of "the name of the rose"...
But even if this admittidly hurried and ram-scam evaluation of the "name of the rose" line is totally bunk, the more overt meaning of the lyrics still pretty much seem to
affirm some kind of religiosity of Maiden's singer and song-writer.
According to Wikipedia, the song "The Sign of the Cross" was first publicly debuted in Jerusalem. Meh, who knows.
Then there's another song on another Maiden album "Virtual XI" called "Lightning Strikes Twice," which I can't help but see as an allegory for returning to faith (the lightning striking twice...)
The lyrics are: I feel the breeze on my face in expectance
Not very long before the storm reaches here
Off in the distance the lightning is flashing again
Feel something strong as the power draws near
Is it the rolling of thunder that scares you
Is it the crashing of clouds that hold fear
But all I know as I sit in a corner alone
It takes me back to my childhood again
And as I wait and I look for an answer
To all the things going round in my head
I ask myself could it be a disaster and when
It's maybe threatening to happen again
As the ominous light draws near
There's a lone dog howls in the park
All the people hurry inside
As a lightning flash lights dark
The storm is nearly here
Only God will know
You're sitting alone you watch
As the wind is blowing treetops
And the swaying rustling leaves
Plenty of time to perceive
As you wait for rain to fall
Only God knows
The whole sky glows
Maybe lightning strikes twice... (repeated...)
It's just weird that I never picked this up from the Iron Maiden music that I'd long listened to.