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Iron Maiden's demotape, known as "Soundhouse Tapes" because of it's almost constant rotation at the Heavy Metal Soundhouse in London, is a demo worth a lot of money. I've had the luck of getting ahold of a very good counterfeit copy of it for a reasonable amount of money
This demo is interesting because it is the only official Maiden recording that features only one guitar and Doug Sampson on drums. Sampson's performance is solid, although not close to Clive Burr's or Nicko McBrain's. The bass is not as audible as on the studio albums, which might be understandable
The demo begins with "Iron Maiden", and this is an excellent rendition of an otherwise pretty mediocre song. Well, at least mediocre compared to many other songs in the Maiden repertoire. This version is interesting because it's slower and the drumming isn't as furious as on the studio version. But the small bass solo is still intact
And then we go on to the demo version of "Invasion", a song that appeared on the b'side of the "Women in Uniform" single. Albeit in a faster and more upgraded version. This version lacks, as I said before, the speed of the later version as well as the furious drum intro by Clive Burr. But it's still a very good and interesting version of an otherwise largely forgotten song
And then the demo closes with "Prowler", once again being a slower version of the song than that which appeared on the debut album. There's not much more to really say about it, except that it kills!
It's strange that the band didn't include the Soundhouse version of "Strange World", an interesting version with slightly different arrangements that later appeared on the 2 CD version of the "Best of the Beast" compilation
Try to get ahold of this demo if you can, 'cause it's an important musical artifact!
Being the first demo of a band, you might think that there isn't any point in getting it. In most cases, the production is god awful and the songs are usually re-recorded for their full length. In every way, the demo might be worthless and pointless but for the band's benefit when they need it. Not in Iron Maiden's case. There are much about this demo that makes it worth getting, even if you have their debut.
First off, the production is amazing, for being a demo from 1979. Each instrument is clear and mixed well so that nothing is overbearing. The only thing I can say is a flaw in the production is a vague fizzing sound and the drumming sounds a little soft. Other than that its well produced demo.
There are two songs on here that are also featured in Iron Maiden's debut, the song Iron Maiden and Prowler. If you love them on the debut, that doesn't mean you shouldn't get The Soundhouse Tapes. The songs sound much different that the debut version and I think they sound much better on this demo.
The song Iron Maiden, with the drums not as loud, doesn't sound as aggressive. Instead the oddly rockish beats played make the song sound a bit more classic rock than heavy metal. But this is only slight. The guitars, when they play the leads sound more clear and loud, as oppose to the debut where it hardly sounds any louder than the other instruments. Also the vocals are more eccentric and energetic in the demo. Paul Di'anno screams out the lyrics in a crazy fashion and randomly wails as oppose to the more tame and less varied vocal work off the debut.
The song Prowler's rhythm guitar is less distorted and raw. It sounds more like a rock sound. However the lead guitar is quite distorted and metallic. The hard rock beat is still there, perhaps a bit more of a punk style beat, and combined with the simple and strong bass, the song is blessed with a energetic and catchy rhythm. The solo is as crazy as ever, and the rough distortion sounds even more metal.
The other song, Invasion, is new one, for me at least. It doesn't really sound different than the others. The classic rock/punk beat is still present, with the bass dishing it all out with power. The guitar is of the slight distortion but overall, a clean tone. The solo is great as well, as is basically a shred fest but you can clearly hear it fit in key of the rhythm. A solid song overall for the classic Iron Maiden fan.
Looking at this short demo, you still might think that there might be some good stuff here but it still not worth getting. Well, you're wrong. The raw production, energetic vocal performance, and cool rhythm section makes this a unique and enjoyable demo. I honestly have probably have listened to The Soundhouse Tapes far more times than the Iron Maiden album because the sound is that good. If you are a fan, get this.
I know what you're thinking - at only three tracks and clocking in at a mere eleven and a half minutes, how can this demo possibly deserve such a high rating?
Well, quite aside from anything else, this is an historically important demo, being Iron Maiden's first release and, as such, marking the birth of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Compared to what other British bands of the day were peddling as metal (Sabbath's abysmal 'Never Say Die' or Rainbow's 'Down to Earth', for instance), it was a breath of fresh air to a genre that was in danger of becoming sterile.
It also marked Iron Maiden as THE band to watch in the British metal scene and with good reason, as their storied career has proven.
Let's not forget that the three songs on this demo - 'Iron Maiden', 'Invasion' and 'Prowler' are all bona fide classics in their own right and, whilst any Maiden fan will have heard them in many different guises over the last 25+ years, they have rarely sounded as raw or as full of energy as they do here.
To the best of my knowledge, this is only release to showcase Iron Maiden as a quartet. Bereft of their second guitar and with Paul Di'Anno's rough-hewn vocals on display, this is as streamlined and concise a version of the songs as you are ever likely to hear. Gutteral, angry and with a definite punk influence - which, surprisingly, is a good thing - 'The Soundhouse Tapes' is a perfect demonstration of what made Maiden such a force to be reckoned with.
Historical, a rarity and, more than that, a slice of molten metal magic.
Up the Irons!