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One of the most essential compilations out there - 99%

kluseba, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1996, 2CD, EMI (Remastered)

To this date, Best of the Beast is Iron Maiden's very best compilation. The essential double-disc version features both the band's most famous hits and singles such as ''Run to the Hills'', ''The Trooper'' and ''Wasted Years'' and the group's emotional and intellectual epics like ''Phantom of the Opera'', ''Rime of the Ancient Mariner'' and ''Sign of the Cross''. This compilation offers a whopping two and a half hours of outstanding heavy metal entertainment without any fillers.

In addition to this, Best of the Beast offers three spectacular gimmicks. First of all, this release includes a brand new song entitled ''Virus'' which might easily be the best track the quintet recorded during Blaze Bayley's short stint with the band. The track opens with an epic, gloomy and slow overture that exemplifies an approach that has since become a trademark for contemporary Iron Maiden songs. The song then evolves into a melancholic, melodic and melodramatic track with decent keyboard sounds, majestic choirs and outstanding guitar harmonies. This rare collaborative songwriting effort involving all band members except the drummer also convinces with gripping lyrics that could be interpreted in two ways. The more literal meaning is a visionary criticism of business corruption in a world that has become dependent upon information technology. The indirect meaning of the song could be related to unjustified criticism of pitiless journalists and closed-minded fans who didn't give Iron Maiden's new line-up and especially singer Blaze Bayley a chance. This stunning track is worth purchasing this compilation alone but if you find that too expensive, you could also go for one of the numerous excellent single versions of the song on vinyl, disc and cassette featuring new cover songs, rare demo tracks from The Soundhouse Tapes or the forgotten Metal for Muthas recordings.

The second highlight of this album is the re-release of two rare songs from the demo The Soundhouse Tapes of the late seventies. ''Iron Maiden'' and ''Strange World'' capture the energizing yet versatile pioneer spirit of the band. So far, these songs had been extremely difficult to find and very expensive to purchase and including them on a disc for the first time ever is great fan service and makes this summary of Iron Maiden's career truly complete.

The third highlight is a brand new live version of the band's underrated epic ''Afraid to Shoot Strangers'' featuring Blaze Bayley on vocals. The song captures the band's cohesion, energy and talent on stage and the gloomy lyrics suit the track so well that one might even consider it an improvement over the great studio version. If you had your doubts about Blaze Bayley's vocal skills in concert, this track will impress you for sure since this might as well be the best live song ever recorded in Blaze Bayley's extensive career.

In addition to these three gimmicks, the songs from the band's early years have been remastered for this release. They sound organic and up-to-date without losing the energy and spirit of the original recordings. Along with the new track and the songs from the last studio album, these remastered versions make for a surprisingly coherent flow for this kind of release. The limited edition of this compilation also includes a sixty-page hardback book with numerous pictures recapturing the first twenty years in Iron Maiden's impressive career but even the regular booklet is an entertaining summary of the group's greatest moments. Finally, this release features a beautiful cover artwork honoring some of the band's most iconic artworks to date. It's both a great new piece of art and a respectful rendition of what the group had accomplished until that point.

Obviously, it's always recommended to purchase regular studio records instead of compilation efforts and this is particularly true for Iron Maiden since each of the band's records up to that point had a very distinct approach, atmosphere and flow. However, if you had only one Iron Maiden record to purchase or not enough money to grab the group's studio albums, Best of the Beast would be an excellent choice for faithful collectors, occasional listeners and new fans alike. If compared to later compilations involving Iron Maiden, Best of the Beast has a brand new track, covers every single studio album and includes rare gimmicks from the early years. Ignore the critics who obviously haven't understood the purpose of this release or who criticize any type of compilation record and get your hands on one of the best compilations ever released in the music industry.

What Little Purpose it had has Been Rendered Moot - 20%

InfinityX, August 14th, 2013

Note that I have the one CD edition, though as this is a compilation, I have heard all the songs here anyway. And as far as best ofs go, this one isn't or should I say WASn't bad for a casual fan to start (are there casual Maiden fans?). As the CD is out of print, and other better best ofs have since been released, a casual fan would typically not shell out extra cash for the out of print compilation.

Though if someone found it in a record store bargain bin as I did with a cheap price, it isn't a bad option. They must not have known the disc isn't very common, as on Amazon this record actually has a pretty high price. But anyway, tracklist wise we have a good selection of tracks promoting all the bands work up to that point, even live albums. Obviously most Maiden heads would have most if not all the albums represented anyway, thus hampering the value. The packaging is actually really cool, with a detailed booklet with lots of band photos and charts showing the releases, both promoting the band to the casual fan, and giving people already hooked to the band something nice as a bonus.

Annoyingly, as these things often have, there are a couple of rarities that completionists basically need this album to have. Either version comes with the non album single Virus. The acoustic intro is a bit overlong, but the synth laden section it EVENTUALLY escalates to is pretty cool. Honestly, under Bruce Dickinson's tenure this song would probably be fantastic, but Bayley just can't carry the simple acoustics with his voice.

The two disc version comes with two demo tracks. Haven't listened to them, but we all know there just there to tantalize fans. And frankly a band that has such great full lengths to begin with, even a casual fan should just grab a copy of Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, Piece of Mind, Number of the Beast, or Seventh Son. Or really all of them, or at least a few of them. This type of release should not be encouraged, and I take solace in the fact that I got this used, and cheap as fuck. Because I almost NEVER pull this thing out. So unless those couple exclusives are just too mouth watering to resist, or you fucking dig that cover art, just get the 80's records. Don't even bother with any of those new compilations man. This type of crap is just frustrating and greedy.

So decent packaging, decent song choice, and a couple of rarities save this from being COMPLETELY useless. Though it's damn close.
a 1 out of five.

Too much stick, and not enough carrot - 25%

autothrall, February 22nd, 2010

The Best of the Beast was the first proper compilation album released by Iron Maiden a full 16 years after the release of their s/t, and this does seem a conundrum, as the band had been heavily circulated and popular for years. But arrive it did, in a variety of formats that were bound to confuse, but all containing previously released material and a few rare recordings. There was a single CD edition of the Best of the Beast which was even less warranted than the later Somewhere Back in Time, and a deluxe 4LP package which contains the most value (if you're into the vinyl, that is) as it simply has the most tracks. But this particular version I'm reviewing was the standard, 2CD version with 27 tracks and about 2 and a 1/2 hours of music.

"Virus" was probably the highlight here of the newer material, if only for the novelty that it had not been released on a full-length album. It's a steady hard rocker featuring Blaze Bayley's vocals, and while it's not the worst Maiden in history, it's very much forgettable, like just about anything on the abysmal Virtual XI (the next full-length released after this compilation). It's no fault of the vocals themselves, but the song simply does not possess even a simple melody of interest, even when it breaks down into the skanking, cornball bridge with a solo that seems it took no longer than about 5 seconds to compose. After this, the compilation begins to travel back in time, starting with two selections from The X Factor: "Sign of the Cross" and "Man on the Edge". Now, while I don't have any particular malice for these tracks, they are far from the best songs of The X Factor, let alone Maiden's entire career...which this compilation is probably supposed to represent.

Back further, we get "Be Quick or Be Dead", and live versions "Fear of the Dark" and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" which make up the Fear of the Dark section; while "Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter" and "Holy Smoke" serve as proxies for No Prayer for the Dying. These are all solid enough inclusions, through you could honestly have done with only one track from each album and included a lot more from their first seven full-lengths, the ones that truly matter. But these will be explored in more detail throughout the remainder of this disc and the next. "The Clairvoyant", "Can I Play With Madness?" and "The Evil That Men Do" are here to represent Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and I suppose the latter two belong. "Wasted Years" and "Heaven Can Wait" do justice to Somewhere in Time and round out the first CD. Of course, in my humble opinion that entire album could be reprinted here if we were REALLY interested in the 'best' of the 'beast'...

The 2nd disc begins with more live versions to represent Live After Death and Powerslave (very clever...), "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and "Running Free", but then Powerslave is expanded upon with the excellent "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight". Piece of Mind has "Where Eagles Dare" and obviously "The Trooper", and The Number of the Beast is given a little extra heat with the title track, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and the popular "Run to the Hills". So far, no surprises among the older material, they merely included the popular live staples. Killers only gets "Wrathchild" while Iron Maiden gets "Phantom of the Opera" and "Sanctuary". Closing the disc and compilation are two of the only other reasons aside from "Virus" that the Maiden fan might have purchased this, a re-pressing of "Iron Maiden" and "Strange World" from the band's rare Soundhouse Tapes EP. But neither version is much to write home about if you own the debut, as both were included there.

As an attempt to include bits and bytes from each of the Maiden releases of note up to its time of release, the Best of the Beast does not fall completely on its ass, even though I rue the day we ever consider anything from the 1995-1999 era anything near the band's 'best'. It's nice to have a new song, but "Virus" is like trying to tap water from a dry desert well. The Soundhouse Tapes likewise do little to compel ownership of this compilation, and excluding a few live versions on the first disc...you've already got everything else. In my opinion, save yourself the time and trouble and just watch the "Virus" video online to sate your curiosity...that should be all you require to turn your nose up at this easily ignored profit margin.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Iron Maiden is gonna get you - 85%

Vim_Fuego, August 6th, 2004

Did Iron Maiden really need to release a double "Best of..." album? The critics would say no. They labelled Maiden dinosaurs, irrelevant, and saw 'Best Of The Beast' as Iron Maiden exploiting their fans.

Iron Maiden has never been a band to listen to critics. If they were, they would have given up after the self-titled debut. No, this release is a big middle finger salute to the self-appointed metal intelligentsia the world over. Like everything Maiden has ever released, this sold truckloads.

The reason why it sold well may puzzle many. If you examine this release closely, a loyal fan would already have everything here, except perhaps "Sanctuary" (it was not originally included on 'Iron Maiden'). The first disc covers 1986 to 1996, which many fans think of as Maiden being past their peak. The second disc is basically a studio version of 'Live After Death' with a couple of extra tracks thrown in. So, what is the value in 2 1/2 hours of music you already have?

Well, it's Maiden.

Iron Maiden has consistently produced metal of the finest quality alloy for nigh on a quarter of a century, rivalled by none except perhaps Judas Priest. Iron Maiden has produced so many brilliant albums over the years, with fans all having their personal favourites from each album. If you want to listen to those favourites however, it can mean an avalanche of vinyl strewn across the room. Let's say you want to listen to "Iron Maiden", "Wrathchild", "The Number Of The Beast", "Aces High", "Wasted Years", "The Clairvoyant", "Bring Your Daughter...To The Slaughter" and "Be Quick Or Be Dead". That can mean up to eight albums to sort through. Why not stick 'em all on two discs and package them with a little hardback book mapping out Iron Maiden's history up to that time?

Those who aren't Maiden fans will not understand why followers of the band would actually buy this. Fans of the band though, will understand. After all, you can't argue with seven incarnations of Eddie on a single cover.

The only best-of worth having from Maiden - 100%

gor, May 8th, 2004

Since this format is out of print, you will most probably go out of your way to find it. And since you will, you should go after the limited 2cd box version, for it simply is amazing.

The cover is made by none other than Derek Riggs, who, being bored of drawing Eddie covers, wrote "Not Again!" on the tombstone on the cover, which EMI forced him to change to "Eddie 1975-?" It is a nice overview of a bunch of Eddies who are out to get you!

The tracklist is something intresting for the old and new fan alike. The old fan can find the great new track "Virus", Blaze's awsome live rendition of "Afraid To Shoot Strangers" (probably the only Bruce-era song where he does a better job than Bruce himself!) "Strange World (1979)" (it was the first time this saw the light of day since it was scrapped from the original Sounhouse Tapes" and "Iron Maiden (1979)" from the Soundhouse Tapes... A great treat for the old fans...

Also, the tracklist is balanced through all of Maiden's releases up and until The X Factor, containing tracks in live and studio form, from all periods, with a nice and fluent regressing succession order which is sure to intrigue the new fan into Maiden....

The packaging has only one flaw. Nobody wants to store these cds in a cartboard pocket! It WILL get scratched. Store cds seperately. The booklet is AWSOME (fat and harcover too!) and will leave you browsing it for hours, it has tons of visuals and photos. Check it out a couple of times and then shrink wrap it! I have done so with mine and the packaging has been in great shape since 1996 when I bought it. BUY OR DIE!