For music month I decided to go with a song about Vikings, which isn’t very surprising. This is another one from Iron maiden after Ellie’s look at ‘Aces High’, which you should also check out here!: https://wuhstry.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/iron-maiden-in-world-war-two-with-aces-high/
‘Invaders’ is the opening track on Iron Maiden’s third studio album ‘The Number of the Beast’, released in March 1982. The reception of this song was fairly mixed, as many reviewers thought that this was one of the weaker tracks on the otherwise excellent album, and it was a poor decision to use as the opener. On the other hand, others have felt that this song has been overly criticized, saying that Invaders kicks things off to a great start with a fast pace and its collection of riffs. Some also think that while the pace and mood of the song are not to their liking, or they perhaps consider it dull, the epic tone of the lyrics about Norse warfare was approved of. Whatever the fans and reviews might say, Steve Harris himself, the writer of the song and the band’s bassist, has stated that the track was not good enough, commenting that it “could have been replaced with something a bit better, only we didn’t have anything else to replace it with at the time. We had just enough time to do what we did, and that was it.”
So, have a listen of it, and we’ll take a look at song and the story it tells.
The Music itself is obviously quite fast paced and energetic. It goes for the more upbeat approach, which some have said was a mistake, and something slower would have been more appropriate for the subject. I think the fast pace does well to give off the mood of an invasion and a battle, very hectic and perhaps a bit confusing.
The lyrics of the song tell the story of, you guessed it, and invasion:
‘Longboats have been sighted the evidence of war has begun
Many Nordic fighting men their swords and shields all gleam in the sun
Call to arms defend yourselves get ready to stand and fight for your lives
Judgement day has come around so be prepared don’t run stand your ground’
This first verse shows that the action is from the perspective of the people being invaded. The mention of Judgement day makes us think of the typical Viking raid that is most commonly referenced, of Vikings raiding Christians. Later in the song this is confirmed to be the Saxons that are being attacked. These people are clearly supposed to be intimidated by the Vikings and their gleaming weapons, and they need to be encouraged to stand and defend themselves rather than run. This is another thing about Viking raids that it commonly thought of; the Vikings attacking those weaker than them, scaring them into submission and taking slaves. While this was not always the case, there is certainly evidence for it, and it has become something of a defining characteristic of the Vikings in their modern pop culture representations. This seems to be the main theme that the song takes, as the chorus mentions the invaders pillaging, looting, fighting, marauding, raping and plundering. All things quite obviously associated with the Vikings, and the first things many would think of.
‘Set ablaze the campfires alert the other men from inland
Warning must be given there’s not enough men here for a stand
The Vikings are too many too powerful to take on our own
We must have reinforcements we cannot fight this battle alone‘
This second verse tells us that the defending Saxons need reinforcements and look to be losing this battle in defense of their home. This would have been the case in many Viking raids and battles on English soil, at least to begin with. The Vikings would appear seemingly out of nowhere, from their longships, and even if there were some armed force present to defend, they would probably be caught off guard or be outnumbered. On top of this the Vikings may really have been considered ‘too powerful’ In many cases, with descriptions of them fighting like demons and being unstoppable. Their prowess in battle is a well recorded fact of the Vikings, be it because of their tactics, or simply because many would be more experienced than the people they were fighting, despite many not being professional soldiers at all, but just farmers who went raiding every year.
‘Axes grind and maces clash as wounded fighters fall to the ground
Severed limbs and fatal woundings bloody corpses lay all around
The smell of death and burning flesh the battle weary fight to the end
The Saxons have been overpowered victims of the mighty Norsemen‘
Finally, the third verse here gives us an image of the end of a bloody battle in which the Vikings are victorious. It may be slightly over the top with the ‘burning flesh’ but it does show how the Vikings have won and slaughtered the Saxons utterly. There isn’t much to comment on here, except that I’m not too sure why axes would be grinding, and where did the maces come from? It’s probably just sounds cool.
So overall, we have a song that describes a sudden attack by the Vikings on the Saxons, who get overrun quickly and slaughtered in a brief and bloody battle. This fits nicely with the fast pace of the song, as everything seems to happen so fast, and before you know it, the ‘mighty Norsemen’ have killed everyone. Like I said before, this is a fairly common portrayal of the Vikings, but despite this it is quite effective, and I think it’s a pretty awesome song. But then again, if it’s about Vikings and isn’t terrible, I’m probably bound to love it 😀