Since The AV’s inception, there have been a small handful of songs for which I’ve waited, with bated breath, to find interesting acoustic interpretations. At long last, it appears, I can exhale: The Lobby, an acoustic group from Greece, must have read my mind, because they recently submitted an acoustic version of one of these songs which accomplishes exactly what I had been looking for and more.
The Trooper, composed by Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, is a harrowing first person account of the 1854 Battle of Balaclava, a fateful English-French-Turkish offensive aimed at reaching the important Russian naval base of Sevastopol. The battle was a major pivot in the Crimean War, a massive imperialist struggle for influence over the territories of the weakening Ottoman Empire.
Released in 1983, this song is a relatively typical meditation on the horrors of war, but in context, it is also more than that. Nearly 50 years into one of the most precarious stand-offs in human history – the Cold War – Maiden was expressing their weariness with an ideologically justified imperialism which threatened to follow an otherwise rapidly post-modernizing world into the 21st century. And once again, these Brits observe, it is the Russians leading the charge (the word “Russian” appears three times throughout the song).
At first listen I was somewhat disappointed by this rendition: where is the guitar riff which so memorably portrays the cavalry charge which stands at the center of the narrative? But the Lobby’s more subdued interpretation grew on me – rather than hearing the tune as one of protest or even rally to counter-attack, it takes on here a sense of resignation and, when the strings come in with the riff’s melody toward the end, one of mourning. For a song about the callousness and greed behind human violence, as Savannah King’s acoustic version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” demonstrates too, acceptance is perhaps a more beautiful response than anger.