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Iron Maiden

The Bitch is Back

Introduction
The Soundhouse Tapes
Iron Maiden 
Killers
Maiden Japan (17-song Bootleg)
The Number of the Beast
Piece of Mind
Powerslave
Live After Death
Somewhere in Time
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Maiden England
No Prayer for the Dying
Fear of the Dark
A Real Live One
A Real Dead One
Live at Donnington
The X Factor
Virtual XI
Brave New World
Rock in Rio
Dance of Death
Death on the Road
 

The Lineup Card (1979-2006)

Steve Harris (bass, vocals)

Dave Murray (guitar, vocals)

Paul Di'Anno (vocals) until 1981 also of Di'Anno and others

Doug Sampson (drums) until 1980

Tony Parsons (guitar) until 1980

Dennis Stratton (guitar) 1980 also of Lionheart and others

Clive Burr (drums) 1980-1982 also of Samson and others

Nicko McBrain (drums) after 1982 also of Pat Travers Band and others

Adrian Smith (guitar) 1980-1990

Bruce Dickinson (vocals) 1982-1994, after 1999 also of Samson and others

Janick Gers (guitar) after 1990 also of Gillan and others

Blaze Bayley (vocals) 1994-1999 also of Wolfsbane

The kings of the flesh-dripping, goblin-grinning black t-shirt, Iron Maiden has been around for a surprisingly long time for a pony with essentially one trick - fast, gallumphing tempos, wailing duel lead guitars, and the ripped 'n' torn vocals of Bruce Dickinson yelping Cliff's Notes versions of history's more teeth-gritting tales.  Let's admit it - it's a formula, but it's a formula that Iron Maiden play to the absolute hilt of its possibility. Being around as long as this band has (what, almost 30 years already?) indicates consistency, and consistency is something this band has in hellacious amounts - once it found its goldmine in 1982 until about 1990 or so, this band essentially could do no wrong and represented everything about pure heavy metal to a horde of fans too young for Black Sabbath and not sleazy enough for the hair metal scene.  Of course, all the band essentially had to do was keep writing the same songs over and over, tour like weeping demons, slap another wicked-ass cover on their new album, close their ears to all outside influences, and they'd be successful.  The kids bought into it, and riches, bitches, and snazzy fencing outfits have all been theirs for the taking ever since. There's no denying that this band has been monumentally important in introducing lots of kids to the Power of Rock and Roll or something like that, because who can deny how cool the covers to Killers or Somewhere in Time might be to a 12 year old boy?  If nothing else, Maiden have been master marketers, parading their pet-corpse mascot Eddie around like some sort of Ronald McDonald-following-a-fatal-massive-coronary-and-subsequent-misguided-attempt-to-reincarnate-by-McDonald's-board-of-directors-using-chicken-blood-and-virgin-sacrificed-Strawberry-Shortcake-Happy-Meal-Toys.  Kiss made the mistake of making themselves the toys, therefore making it impossible to view any of them in any light outside of their personae - 'The Cat', 'The Spaceman', 'The Fag', and 'The Loudmouth, Moneygrubbing Jew'.  Iron Maiden makes the mascot the star, insomuch as even the bandmembers themselves have remained intriguingly anonymous.

Most rock fans should know Bruce Dickinson's name, and perhaps a select few can identify bassist Steve Harris as the band's founder and primary songwriter (he's the bookworm behind all those historical/literary reference songs, for the most part), but ask anyone but a Maiden enthusiast who the guitar players are, and you're probably gonna get a look more barren than Nicole Kidman's womb. There really aren't 'stars' in Maiden, like there aren't 'stars' in Judas Priest, and that's reflected in their playing.  Though everyone is more or less an accomplished player (Especially Steve Harris, who is as exceptional a bass player as his drummers are faceless and anonymous) it seems to me that they do everything exclusively in the service of the Maiden.  Again, perhaps a fanatic can tell you which guitar player is playing what on the fourth solo of 'Drifter', but the average listener sure as hell can't - and that's what the band wants.  They're the Communist China of metal bands - powerful, effective, but you're never quite sure what's going on beneath the surface. 

Musically, well...in short everything Maiden plays sounds about the same.  When I say 'formula', I mean it...I'm not just throwing out the word for the excitement of the ladies. The earlier stuff was a little rawer, they got a bit more poppy towards the end of the 80's, but for the most part the 1982 material sounds like the 1995 material sounds like the 2003 material. Same dueling unison guitar lines, operatic screeeeeeching about hordes of killers on horseback, thumpa-THUMPA thumpa-THUMPA rhythm patterns since the Carter era.  You'd think it'd get mighty old after awhile, and I'm sure for some of you out there it would (some of you who'd probably never dream of picking up an Maiden album in the first place), but it's really quite resilient.  Since I've had a bit of a hiatus since the last group I reviewed, I've actually been listening to a crapload of this stuff lately, probably 6 or 7 Iron Maiden albums a day for the last month, and I still am not as sick of them as I usually get of a band I review.  Far less than Gentle Giant for instance...but does that say more about me than it does about Maiden or Gentle Giant? Probably. Consistency, ladies and gentlemen...consistency. Being true to your vision.  Not playing Syndrums or attempting to sound like Whitesnake.  No power ballads. That laser-tight focus is an accomplishment on it's own, Ladies and Bill Collectors.

Still, being in Maiden must be hard. It must be like a cult - pure subservience to the Cause at all times. If you write a song that doesn't fit the formula and it gets rejected, or you get tired playing every song at a lockstep 140 bpm, or you don't feel like touring for 200 dates a year, year in and year out, you'd better look for employment elsewhere.  As a result, lots of people have - this band isn't quite the revolving door that a lot of groups have, but they've still had to install their fair share of replacement parts over the years, especially in the early years.  The Maiden is a cruel bitch it is true, but what you get for all that pain is a pretty considerable back catalogue of good albums and a fanbase that's willing to sacrifice virgins for you. 

In the grand scheme of things, Maiden is nothing more than a cult band, albeit one with some kinda hellacious long-term success.  They're like AC/DC without the groove or sense of humor, and compared to their fellow New Wave of British Heavy Metal founders Judas Priest, Iron Maiden seems about as articulate and multi-faceted as a bowl of Cheerios.  Listen to enough of their stuff at one time and it will dawn on you rather quickly that this band is based more on 'workmanship' and 'production' than 'inspiration' or 'variety', but give 'em credit for this much - Iron Maiden in their prime lineup never once let down their fans with a junker album or a boneheaded lineup change.  They seem perfectly happy to take to their jobs like they're, well....jobs, to be performed with heads down and arms pumping.  And if AC/DC-esque winking double entendres make you feel like you might as well be watching Porky's IV - Just Find a Fucking Porno Already You Horny Teenaged Creep, listening to enough of Maiden's mythology references will have you looking back fondly on all those times you skipped Freshman English to go and smoke a J behind the dumpsters. And this band really is quality, they really do have quite a bit of integrity, and in full blast can pump pure excitement into even the most bloodless of metal fans.

Iron Maiden were formed in London in 1976 by bassist Harris and guitarist Dave Murray, going through a head-snapping number of lineup changes before settling on vocalist Paul Di'Anno in 1978.  Their 1979 demo (see the Soundhouse Tapes) created quite a buzz for some reason, ultimately landing the band a contract with EMI.  The band released Iron Maiden in 1980 and settled on second guitarist Adrian Smith as the perfect guy to double each and every thing Murray ever decided to play, one octave up. By 1982, croaky, punkish singer Di'Anno had left and was replaced by Rudolph Valentino-wannabe Bruce Dickinson on leatherlunged vocals.  The band hit an impessive stride with '82's The Number of the Beast (is the Same as Jenny Jenny's), swinging through the middle of the Thatcher decade with Piece of Mind, Powerslave, and 1985's double Live After Death. 1986's Somewhere in Time added a synth or two but failed miserably to totally butcher the band's success like Priest's Turbo from the same year. Even a concept album, '88's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son failed to shake the growing army of sweaty, dateless fools. 

Notice how I made sure to cut off the 'good period' in 1990? Well, no one is gonna mistake No Prayer for the Dying (featuring Smith's replacement Janick Gers) as a spotless classic, but it sure looks like one next to '92's irritatingly trite Fear of the Dark, which resulted in Dickinson's hiatus from the group for 8 years.  While a lot of less focused metal bands wilted or derailed their sound in the mid-90's as a result of pressure from the alt-rock crowd's success, Iron Maiden tightened their belt and pressed on, hiring terrible replacement singer Blaze Bayley and proceeding to attempt to drown him out with classic Maiden aggression for two albums (a noble effort).  Dickinson returned in 1999 for the comeback album Brave New World, and the band continues to tour and release expensive-ass live DVD sets every few months or so to people who've had an Eddie in their wardrobe since 1983.


The Soundhouse Tapes - Rockhard 1979

Evidently this is one of the most famous demo tapes ever made, right up there with Van Halen's Gene Simmons tryout and Rolf the Dog's rendition of Rachmaninoff's 'Piano Concerto No. 2' that helped him get into Electric Mayhem, this 1979 3-song EP, with an original pressing of only 5,000, finally saw wide re-release in 2002 after decades of making sleazy guys named Vito rich at record conventions.  It ain't much, but you get 'Iron Maiden' and 'Prowler' in slightly rougher and thinner versions than the ones on Iron Maiden, and a pretty awful Sweet-influenced track called 'Invasion' that would later become a 45-rpm B-side and, even later, be rewritten into 'Invaders' from Number of the Beast.  Only 'Prowler' can be said to be anywhere near as good as its later version, taken at a slower and more deliberate tempo much more fitting to the apparent stroking movements of the voyeur protagonist.  The guitar tones are generally much more brittle and lack the crunching bone-snap of the best early Maiden, and vocalist Di'Anno sounds like a 15-year-old with a Mohawk, except when he screams.  Then he sounds like a Pygmy eunuch being stuck by a red-hot fondue fork. About as cool as rainbow suspenders, that.

Interestingly enough, though, the main parts of this band's sound are already in place..this band sure didn't have much of a ramp-up period, did it? No tentative Rocka Rolla-esque debut, no easing into a groove, no need to find that 'key member' to begin climbing upward (I, for one, enjoy Paul Di'Anno's rough edges and punk sensibility in the early Maiden). Granted, Iron Maiden had, by 1979, been bumping around for a couple of years in an even more ridiculous number of lineups than is shown at the top of this here page, but for a band to sound this much like itself just a year or two after forming is pretty rare. The Soundhouse Tapes, if nothing else, documents the enormous anticipation that many in the London metal scene had for this band to finally break out, and reminds you how endearingly rough this band was in its Di'Anno lineup.

Capn's Final Word: For fanatics only, but I didn't have to tell you that, did I?

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Iron Maiden - Capitol 1980

Garage metal in the best sense of the term I just made up, Iron Maiden has a great feel I haven't heard in many metal albums before. It sounds like an underground release, like it was recorded on the cheap and sold out of the back of the van at gigs for $5 in poorly-dubbed cassette versions with rubber-stamped J-card covers and optional bongwater stains free of charge.  So much 70's metal, bastard step-child of the record industry as it was, was still released on major labels by bands who all wanted to present themselves as semit-foppish English gentlemen of the Led Zeppelin model.  Considering Lemmy had been a member of Hawkwind before forming the similarly misfit Motorhead, Iron Maiden was probably the first heavy metal band to have been formed in the sweaty trenches of the metal clubs, that had the eggs and first-hand knowledge to admit that punk rock had happened and that it had far more in common with the heavy metal club scene than it wanted to admit.  When the audience demanded a release before any of the labels had seen fit to sign them, Maiden released the Soundhouse Tapes independently to appease fans.  When it came time to record their major label debut, the band kept as much of that DIY sensibility as possible and made a record that sounds alive, enthusiastic, and real, even when their songwriting doesn't necessarily have the legs to keep up.

For most people, having heard the more popular mid-80's releases first, Di'Anno's mid-range grunting vocals can come as quite a jolt.  The man's as untrained and berserk as a prison escapee at Spring Break, missing some obvious cues and rushing lines, but he's got a certain charm about him that Dickinson, for all his theatrics and precision, never had.  I personally like the guy and think he was the source of a lot of Maiden's early energy and drive, but I can also understand that the band was never going to be much more than a semi-underground sensation as long as he was on the mic. 

Other than the vocals and a few slower-than-usual tempos, Iron Maiden is very much a true Maiden album just like anything the PMRC ever secretly masturbated to - they've got their blister-forming lead-off ('Prowler'), their epic centerpiece (the highly Priest-influenced 'Phantom of the Opera', which sounds at times like a movement-for-movement rewrite of 'Victim of Changes'), the instrumental-for-no-good-reason instrumental ('Transylvania'), a couple of Blue Oyster Cult-y fast rockers ('Sanctuary', 'Charlotte the Harlot', 'Running Free'), and some slightly more atmospheric numbers ('Remember Tomorrow'...also highly Priest-y, and the spacey ballad 'Strange World').  They're all generally great tracks, with my personal favorites being 'Running Free' for sounding so darned unabashedly anthemic and featuring one of the cooler 'interlude' sections constructed almost exclusively around both guitar players making their axes go 'chickachickachickachicka' in perfect unison with the drums, and 'Prowler' for it's snappy wah-wah riff and being about flogging the dolphin while watching a neighbor undress through her bedroom window. The guitars also reach some early Valhalla of interplay during 'Phantom', which makes absolutely no sense lyrically or structurally, but manages to hypnotize nonetheless simply by pummeling the listener with so much wicked-butt guitar interplay you literally have no choice but to pay attention to the fact that Murray and guitarist-of-the-moment Dennis Stratton were every bit as tight, practiced, and clairvoyant as K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton were for Judas Priest.  The variety of styles, moods, and technical acrobatics on display on this track are simply amazing. 

I'm a bit less impressed by the less-interesting rocker 'Charlotte the Harlot' (it's hard out there for a ho, you know) and the chorus of 'Sanctuary' flows about as well as Condoleeza Rice fronting the Roots.  'Transylvania' has absolutely no reason to be instrumental other than being pretty fast - otherwise it's just about the same as any other track here, and doesn't have nearly as many great interplay moments as 'Phantom', anyway.  I'm also not much of a fan of the band's theme song, which sounds an awful lot like the kind of chest-puffing self-aggrandizement ('Iron Maiden...gonna get you!'...ugh.) usually associate with serial droolers like Kiss.  It's also sloppier than Christina Aguilera's chin at a Hell's Angel's rally, and that don't help nothin' either. The fact that it's fast is not really any great complement - saying an Iron Maiden song is good because its fast is like saying an airplane is good because it has wings. Fast and tight is Maiden's reason for existence.

All in all, a very enjoyable debut despite some slight flaws, and it's nice to see a band take to their first album with the all-for-one feel that Maiden does. No drum solos, no noticeably wanky solos, no spoken-word poetry introductions...just Iron Maiden springing fully formed from the gutters of London. Neat.

Capn's Final Word: Shows that prog metallers can be just as indie as the snottiest of punks, but are probably infinitely tighter.  

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Killers - Capitol 1981

Slicker and more calculated than Iron Maiden, Killers is also far more confident piece of work.  If the debut was borne in the clubs, stained with beer and piss and vomit, Killers sounds like the band locked themselves in a room dead sober and did not let themselves out until they'd finished their doomsday device.  They seem almost compulsive about the fact that they didn't want their second album to be seen as inferior to the first - they play tighter, louder, and faster (listen to the velocity of 'Wrathchild' and 'Murders In the Rue Morgue' and think back to the comparative lethargy of 'Prowler', which was pretty hot already. Hell, 'Another Life' is just as fast as the first two...what is this, speed metal already?).  The guitars snap-to with incomprehensible precision considering the tempos involved, and Di'Anno keeps it a lot more controlled and lead-singer-like than his often guttural performance on the debut. I'll put it this way  - no band worked harder in 1981 to put out a good album than Iron Maiden, that's for sure. The gargantuan level of quality control guarantees that there's not a single letdown on this record, in hardness or tempo or otherwise, but it also sort of acts as a bit of a bind for the band.  They don't let themselves wander as much as they did on 'Phantom of the Opera' from last time (there are no 7-minute epics here), and don't generate quite as many musical ideas or let the ones that are generated linger long enough to make much of an impression.  It's as if they said 'okay THIS and THIS and THIS are Iron Maiden, and anything else is worthless', and proceeded to prune out any of the stuff that didn't fit their dogma.  Limiting yourself is fine if you're performing surgery or writing stereo instructions, but this kind of artificial ceiling is a bit dangerous for a rock group.  Well, whatever...Maiden continued to operate under this kind of self-restriction for most of its career, it's just that Killers seems to be a bit more air-tight than some of the later releases.   

It's also damned good.  I almost awarded it an A- before I realized that the album takes a bit of a turn for the generic on the tail end of side two and too many of the songs are straight-ahead rockers using the exact same tempos.  This is a very good album, not a great one.  Still, I count the stomping 'Wrathchild' (complete with the short, Sabbath-y intro 'Ides of March') and the engagingly violent title track to be all-time great Maiden tracks, and the opening battery of full-on rockers to be damned near perfect.  'Ghengis Khan' is probably the best instrumental they ever did - it actually seems like an instrumental, unlike 'Transylvania', say, and really brings to mind a galloping horde of sweaty, bloodthirsty raiders intent on leveraging some Slavic poontang, like it or not.  And I don't mean British uni-student backpackers in Prague, either.

This band sure has a thing for the 'criminal on the run' thematics - I guess since they didn't have fencing and killing dragons to write about yet, they had to find something, and they just weren't any good at writing songs about fucking ('Charlotte the Harlot' indicating about how much play they were getting in that area anyway).  Here we have 'Innocent Exile', which is pretty much the same as everything else (great but repetitive), which I'll forever confuse with 'Sanctuary'.  The full ahead charge of the album is finally abated by the mid-tempo 'Prodigal Son' (not the Rev. Wilkins country blues as recorded by the Rolling Stones on Beggar's Banquet, but I guess you probably could figure that out), which is an excellent near-epic featuring some gorgeous solos and nice treated acoustic tones, but the album takes a bit of a fall with the highly unoriginal trio of 'Purgatory', 'Twilight Zone' (not the Golden Earring original from 1983), and the highly out-of-character 'Let's Play A Fast Unison Riff Resolved By a Flourish of a Chorus Punctuated By Really Long Instrumental Passages' that finishes it off.

Killers is good, but their paranoia about not releasing a sucky album has hamstrung them enough that the album begins to repeat itself before the finish. You know what I could use? An epic to finish this off. Leave 'Twilight Zone', maybe, and replace 'Purgatory' and 'Drifter' with another 7-minute track that leaves the guitarists room to noodle a bit, and you'd probably alleviate this slight fatigue that sets in before this album is entirely finished. We need an epic-worthy subject though...lessee, we've already done the Phantom of the Opera and Genghis Khan, and we'd soon blaze through Icarus, Satan, the Pharoahs, and Alexander the Great. That leaves...who?

That's right....Mike Tyson.

Capn's Final Word: Tight, hard, and loud, but a tad too anal and strict for the band's own good.

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Maiden Japan (17-Song Bootleg) - Bootleg 19??

Originally released as a 5-song EP to stem demand from all them short, dark haired, rough-sex-and-pedophiliac-cartoon lovin' Japanese Maiden fans, this is a live album from a 1981 Killers tour show in Nagoya, Japan which represents the last Paul Di'Anno release in the band's catalogue.  I happen to be reviewing the 17-song Japanese bootleg of the entire Nagoya performance (that's probably just as widely available as the EP is nowadays, knowing what I do about how much record companies like not re-releasing old EPs on anything but maybe $75 boxed sets), but the original EP has 'Running Free', 'Remember Tomorrow', 'Wrathchild', 'Killers', and 'Innocent Exile'. My version has EVERY SONG EVER RECORDED, WRITTEN, or BRIEFLY PONDERED OVER A MUG OF BEER by the band at that point. Well, maybe not, but when you include 'Drifter', 'Strange World', and 'Transylvania' in your set, you know you're close to scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of available material. You know what, though? It all sounds good to me. Maiden Japan is irreplaceable for nothing other than it being absolutely untouched by the rotten, phlegm-dripping mitts of studio overdubs.  It's a soundboard, but the mix wavers more wildly than Billy Joel at driving school, with Harris's bass wrestling for volume superiority with whatever guitar the soundman decided to turn up to full at that particular second.  Add to that chaos the fact that Di'Anno is already as coarse as an Albanian dock worker and the drumming is more suggestive of a tempo than a firm metronome, and you've got one rough sonofabitch of a live album. And you know what? It's fucking great. I don't give two Bud Seligs about precision and ensemble playing when I listen to heavy metal. I don't want my Iron Maiden to sound like the Vienna Boys Choir crossed with the USC Marching Band...I want them to sound fast, angry, and out of control. For once I hear that Iron Maiden, despite the anal-retentiveness of their studio recordings, doesn't entirely disagree with me.  The trick is that, even though this album is downright shoddy by Iron Maiden's usual performance standards, it holds it together when it absolutely has to. The dual lead lines of 'Another Life' are preserved perfectly, but the thrash bridge section just before the drum solo is as frenetic and berserk as you ever wanna be.

Yes, I said 'drum solo'...don't act so much like I just stuck my dick in the mashed potatoes.  It's only like two minutes long, and once it's done Smith (I think) launches into a spectacular double-time solo that kicks into a reprise of the 'Another Life' chorus that just floors. Then it's onto 'Genghis Khan' and 'Killers' and 'Innocent Exile' and...oohh! I think I just popped my own hymen, this record is so good. In 1981, Iron Maiden may not have been in 'full glory' according to some people (jerkoffs), but they certainly didn't have the theatrical bullshit angle that Dickinson insisted on bringing to the band.  No sampled song intros, no 'SCREAM FOR ME LONG BEACH!!' jerk lead singer moments, no Eddie the Puppet interludes left on the record for no good reason since YOU CANNOT SEE WHAT IS GOING ON ONSTAGE USING CURRENT LP/CASSETTE/CD TECHNOLOGY (without illegal drugs). Just rock, rock, rock and one helluva enthusiastic heavy metal band playing like their asscrack hair is on fire. Seeking this album out is highly highly recommended.

Capn's Final Word: Goodbye Paul Di'Anno, and thanks for one bastard of a good performance 25 years ago.

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The Number of the Beast - Capitol 1982

Bruce Dickinson's debut is the album where it becomes apparent that Iron Maiden has sprouted full-on into a metal hardon the size of Tom Sizemore's gut, and with nearly as much spine-tingling talent.  Sad as I am to see Di'Anno go, it's clear to me that the guy just didn't have the crowd-pleasing chops that his replacement has, and was apparently a bit too much of a party guy for the mostly-dour fellow Maidens.  Dickinson as a vocalist is like a schlockier  version of Ronnie James Dio (and taller, but then again, most of the Smurfs are taller than R. James), happy as a pig on a spit to be singing whatever overdramatic swill Harris comes up with. To me, it always seemed like Di'Anno was a bit to 'street' to be singing about devils and raging hordes of rapers and all that roided-up nonsense, but not so with Dickinson - this crap fits his swashbuckling swishiness like a nylon leotard. Not that there's anything wrong with writing silly lyrics about Vikings or bad acne or whatever it is that 14-year-old boys and 25-year-old British bass players write about, especially when married to the glistening pop-speed-metal that Maiden puts out on this record.  It's pretty much a choice between that or leather-clad motorcycle rebels, and Priest had that all wrapped up (literally and figuratively)...anything else would've sounded even more ridiculous than this, if that's possible.

I want you all to know that when I use words like 'ridiculous' to describe a band like Iron Maiden, it's done with nothing but the utmost love and respect.  Believe me, it takes muchos huevos grandes to play and sing like this and keep any semblance of seriousness about your job, and Iron Maiden were the kings of keeping it serious.  They never break the façade to self-analyze like Priest did, or to crack jokes like Motorhead - just chug chug chug from here until next Thursday, or whenever their fans get older than 17, whichever comes first.  The closest thing to a 'sense of humor' on display on Number of the Beast is on '22 Acacia Avenue', which is just a sequel to 'Charlotte the Harlot' from Iron Maiden...and that one is this side-splitting story about how ol' Charl will let you stick it wherever you like for 15 British Sterling, up to and including beating the crap out of her.  High-larious, folks! It's also the worst song on the album, somehow disgusting and treacly at the same time (the narrator wants her to escape with him...how sweeeeet, until she lifts his wallet and uses it to go down to the bus station to earn enough for a couple of crack rocks, anyway), and married to a groove that has little to do with the cadence Bruce is singing in (hear how he rushes the words 'East End' to fit at the end of the line...that's good writin', folks!). And 'Gangland' is a lot gayer than its title makes it sound ('Dead men tell no tales' is a pretty weak hookline, plus the entire arrangement is ripped off from 'Prisoner') - this song is rightfully known as the first really bad Maiden song.  Oddly enough, while the peaks are higher, Maiden albums from here on out all have one total bonker track or three (or 10, in the case of some of the Nineties' scrapings), but the peaks also tend to be higher than the Di'Anno albums. 

Just a bit of a tradeoff, you know? Because who the hell doesn't want to have 'Invaders' or 'Children of the Damned' or 'The Prisoner' or 'Genghis Khan' or Title Track or 'Run to the Hills' or 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' or Copyright 1982, Capitol Records, USA in their collection? One sad, sad child, that's who - probably someone who owns more than one Cocteau Twins album, for one.  Someone who doesn't own an album with a beckoning zombie who's actually TALLER than the Prince of Darkness, what's who! Now, 'Invaders' always gets compared with 'The Immigrant Song' for no good goddamn reason (not only does Dickinson not once yell out like Tarzan receiving it Greek style from Cheetah, there are absolutely no mentions of 'ice and snow' in 'Invaders'.  I mean, what's to keep the Invaders from being Space Invaders? You think those marching ranks of menacing monochromatic pixels don't house some hornball alien race bent on raping our fine female Earthling counterparts?), and there's also some predictable swipe against the pulp Redskin vs. Whitey lyrics to 'Run to the Hills' as being too pulp-y.  Well, what the fuck do you want, already? It's Steve Harris, and Steve's apparently not ever read anything that wouldn't have made a wicked comic book.  'Hills' has one hell of a hook, sir, and I might commend Maiden on telling the story of an invaded people from both sides of the sword, as it were.  You got people running to the hills from the invaders, get it? It's a goddamn concept album, just like Tales from Topographic Oceans or The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (which I swear are being sung by the same guy...I'll have to look that up sometime).  Then, you know, you have 'The Prisoner', which gets my blood a-percolating like nothing short of a good glass of warm milk and a handful of Vanilla Wafers with an absolutely wicked chorus that kicks in after a surprisingly sexy intro groove - 'I'm not a prisoner, I'm a free man...you better scratch me...from your black book!' Cool beans...of course, at heart it's just another in the long line of frigging 'running from the law' songs this band has already put out, but I just figured that out after listening to it probably six dozen times, and enjoying it each time around, so whatever.

The big fuss about this album was its alleged Satanism, which is ridiculous because, you know, anyone who thinks an album is Satanic just because it's called The Number of the Beast and has a picture of Satan on the cover and features a backward recording right before the song called 'The Number of the Beast' which features lyrics like '6...6, 6 is the Number of the Beast!' and has a song called 'Children of the Damned' and one called 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' doesn't give anyone the right to suspect it might not be In Praise of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  I mean, how reactionary do you have to be? Nah, really, apparently all this Bad Ol' Debbil stuff was just for the kids, and I wouldn't doubt it if Harris hadn't even read Crowley or Lovecraft or any of those other terrible fucking authors black-shirted, toothpick-armed little teenage boys like to claim to have read in an attempt to scare people into not beating them up on a daily basis. 'The Number of the Beast' was about a bad dream, 'Hallowed' is downright Christian (an executed prisoner looks down from Heaven), and 'Children', well, I have no fucking clue what they mean by that song.  But it's good! The whole damn thing is, as long as it's not about whores or Mafiosi.  And seriously, what good things are ever about them, anyway?

Capn's Final Word: Confident as all heck, and hooky too.  Not nearly as laughable or embarrassing as you might fear.

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vbopmc talesofmensshirts@hotmail.com Your Rating: A+

Any Short Comments?: Best Maiden studio album, easily. They've heavied up the general sound while still keeping just a liiiiiiitle bit of that old Di'Anno reckless aggression, which would tone itself down considerably on Piece Of Mind and the following albums. I'd rather have had a beer with Di'Anno, but Dickinson sure can sing cool, even when he's delivering naff lines (which is quite a lot of the time). As for Maiden's sense of humor, or lack thereof, they surprisingly do have one. They just don't let it get into their songs most of the time. Try reading the liner notes of their albums, or check out the design on the Piece Of Mind CD (a brain served on a plate with vegetables), or illegally obtain some of the comedy tracks from their Box Set. They even purposefully included a little fuckup in the final ten seconds on the last track of Brave New World. And hell, their drummer's name was Nicko McBrain.


Piece of Mind - Capitol 1983

Well, putting two essentially hookless six minute songs at the beginning, and a barren 7 ½ minute 'epic' at the end was probably not the signs of a sparkling brain trust at work, but it's hard to dismiss Piece of Mind outright despite the overarching feeling of being a marking time album between Beast and Powerslave.  Mind is certainly not as good as either of those two (even the best songs from here are notably inferior to 'The Prisoner', 'The Number of the Beast', 'Two Minutes to Midnight' and 'Aces High'), but as long as you can continue to stomach the Iron Maiden formula, it's impossible to feel like this album is not a worthy one.  Now, I say that having reviewed the expanded version, which includes a pants-rippin' and butter slippin' cover of Tull's 'Cross-Eyed Mary' from some single or whatever, and that admittedly raises my opinion of this album by at least a little smidge on my scale.  It also, unfortunately, reminds me that Iron Maiden aren't half the songwriters Tull were back then, but whatever...everything Maiden does sounds like it's been lubed up and polished to a high sheen, and Tull couldn't even get their guitars to sound decent on Aqualung, good singles or not. It'd be nice if Piece even hinted at a bit of artistic growth, but this one is about as stereotypically Maiden as possible, and I've liked Ninja Maiden ever since it came out on the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was in 4th grade.

All mediocrities aside, I'm still happy for the Priest Point of Entry poppiness of 'Sun and Steel' and the big-pimpin' slow-tempo verse and delightfully tacky call-and-response on 'Die With Your Boots On', and 'Flight of Icarus' is a helluva lot better at invoking winged glory than frigging 'Where Eagles Dare', which contains a middle section consisting of nothing but badly mixed dogfight sound effects for two minutes (of course, both songs will bow to the mighty 'Aces High' on the next album, but that remains to be seen). It's got a pretty considerable riff that, in more thrash-worthy hands, may actually have become something more than a forgotten mantelpiece, which is what it turns out to be in the midst of all these wang-bar dive bombs and half-conceived 'dogfight' lead sections.  'Icarus', however, features some terribly unimpressive vocal strains by Dickinson, however, who sounds like he's trying to pass a Slimline stapler through his urethra. 'Revelations' just bores me even more into submission - from the first Rush-y 'turn of phrase' to the Scorpions-y three-note grind-riff to the innumerable places where the groove drops out and I wish I had decided to review Gregg Allman instead, this song is a dog. 'To Tame A Land' ain't as bad, but the vocal melody exudes more than a whiff of hokey.  Plus, Frank Herbert didn't even let the band reference Dune after he heard this chunk of Iron Maiden filler material.  You think he woulda cockblocked it if they'd sent him 'Phantom of the Opera' (renamed 'The Big Hangin' Nuts of Atriedes' or something like that) instead? No way...he'd probably have asked for a half dozen t-shirts and the rights to include Eddie as a secondary character in his newest novel Dune: Enough Homoerotic Bible Analogies Already. But it was not to be - they decided to stick 'To Tame a Land' in anyway, but it seems the only ones that got tamed were the band.  Har Hardy Har!

Oh, and 'Quest For Fire' is even gayer and more embarrassing than 'Gangland', visions of an unwashed and un-bra-ed young Rae Dong Chong aside.  All in all, there's probably a lot more forgettable material on Mind than there is any right to be, but, what the fuck...duelling lead guitar lines make my face flush and my breath shorten, like clove cigarettes and that time Lara Hurt sat on my lap in 7th grade Gifted class and wiggled here cute little burrito-shaped ass around on my crotch in a most unrecommended way. 

Capn's Final Word: Just because a lot of it feels like a half effort can't quite wipe out at least 20 minutes of great power metal.

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Powerslave - Capitol 1984

The band definitely has a lot of confidence, I'll give 'em that much. They're about as original as Jay Leno's Wednesday Night Monologue, but they've got confidence to spare. Self-assurance. Ballsiness. Chutzpah. They have enough of the stuff to start their album off with a song about airplanes flying around and shooting at each other, they close the album with yet another song directly torn from a literary source that no one in their right mind would think would make a good heavy metal song (granted, calling Dune 'literary' is like calling Fatburger 'culinary' or the state of North Dakota 'geographic', but you get the idea.), much less a 13-minute long one, and they have, what...two songs which fetishize swordfighting on here? That's sorta like 00's Lynyrd Skynyrd writing two songs about fishing and deciding 'well, what the hey...there's 73 minutes available on this motherfucker, and we only have 33 of 'em filled up with songs about kickin' sand niggers in the ass, so...let's put on both!' Yup, Iron Maiden have about as many available song themes as Sandra Bernhardt has facial expressions (vomitessently self-pleased and raunchy indignation, if I remember my worst nightmares correctly), but I'd say they actually expand themselves a little bit here.  See, previously their character studies sounded like badly narrated potboiler novels - now they sound like badly narrated character studies.  Granted, 'The Duellists' is just a bunch of recruitment slogans for the World Fencing League geared towards attracting the same kind of semi-swishy fantasy-obsessed flouncers as Bruce Dickinson to sword fighting (Fencing - It's the arcane trivia and pseudo-spiritualism of martial arts but now with all the gayness of Greco-Roman wrestling!), but don't count me as limp just because I sorta identify with the warrior who dies with a 'Flash of the Blade' and love the way they tie the death of the adult soldier to the kid fantasizing about slaying dragons with the wooden swords. Most boys (okay, not my car-obsessed boyhood friend who later came out of the closet and leads a life so gay he makes John Travolta look like James Bond) also daydream about battle and 'always killing the beast', and it's a cold shock when most of them actually associate pain, loss, and death with war. Some never do, and this song, somewhat clumsily and with more than a little macho jingoism, acknowledges the realization of someone for whom it came too late. Sure, maybe it's not 'Taken my arms, taken my legs, taken my sight, taken my hear-ing!' as compassion-for-the-fallen-warrior songs go, but what is, dammit? And no, 'Suck My Ass It Smells' does not count, Weisenheimer!

Okay, ham-handed war commentary aside, Powerslave is primarily about kicking ass in a most polished sort of way - the musical sections here are so polished they almost sound mechanistic, and even when they try to hint that it's being recorded live (the count-down on 'Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)' it ends up sounding like they're musical animatronics that have been programmed by the best minds at MIT. Personally, on this album at least, I find this detached perfection attractive as hell - the solos on the lengthy instrumental passage of 'The Duellists' are about as improvised and off-the-cuff as the invasion at Normandy, sure, but that doesn't mean they aren't great in their own way. 'Losfer Words' again isn't much as instrumentals go, but it would've made one heckuva cool vocal track if they'd just figured out another way of talking about waving a glorified icepick around at somebody in a beekeeper's outfit. This album kicks off as well as any Maiden album - 'Aces High' is frigging awesome, from the intro that sounds like engines being kicked over to the blasting-cap-fast verse, to the fact that this song makes no secret of it's war fetish...something like this sharing space with the antiwar 'Two Minutes to Midnight' and 'Flash of the Blade' is a bit off-putting, maybe, and probably more than a little bit disingenuous.  Think about it: how many kids decided they wanted to be fighter pilots listening to 'Aces High' and 'Where Eagles Dare' and went down and enlisted, anyway? If kids can kill themselves after hearing 'Better By You, Better Than Me', they can most definitely be dumb enough to do this, too. 'Two Minutes to Midnight' is forever connected in my mind with 'Number of the Beast', as the songs are constructed somewhat similarly, except if anything 'Midnight' has much more of a tangible 'evil' vibe about it with its lines about 'go to war again, blood is freedom's stain, don't pray for my soul anymore'. If war isn't the product of an Antichrist, I don't know what is, and this song expresses that dark association pretty damn well (better lyrically than, say, 'War Pigs', which has a similar warmongers = satan's minions connection).  My favorite part? The tempo 'kickdown' right after the guitar solo gets bluesy for a second, when Nicko whacks his 'splash' cymbal and the entire ensemble sounds like a race car idling.  Smashing stuff.

Okay, well, I haven't even mentioned 'Powerslave' or 'Back in the Village' or said much at all about the stupidly long, but still acceptable 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', but what I have put down there should be enough to sell you on Poundyerpud as one of the most powerful and professional Maiden albums, and a must buy for anyone with an inkling for Maiden's style of music.  Plus, there's no tracks like 'Gangland' or 'Quest for Fire' that make you wish you'd bought a Helloween album instead.  And who likes Helloween, anyway? Their singer is chubby and their logo blows. And plus, no pus-dripping meat puppet mascot, just some idiotic vine fruit. So I somehow own 13 Helloween albums, who are you callin' sucker, sucker?

Capn's Final Word: At this point, pointing out the low points on Iron Maiden albums is pointedly pointless. You're gonna get it, or you're not.  This one has more points than most of the others.

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david andino     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: wonderful and hilarious site you got there ! iron maiden is not only a great metal band but they are the best metal bands of the 80's. powerslave reminds me of queensryche. i like maiden and queensryche so why not do a review of these guys and while you are at it get operation mindcrime!. blaze bayley sucks! he does not belong to maiden at all!. why why why??? oh yeah i am his brother. pedro already ran out of ideas now it is my turn. avoid looking at these faggots from the doors site. they already swore and cuss and blab all the way until they die. metallica already ran out of ideas because they already insulted and destroyed napster! buncha ass clowns!.

 


Live After Death - Capitol 1985..

Aww, what the hell. Double live album. Big whoop. It's great shit, sure, but I certainly don't like this thing as much as Maiden Japan, and that's not just because hearing Dickinson sing Di'Anno's songs puts into strong relief just how much of a pork loin Dickinson really is on the vocals when he's not sticking to the script (his lazy barking on 'Aces High' is just the first in a long line if places where I wish Dickinson would just shut up here).  Mostly, I don't like how it's constantly put in my face that this is the bands irrevocable peak, and almost all of the good songs they ever recorded are here, and they're on tour for one of their best albums, and they're at their performance peak with their best lineup, blah blah blah.  Why do I get bored before the first disc is over? I already know these guys can play so hard and tight the entire audience gets blue balls (meaning, of course, the ones that aren't already that way), and out of 18 songs, only 3 ('Mariner', 'Revelations', and 'Acacia') are ones I would definitely tell the band not to play if I had some creepy psychic connection to them like between Keira Knightly and my erect penis.  That leaves 14 other songs (15 if you count Churchill's pre-recorded introduction to 'Aces High', which is a fairly wicked trick, if you ask me)(of course it's pre-recorded. Churchill's been dead since, like, 1953 or something. Not that he wouldn't worship at the altar of the Maiden if he were still alive, mind you), not one of them I wouldn't mind hearing again, if only for the chance to have Maiden's guitarists (and bassist) prove to me once again that they can actually play like that for an hour and a half straight. But that still doesn't keep me from wishing this sounded as rough and mean as the first live album, where it literally sounded like the band would come out into the audience and bludgeon random fans with their wooden clubs if the power were to accidentally go out during the gig, just to maintain the intensity level.  Live After Death seems a bet too practiced and predictable for someone like me who enjoys a bit of slop (or, at least, a few more surprises) during their live albums. The fact that Powerslave sounded like it had been made by heavy metal machines was part of its appeal - the fact that Live After Death sounds the same way isn't nearly as attractive.

Capn's Final Word: The quintessential metal live album, maybe, and a pretty great compilation package...but certainly not the quintessential metal live performance. You need more spit and blood for that.  

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Somewhere in Time - Capitol 1986

I'll say this for it - it sure as shit ain't Turbo, and that, my friends, is worth a spin on the ol' spindle by itself.  As much as Maiden fans tend to skate around their true feelings for this one for fear of sounding like heretics (it's the 'pop' Iron Maiden record, the first featuring the hated synthesizer, and it does sound more glossy and lightweight than the '80-'84 records), things really didn't change all that much in Maidenland with this record.  It's maybe not quite as bone-crunching as Powerslave, but these songs are fast, and they do rock as well as anything we've had. Of course, Maiden fans deal primarily in barely perceptible shifts in heaviness or intensity when considering what their favorite albums are (how can they not? The fact that someone like Neil Young can record two different albums a year apart from each other that sound like two entirely different people must blow their little minds right out of the kitchen).  To the casual listener, Time is probably so similar to Powerslave or any other Maiden record that any discussions in differences are rendered useless - most people can't stand music that sounds like this, anyway, so who cares what they think? I do count myself as a fan of this band, and if you're reading this you're probably the same kinda guy (or girl...and if you're a girl who likes Iron Maiden you are one helluva hardy breed).  I just want my ass kicked, my booty moved, my rectum distended, my bowels loosened so much as to allow the fecal matter to simply fall unannounced onto the floor within 4-8 hours of a large meal of fried foods and black coffee. And Time, thankfully, kicks damn near as much ass as any Iron Maiden album I've heard yet, but it just sounds a bit slicker and more tech-y while doing it.

In fact, the story goes that Time just dodged a bullet that could've probably sunk Maiden for good.  See, evidently Bruce Dickinson was in some pretty awful physical shape following the year-long World Slavery Tour in '84, and wasn't quite fixed up by the time they got back together to record Time the next year.  He was convinced they should've recorded it as an all acoustic record.  This is, mind you, three whole years after This Is Spinal Tap was released. I mean, they already did the pyramids thing (about as close as you can get to Stonehenge without suffering a copyright infringement suit from that fatbody Rob Reiner), and now Dicko wants to do an acoustic record? Why not just put an entirely black album cover on it and call it Smell the Metallica? Why not tour nothing but Sea Worlds and VFW halls while you're at it?

Anyway, I happen to think it turned out pretty damn well from a texture standpoint - the guitars are still heavy as frig, but they're chorused out and, you know...'dehumanized' even more than they already were on Powerslave. Bruce's vocals aren't nearly as powerful as they were a few years before, but there's a certain fascinating way they're recorded and processed so he sounds like he's drowning in the mix at times.  Considering the alternative of having Dickinson too high in the mix, I'll take this, thanks.  Just because it's not yet been proven that too high levels of Bruce Dickinson vocals cause brain tumors doesn't mean they don't, dig?

Songwise, there's definitely a dropoff in the memorableness of this material compared to their recent work - there sure as shit ain't an 'Aces High' or 'Two Minutes to Midnight' here - but there aren't the sheer number of crap tracks that Piece of Mind had, either.  The leadoff track here is a bit lightweight and hokey, and I don't know of anyone who needs Steve Harris' lecture on the Gay Macedonian that closes this thing off (these epic history lessons have really fallen off after 'Genghis Khan'), but the rest of this material is money, rapidly lengthening running times aside.  'De Ja Vu' is just cheesy enough to be dramatic, but that doesn't keep the extended build-up to the chorus from raising the hair on my...ur...neck. Right, neck. 'Caught Somewhere in Time' is frigging amazing, in my mind drawing a direct parallel to 'Phantom of the Opera' (though this is surely far more mannered and orchestral than that slab of crunch craft) - the layered rhythm guitars with their huge, glistening sound become a morass of speed that blurs before your eyes...a great effect. 'Wasted Years' and 'Heaven Can Wait' later became concert favorites, and they both have a theatrical toughness and great hooks.  Listen, I've figured it out - a lot of this stuff sounds very much like Queensryche (except for 'Sea of Madness', which sounds like Signals-era Rush, but that's another story), except, you know, Maiden got here first.  I personally think Queensryche is pretty darn good, but some people find their stuff too proggy or mannered.  Granted, Somewhere in Time marks an even bigger break from the punk garage metal sound of the first album, but in this case I think it generally works very well. 

Capn's Final Word: As long as you're not some thrash snob, this album 'll still do the trick for you, and it's a testament to the talents of this band that they made a good record even when the cracks had started to form on their previously impervious façade.

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Sam      Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Pretty overlooked album in the Maiden cannon, but it's one of my all-time favourites. GREAT album cover. The band sound slicker but still have a bite to their music. Pretty much all the songs off here are excellent, especially 'Caught Somewhere in Time'.

A great heavy metal album.


Seventh Son of a Seventh Son - Capitol 1988

Wow. Boring. Like, you know...this is not what I want from an Iron Maiden record. It's not about synthesizers, it's not about lighter textures, it's not even about the fact that all their songs are longer than a homeboy's attention span.  It's the fact that outside of ‘Can I Play with Madness’ and ‘The Clairvoyant’, this one is just about devoid of decent hooks of the sort that make this band something more than Blind Guardian with a good marketing team. Far from me to call this album 'bad', but this is the very first time I've dreaded re-hearing a Maiden album after it's just finished. Never once to I say, 'Man, I really need to hear how that intro to 'The Evil Than Men Do' is, like, half a note different from the one on 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son'.  Granted, I also never say that on any number of other suspiciously similar Iron Maiden songs, but this time is different. After three trips to a specialist, two weeks of holistic healing, and a couple of calls to the Psychic Stars Hot Line, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that my ass remains quite clearly unkicked by this record.  And you know how quickly the shine rubbed off of Moonlighting once Bruce Willis and that chick with the hooters finally got around to making it to the greasy submarine races? Well, it ain't nothin' compaired to how quickly Maiden loses its luster when it fails to kick any manner of ass.

It seems Maiden has become a bit too enamored with the fact that they've made a concept album, and assume the fact that there’s a ‘story’ (or, let’s be fair, a theme) they no longer have to put any effort into the songs. Sound-wise, they're content with taking the Somewhere in Time approach of chorusing all their guitars and combining them with some unobtrusive synths (which, truth be told, are a bit of a highlight on this record...things tend to improve when the synths are a-synthin'), while Dickinson attempts to claw his way out of his mix-hole.  Here's the issue - there's too much open space here.  Check out the title track and come back and tell me five minutes of that motherfucker ain't nothin' but a synth going 'ooo-aaahhh' and a highhat going 'tsst-a tsst-a tsst-a'. Yes, it leads into a rather cool guitar part, but after all that buildup I'm expecting a plate of slow-smoked barbecue ribs, a case of Red Stripe, the Stanley Cup Finals, and a handjob from a naked Jessica Alba covered in Pam cooking spray, not just a slightly-better-than-average guitar section that sounds just like any of the other guitar sections this band has ever done.  This was guitarist Adrian Smith's last album with the band, and I'm glad to see him go for two reasons - first, it was obvious the guy had had enough of every line he played sounding damn near the same as all the others, and secondly, it was his arrival in the band that started this practice. Listen to Killers, then listen to this, and hear how rote and bloodless the guitars on this record often are. I know some people fell of the bus when they lightened things up on Time, but for me, the real drop-off in axework comes here.

Okay, before this review begins sounding even more like a murder-rape of this record, which is really no worse than pleasantly listenable, I'll say this - as complex as these songs are, and despite the amount of dead space, they really are put together well.  'Madness' is simply a great pop-metal tune, just hooky enough to grab the fickle teenagers in the asscushions and just hard and Maiden enough to sound really, really cool when cranked up. Same goes (though maybe to a slightly lesser degree) for 'The Clairvoyant', which has a lithe, dextrous feel to its rhythm.  Even the concept isn't the worse I've heard (a psychic attempts to warn his town of its impending doom and fails), and it's not like you have to pay attention to it at all - this isn't Verdi, you know.  If people like myself didn't insist on telling people this is a concept record, most people probably wouldn't have gathered that anyway.  To most people it's just gallomphing rhythms, guitars playing the same lines all the time, and a singer that sounds like someone doing an impression of Jack Black singing, except funny. The difference is that this time around, I'm absolutely unmoved by it all.

 Capn's Final Word:  Probably a bit deep in their bullshit to realize Queensryche has now not only beaten them at their own game, but left the field, showered, done the press conference, and headed off to get some table dances and body shots down at Lipstixxx.

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K.J. Foxx kj_foxx2002@yahoo.com Your Rating: B

Any Short Comments?: Good call on this one... most people very much overrate every Dickinson album, especially this one. With all the Queensryche name-dropping you're doing, I hope you plan on reviewing them sometime soon. Geoff Tate at his peak made Bruce Dickinson sound like Bruce Willis.

 




 

Sam     Your Rating: A+

 Any Short Comments?: Bit surprised to see you rate this one so low, Capn. I admit that perhaps it is a bit too slick and smooth in some places [it was their biggest selling album, though] but come on-these songs are awesome. Intricate, melodic.... 'Moonchild' sounds better live but is still a good fast opener. It's nothing compared to the magnificence of 'Infinite Dreams' though.... this song is one I wish they'd bring back to their setlist, it is such a good slab of metal, great guitar work, great singing. 'Can I Play With Madness' is a little too poppy for my tastes, but the rest of the album is nothing short of brilliant... it flows really, really well and I personally love it...


Maiden England - Capitol 1988

Soundtrack from the 1988 video shot on the Seven Bitches for Seven Bruthas tour, this one is marred by the inclusion of way too much Son material (they open with 'Moonchild', not the classic King Crimson track where it sounds like they're pulling the transmission out of a '74 Datsun, but the Seventh Son leadoff track I never mentioned in my review of that record, and they even play 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son', during which, it has been reported, more toilets were flushed in the arena than during halftime of the Super Bowl), Dickinson singing like he's making fun of himself, and a waaaay-too-bright sound attributable to the fact that the guitars sound even more pussified live as they did on their last two records.  There's also way too much football-asshole chanting going on with the crowd, which is distracting as fuck when you're trying to figure out if this version of 'The Prisoner' rocks ass or is just sloppier than Terri Hatcher's Botox job (it's the latter, but I still love this damn song).  It does sound absolutely live, however, and the rhythm section sounds absolutely boner throughout the show (drummer Nicko McBrain is especially on, which is a nice counterweight to the guitarists' lameness). Also, the non-recent song selection is pretty good - 'Prisoner', 'Still Life', 'Die With Your Boots On', and 'Killers' is all fine stuff I'd rather hear than 'Infinite Dreamer' or whatever slop happens between the third and seventh minute of 'Seventh Son'.

I would like to reserve a nice punch in the spleen for Dickinson, who makes it his prerogative to ham it up on every single one of his vocal lines here, bellowing out of tune, adding random twists and stut-stut-stutters, and generally making himself look like a complete choad out there.  Way to screw up the coda of 'Die With Your Boots On', beyond recognition, Brucey. Anyone have Di'Anno's phone number? No? What about King Diamond? Sammy Hagar?

 Capn's Final Word:  A total mixed bag that ruins the decent with the awful. The band feels like it's in some desperate straights here.

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No Prayer for the Dying - Capitol 1990

Iron Maiden had gotten the hint that their two-album foray into creamy, glammy sci-fi art-metal had not been entirely to their fans utter delight, and re-entrenched themselves with a harder, no-frills record that ended up extending their rapidly approaching sell-by date by a couple of years.  The major development here is the departure of guitarist and Dave Murray clone Adrian Smith, replaced by former Gillan sideman Janick Gers, who I once heard being referred to as 'experimental'.  Well, unless mining the same squealing false-harmonic and double-tap vein as Edward Van and a half a million other pointy-horned guitar players is 'experimental', this guy is about as fresh as dollar store sandwich bread. He is, however, quite different from Smith, who ended up pretty much disappearing into a two-headed guitar monster with Murray, losing any sense of distinctiveness in his playing about 5 minutes after this band hit the big time.  The new guy doesn't really mesh well at all with Murray, not by Maiden standards, anyway (his tone is rougher, his playing sharper and less fluid, and more likely to go 'Ka-WHEEEEEEEET!').  Actually, I like it - the band seems to have gained an extra dimension in their sound, sped along in its quest by tons of good timey ol' down home crunch distortion, sorely missing from the last album.  Even if the hooks are decidedly just as substandard this time around as they were on the last album, the band sounds quite a bit more credible as a metal band and no longer sounds like they're auditioning to be the house band at Disney World's Captain E-O Adventure Ride.

Yup, apparently 'stripped down' indicates 'dumb' to Iron Maiden nowadays, though it's hard to fault them when you consider the rabid dipshittitude prevalent in heavy metal in the early 1990's - if you hadn't already splintered off into thrash, you were scrambling to get a piece of the MTV golden goose by releasing watered-down glam-rock bootstompin' snotbubbles of pop songs for the hairspray queens to wiggle to in their acid wash miniskirts.  Judas Priest, stuck in a stylistic abyss far darker than Iron Maiden's, would perform the impossible by remaking themselves as a credible thrash band with their Painkiller album, but Iron Maiden attempted to remain neutral on the field of play.  Meaning, almost by default, they'd edge closer to poppiness.  What else do you call the Wes Craven-shill that is 'Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter' or the intentionally toned down near-ballad title track, or the AC/DC grunt-along choruses of 'Fate's Warning' or half the other songs here? If that ain't poppification, I'm gonna eat my cat with a plateful of Szechwan vegetables off of John Madden's sweaty backside. So, really, when people say this is Iron Maiden 'returning to their classic sound', they're actually talking out their ass - Maiden never sounded like this before.

So, it doesn't really sound like classic Maiden - is it any good? It's certainly not as dull as Seventh Son, but the thing leaves me unconvinced.  The slow tempo on 'The Assassin', and the party-hearty backbeat of 'Hooks In You' sound awfully stupid coming from the band that once made 'Aces High' hotter than Jaime Presley doing naked gymnastics on a bed of naked Laker girls. Speaking of 'Aces', the opening 'Tailgunner' is a fairly obvious rewrite of said aviator's anthem, taken from the point of view of one who prefers rough anal sex to, you know, the kind normal women like.  You say you have to gain the rank of rear admiral before you get to be a tailgunner? Alls I know is she had nipples like a fighter pilot's thumbs. Awwww, well...there is a lot of interesting Maidenisms here, and the lack of inordinately lengthy epic tracks (not even the god-awful 'Mother Russia' reaches 7 minutes) means that No Prayer is a fleet, undemanding listen...one that sometimes even entertains a crusty ol' Maiden vet like myself.  A comeback? Well, let's definitely refrain from hyperbolic claims that this is the best Irons since 1984 (Somewhere in Time whallops this record like a mouthy ho, ifn you knows how hard it is to be a pimp, and I think you does), but let's give it credit for righting the listing ship just in time for that final wave to come and blast it into splinters.

 Capn's Final Word: The best Maiden never was this cheap, but this rocks just like you think it should.

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Fear of the Dark - Capitol 1992

No Prayer for the Dying left out in the sun for a few days, sustaining enough damage to render the intellectual capacity of this record somewhere between Victoria Jackson and a half eaten holiday cheese ball.  This is simplification taken to the point of simpleton, a heavy metal album so intentionally non-ambitious as to damn near resemble a pantomime.  It's clear that whatever mojo Iron Maiden had is long gone on this record, a pre-adolescent's perfect heavy metal album - loud, flashy (sophomore guitarist Gers, for one, shreds like sixteenth notes are on a three-for-one sale), unchallenging, and very, very generic.  You never thought Iron Maiden would stoop to arena-chants in their studio songs? Well, pull a chair right up to the Lowered Expectations Bar and crack open an ice-chilled bottle of Not What They Used to Be, because a song called 'From Here to Eternity' has a chorus that sounds straight up ripped off from AC/DC's Razor's Edge album. Other places it sounds like a Def Leppard production. Hell, one of these fucking things sounds like early 90's-era Deep Purple, one of the most abominable and disease-ridden rock outfits since, well, early-90's-era Black Sabbath.  You know all of the things Iron Maiden was not supposed to be, the things their precious and invaluable formula was guaranteed to prevent from happening? Somehow they find themselves succumbing to each and every pitfall on Fear - cartoonish, weak, puffed-up, sloppy, and slow.  There's even a goddamned ballad on here.  Yeah, the opening 'Be Quick or Be Dead' has the velocity, but Bruce's bruised, overcompensating vocals render the thing nearly a novelty tune.  Is it just me, or did Bruce's voice nose dive faster than Rosie Perez's acting career after about Somewhere in Time (where you couldn't hear him anyway), and now that they're 'back to basics' and he's back out in front he sounds terrible?

 Capn's Final Word:  Dickinson's last before a long vacation, which might be just long enough to heal those warts on his vocal cords. Otherwise, not enough to save the Maiden name.

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A Real Live One - Capitol 1993

A Real Dead One - Capitol 1993

More live albums, though since most of you won't have easy access to the two Maid in Manhattan sets, you'll have to shimmy your overlarge Puerto Rican hooptie to either Live After Death or one of the multitude of enormous post-peak live sets this band's put out, ala the Allman Brothers Band.  Taking a page from the playbook of that retarded fox that's always stealing the bitch's map on Dora the Explorer, Bruce and company decided to swipe extra money this time around by releasing their next live set in two different parts, forcing Maiden fans to buy two CD titles rather than just one, no doubt missing out on a $2 bulk discount.  Oddly enough, they sequenced the two records in such a way as to make both of them somewhat less-than-attractive (Hilary Rodham Clinton with a nosebleed) to fans - A Real Dead One features only songs from the 1980-1984 era (earlier if you figure that 'Prowler' and 'Running Free' were released in '79 and probably written before that), and A Real Live One is only made up of tracks from Somewhere in Time and a bunch of asscrap albums they released after that. So you get ripped off either way (in addition to the normal ripping off you get buying live albums of songs that are already performed in picture-perfect replicants of their studio versions) - buy the old songs that you (mostly) already have if you were smart and bought Live After Death (or frig-fucking-genius if you bought the kickass full-length Maiden Japan boot), or buy a bunch of the newer songs that weren't that hot in the first place. The good news is that the band does sound better than they did on the Maiden England video, though the guitars for some reason sound sterile like Nicole Kidman and nearly as anorexic. You ever think that people seem to have lost the ability to record great sounding live guitars? I do, and you know when that shit started?  Right around the time they discovered digital noise reduction. Guitars are noisy motherfuckers...all those humming tubes and buzzing dirt pedals...mixing engineers probably drooled all over themselves with the thoughts that they could remove all that static from a live recording and return the guitar to it's pristine state...digitally. Hell, the PC does all the work, just select the waveform, click a couple of dropdown menus, and the engineer can go have a joint in the crapper while still clocking in at $300 an hour. It also cuts the balls out from under them if you aren't careful, and besides, who really gives a shit about your heavy metal guitarist sounding clean as a whistle anyway? Some of the best live guitar tone I've ever heard is on the Get Your Ya Ya's Out album, and Keith readily admitted that even though many of the guitars and amps are the same ones they use today, they didn't have a clue how to record loud guitars. I say they recorded the fuck outta them. Well, despite how excellent the Maiden's guitar tone historically has been (they're firm believers in Marshall crunch tone, as they should be), they found a way to fuck it up on these live albums.

Granted, it's always cool to hear the band tear through 'Where Eagles Dare' or 'Sanctuary', and Gers' solos are somewhat more interesting than Adrian Smith's had been in the last few years, but if I never hear anything from Seventh Son again, it'll still have scarred me for life that I sat through that snore-fest six or seven times. These just aren't great live albums - they're long, but substituting 'long' for 'good' is something we've had to deal with constantly in the CD age.  Luckily, my wife says I'm both.

 Capn's Final Word:  Beit the ripoff packaging or the fact that it isn't 1985 anymore, these live albums feel like moneygrubbing.

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Live at Donnington - Capitol 1994

Definitely stomps the last choking breaths out of A Real Live/Dead Ones (though definitely not Live After Death, Live/Dead, or Evil Live, or Live Evil, or Dead Alive, especially the part at the end where that guy gets reverse-birthed into the dripping, stinking reproductive canal of that huge zombie monster, the part which I like to fondly refer to as 'Ryan's First Time Having Sex'), and almost makes a convincing case for early 90's Iron Maiden's live show being as good as their mid-80's one.  They're far more alive here than they've been on anything since Live After Death, especially since Bruce doesn't sound like he's Rodney Dangerfield auditioning for Jesus Christ Superstar like he did on Maiden England.  Although the song selection is damn similar to the Live/Dead sets, the fact that they're sequenced realistically makes for a much more palatable experience.  I can bang my banger to 'Be Quick or Be Dead' and wang my wanger to 'Wrathchild', get drowsy during 'From Here to Eternity', drop off to sleep during 'Can I Play With Madness' and catch up on my shuteye and Eva Longoria fuck fantasies until, hell...at least 'Heaven Can Wait' rouses me and 'Run to the Hills' knocks me outta bed and kicks me square in the assbone. Then it's the same seven tracks they've been playing to close their show since 1983, classics one and all...ever get the feeling this band should've been flattened collectively under a falling Red Rock while onstage in Colorado sometime in 1985? Can you imagine how legendary they'd have been?

Capn's Final Word:  Well, the best thing I can say about Live at Donnington is that when they play those pre-Live After Death songs, I can close my eyes and forget they ever began to decline. Perhaps that's the only thing the fans really care about.

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Sam      Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: I have this album but I haven't listened to it much. Why?

Well, the performance is GREAT [an all-time career high for the band, this Donnington show was], but the mix on this is all wrong. Guitars and vocals are way down while the bass and drums are REALLY loud.

This kind of spoils the album a bit for me. Perhaps I'd better give it another listen. In the meantime, though, I suggest that EVERYONE should try and find the video of this performance-it's hard to find, but well worth it. On the video you get to see the concert as well, and the mix is MUCH better and louder.

The video version of this gig is, IMO, the DEFINITIVE live Iron Maiden artefact. Hell, it's the definitive live metal artefact. It's one of
the greatest pieces of musical product ever. The band were on absolute top form during this period and it shows. EVERYONE, EVERYONE should get the video tbh, it is AMAZING. I'd give the video an A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ [yes it is that damn good!]

 


X Factor - CMC International 1996

Yeah, so Bruce Dickinson thought somehow a solo career would break him out of the funk he'd been wallowing in since Somewhere in Time hadn't been recorded like McCartney II, and Iron Maiden took the opportunity to recruit a guy named Blaze who, if my sources are correct, was not the same guy who used to wear skin-tight spandex and shoot people with a basketball gun on American Gladiators back in the late 80's (by the way, some of the first stirrings of my pubescent libido not associated with Beverly D'Angelo in National Lampoon's Vacation happened while watching the female gladiators run around in their shiny little outfits on that show.  To this day, I still have a thing for overmuscular women in silver body suits hitting me in the head with man-sized Q-tips. You too?), but he probably sings worse.  See, just like the 'Ripper' era Judas Priest, or any of those Joe Lynn Turner Deep Purple albums or Glenn Hughes Sabbath records, Iron Maiden was slumming it on these X records for die-hard fans who only care about getting ripped and hearing 'The Trooper' played live for the 10-thallionth time.  They'd lost their big-label contract with the departure of Dickinson and were forced to sign up with the scrap-metal-recycler-cum-independent-metal-record-label CMC International to continue peddling their records.  Like Christina Aguilera applying to MENSA or the Kansas City Royals playing another major league season, perhaps they just shouldn't have bothered.  Blaze Bayley sings like he's playing second bill to a trained monkey act at the Shreveport Stardust Casino (plus, I think the man has a speech impediment that makes him sound like Elmer Fudd or that little boy bear on Sesame Street, which isn't funny at all. Okay, okay...it's fucking hilarious) and the rockers are now so de-rigeur and formulaic they make AC/DC sound like Ween. They barely even put out the instrumental muscle to give the songs a chance - 'Man on the Edge' is a pretty good song (and fast), but it's also the third song on the record and the first two are totally forgotten the nanosecond they finish.  It's not enough that they simply follow the formula, crank it up, and hope for the best - after all, that's pretty much what made them great in the first place. Here they get 'progressive' with tracks like 'Fortunes of War' (or, as it's pronounced by Mr. Bayley 'Fwo-toons o' Wooahw'), which has at least three or four different 'passages' over it's 7 minutes, most of which come at completely random times, thus bringing any momentum generated by the previous one to a murderous full stop.  Plus, each one seems to revolve around the singer blaring the title of the song sixteen or seventeen times in a row.  So, for all its 'progressive' leanings, this is also a mightily simple and stupid way of arranging a song.  Oh, right - track lengths.  You'll see a lot of five- and six-minute tracks have made their way on here, because, well, why wouldn't you want an album almost twice the length of Iron Maiden, except with the same number of songs and none of them any good? No reason at all, because you're an Iron Maiden die-hard who'll shell out the clams for any old slime they happen to pump out just because there's a fucking zombie on the cover of it. 

Oh, right...I wanted to say that 'Judgment of Heaven' sounds like Journey, but comparing Journey to this turd sandwich is like comparing a '69 Boss Mustang with an '87 Yugo just because they both have four wheels.  I can only say that, evidently, Iron Maiden decided they'd try to sound like Journey, and then realised the couldn't do it but left it on the record anyway.  There's a lot of that happening on The X Factor, in fact.

Capn's Final Word:  A terrible, terrible mistake of a stopgap record released while waiting for Bruce Dickinson to pull his head out of his ass.

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Sam     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Whoa there Capn. Major, major, major disagreement here.

This record is underrated. It was recorded at a dark time for the band [Bruce leaving and a lot of other stuff]. Maybe Blaze isn't the ideal choice for a singer, but I feel he captures the dark mood of this album quite well.

D+? I mean seriously, you're giving this record damn near the same grade as St. Anger? You're comparing this album to a riff tape where the drummer bangs on dustbins?

Come on man, this album has something St. Anger doesn't: melody. And it also has good songs.

I'm gonna get done for this, but I reckon that the first track, Sign of the Cross, is the best Maiden song ever. Everything comes together on this classic-the riffs, the lyrics, the guitar melodies and that AWESOME solo section in the second half. If the album version doesn't convince you, maybe the live rendition off Rock in Rio with Dickinson back on vocals will. It is one of the best metal songs ever written, an absolute classic.

The rest of the album is good too. It took me a little while to get used to it, but I like the dark feel and the brooding atmosphere that this record contains. It's not like any previous Maiden records, but it's different in a good way-dakr, melodic. If I'm in the right mood for it, it is amazing. Songs like 'Fortunes of War' and 'Look for the Truth' are great.

Also I love the last track on here 'The Unbeliever'. It's a little clunky for the first half, but the guitar line that comes in during the second bit is nothing short of stunning, in how good it is and how it makes you feel.

A D grade? No way. I'm sticking up for this one. Also, I have three friends who are Maiden fans [bigger ones than I am] and they all reckon this to be their best record, so go figure.

A brooding masterpiece of a record. Solid A.

 


Virtual XI - CMC International 1998

"Iron Maiden's back! This time the band attempts to recapture the peerless glory of their X Factor glory years and...they succeed! Glory, glory be, this is the best album this band has put out since 1996, and I look for good things out of this Iron Maiden band to continue for decades to come! They combine bone-crunching riffs, head-banging solos, and thoughtful lyrics to produce a fist-pumping sound that seems to scream out 'rock and roll will never die!' with each passing note.  My teeth were clenched so hard during the 53 minutes this album played out, I had to go have three crowns replaced at the dentist the next day.  I'd like to thank the similarly vital and independent CMC International label for giving up-and-coming metal bands with fresh, original ideas the outlet for their expression.  Without them, no doubt a band like Iron Maiden would be gathered up by a major label and forced to replace their soulful, expressionist vocalist with someone more 'commercial'.  Well, it's clear to me that Iron Maiden feels more strongly about pleasing their fans and creating brilliant, timeless songs that express much more than the average boy-meets-girl stuff that fills the airwaves nowadays. Songs like 'Futureal' or 'Como Estas Amigos' are ones that popular, commercialized acts like Radiohead or U2 would kill to be able to write. It's a sad commentary on the state of our music industry when a band as obviously ahead-of-the-curve as Iron Maiden is cannot get played on MTV, but obviously talentless fools like Bolo and the Side (or Edge, or whatever it is) get to run rampant with their backward-looking, yesterday's news songwriting style.

A case in point - this young band of vibrant, hard-rocking Brits doesn't rest on their power metal laurels like some lesser bands I could mention (Motorhead, Slayer), they also have a secret weapon - a progressive metal side that they've decided (at last!) to unleash for the first time on Virtual XI.  They're not afraid to push the envelope with their song lengths, because how can you attempt to reign in the awesome power of a song like 'The Clansman' to less than 8 minutes? It simply can't be done! Wagner needed, what...7 or eight hours to express the three parts of his Ring Cycle.  Blaze Bayley and company need merely a fraction of that to spin out their three masterpieces.  Plus, 'The Clansman' has better violin parts than any of that old opera crap ever had.

I'd hate to let my review end without paying special attention to 'The Angel and the Gambler' is 9:52 of the best electrified tone-poetry since, well, since ever for this reviewer.  What else can you call an Iron Maiden song that contains a) lots and lots of loud Hammond Organ, which they've somehow never considered suitable for their sound before (If I may be so bold to ask...why not? It worked for Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, didn't it?) b) a rockin' middle section that recalls Billy Joel's classic Storm Front album, and c) the line 'Doncha think I could save your, doncha think I could save your, doncha think I could save your life?' repeated no less than 738 times over the last 7 minutes of the song.  You know what I think, Blaze Bayley? I think you could save my life anytime."

 - taken from Hit Parader, June 1998

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Brave New World - Sony 2000

Back when I first heard Brave New World not long after it came out in 2000, I was shocked at how good Iron Maiden still sounded.  Granted, I hadn't really listened to them since about 8th grade, when I  owned Powerslave and probably a worn-out cassette copy of Piece of Mind, and I sure as hell hadn't kept track of their myriad soap-opera escapades during the mid-90's.  All I knew was Bruce Dickinson was back, and I had popped a (minor) musical boner for Iron Maiden again.  I rediscovered all the old records (read: I downloaded them from wild-west-era Napster, still the reigning king of cool ways to steal shit over the internet), reformed my elitist opinion of their kind of heavy metal, and have counted myself as at least a mild fan ever since. Nowadays, it's clear that Brave New World is a flawed but surprisingly tough little record that paved the way for Iron Maiden to reclaim their touring metal titan crown and celebrate by heckling Ozzy Osbourne and, with their frequent appearances on dime-store music shows like VH-1's Top 100 Most Metal Moments every five seconds, making Ronnie James Dio seem cool in comparison. 

No, just foolin'.  That was harsh.  Iron Maiden is as good nowadays as anybody has any right to expect them to be.  They've gotten back to recording epic-sounding albums filled with chooglin' guitars (with Brave New World, 80's-era guitarist Adrian Smith has been re-added as third guitarist) and googlin' vocals.  Unlike the thrash-charged Judas Priest, however, they've stuck by their power-metal guns and kept their sound just minor shades of grey removed from their classic early-80's style.  They've left their late 80's techno-obsession behind, obviously, and they're not as tunnel-visioned as their early 90's epoch, but I can't rightly say 'boy, they sound like it's 1984 again' (like I haven't already said that 50 fucking times in this page - these guys have about as much variation as the Friday the 13th movies, f'r Chrissakes).  If anything, it sounds like Somewhere in Time played by the 1983 band, and that's pretty frigging cool when it works.  'Brave New World' has that Queensrhychian sweep of a concept album centerpiece, the opening 'The Wicker Man' is fast and loose, rather than fast and tight like 'Aces High' was, and sheeeit....the intro to 'Ghost of the Navigator' sounds like the Cure or some shit, at least before it starts to smoke and get all black and VA-HOOM!!! takes off like a Huffy strapped to a Sidewinder missle. The opening third of this record is as good as anything the band has ever done, and if they had followed 'Brave New World' with the ridiculously derivative 'Trooper' rewrite 'The Mercenery' instead of the maudlin macho love story 'Blood Brothers', it'd been an entire side of ass kicking.  'Dream of Mirrors' is a bit hokey and way too wordy on the verses, but that chorus is a wash of sheer power ('I only dream in black and white! I only dream 'cause I'm alive!'), that makes the wait worth it.  A full side of excellent Iron Maiden...hell, they couldn't do that on Piece of Mind or Powerslave, now could they? It's just that 'Blood Brothers', man...that just stinks the joint up like John Goodman at the Great American Chili Cookoff. 

The second side starts similarly promising - The album's second 9+ minute track 'The Nomad' is a surprisingly abrasive thrash experiment (the lead guitar almost sounds like something Ministry would dream up) and a twisty, small-interval chorus that's probably intended to sound Middle Eastern.  It sounds about as Arabic as Bobby Brady yodeling 'Stars and Stripes Forever', but that doesn't mean it doesn't fucking whomp us poor mortal men out here in audienceville like little black t-shirted Whack-a-Moles.  'The Nomad' takes the cake as the best song Iron Maiden's done in years, especially the lead guitar trade-offs that take place at about 3:30 - if this stuff can't get a rise out of your inner Animal the Muppet Drummer, perhaps you should just leave your weed-scented faded jean jacket at the door and go back to your Sufjan Stephens records.  'The Fallen Angel' sounds like a Killers outtake, brilliantly fleet-footed and all-loud-all-the-time. 

Brave New World doesn't have the gas to quite make it through the entire album without flat-footing the last two tracks (a well-edited 40 minutes would’ve made this album just about perfect), but it’s still worth a pat on the back to the old farts who realized where their talents really lie. Count me as one who was happy to rediscover Iron Maiden because of this album, and happy to rediscover this album through Iron Maiden reviews.

  Capn's Final Word: A fine return to form with three-guitar crispiness and a good sense of the dramatic.

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KJ     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Yeah. I prefer the 'garage metal' years (great term), but god damned if I don't love this. You've really got to give these guys ACDC respect for remaining true to themselves. It's tough for me to say because, obviously, Ozzy rules- but Bruce has never sounded better. I think he gets better on the next record too. The Nomad gets my blood going to be sure. I love the quiet, melodic part before the vocals kick in again. The Wicker Man is just a great rock song. That riff has been said many times, many ways, but at the end of the day it still kicks serious arse here. Blood Brothers isn't a complete write-off. I like the emotional solo by Gers right before the coda. I'd give this an A+ but side two starts to saddle-bag a bit. Fallen Angel seems like a tepid Phantom of the Opera rewrite to me. What's that? All their tunes are based around that one? Good. E minor ain't goin' nowhere and neither are these guys.

 


Rock in Rio - Columbia 2001

Who do they think they are with all these live albums, the Rolling Stones? A band who once put out a live album based on a tour in support of a live album? Well, start the regrettable practice of releasing a new 2-disc live album for each new studio album you trundle out on the dessert cart, and people might just mistake you for Pockmark Craggleface and the Reanimator Blues-Rockers, too.  As good as Iron Maiden have become in the third decade of their existence, their track record of decent-but-underachieving live albums unfortunately continues.  If you press me, I'd say that no Iron Maiden live album after Maiden Japan properly captures every last drop of their considerable energy reserves, and some (Maiden England and the Live/Dead Ones) could be used as strong arguments against them being one of rocks allegedly top-shelf live bands.  Rock in Rio isn't much to base a strong opinion on either way, being a good, but unremarkable affair.  The Iron Maiden set list, long a place for a suffering early-days Maiden fan to find solace and rare listens, has fallen into a predictable formula meant solely to promote the new album and keep the lowest common denominator audience members (like the vast numbers of aging yuppie cumsockets at the Bob Dylan show I saw a week ago that only stood up to cheer 'Like a Rolling Stone' and 'All Along the Watchtower', as if those were the only two fucking songs they'd ever heard by the man).  Here, only 'Wrathchild' and 'Sanctuary' (and 'Iron Maiden', but that's been played at every Maiden concert ever since the days when the Marshall stacks were steam powered and Steve Harris still had a full head of hair) You are in luck, however, in terms of the new songs - they kick off the concert with the first three tracks of Brave New World, and it sounds like the second coming. 'The Wicker Man' is the best show opener they've had since 'Aces High', and it's quite telling when the first 'letdown' of the show is '2 Minutes to Midnight' performed, you know....normally. Average. Mediocre. George W. Bush in a remedial freshman college Algebra class. Superman III.  You know. But 'Wicker Man', 'Ghost of the Navigator', and 'Brave New World'? Best songs by these lads since 1986. no question. 

The other new tracks don't impress nearly as much, and the inexplicable decision to include two songs from the Blaze-era band is either proof that Steve Harris hates Bruce Dickinson's guts and wants to remind him how much he respects his decision to leave the band, or that Brazilian Iron Maiden fans LOOOVE them some Blaze Bayley and wouldn't let Maiden get through a concert there alive without getting them some 'Sign of the Cross' action.  'Caught Somewhere in Time'? 'Where Eagles Dare'? Fuck that noise...gimme some 'Clansman', cochese! Who knows...those little brown people with the amazingly hot women have already shown themselves to have some rather odd tastes (transvestites? idolizing soccer stars with only one name? tossing greased pigs off busy highway overpasses?), and I wouldn't put it past 'em to like the crappiest albums this band ever put out. Also, though there are some remarkably cool solos by the three axe-grinders throughout the show, the mix is way too high on the vocals (and those darned soccer-chanting fans) to truly kick any ass. Ahh well.  You don't like this live album, another will be along in 5 minutes...maybe you can give that one a try instead.

Capn's Final Word: The amount of energy they put into trying to sell their new album is not matched by that put forth for their back catalog.  It's kind of a crock. In Rio.

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Dance of Death - Columbia 2003

The 'ONETOOFREEFO' count off before the exciting 'Wildest Dreams' promises much more raw, stripped down Iron Maiden energy than the rest of this CD ends up delivering, but let's just revel in the grimy, festering three-guitar morass that sings throughout this opening track shall we? The classic heavy metal guitar tone is becoming more and more endangered as time passes and more and more guitarists think they need to sound all compressed and distorted down to a beige flatness like Wes Borland or something.  It's still a kick for me to turn on a Maiden record and hear something like the programmed-in lockstep lead line that begins 'Rainmaker'.  Unfortunately, though, the songwriting hopes that Brave New World was responsible for jacking up have been left high and dry by Dance of Death, an unimaginative and extremely formulaic album that, at its best, sounds sorta like the self-consciously stripped down, reactionary No Prayer for the Dying. At it's worst? The poppified, poseurish Fear of the Dark comes to mind. Now, I understand that Fear of the Dark was, for some bloodless heathen pervert reason, the biggest selling Iron Maiden album ever at the time of its release, but that doesn't mean I have to respect it - that was the album that finally convinced Bruce Dickinson that Maiden had nothing more to offer, and the Blaze Bayley albums prove that he was exactly right.  Now, I'd like to have seen Brave New World as the start of a new golden period, but Dance of Death argues that things simply took up where they left off, more or less.  The recycling of hooks and riffs is pretty apparent throughout (I swear I've heard 'No More Lies' at least a half dozen times from this band), a lot of the tracks are lengthy for no discernable purpose, and the best track on here sounds like an AC/DC/Deep Purple ripoff ('Gates of Tomorrow').  The one thing that saves them is familiarity - though they've seemingly once again wrung all the magic out of their formula, the formula is still exactly the same as it's been since at least 1982, and it still functions, more or less.  PArt of that formula, for me anyway, is the fact that their guitars still sound like the humming of planet-size demi-gods, Bruce Dickinson is singing as well as he ever has, and most of the songs are fast enough to breeze by without giving you the chance to notice how simple and self-referential all their guitar melodies are.  The criticism of Iron Maiden studio material never really changes...it just gets more or less intense the less or more successful (repsectively) their interpretation of it is at any one time.  For me, there were moments on Brave New World that captured all of the energy, the imagination, the grandeur that Iron Maiden are supposed to represent - here, a self-consciously 'epic' composition like 'Paschendale' or 'Journeyman' sounds more like a requirement being ticked off the checklist than a fresh and inspired new track.  The fact that we're teased by the rawer-than-usual opener 'Wildest Dreams' makes it even more of a disappointment - what they really need is a bit more crudeness, more self-confidence in their ability just to plug in and bash out without adding a bunch of orchestras and crap, and Dance of Death acknowledges that...for five minutes.  Then it's back to the studio crutches, the 8 minutes of nowhere, the cash-in-the-bank tour, and the overpriced live album.  Come on, guys...let's get back to the garage.  Whaddya say?

Capn's Final Word: The 'comeback' this time brings us back to the early 90's.  I'd say they need to go about 12 years further back.

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Death on the Road - Sony 2005

Blurghh and geep and feh and all those other made up words that are intended to represent disappointment and disgust...this is just Rock in Rio with Dance of Death tracks substituted for the far-more-tasty Brave New World ones. What gives with this setlist? 'Wrathchild', 'Iron Maiden', 'The Trooper', 'Fear of the Dark', 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'? Maiden live albums used to at least have one or two interesting gems tossed in, but nearly all of the 'old' material was played in exactly the same way, at exactly the same time, on Rock in Rio, and probably the same way on Live at Donnington and a Real Dead One and what have you. The only thing that saves this album is that the guitar/vocal mix finally sounds right (the audience grunt-a-longs are still way too loud, though), and the band was apparently quite 'on' during this night in Germany. They veritably slice their way through the set like a poisoned box cutter, showing more energy than they've shown since the Donnington discs. Some of that comes at the expense of tightness and precision ('Can I Play With Madness' sounds like the band is late to catch a bus), but you know I'll trade the rough 'n' ready for the clean and safe every time. It's just....dammit, why are they wasting this performance on lame Dance of Death material and the same ClearChannel Approved Radio Hitz they've been playing since 1985? Arrgggh!! Farp! Geetkitty, geetkitty, zorp-zorp! Paul Westerburg! E-Z Whip! Microcosmodon! San Cristobal Island! Wikipedia.org's Random Entry Generator!

 Capn's Final Word: I suppose someone who hasn't gotten an Iron Maiden live album in quite awhile could use this, but as you see, I ain't exactly part of that clan, pilgrim.

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