NICKO MCBRAIN On 'Belshazzar's Feast' Campaign For IRON MAIDEN's 'Senjutsu' Album: 'That Was A Great Piece Of Strategy'

January 7, 2022

In a recent interview with Lana Morgan of the 102.9 The Hog radio station, IRON MAIDEN drummer Nicko McBrain spoke about how the "Belshazzar's Feast" teaser campaign came to be prior to the release of the band's 17th studio album, "Senjutsu".

"With the release of [the LP's first single] 'The Writing Of The Wall', the P.R. strategy, Sarah Philp [new media manager at MAIDEN's management company, Phantom Music Management] came up with this idea," he said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "She worked very closely with the team and Bruce [Dickinson, MAIDEN singer] and, obviously, Rod [Smallwood, MAIDEN manager] and Steve [Harris, MAIDEN bassist]. The rest of us weren't really too in the mix, so to speak, because we let Steve and our management team run with everything. Only major decisions are run by all of the band, and that's usually not the case because we don't have to have major decisions made as a democratic band; Steve takes care of most of that sort of thing."

Nicko continued: "That strategy, of where they came up with the flyers and little teasers and Easter eggs and people were going and becoming Sherlock Holmes to find out what was going on with 'Belshazzar's Feast', that was a great piece of strategy. And that was probably the difference [between how this album was rolled out and how the previous MAIDEN records were marketed]. There was a lot more time, obviously. We had two years to work out what was gonna happen and when we would release the record. So that's the only difference, really — the fact that there was a lot of lead-up time and getting everything right with the artwork… Nothing was really rushed. Not that in previous album releases there's been rushes or anything like deadlines to meet. So that was the nice thing about this album. Unfortunately, due to this pandemic, yes, we all had to sit at home and work from home. And I'm sure the team found that maybe a little distressing. But I think everyone's got used to Zoom. So that's the one good thing, I think, that's come out of this horrible pandemic for people that are still working, and they're working from home."

Dickinson talked about the "Belshazzar's Feast" teaser campaign during an interview with The Festivals Hub last summer. He said: "I can't take any credit for the teaser campaign. That was down to Sarah in our MAIDEN office. She came up with the idea because she is the goddess of all things social media and the Internet. Me? I have no social media presence whatsoever, and I love it because I get to sleep at night and not obsess over what idiots say about me. However, I do appreciate the modern world and it's the way people feel the need to communicate. In the mad world of the pandemic, you can't actually go around and physically meet people or have premieres. One of the ideas was to have a premiere of ['The Writing Of The Wall'] video in theaters and have people tweet it and have it go viral, but that wasn't going to happen. Strangely, there is a clue to the campaign at the beginning of the video which is the invitation to 'Belshazzar's Feast' and that very nearly didn't end up in the video because the video company, as much as I love them, forgot it. So, we got to the end of this great production and I watched the whole thing back and I went, 'Uhh… we're missing something, guys. There's supposed to be an invite to this whole thing.' That's why this guy goes and follows the trail — he picks up the invite from the dead MAIDEN fan and that's where everybody is going. If you don't know that in the beginning of the video, it's like watching 'Star Wars' without the 'In a galaxy far, far way' — the preamble in the beginning — it wouldn't make any sense until halfway through the movie. So, you've got to have this in there. Mark Andrews and the ex-Pixar guys who were our executive producers on this said, 'There's a fix for this — maybe we put an invite sheet that falls to the floor.' Originally, the kid was actually clutching it in his hand and this way you see it fall to the floor which is an easier fix for the animation. I said let's do something simple in black and white like a handbill for one of those semi-legal rave parties where you get posters going up on concrete posts under roadways on things like that. So I made things up like 'Heaven or Hell,' 'rain or shine,' 'live forever,' which has a play on words and thought no more about it. Then we took that poster and turned it into the shirt and turned it into the beginning of what was in effect a kind of rave campaign on the Internet. With the clues that she put up, it was a proper Sherlock Holmes Easter egg hunt through the Internet. It was really cool. I was seriously impressed with what the team put together."

"Belshazzar's Feast" is the story of the writing on the wall in the Bible, and IRON MAIDEN teased the announcement of "The Writing On The Wall" by sharing a 14-second video message on social media where the "Belshazzar's Feast" poster was removed from a wall to reveal the slogan "WOTW", which fans had theorized referred to "Writing On The Wall". A week earlier, Dickinson invited fans to a "Belshazzar's Feast" event via a video message. Prior to that, he sported a "Belshazzar's Feast" shirt in a TV interview with Sky News. During the conversation, he teased MAIDEN's future plans, saying, "I can't tell you what it is, but it's right in front of you."

A number of other MAIDEN-related graphics had featured the slogan "WOTW". In addition, a "Belshazzar's Feast" poster was spotted at the Download Pilot festival in June 2021 bearing the date "15/07" and the letters "IMXVII," which fans believed at the time were a reference to IRON MAIDEN and 17 in Roman numerals.

"Senjutsu" came out in September. IRON MAIDEN's first album in six years was recorded in 2019 in Paris with longstanding producer Kevin Shirley and co-produced by Harris.

For "Senjutsu" — loosely translated as "tactics and strategy" — the band once again enlisted the services of Mark Wilkinson to create the spectacular Samurai-themed cover artwork, based on an idea by Harris.

"Senjutsu" bowed at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart, charting higher than even the band's early classics like "Powerslave" and "The Number Of The Beast". Nearly 90 percent of the LP's 64,000 equivalent album units earned came from pure album sales. The critically acclaimed double album debuted one place higher than 2015's "The Book Of Souls" and 2010's "The Final Frontier", which both peaked at No. 4.

"Senjutsu" was MAIDEN's 13th album to top in the Top 40 in the U.S.

According to Billboard, "Senjutsu" logged the second-largest week of 2021 for a hard rock album in both equivalent album units earned and in traditional album sales.

"Senjutsu" topped the charts in several European countries upon its release, including in Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland.

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