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Death on the Road is yet another Iron Maiden live recording, and one of the more recent to get a commercial release (along with the Flight 666 soundtrack). The CD & LP audio releases have 2 discs each, and in 2006 a 3 DVD set was then released, which probably represents the penultimate version of the concert in spectacular sound. While I have yet to actually watch the performance, I can only imagine that skipping out on the audio only would be the preferred route to take here, because Death on the Road is really nothing special. It's nice that the set featured on the discs includes some newer material...but a little less impressive when you realize that you'll be dealing with some of the band's mediocre material that was recent at the time of the Dance of Death tour.
The live was filmed and recorded in November, 2003 in Westfalenhalle, Dortmund, Germany and as far as the mix goes, it's ample enough that it doesn't give a dull impression (like the Real Live Dead One albums). The material seems to cover a great deal of their career, but as I mentioned, individual tracks here could have well been replaced with other, more exciting pieces for a better overall experience. There are fully six tracks from the Dance of Death album: "Wildest Dreams", "Dance of Death", "Rainmaker", "Paschendale", "No More Lies" and "Journeyman", very few of which I could personally care about. Since this is the normal "Paschendale" without the orchestra, I wasn't so excited, and of this litter, I'd have to say "Wildest Dreams" and "Rainmaker" came across the best in the setting. Some of the other songs are too long to justify listening for just a few brief segments of interest, but it's the same criticism I'd give to the studio editions. As for the rest of the new material, Virtual XI is thankfully ignored, and there is but one track, "Lord of the Flies" from the X Factor. And frankly, it's not that bad with Bruce doing the vocals in place of Blaze. I'm honestly surprised that there was no "Wicker Man" here, but Maiden were probably thinking of the best interests of fans like myself who openly break into tears whenever they hear it (the good kind of cry). Instead, they've included the title track to that album, "Brave New World", which is more or less successful.
Heading back through time from this point, we've got the title track off Fear of the Dark, which the audience lovingly howls along to. "Can I Play With Madness?" is an obvious crowd pleaser, and this is one of the better live versions I've heard of it, outside of actually being at gigs where they performed it. The band's two best albums Somewhere in Time and Powerslave are sadly ignored for the selection on the live album, which to me seems rather insane... But then, all those songs are so fucking great that the band must have been sick of them, or thought the fans who picked up the CDs would be sick of them. However, each of the first four albums is represented. The band's namesake from the debut is here, "Wrathchild" off of Killers, and "The Trooper" from Piece of Mind. The Number of the Beast actually gets three entries here: the title track, "Hallowed Be Thy Name", and "Run to the Hills". Of all the older material, I'll have to run with "Wrathchild" and "The Trooper" as the best of the lot here, their energy is simply too timeless to ignore.
When all is said and done, Death on the Road is not the best of Maiden's live offerings, but it does at least sound up to the task, with one of the better soundboard reproductions they've yet minted for the fans at large. If you're the type to purchase everything with the band's logo on it, well...it must be nice. If not, you may wish to rent or purchase the DVD set, so you can actually SEE the live performance and get the added bonus features, which include some documentary pieces about the Dance of Death album, recording, and setting up the tour. There's not much reason to have both that and this audio version, and Gods know we already have enough live Maiden to last us a life over.
Iron Maiden has always remained a great live act, and they show it very well here. While it's not as good as they where in the eightees, it's really not far away. Other bands such as Judas Priest can't stand the test of time (okay... They are at least 10 years older... But Priest still kicked the shit out of Maiden in the early nineties) but Maiden is still great compared to the hobgoblin appearance of Halford... I think we will see in 10 years if Maiden still makes it.
This live album was recorded during the tour for the Dance Of Death album, which is quite flawed. Not a bad album really, just not Maiden standard such as Somewhere In Time or Seventh Son. Thankfully they play some of the best songs from Dance Of Death here, and those being Paschendale, the title track, No More Lies and Rainmaker. They play only one more from it and that is Journeyman, which is a very unique song for Iron Maiden, the closest thing they have ever done to Prodigal Son back in the Killers days. Okay they don't sound the same at all, but have some kind of same strange feeling to them. No Beatles wibes, tho.
Apart from the Dance Of Death songs we as usually get those classics that really begins to be burnt into the ears. Wrathchild, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Fear Of The Dark is great of course, but Can I Play With Madness is not even close. I can accept Run To The Hills, The Number Of The Beast and The Trooper even if I don't consider them even on the top 20 Iron Maiden songs. Far from! They could have easily have switched those songs to very similar songs that are much better like Flight Of Icarus, Killers or any other straight in the face rockers. Or maybe use all these minutes to play Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner? That would be freaking awesome as Peter Griffin would say.
The biggest flaw with this album is the production. It sounds way too muddy and bassy. Steve Harris and Nickos bass drum gets too much in the front, and that never works well, when they use that much thundering bass. In the eightiess the sound technicians was a bit more careful with that. If you listen to Live At The Rainbow you must admit that it has a clearer sound. And it's from fucking 1981!!! That's almost 25 years before this! But there is a way to make Death On The Road sound great. If you have some EQ bands on your stereo player, just lower everything except raise the highest frequence to the max. The drums wont sound like they was recorded in a stupid school studio, and Steve Harris will not take over the place (I like when he is up in front, but that was in the eightees!!!), and also the guitars will sound a bit sharper and not as shitty as they otherwise do, did they try to recapture the sound of Dance Of Death? Fucking retarded, that album had the worst posible production you can imagine of a band of this caliber (St Anger takes the price tho). And most important, the bassy vocals of Bruce Dickinson gets better too. In the original mixing it's hard to here the "S" and "T", but my little EQ trick fixes this!
So, I give this an 80% rating. I cut 10% due to the shitty production, but if you follow my EQ tip, I ensure you this is totally awesome!
Death on the Road was recorded to capture the greatness of the Dance of Death tour and it does that very well. Some argue that this release was unnecessary because of Rock in Rio, recorded only about 4 or 5 years earlier; that it was just a rehash of most of the same songs. My stance is that while there are many repeat songs here that could have been replaced with lesser-heard ones, the quality of the Dance of Death tracks make up for it.
First off: the production. It’s quite well done, especially considering all the elements going in: soaring vocals, a triple-guitar attack, an extensive drum-set, a thundering bass, and even a synth and backing vox added on top of that. However, there are little quirks about it that bother me a bit. For example, at times Nicko’s ride becomes exceptionally loud and can hurt the ears a bit when it happens. It’s only for a few seconds and probably not on many songs, but it is a little bit of a problem, despite the overall percussion sound being outstanding (probably better than Rock in Rio.) The guitars are generally of good quality but Adrian seems to suffer a bit, his guitars fairly low in the mix most of the time, while Murray is placed way up high. Janick is…well, who really cares? Just kidding, but I swear that guy isn’t playing half the fuckin’ time. The vocals are put in the mix well for my tastes, but if you’re expecting a complete domination of volume from them, then think again.
Now that that’s covered, I’ll go over the quality of the tracklist. Basically, in my opinion, the new songs are the gems here and the classics sort of suffer. By no means are they bad or performed poorly, but if you’ve ever heard Maiden live before, you’ve heard these. I’m talking about Wrathchild, Run to the Hills, The Trooper, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Iron Maiden, and Fear of the Dark. All of these songs were performed at Rock in Rio at top-notch quality and I feel that, despite at least 2 or so of those being essential, many of them could have been spared for a few rarer tracks that haven’t been played much. Brave New World (featured on Rock in Rio) and Can I Play With Madness (featured on Maiden England and the 90’s live albums) are also featured, adding to the repeat songs.
That said, it’s clear that what this album was really made for was to show off the epic Dance of Death songs. All of them stand out and really make this purchase worth it, unless of course you didn’t happen to enjoy those songs, in which case I would recommend you get Rock in Rio or Live After Death instead.
The band’s performance is…well, as far as the older tracks go, I think they were performed better at Rio. Mostly it’s Bruce’s vocals that are the problem. They’re starting to show their age, but that’s not to say that his performance isn’t brilliant. He shows real passion on almost all the songs and nails difficult passages from the new album, but there are faults like the peak notes in the chorus of Rainmaker, or the “loooowwww” on Hallowed that could turn some off from this album. Other than that, everything is great, especially the solos.
In summary, Death on the Road is NOT the first live album you should pick up from Maiden. My recommendation personally would be to pick up Rock in Rio and Live After Death before this. And if you are looking for a studio album, Dance of Death is a great album and it would be a good choice to pick up that before getting this. I also have to point out that WATCHING Maiden play really is that much more exciting than just listening, so any dvd you can get your hands on is worth it. Just keep in mind that this live recording is not for n00bies or casual fans, but rather for semi-hardcore to hardcore fans that can’t get enough Maiden (me.)
Standout tracks: All Dance of Death songs and Lord of the Flies
When I learned that Maiden would release another live album, I was quite surprised. I thought they gave me enough with Rock In Rio but it seems that they really wanted everyone to hear the best pieces from Dance Of Death in all their glory.
My first quick listen was disappointing, mostly because I decided to hear the older songs. It was like listening to Rock In Rio... Nothing special... But a couple of months later, I decided to listen to it completely. A good decision, it quickly became my favourite live Maiden recording. The atmosphere created on their previous album, Dance Of Death, was very mystic and absorbing, a real passionate album. The way Iron Maiden plays Wildest Dreams, Dance Of Death, Rainmaker, Paschendale, No More Lies and Journeyman (all from Dance Of Death) is amazing. Every one of those songs get ten times better when played live, even Rainmaker, which I used to skip on the studio album. Listening to the title song from Dance Of Death once again reminded me of Spinal Tap's cheesy "Stonehenge", the dwarfs dancing in the Spinal Tap movie would really enjoy Dance Of Death. That doesn't mean I don't like the Dance Of Death, It’s just that I couldn't think of anything else than those dwarfs dancing on the little riff in the middle of the song. You should also listen closely to Paschendale, which is, I’m my opinion the most impressive song performed on Death On The Road. For the other tracks, like I mentioned earlier, they sound quite like Rock In Rio, nothing new here, maybe a little heavier.
Death On The Road, really worth buying and if you haven't bought Dance Of Death already, buy this one instead! My rating, 88 out of 100.