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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.