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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.