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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