Iron Maiden

Picture of Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden ©1980 Castle
CD one:
1. Prowler
2. Remember Tomorrow
3. Running Free
4. Phantom Of The Opera
5. Transylvania
6. Strange World
7. Sanctuary
8. Charlotte The Harlot
9. Iron Maiden
CD two:
10. Burning Ambition
11. Drifter (live)
12. I've Got The Fire

Iron Maiden's 1980 debut album has certainly stood the test of time well. Still earthy and gritty, Iron Maiden is a great offering of NWOBHM class, a touch of streetwise punk and moody side tangents. The variety and skill the band showed at such an early age is quite impressive and as a result, their first album is a classic that still deserves praise and attention.

The band's later inclination towards epic and perhaps slightly pompous arrangements is still in early bloom here, as "Phantom of the Opera" shows. The seven minute song is the band's first epic track and shows a good sense of ambitious arrangement as well as the twin lead guitar attack the band would ultimately be infamous for. But the album also offers a lot of dirtier and harder rocking songs like the opening "Prowler" or "Running Free". And as a very interesting counterpart to the epics and rocking tracks, "Strange World" and "Remember Tomorrow" are both hypnotic and geniunely introspect mellow pieces that prove the band could quiet things down to create a very strong pensive mood. Original lead vocalist Paul Di'anno offers a great, nontraditional gritty voice that, in my opinion, is perfect for the band. His voice is what originally lent Iron Maiden a street level credibility that other, higher octave bands might not have gotten around 1980.

Certainly one of the more remarkable debuts, Iron Maiden is still by far one of my favorite records from this band. The 1995 Castle reissue version offers three b-sides from their early years. The straight forward rocker "Burning Ambition" shows the band had a great penchant back then to simply rock out with no frills. The other two tracks are also good for the hardcore Iron Maiden fan and make the two disc reissue a definite treat.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000

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Killers

Iron Maiden - Killers ©1981 Capitol
1. The Ides of March
2. Wrathchild
3. Murders in the Rue Morgue
4. Another Life
5. Genghis Khan
6. Innocent Exile
7. Killers
8. Twilight Zone
9. Prodigal Son
10. Purgatory
11. Drifter

Killers has always been a lost Iron Maiden album for me, for some reason. And probably not even a good reason. Iron Maiden's self-titled debut has long been one of my favorite releases by the band and Killers is the only other album to feature original vocalist Paul Di'Anno. His presence ensured far more rocking out than noodling and warbling out. By that mere fact alone, I should have given Killers much more attention over the years.

At this very moment, I am rectifying my personal shortcomings. I started playing the album earlier thinking, "Well, I know it's not bad, but it's never done much to impress me." By the end, as "Drifter" finishes up, I am realizing this is a rather solid outing for the band. It does lack a bit of the unbridled enthusiasm most bands present on a debut, but the dropoff from first album to second is minimal. And much like the debut, this album finds Iron Maiden at a point where they still tended to rock out, not get lost in pontifications about historical figures and other such cumbersome topics. Instead, Di'Anno's gruff delivery has considerably more grit than the band would display ever again, as they ultimately became polished and pristine.

Killers also features the arrival of guitarist Adrian Smith, who would prove to be integral in the songwriting development of Iron Maiden (despite no credited songs on this album). The band spent its first few records in constant flux with the lineup, but Killers puts one piece of the puzzle in place.

My original reservations about this record have evaporated. It's one of their better records, indeed, and one that does not contain even an iota of material that sounds painfully dated. An essential part of the Iron Maiden discography.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2009

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Number Of The Beast

Iron Maiden - Number of the Beast ©1982 EMI
1. Invaders
2. Children of the Damned
3. The Prisoner
4. 22 Acacia Avenue
5. The Number of the Beast
6. Run to the Hills
7. Gangland
8. Hallowed Be Thy Name

While it's obvious Number of the Beast is a metal classic that is talked about in hushed tones and bows of reverence by heavy metal fans worldwide (and perhaps across much of the galaxy), Iron Maiden's breakthrough release is actually one of their weakest records until they hit the 90s. That's right. Today on Satan Stole My Teddybear, we are going to challenge one of the idols of the metal world. We're going there.

The first three Iron Maiden albums featured quite a few lineup changes. Original guitarist Dennis Stratton was sacked after the debut and vocalist Paul Di'Anno was shown the door after 1981's Killers. After Number of the Beast, drummer Clive Burr would be put out to pasture for Nicko McBrain. So in that context, Iron Maiden had yet to settle on a stable lineup and were still flexing their songwriting skills based on the varying talents of the new and old members. Moreover, I would wager the chemistry of the band was still not fully established on Number of the Beast, particularly with new vocalist Bruce Dickinson. Number of the Beast has a strange stiffness to the recording, sort of like a first date where everyone is unsure how to act in the presence of the other(s). Now this is not to say the album is terrible. Without a doubt, the title track is one of Maiden's best songs to date and "Run to the Hills" is one of those metal tracks that is known in some respect to fans of Rod Stewart or perhaps even Chopin. But to me, even the other "classic" songs (ie: ones that appeared on the subsequent live albums Iron Maiden would release) feel underdeveloped and paling in comparison to tunes from the debut or future releases.

But before all the angry Maidenheads gang up and form a metal posse, we should establish some context. Iron Maiden catapulted themselves into worldwide fame after the release of Number of the Beast. The somewhat cartoonish cover generated heaps of free publicity as uptight Christian groups went into kneejerk overdrive, trying to banish the band into oblivion. You'd think these groups would learn that the best way to bring attention to a "questionable" band is to attempt to ban their music. From 1982 till 1988, Iron Maiden toured the world nonstop and developed the group chemistry that made the following four studio albums undeniable classics. When one holds up Number of the Beast to these records, one has to realize that Maiden's best work came afterwards.

Number of the Beast was a necessary step in their development as a band, but I still will reach for it last when I am picking out an 80s Iron Maiden album to hear.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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Piece Of Mind

Iron Maiden - Piece Of Mind ©1983 EMI
1. Where Eagles Dare
2. Revelations
3. Flight Of Icarus
4. Die With Your Boots On
5. The Trooper
6. Still Life
7. Quest For Fire
8. Sun And Steel
9. To Tame A Land

Piece of Mind was Iron Maiden's fourth album, but the first with their most exciting line-up. While its predecessor, The Number of the Beast, is generally considered to be the classic Iron Maiden's album, a sizeable core of Maiden's fan base favors Piece of Mind as a more cohesive, deeper and more varied album.

The songwriting is, in fact, classic Maiden, with arena anthems ("Where Eagles Dare"), Camaro metal songs ("Die With Your Boots On"), and long epics ("To Tame a Land", "Revelations"). The lyrical themes are also typical metal, covering steel, death, conquest, and boots. The instrumentation is muscular, with Harris' trademark bass gallop, guitar harmonies and alternating leads, and rocking drums. Dickinson is in full metal mode, with oft-excessive vibrato, Halfordish falsettos ("Quest for Fire"), and threatening tones. The production is well above average for the time and genre.

While not as even and exciting as the later Powerslave, Piece of Mind offers a number of excellent metal songs ("To Tame A Land", "The Trooper", "Revelations"), and makes for a very enjoyable listen.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 08/2001

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Powerslave

Iron Maiden - Powerslave ©1984 Castle
CD one:
1. Aces High
2. 2 Minutes To Midnight
3. Losfer Words (Big 'orra)
4. Flash Of The Blade
5. The Duellists
6. Back In The Village
7. Powerslave
8. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
CD two:
9. Rainbow's Gold
10. Mission From Harry
11. King Of Twilight
12. Number Of The Beast (live)

Powerslave is that Iron Maiden album that quietly fulfills the needs without making a fuss or bringing harsh criticism upon itself. While other Maiden albums have either been branded all time classics (Number of the Beast) or complete refuse (anything after Dickinson left the band), Powerslave merely goes about the job of being a good little album, packed with all sorts of Iron Maiden wholesome goodness. You get the fist pumping classics "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight", the epic based on grand works (Samuel Coleridge Taylor's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"), and dead on metal imagery of blades, steel and heroic deeds. The band had moved lyrically away from the Satanic imagery of previous works and into the 20th century in some areas. "Aces High" recalls the Battle of Britain quite vividly. There are a couple throwaway tracks: the instrumental "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)" is clever for title alone and "The Duellists" lacks the spark of the rest of the album.

Naturally, if you dig up the somewhat difficult to find Castle reissue of this album, you'll get the bonus disc that has some b-sides tacked on. There is an amusing recorded argument with Nicko McBrain concerning a problem with a roadie onstage, a live version of "Number of the Beast" and a couple cover songs. I still lean towards the Castle reissues as opposed to the recent set due to the bonus disc.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/1999

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Live After Death

Iron Maiden - Live After Death ©1985 Castle
CD one:
1. Aces High
2. 2 Minute To Midnight
3. The Trooper
4. Revelations
5. Flight Of Icarus
6. Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
7. Powerslave
8. The Number Of The Beast
9. Hallowed Be Thy Name
10. Iron Maiden
11. Run To The Hills
12. Running Free
CD two:
13. Losfer Words (Big 'orra) (live)
14. Sanctuary (live)
15. Murders In The Rue Morgue (live)

Possibly one of the most infamous live metal albums, Live After Death stands tall, displaying Iron Maiden at might have been their original creative and live peak. Though CD versions and reissues have robbed listeners of quite a few tracks that appeared on the double length vinyl and cassettes, the document appropriately captures the band at Long Beach Arena tearing things up. The sound and performance doesn't stray too far off from the studio versions but is able to capture a good amount of the energy of the live band. Song selection is quite good (omitted tracks notwithstanding) and covers most of their albums up that point well, excepting perhaps Killers. Bruce Dickinson's voice is confident and solid throughout. Best of all is the inclusion of the individual who yelled, "Motherfucker!" at the end of "Revelations". For some reason that little explosion of crowd profanity is the most endearing thing about the album. As with all the Castle Reissues of 1995, the bonus disc contains some various B-sides, in this case three more live tracks. (Did you really expect something from the studio?) At least they included the rocking "Sanctuary" on the bonus disc with a quite excellent guitar harmony in the middle that was not on the original version.

While most live albums are contract fulfillment devices or subpar representations of a band's live performance, Live After Death is one of the rare examples of the live album done correctly. It is nearly, though not quite, as mandatory, as any of the other Maiden records from the 80s. Regardless of which version you get, it is a good one.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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Somewhere In Time

Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time ©1986 Castle
CD one:
1. Caught Somewhere In Time
2. Wasted Years
3. Sea Of Madness
4. Heaven Can Wait
5. The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner
6. Stranger In A Strange Land
7. Deja-vu
8. Alexander The Great
CD two:
9. Reach Out
10. Sheriff Of Huddersfield
11. That Girl
12. Juanita

I guess you could say Somewhere in Time inducted Iron Maiden into their more modern era as it was a quite different album than any of its predecessors. With the usage of guitar and bass synths as well as the intense melancholia lyrically and musically, Somewhere in Time might have seemed a bit confusing to long time Maiden fans. Regardless, the strength of the songs is impressive. "Wasted Years" and "Heaven Can Wait" are both certified crowd pleasers. "Sea of Madness" is in fact somewhat mentally tense, fitting of the subject matter. "Deja-vu" is a song reminiscient of Judas Priest, but also the most aggressive - and if you ask me - the catchiest. "Alexander the Great" is the epic inclusion here, but it isn't the kind of thing to raise too many fists to. On the bonus second disc that came with the Castle reissues in 1995, the band includes three cover songs and yet another silly b-side, "The Sheriff of Huddersfield". Though main album songs are quite serious, the band's strong British humor has shown up quite a bit in these old b-sides.

While this is one of my favorite Maiden albums, I do admit there are some occasional flaws. The pacing of "The Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner" is a bit too out of sync with the type of rhythm a real marathon uses - simply not smooth enough. "Stranger in a Strange Land" is just a bit underenthusiastic for its own good. But with the truly grand chorus of "Heaven Can Wait" or the driving force of "Deja-vu", there are many reasons why this was my high school buddy's most played album ever and one of the better albums in Maiden history.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/1999

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Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son ©1988 Castle
CD one:
1. Moonchild
2. Infinite Dreams
3. Can I Play With Madness?
4. The Evil That Men Do
5. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
6. The Prophecy
7. The Clairvoyant
8. Only The Good Die Young
CD two:
9. Black Bart Blues
10. Massacre
11. Prowler '88
12. Charlotte The Harlot '88
13. The Clairvoyant (live)
14. The Prisoner (live)
15. Infinite Dreams (live)
16. Killers (live)
17. Still Life (live)

Considering the path Maiden has taken in the decade since this album was released (and subsequently re-released a couple times), it's safe to say this was the last truly good Maiden album. Naturally they caught a lot of flack for actually using subtle keyboards throughout the album and supposedly being "too poppy" or "too this'n'that", but that is always the typical metal response to anything outside the expected norm. Maiden up to this point hadn't really been as capable of creating moods as they do here. There is a wonderful flow throughout the album, truly tying the concept album thing together. Besides, "The Clairvoyant", "Moonchild" and "Can I Play With Madness" are some of my all-time favorite Maiden tracks.

If you are looking for the re-issues of this album, be sure to look for the Castle version that was released in '95 as compared to '98's version. While the latest re-issues feature excellent liner notes, era-related photos and such, the Castle 2-CD sets actually feature mucho music by adding on various b-sides, rare tracks and live songs. Songs like "Black Bart Blues" are more of a joking around in the studio type thing, but hearing an updated version of "Prowler" (which is from the first Maiden album) is very interesting. Bruce Dickinson doesn't do justice to Paul Di'Anno's rougher original vocals, but Di'Anno's singing style was what made the first two Maiden albums so much fun. Ah well, I'm splitting hairs now.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1998

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No Prayer For The Dying

Iron Maiden - No Prayer For The Dying ©1990 Epic
1. Tailgunner
2. Holy Smoke
3. No Prayer For The Dying
4. Public Enema Number One
5. Fates Warning
6. The Assassin
7. Run Silent Run Deep
8. Hooks In You
9. Bring Your Daughter...to The Slaughter
10. Mother Russia

Talk about a quick fall from grace. After 1988, Iron Maiden began their freefall from popularity and respect. Guitarist and songwriter Adrian Smith had left to head his own obscure side project (A.S.A.P.) and the remaining members of Iron Maiden recruited Janick Gers, who had played on vocalist Bruce Dickinson's first solo record. But somehow entering the decade of the 90s, Iron Maiden lost all focus and became their own parody, starting with No Prayer for the Dying.

The album honestly starts out with one of the band's most energetic and enjoyable songs, "Tailgunner" (although you might as well call it "Deuces High"). However, from that point on there is very little to recommend, aside from what not to do when making an Iron Maiden album. At the time of the 1990 release, I was initially excited simply because it was a new Iron Maiden record and probably many other fans were as well. However, the album has not aged well and has a lot to do with a percentage of us grew away from Maiden, only looking at them as a band we "liked as teenagers". Either the songs here sounded like the band mimicking previous albums (the similarity between the title track and "Infinite Dreams" from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son have been noted elsewhere) or attempts at hair metal, which are even more embarrassing than if the band had gotten off their tour bus wearing ballerina outfits. Both "Hooks in You" and the insidiously stoopid "Bring Your Daughter...To the Slaughter" are uncomfortable for any respectable music fan to sit through. "Hooks in You" claims to have hooks in you,me and the ceiling but there certainly aren't any in the song. Other songs, such as "Assassin", "Fates Warning" and "Run Silent, Run Deep" are entirely forgettable affairs that act as filler more than anything else. And the obligatory "epic" song, "Mother Russia", should not be held against the country in question. It's simply not their fault.

From 1990 till the band's reunion gigs in 2000, Iron Maiden floundered and flollopped about like a wet mattress trying to escape a marsh. And it's their own damn fault. Retirement or hibernation till 2000 probably would have been the most advisable route to take, but hindsight is twenty-twenty. Nevertheless, this album is forgettable, not necessary to any respectable Iron Maiden collection and should be henceforth forgotten for the sake of everyone involved.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2003

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Fear Of The Dark

Iron Maiden - Fear Of The Dark ©1992 Castle
CD one:
1. Be Quick Or Be Dead
2. From Here To Eternity
3. Afraid To Shoot Strangers
4. Fear Is The Key
5. Childhood's End
6. Wasting Love
7. The Fugitive
8. Chains Of Misery
9. The Apparition
10. Judas Be My Guide
11. Weekend Warrior
12. Fear Of The Dark
CD two:
1. I Can't See My Feelings
2. No Prayer For The Dying (live)
3. Public Enema Number One (live)
4. Hooks In You (live)
5. Nodding Donkey Blues
6. Space Station #5
7. Roll Over Vic Vella (aka Roll Over Beethoven)

Probably an album that shouldn't have been made, for all intents and purposes. At a certain point in a career of a band, it becomes painfully evident that their better days are far behind and any new efforts will only serve to tarnish the legend. Don't get me wrong, a couple of the songs here are worthy of the Maiden title ("Be Quick or Be Dead" comes to mind), but a lot of this album severely sucks (such as the complete pretensiousness of "Fear is the Key"). Dickinson's voice shows the strain of a dozen years of falsetto and a lot of the stuff just sounds derivative of territory they've already covered. But hey, Castle was kind enough to provide a second bonus CD at no charge, so at least there's one good thing about this miserable album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1997

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A Real Live One

Iron Maiden - A Real Live One ©1993 Capitol
1. Be Quick Or Be Dead
2. From Here to Eternity
3. Can I Play With Madness
4. Wasting Love
5. Tailgunner
6. The Evil That Men Do
7. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
8. Bring Your Daughter...To the Slaughter
9. Heaven Can Wait
10. The Clairvoyant
11. Fear of the Dark

One way to tell a band is starting to wear out their welcome or that their career has hit the creative doldrums is when lackluster live albums and unessential compilations start appearing everywhere. As we all know, Iron Maiden stopped releasing good studio albums once Seventh Son of a Seventh Son hit the shelves in 1988. And frankly, the 1990s were a fantastic series of unfortunate events and ill conceived releases that nearly wiped Iron Maiden from the list of relevant bands. Guitarist Adrian Smith was the first to defect after Seventh Son (only to put out his equally dreary A.S.A.P. solo record). And although his own solo efforts didn't reflect it, Iron Maiden's good songwriting appeared to go out the door with him. The two following albums, No Prayer For the Dying and Fear of the Dark, are generally weak records with just a few tolerable moments. Then, in 1993, Iron Maiden decided the best possible move they could make was to release a pair of live albums.

The first is A Real Live One. Recorded in multiple locations across Europe, this album's song choices are culled from the post Live After After Death era. In others, you get selections from two good albums (Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son) and the two lame ducks. That alone makes this record hard to recommend. The next drawback is that despite the variety of shows that were recorded, the band just doesn't sound particularly top notch. In particular, singer Bruce Dickinson sounds worn out, especially on the album opener "Be Quick or Be Dead". Worse, on the "good" songs, the band doesn't quite sound like they can nail their own material. "Can I Play With Madness" makes me wonder if they should have retitled it "Can I Play This Song". The guitars lack bite, crunch and grit. In general, this just sounds like a rush job to get some product into the stores while they dealt with the upcoming departure of Dickinson, who wisely jumped ship in 1993 for a considerably more interesting series of solo records than the utter wreckage that Iron Maiden would release without him.

Live records are already difficult to recommend because rarely do they become essential to a band's overall catalog. A few do reach a legendary stature, such as the aforementioned Live After Death, but most come across as filler and a record label cashgrab. A Real Live One is frankly very weak and captures the band at a low point in their existence. No sense in wasting your cents on this one.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2010

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The X Factor

Iron Maiden - The X Factor ©1995 EMI
1. Sign of the Cross
2. Lord of the Flies
3. Man on the Edge
4. Fortunes of War
5. Look for the Truth
6. The Aftermath
7. Judgement of Heaven
8. Blood on the World's Hands
9. The Edge of Darkness
10. 2 A.M.
11. The Unbeliever

Few legendary bands have ever plummeted so far grace as Iron Maiden did in the 90s. Beginning with the departure of Adrian Smith from the lineup, Iron Maiden entered a period of artistic stagnation and ultimately, utter irrelevancy. 1990's No Prayer For the Dying was mediocre and 1992's Fear of the Dark was considerably worse, but sadly it would simpy continue to deteriorate for Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson also quit the band after touring for Fear of the Dark to embark upon a solo career. In retrospect, he probably got a sense of just how artistically bankrupt his bandmates were becoming and knew he could ride out the lean times on his own.

As all Maiden fans know, Dickinson was replaced with Blaze Bayley, a chap who had fronted the irrelevant act Wolfsbane. One would think that with Iron Maiden's worldwide acclaim, they could have found someone more suitable to replace Dickinson. Granted, replacing a frontman who is considered one of heavy metal's finest singers is not an easy task, but Bayley was not even remotely up to the task. His delivery sounds like a mediocre hard rock vocalist trying to imitate both Paul Di'Anno and Bruce Dickinson at the same time, but only having scant familiarity with either. To put it bluntly, Bayley is dreadful. His approach, particularly in the sorry attempts at darker, moodier material, is overblown, misplaced and painful to hear.

But the blame for The X Factor cannot be solely placed on him. The songwriting is an utter joke. Steve Harris and company took the gallop-gallop approach to the well one too many times (actually, by this point, it was seven years straight of going to a well sufferiing a massive drought) and came up with some songs that would embarrass even the likes of Ugly Kid Joe. This is quite simply an atrocious effort. The band then has the nerve to start the album with a plodding and all around terrible eleven minute song. That unfortunately just sets the stage for a bloated album that should never have been allowed to go past the fifty minute mark. Iron Maiden is so damned impressed with themselves that they thought people would want to hear well over an hour of their most putrid, uninspired music.

I don't know if Iron Maiden was surrounded by nothing but syncophants and yes-men, but someone should have told them that this was a very, very bad album. This is more embarrassing than Celtic Frost's Cold Lake or the glam era of Pantera. Celtic Frost at least intended to have a lighthearted album after their initial trio of dark records while Pantera was young and caught up in the themes of the time. Iron Maiden obviously took themselves seriously on The X Factor. No doubt they lied to themselves all the way through the creation of this abysmal wretch of a record. But ultimately the truth is that this is by far one of the worst metal records you will ever find. If you have never heard this, do not let curiosity get the best of you. This is the type of record that will make you wish you were born deaf.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2009

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Virtual XI

Iron Maiden - Virtual XI ©1998 EMI
1. Futureal
2. The Angel and the Gambler
3. Lightning Strikes Twice
4. The Clansman
5. When Two Worlds Collide
6. The Educated Fool
7. Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger
8. Como Estais Amigos

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Virtual XI, the second and final Iron Maiden album to feature Blaze Bayley on vocals, is that it is not the torturous pile of excrement that was the deplorable The X Factor. When you hit rock bottom, the only trajectory is up, so Iron Maiden at least could begin scrapping for respectability again.

But let's not get carried away here. While Virtual XI is leaps and bounds better than its truly wretched predecessor, it is still Iron Maiden's second weakest studio album up to that point. The marriage of Iron Maiden with Bayley was doomed from the start as an utter mismatch of epic proportions. Yes, his voice is better utilized on this record, but there was simply no way for Iron Maiden to succeed with his delivery. Bayley avoids, for the most part, sounding like he's trying to mimic Bruce Dickinson, but even on the better melodies such as "Lightning Strikes Twice", he sounds like he is overwhelmed by the task at hand.

The major problem with Virtual XI is that although the songwriting shows improvement from The X Factor, the songs still suffer from overwrought, bloated arrangements and length. Many choruses simply go on and on and on. I'm sure most listeners get the point that you shouldn't look to the eyes of a stanger after Bayley's tenth behest. Most of these songs would have greater impact if they had been kept under five minutes in length, but no doubt Iron Maiden thought they were so darned clever that they could stretch out mediocre songwriting.

Virtual XI begins to salvage Iron Maiden's reputation, but it still is hardly an album that is vital for most collections. The 1990s were far from kind to Iron Maiden, but they didn't help themselves with the two outings without Bruce Dickinson. Much like another heavy metal legend, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden ultimately realized that they were nothing more than a mediocre act without their prominent vocalist. The X Factor and Virtual XI are a two part endeavour that shows off their utterly futile attempts to forge ahead and now stand as a pair of embarrassingly bad records.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2009

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Brave New World

Iron Maiden - Brave New World ©2000 Portrait/Columbia
1. The Wicker Man
2. Ghost Of The Navigator
3. Brave New World
4. Blood Brothers
5. The Mercenary
6. Dream Of Mirrors
7. The Fallen Angel
8. The Nomad
9. Out Of The Silent Planet
10. The Thin Line Between Love And Hate

When I first heard that Iron Maiden was reforming their classic and most famous 80's lineup (plus one), my immediate response was one of skepticism. Sure, there is a lot of appeal to having Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith return to the fold, especially considering the rather lackluster performance of Maiden after those two were long gone. However, the ensuing reunion tour and the talk of a new studio album made me wonder if the six members of the newly reformed classic Iron Maiden had a bunch of kids due to enter college and fund raising was in order. After all, have you seen tuition rates in the past few years? Moreover, Iron Maiden stumbled through the nineties with some pretty weak albums (their two with "that other singer" have still gone entirely unheard by me) and small club tours rather than the arenas they used to pack in their prime. Bruce Dickison, on the other hand, has had a pretty steady solo jaunt during that same stretch and eventually teamed up again with Adrian Smith. So you'd also have to wonder if the boys in Iron Maiden were looking about that particular aspect with a bit of jealousy and decided the best thing to do would be to entice Smith and Dickinson back into the family.

The initial tour, from all accounts, was a raging success and all that was left for the band to do was release a new studio album that proved the reunion wasn't just for spurring album sales. And by gum, Brave New World is a lot better than cynical ol' me honestly expected.

The strange thing about this album is that it sounds like it would the logical followup to 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. A lot of the songs on Brave New World share a hint of the vibe and sound of that particular release. In essence, it took a dozen years for Iron Maiden to put out anything worthy of their name. Everything here is competent, solid and at the very least, not detrimental to the Iron Maiden name. Everyone in the band contributes a fitting performance, though the three guitar aspect does not seem very prominent or utilized to any degree. This album could have just as easily been recorded with Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, leaving Janick Gers to fetch coffee in the studio. Nevertheless, it is admirable that the band did not expect Gers to quietly toddle off into the dark night since the man has dedicated a decade to Maiden. At least some loyalty was shown.

In the end, Brave New World isn't the mindblowing, career-defining album some might have hoped for, but it is solid and quite good. In fact, there is not a single weak song here, though by contrast, there aren't any devastating classics either. For long suffering Iron Maiden fans, this definitely is worth the time as it hopefully will begin to erase a decade of embarrassment.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000

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Dance of Death

Iron Maiden - Dance of Death ©2003 Columbia
1. Wildest Dreams
2. Rainmaker
3. No More Lies
4. Montségur
5. Dance of Death
6. Gates of Tomorrow
7. New Frontier
8. Paschendale
9. Face in the Sand
10. Age of Innocence
11. Journeyman

When Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith reunited with Iron Maiden around 2000, metal fans worldwide rejoiced as it meant the dreadful Blaze Bayley era was over after two terrible studio albums. But that excitement ultimately clouded the fact that Brave New World, the first album recorded by the revamped Iron Maiden, was actually rather dull. Like most every Maiden fan on the planet, I dutifully bought a copy and tried to get interested, but after awhile, the album lay in the "never-played" pile and it's probably been a good eight years since I could be bothered to listen to it. It also extinguished my interest in Iron Maiden, who have released a couple more studio albums since then and regained their status as bigtime touring act.

Dance of Death emerged in 2003. The execreble album art alone was reason enough to leave it to gather dust in record stores, although it sold in respectable numbers. But since recently it became obvious that I needed to fill the gaps in Iron Maiden's review discography, I finally gave this album a listen. Upon the first go-around, I was actually thinking, "Golly-whiz! This is their best album in fifteen years!" Around forty-five minutes of playing time later, it then occurred to me that this album was dragging on like a lecture on statistics in university. Considering the last two Iron Maiden albums I listened to were the Bayley squadron, it is no wonder I was initially more excited about Dance of Death. But the reality is this is just another plodding, dull album by a band who apparently lost their muse after 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

On the plus side, Bruce Dickinson's singing charisma and ability to sell a melody elevate a few songs into the "pretty good" status. The album opens with a couple rocking tunes and "Montségur" is quite good. But from that point, the album spends far too much time noodling around with lengthy, but uninspired arrangements and journeys into lesser Maiden songwriting. In fact, by the time album ends, one realizes this band just doesn't have much going for them anymore. Yes, they can tour till their retirement home days on their classic material, but I can't picture a single fan paying money for a concert in hopes of hearing the dismal title track. The other major problem with Iron Maiden is that they are so self-assured in their supposed greatness that they assume people want to hear lifeless songs last between six to eight minutes. It's not a coincidence that the best songs on the album are in and out in less than five minutes (although "Montségur" is nearly six minutes long, it is strong enough to deserve the extra time).

In summary, if you compare 21st Century Iron Maiden to their awful 90s output, then of course it's pretty good. But on the grand scale, Dance of Death is a medicore record that overstays its welcome by at least twenty-five minutes. The mere presence of classic lineup members does not instantly make it a classic.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2009

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A Matter of Life and Death

©2006 EMI
1. Different World
2. These Colours Don't Run
3. Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
4. The Pilgrim
5. The Longest Day
6. Out of the Shadows
7. The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
8. For the Greater Good of God
9. Lord of Light
10. The Legacy

At this point, it is safe to say that Iron Maiden is entirely satisfied by coasting along, riding the coattails of their legendary success in heavy metal. After the abysmal 90s, the current Iron Maiden incarnation seems perfectly content with being an entirely average band putting out songs that are carbon copies of their style without inserting a single iota of freshness. A Matter of Life and Death, complete with far too much militaristic cover artwork for anyone's good, is rather generic album, one that seems as though the band wrote by mimicking themselves. It goes out of its way to be entirely within the expected Iron Maiden paradigm, except with the idea in mind that every song should approach epic length.

A Matter of Life and Death hardly contains an ounce of the urgency suggested by the title. Rather, it appears to be a matter of going through the motions to have a new studio album available in order to tour. That's where they make their money after all. T-shirt merchandising is big business for touring bands. It's just a shame Iron Maiden feels like they can release generic songs in order to have a tour. The reality is that these guys could come out every couple of years and tour without anything new and people would turn out to hear their lifelong favorites.

The reality is that it's been over two decades since Iron Maiden released a studio album that lives up to their reputation. I find this latest studio effort to be a truly faceless, bland record by a band who is so far past their prime that they make blue cheese seem like fresh cream.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2009

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