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Just scored an original pressing of this on vinyl, a beautiful double LP with some of the most metallic artwork and photography I've ever seen. The gatefold photo shows a giant mummified Eddie shooting flames out of his eyes with an airborne Steve Harris doing the splits off the drum riser. METAL! The inner sleeves feature lyric sheets, thoughts from engineer Martin Birch, and awesome collages of the band and individual members at their fun lovin' best.
This is certainly one of, if not the fucking best live recording I've ever experienced, and therefore I really don't understand the nitpicking of Bruce's voice from prior reviewers. It's live, therefore it's real, it's human (not to mention pre-pro-tools) and thus there are slight imperfections. However, the band is on fire here throughout the entire performance, nailing it note for note. The liner notes of my copy say that sides 1-3 are from the Long Beach Arena in L.A. in March of '85, and side four is from the Hammersmith Odeon in October '84. It goes on to say that the recordings were picked from four-night stands at either venue. Birch's description of the recording and mastering process is very cool and his tone is quite conversational and without pretense. There's simply nothing to complain about here; this is Iron Maiden at the height of their career playing the best songs they ever wrote. So Bruce doesn't perfectly replicate his studio performance once or twice. So fucking what!? He is, after all, but a mortal man.
When I first heard the stoic, sedate voice of Winston Churchill speaking about defending his island, whatever the cost may be, fighting in the air, in the hills, and on the streets, I knew that this was something special, and then the ass kicking ensues with "Aces High." Glorious! Powerslave is my personal favorite Maiden record, so you can imagine how I rejoiced in hearing "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" performed in full, complete with the spoken word poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the eerie creaking of the boughs, and every second of the thirteen minute magnum opus performed by each player as though it were his last. One of the band members (I believe it's Harris) introduces the song saying "and the moral of this story is this is what not to do if a bird shits on you!" There are moments of endearing dialogue and British wit here and there which add to the charm of the entertainers and the overall high-energy, enthusiastic vibe of the conerts.
The band's title track is a definite highlight as it thrashes your ass with extra bravado provided by Dickinson. Side four features "Wrathchild" so there's your fix from Killers, which, in my opinion is a bit of an overrated album. My favorite track from Killers is "Ghengis Khan," and ironically enough, Paul Di'Anno isn't on it. Let's face it folks, Maiden didn't fully spread its heavy metal wings until the addition of not only Bruce Dickinson but also the athletic and energetic Nicko McBrain. Other than "Iron Maiden" they also do "Running Free," and close with "Phantom of the Opera," so there's a good smattering of the best of the Di'Anno era.
Like I said, nothing at all to gripe about here. Iron Maiden's finest offerings captured live to tape by the expert ears of Martin Birch. Simply put, if you love Iron Maiden you will love this; let it warm your soul and gladden your heart. Yep, I'm gonna go ahead and do it, 'cause this album just makes me feel so damn good. That's right. One hundred per cent to the best band of the NWOBHM and this, their 1984-85 triumph of the stage.
Perhaps it's just that the set list is drawn from most of my favorite Iron Maiden albums and even individual songs. Perhaps its the killer Derek Riggs cover art. Perhaps its the very honest, and fit for its era production standard. For all of these reasons, and more, Live After Death is my very favorite Iron Maiden live experience on disc, and probably ranks as one of my favorite live albums, if not THE favorite, in all of metal. Why, do you say? Is it because I'm old, and perhaps a little biased or clouded with the haze of nostalgia? You could always argue that a little of this plays into any opinion of any decades old recording, but I do in fact believe that this beloved band was on the top of their game in the early to mid-80s, when their imaginations were allowed to run wild and metal music was maturing in general.
In fact, Live After Death was one of the last albums where Maiden, in my opinion, reigned supreme, before the emerging scenes of speed, power and thrash metal took many of their ideas and ideals and elevated them to the next level of intensity. Now I'm not saying they were the heaviest, or fastest band in the realm, but certainly one of the least compromising bands to be striking gold in the bigger picture, in the Billboard charts or the mainstream rock audience. After the following, masterful full-length Somewhere in Time, I don't think the band has ever been able to recover the crown. They've put out good albums, and good songs, but somewhere around the release of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, somehow, a levee broke.
Now, Live After Death is still a live album, consisting of tracks you likely already owned in their studio forms, and it does bear that eternal limitation of 'not being there'. And clearly, if you have not had a chance to witness this legendary band in the arena setting, I promise you it is very much worthwhile, something you should probably do before it's no longer possible due to the age of the band. But the sound here is engrossing, with so many of their earlier, darker tracks in the set-list, all of which are memorable and polished. There is a remastered version of this album available from 1998 which features a bonus disc of 5 tracks recorded in 1984 at the Hammersmith Odeon. I am not reviewing that version, just the original album recorded in 1985 at the Long Beach Arena.
There are 12 tracks, opening with the Winston Churchill speech sample and "Aces High", and how could you psyche up a crowd more than that, even if they are American. The song sounds glorious, and the band are quick to follow this up with another Powerslave staple, "2 Minutes to Midnight". At this point, ever person in that audience and the inner child of every listener to the album over the next 25 years is screaming THIS WILL FUCKING RULE. And so it does. As if that one-two combo wasn't enough, they next launch into "The Trooper", which probably forced much hyperventilation and rioting, as it probably the most recognizable Iron Maiden track up to this point, and sounds raucuous and perfect in this live setting, as if it were simply never meant for anything but the stage. After this, "Revelations" is another perfect fit, as the bass wanders beneath the guitars in the verse, and the pace of the track lets the crowd simmer down a little without ceasing the rock.
But "Flight of Icarus" scales straight back up the majestic heights of Dickinson's howling, perhaps the best single live serving of this track I've ever heard, with brazen guitars and pumping bass lines that counteract one another beautifully. After this, they play "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", and not just a snippet of the track that one might suspect in order to keep up the momentum of the set, but 13 fucking minutes of excellence...including the eerie bridge segment in which the crowd quiets slightly, but somehow transforms into itself into a sound akin to the wind howling over the song's grim, haunted waters, or gulls shrieking about the mast. Not content with just this epic, they next launch into "Powerslave", one of Maiden's greatest songs, and it sounds just as intense as you need it.
Thus far the set has been dominated by material from Piece of Mind and Powerslave, so for the rest of the show the band dials it back through the years. This begins with "The Number of the Beast" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" back to back, both of which excel here with a good balance of uplifting melody and nostalgic grace. Following this, the band's namesake "Iron Maiden" as Dickinson works up the crowd, and I'm sad to say that this version of the song, with Bruce on vocals, sounds every bit the match for Paul Di'anno's original, as it swerves into a higher range but delivers just as powerfully through the chorus backing vocals. "Run to the Hills" again works the audience into a frenzy, and then the band closes the disc with their classic "Running Free", the crowd screaming!
I can imagine driving home after this 'incident', with your heart warmed and mind racing through every mile of just how much you love metal music. Such enthusiasm in those days for the genre, and not just by a marginalized niche of tasteful individuals. Strangely, there is nothing from Killers on this core recording, though the bonus disc version at least includes "Wrathchild".
Other than that, I can't think of a single complaing about Live After Death. It sounds perfect to me even after about 70% of my life has passed, and if there is one live album well worth spending the money to attain, it is this one. Lucky for you, you can pick it up today remastered WITH the five additional tracks on the 2nd disc: "Wrathchild", "22 Acacia Avenue", "Children of the Damned", "Die With Your Boots On", and "Phantom of the Opera". Even as a diehard purist, it's hard not to think of that as a plus...
Anyone who has seen Iron Maiden live might agree that they're pretty much the best live band in the world. I saw them this year, and I don't think any other concert I've been to can top them; the energy, the bastards pretty much irradiate an aura of pure win wherever they go. You can feel the decades of experience on their shoulders, and the fact that it's Iron fucking Maiden. But, that was this year; and I was right there in the crowd, which makes me biased, I guess. Anyways! Here we have Live After Death, considered by some as one of the best live albums in the history of not only metal, but rock, or music, and sound itself in general. I have always believed that live albums should make you feel like you're right there, in the front row. So everything is very important; the instruments' mix, the crowd's loudness, and I just love when the band talks to the crowd. Live After Death does do all of that, the sound is top-notch at worst, and plain realistic 'HOLY SHIT EDDIE IS COMING TO GET ME' at best.
In 1985, the 'Irons were at the peak of their career, and this baby makes sure that you understand that. I almost shat myself the first time I listened to Churchill's Speech on my stereo and Aces High kicked in; but it's kinda disappointing, since they play it considerably slower than the original; 20bpms slower I'd say. I like live songs much better if they're sped-up, though their performance is pretty neat; though the slowness does make the guitar solos way less awesome. I have no complains at all on the set-list, since they even included Flight of Icarus, a classic that is somewhat forgotten.
The musicianship is (obviously) very, very good; it just wouldn't be Maiden otherwise! However, there are some mistakes, or at least 'failed experiments', like taking random harmonics away from songs which originally intended them that way (see: The guitar solo in Revelations). Aside from that, and the relative slowness in some of the songs' tempos; everything else is good.
What I've noticed that gets criticized the most of Live After Death, though, is Bruce's voice. Personally, I think he sings better today than 25 years ago; and I like his vocals much more in Rock in Rio than here. But, even though his singing isn't as good as in the original studio versions, some exceptions, again, like Revelations, which is it's definitive version, because that part at the end "...It is...you...!" is so beautiful yet so brutal, fuck I just love this band. And The Trooper, which is a personal favorite, and I say to hell with everyone who says it's overplayed and overrated; that song is one of the best heavy metal anthems ever written. Back to Bruce's vocals, however, his singing itself is NOT bad, but he just can't pull off some of the trademark falsettos of stuff like Run to the Hills and The Number of the Beast; and instead Bruce opts for a very powerful mid-range shout full of vibrato. That's probably what holds this record the most; but you gotta love his little speaking between songs!
Other highlights...Well, it's Iron fucking Maiden; everything is a goddamn highlight. But I do like stuff like Phantom of the Opera, with Bruce singing Di'Anno's lines. In fact, Disc 2 kicks ass, even if it's really small! You get all of their hidden gems, and Children of the Damned is just fucking great when played live, same with 22 Acacia Avenue, even though it's sad that Dave Murray changed the originally perfect solo, and improvised something over it. I also wonder, when will the day that they play both solos of Hallowed Be Thy Name just like in the original? I mean, they're not hard, but the Dave/Adrian combo always changes them.
So, it's not the best live album ever, but damn it's good. Yeah, some issues here and there, but at the end of the day it's just great. Though if you want the best live album ever (and you do), get Unleashed in the East by You-Know-Who. But don't let Live After Death away, it's up there with those Priest, Slayer, Mötorhead, etc, records which manage to be better live than in the studio.
While on tour supporting their powerful and innovative album "Powerslave", Maiden compiled this, their first full length concert offering on CD. The song selection on here is excellent, though obviously their second album "Killers" has been neglected for more audience friendly material. But bear in mind, I have the original release which does not contain the Hammersmith Odeon concert the year before, which I am told is superior to the latter performance and features WrathChild from Killers.
Overall, the performance on this CD is quite good. We kick off the concert with a speech from World War 2 given by Winston Churchill, a perfect introduction to "Aces High", which features some excellent guitar work. "Two Minutes to Midnight" and "Powerslave" are also featured from the latest album at this point are also well done, the latter featuring some interesting variations on the eastern theme that dominates it and a good vocal performance. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is also featured on this tour, but unfortunately it's a bit overlong of a track for a live performance and slows down the pace of the show.
From the "Piece of Mind" album, "The Trooper" wins the contest for best live song. The energy present on this composition is undeniable, and Maiden do well to recapture it. "Flight of Icarus" also shines, though Bruce's vocal performance is a bit weak here. "Revelations" was somewhat of a weak track on the studio album, and here it is missing many of the over-dubbed lead tracks, making it worthy of hitting the skip button.
"The Number of the Beast" material is probably the weakest on here. Bruce can't hit the high notes the night of this concert the way he did on the original studio versions, and it drags down the enjoyment of "Run to the Hills" and the title track. "Hallowed be thy Name" proves to be a saving grace from this group, as it requires less singing by Bruce and more instrumental work, and overall does not push the limits of his range.
The 2 songs off the debut are the best on here. "Iron Maiden" has all the usual treats of a memorable main riff and a straight forward vocal line, pretty tough to screw up. And the extended version of "Running Free" is the highlight of the album, allowing Bruce to keep to his medium high range, and jazzing up the audience in a memorable sing along session.
In conclusion, this is a live album that does what many live albums that are not touched up in the studio afterward can often do, sound too rough for recorded material. When you are at the concert, this isn't noticed as the imperfections in sound are covered with the visuals of the show itself. It is strong at the beginning and at the end, but in between it lags much. Bruce's voice fails to hit many of the obligatory high notes called for in these songs, and this makes it difficult to listen to at times. When you take into consideration that it is a live album that is not enhanced, it passes as good, but even so Maiden has pulled off lives shows better than this one.
Iron Maiden are just about the greatest live band ever. I should know, having seen them fairly recently on their 2003 tour, though the performance was a tad too short. Like any band, they are subject to good nights, and bad nights. Unfortunately, this is one of those bad nights.
It's been about four or five years since I picked up this live album, and my verdict is in: it blows. Well, ok, I don't hate it (hence the 60 rating), but pretty much every live Maiden album in existance is better than this (and yes that includes A Real Live Dead One), and why anyone thinks this is the greatest thing that Maiden has ever done is beyond me.
First of all, I don't know who is reponsible for keeping all instruments and other variables at their proper volume, be it Martin Birch, or the sound engineer, or mixer, but were they fucking stoned when they produced/engineered/mixed this? Right when Aces High kicks in, I can tell something's not right because whoever is playing the upper harmony guitar part is much louder than it should be, and I can't hear the other harmony.
Then 2 Minutes To Midnight comes on, and it is much slower than the studio version. 2 Minutes To Midnight should not be slowed down when played live. Next up, three Piece Of Mind classics: The Trooper, Revelations, & Flight Of Icarus. These come off just as good as the studio versions, but not better. Revelations is missing a harmonic during the fast interlude
As far as the band's performance goes, they all do sound like they are giving it their all, but Bruce tries too hard sometimes (especially on the Beast stuff, he just can't quite hit the high notes on Hallowed). Also, I'm not impressed with Dave's improvised solo on 22 Acacia Avenue. Improv solos are so fucking annoying, especially if the one they cut in the studio was excellent like the one on 22 Acacia Avenue. Oh, and people might as well stop complaining about giving Adrian back the solo on Hallowed Be Thy Name, because not even he can get the damn thing right.
Nonetheless this album does have its moments: While one half of the Powerslave stuff comes off as complete crap, The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and title track reign pure fucking destruction on Long Beach. Die With Your Boots on lays the original to absolute waste, and the "If you're gonna die..." intro still gets me pumped up.
Last but not least there is "The Phantom! Of The Opera!" This is, as far as I'm concerned, the definitve version of this song. The guitars are loud and heavy enough, and Bruce's vocals get this one absolutely right. Paul Di'anno can complain all he wants about Bruce not sounding as having the right voice for his songs (what is it with singer's complaining about replacements singing their stuff, anyway? Probably bitterness.) but Bruce nails this one perfectly. "Keep your distance walk away don't take his baaeaaaait. Don't you swaaaaaaay!
But yea, other than those 4 songs, I don't know what the fuss is about. Also, of these shows were sold out right? Well if this is what a sold out Long Beach Arena audience sounds like, I am not impressed. They seem to enjoy whislting more than screaming out the words when Bruce tells them to, which is fucking lame.
In conclusion, this one is worth hearing, but if you wanna hear Iron Maiden on some excellent nights, go get Rock In Rio, which is the new canonical example of Maiden concert madness. Alternatively you could pick up the Eddie's Archive box set, which has Beast Over Hammersmith, which is hands down and pants down the greatest album ever recorded.
Sorry, but I can't get myself to rating this album 90 or even higher, for a reason to be explained more clearly below.
This was Maiden's first live album, recorded at the end of the World Slavery tour, after having released five (all classic) studio albums. The setlist is damn good and in fact close to perfect, and also makes it stand out against the later live albums, as it contains a fair number of tracks not appearing on the those others: Aces High, Revelations, Flight of Icarus, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Powerslave, 22 Accacia Avenue, Children of the Damned, Die with your boots on and Phantom of the Opera. With the exception of Flight of Icarus (which is fair but overrated) and the final track, all these are in theory brilliant songs and reason enough for having the album. Another big bonus goes to the idea of the intro they had for their tour - Churchill's speech followed by Aces High must have been the ultimate way to start a show.
That is, if it weren't for one simple problem: Bruce must have totally neglected his warming up practices to get his voice set. There is no other explanation for the fact that his voice sounds utterly bad on the first three tracks of the album and only gets better from Revelations on (though that and the following track are still far from perfectly sung), whilst reaching a very fair sound on the following songs. However, his best performance by far on this album is on CD 2 - he sounds better than in the studio on those songs!!! All other playing was bloody well perfect from the start, by the way - especially the guitars and bass are on a very high standard. I still have to subtract a fair number of points for the poor vocals at the start of the album, though - especially on Aces High, as this is the only non-bootleg live version easily available.
The tracklist in and on itself is very good - all songs except Flight of Icarus and Phantom of the Opera are among the best that were available to Maiden at the time, and more than half the tracks are exclusive to this album. I do, however, have to criticise that the Killers album was almost entirely left out, except for the one track Wrathchild - the other albums were all honoured with 3-5 tracks each. Also, the excellent Where Eagles Dare is unfortunately notably absent. This, along with the noted lacking in Bruce's vocal performance, keeps me from rating this any higher - and frankly, both of the later major live albums (Live at Donington and Rock in Rio) are overall superior to this one.
This is a great live release, the band are at a critical point in their career, having just released one of their strongest albums ever and on possibly their best tour ever (bar the Seventh Son tour perhaps). The band sound uniformly great, Bruce Dickinson has a youthful energy and has a scarily enormous lung capacity. Truly one of the best ever Heavy Metal frontmen, he's full of energy and sounds great all the way through. Another great thing about this album is the bass. It has a very loud mix which really allows you to appreciate Steve Harris' intricate Basslines, which is a good thing, I promise you. Adrian Smith and Dave Murray shred on guitars, excellent as always and always in perfect unison (comparable to Tipton-Downing duo). And Nicko McBrain on drums. I've always liked his style of playing, maybe more than Clive Burr. (He's crazier, faster and more technical anyway, and I like that) Nicko has a great performance, amazing with only one bass drum.
The tracklist is great, covers all the early classics (you wish they'd play 'Killers' though, that would make it even better), and some heavy tunes from the last few albums. Personal highlights for me are 'Phantom of the Opera' (not on the original vinyl or CD, its on the bonus second disc of the remastered CD). It's a pity that so many of these songs get played on later live albums, because they start to lose their freshness if you listen to this as well as Iron Maiden's other live releases. But of course those tracks are arguably the best tracks on this album. The Trooper, Run to the Hills, 2 Minutes to Midnight and Hallowed Be Thy Name fall into this category. (They sound great on Rock in Rio too, mind!)
The only thing that prevents me from giving this 100 is Bruce's performance on opener Aces High. Although he sounds really great throughout the song, if you want to be technical he doesn't quite hit all the high notes. Actually, that's not to say he doesn't sound great, as I don't think anyone else in the world could if they sang like he did, and he does make a really good job of it, but it is a slight gripe that bothers some people, like my brother. (He makes that his reason for preferring Rock in Rio to this release). But apart from that, absolutely flawless performance that will creep its way into your CD player again and again. Buy it now, you won't be disappointed, and I really mean it this time.