In 1994 Bruce Dickinson, at the time formerly of Iron Maiden, was on tour with his band Skunkworks promoting his solo album Balls To Picasso (Mercury). Dickinson was invited to perform in war-torn Sarajevo, the capital city during the“Siege of Sarajevo”, the longest theater of fighting during the war of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having a big heart and a soft spot for charity, Dickinson with a wife and small children at home, and his band set off for what they were told was a cooling down war zone. The opposite was true, and at considerable risk that saw their lives in constant peril, managed to miraculously put on a concert for the locals desperate for any kind of relief from reality. This is the basis of Scream For Me Sarajevo (Eagle Rock Entertainment). I managed to catch the film during its exclusive New York premiere, at the Landmark 57 Theater.
The award-winning documentary is a must-see, but warning: you may find yourself in tears by the end. With archival footage of the war, the main people responsible for putting on the concert, as well as Dickinson himself and his band both then and now upon his recent return to Sarajevo to revisit the show and that time in his life. The suffering and loss the locals went through was immeasurable, and you feel it with no filter. At the same time, the happiness they experienced seeing this real-life heavy metal hero in their midst, with no airs about him, just ready to share an epic good time lifted their spirits in a way most people won’t get. Although the performance footage is grainy, you get to feel like you are in that auditorium with the band, full of excitement and fear. They were flipping off the specter of death with the power of their heavy metal. Amazing.
The soundtrack is also really compelling. Culled from Bruce’s entire solo career, with a nod to Iron Maiden here and there, this album really gave me pause as I went back track-by-track thought the expert sequencing. The music complimented the film beautifully when I saw it, but months after seeing it in a theater, these songs have added meaning for me now. ‘Change of Heart’ was always the masterpiece of the Bruce’s solo career, but so much more emotional now. ‘Tears of A Dragon’ is another heartbreaking ballad.
‘Gods Of War’ from Balls... is unique in style and form. Skunkworks was such a killer band too, and this just backs it up. Able to bring the heavy, but also co-write these amazing tracks with Bruce that keep his distinctive voice, yet stayed original. ‘Dark Side of Aquarius’ from later favorite Accident of Birth (CMC) has a familiar heavy metal bravado to it, but such a baddies song.
‘Navigate The Seas Of The Sun’ from Tyranny of Souls (Sanctuary) might be the best of the bunch here. Another gorgeous bit of balladry. Dickinson may forever be known as “the air raid” drill for his iconic wail, but he packs more power into this track than any other singer I can think of. ‘Arc of Space’, and ‘Omega’ are also choice tracks that take on a new meaning now, years later.
In addition to bashers like ‘River Of No Return’, ‘Power of The Sun’, and ‘Strange Death In Paradise’, the album features three never before heard tracks. ‘Acoustic Song’ (previously only available as a bonus track on the 2001 Best Of Special Edition), ‘Inertia (Live)’ (previously only available as a bonus track on the expanded re-release of Skunkworks in 2005) and the album closer ‘Eternal’ (previously only available as Japanese bonus tracks on ‘Tyranny Of Souls’). These tracks alone make this worth purchasing.
This music has held up incredibly well, and I wish I had gone back sooner to spend time with this material. Who is ready for a new Bruce Dickinson solo album? I sure am.