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Do or die! - 100%

hippie_holocaust, December 19th, 2012

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.