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Conquering the world before falling apart - 90%

kluseba, November 25th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1981, 12" vinyl, Capitol Records

Maiden Japan is an extended play featuring four or five songs recorded in Japan. Its rarity, unique cover artwork and line-up make it one of the most interesting releases in Iron Maiden's extensive discography.

It's a shame that the band has never officially released the full concert. You can easily find it on the internet and it's mindblowing. The band performs with energy, flow and pace. Clive Burr's drum play is precise as a clockwork and this release shows why many fans have prefered him over Nicko McBrain who has talent and charisma but less feeling and accuracy. The bass guitar is particularly dominant which is an element that has always set the band apart and Steve Harris' energetic play is even more striking on this live album than on the first two studio records. Guitar duo Dave Murray and Adrian Smith already shows great chemistry and finds the right balance between heavy riffs and progressive stylistics, between fierce energy and melodious harmonies, between fast and short sections and more elaborate balladesque passages. Paul Di'Anno is in great form and performs the faster tracks with charismatic energy and the mellower tunes with feeling. In addition to this, he is a great entertainer and communicates briefly but efficiently with the fans. The enthusiastic Japanese crowd only adds to the fascination of this legendary live release as the fans are as energetic as the crowds the band played for in Europe and North America at the time.

Four songs are included on all versions of this release. ''Running Free'' is catchy, energetic and to the point which is why the song is still performed live occasionally even though its style is quite different from the band's eighteen-minute long progressive metal epics nowadays. ''Remember Tomorrow'' is a track with a mysterious and melancholic vibe that is best described as power ballad where the phenomenal guitar play and the versatile vocals can shine. ''Killers'' is one of the few more elaborate tracks in the band's early years and convinces with gloomy atmosphere supported by unchained screams. The song makes you feel as frantic as if you were really being followed by a serial killer. It would still blend in very well on any soundtrack for a horror movie or video game. ''Innocent Exile'' is a simpler heavy rock song in the key of the opener. It's not a particularly memorable track and actually clearly the weakest of the bunch but since it has only been rarely performed by the band, it's certainly quite a gimmick to listen to it nowadays.

Some editions, such as the Canadian release I have come across, include a fifth song in form of the short, energetic and bass-driven ''Wratchchild'', a classic that is still played live on numerous occasions but which I have always prefered with Paul Di'Anno's raw vocals over Bruce Dickinson's more melodic approach.

Nothing on this powerful live document indicates the tensions that started to grow in the band or the bad performances by the singer related to bad habits. Maiden Japan is the testament of a band that has peaked really quickly, sounds hungry and seems ready to conquer the world. Nobody could predict that the line-up would fall apart only a few months after the release of this often overlooked gem.

Let's hope the band will release the full concert in remastered form one day. Since this hasn't happened in nearly four decades, make sure to track this gem down if you are a fan of hard rock and heavy metal music. Try to get a version of the five-track release that offers more value for money. This is the strongest release of the band's early era with singer Paul Di'Anno.

Ah, let's walk in deepest space with Maiden... - 94%

6CORPSE6GRINDER6, December 27th, 2012

What a night Maiden had on Japan recording this gig, the enthusiasm of a hungry band that was about to take over the world with their storm of thundering chords and upbeat tempos is the first thing you will notice when you listen to this. It totally surpasses the quality of the recording, that is OK but not up to Iron Maiden today’s standards of course. Di’ Anno’s vocals are another special aspect about this album; because it features a whole set that included almost all the material they had at the time so having it performed live by its original singer is a great deal; considering the short time he was in the band. The inclusion of Adrian Smith is another aspect worthy of mention, because the string department features the 3 guys from the band’s golden era playing live versions of songs you won’t hear somewhere else. The crowd is kind of dead… I bet they were too busy taking pictures, but it doesn’t ruins it for me; the band’s live sound is priceless with or without a good audience. Besides, at this point of their career there weren’t any extremely famous hits to sing along with; the whole gig has an underground atmosphere more than a big arena show feel.

I think Bruce is a better singer, but Di’ Anno can surely sing too and he performed amazing on that night, the early punky sound of the band kind of fits his vocals that are way more raspy and angry than the elegant Bruce’s air raid siren. He does well through the whole set till the end without problems. Dave and H twin guitar attack wrote a fucking legend, and this is why; they have always been sharp and accurate in every gig whatsoever. The arpeggios melted perfectly with their clean guitars, as well as the glaring twin leads and heartfelt riffing; are delivered with a passion you won’t see anywhere else. Arry’s bass guitar anchors the drums with the guitars with his finger hammering frenzy like no other person could, laying a king size mattress for the guitars to go and beat the shit out of everyone’s neurons with their dynamic dance. The rounded tone finger picking he provides enhanced by his classic Fender Precision bass metallic edge and a hard hitting string technique bred a whole generation of bassists, and this is why: the guy plays perfect; every fucking note is nailed heavenly. On the percussive duties, Clive Burr did always a decent job but he is nowhere Nicko, who is an octopus behind the drum kit. However, his performance is clean and serves as a heartbeat to the band nicely; it’s the comparison between drummers what makes it sound watered down.

The set list includes pretty much every song the band wrote at the moment, except from “Prodigal Son”, “The Ides of March”, “Prowler” and “Charlotte the Harlot”. It’s long, you feel it’s a whole gig unlike “Live at the Rainbow” for example, that is very short and lets you wanting more. It’s pretty solid but it suffers from the friendly atmosphere of early hard rock a lot, not every song has that particular metal mean as fuck attitude, but what the hell… The performance as I said before is near perfect, this guys are amazing musicians; there’s some lo-fi cloud hanging over the record’s production but it sounds good… maybe too honest, but for me that’s good. This is surely not the best Maiden gig from this era but it’s the most comprehensive and it’s surely enjoyable!

Osaka Sun - 100%

Genzel, June 24th, 2010

Paul Di'anno Maiden was especially good an fun. Like a typhoon quality presentation, Maiden was the best band in the world in the 1980's beginning. After Paul got fired due to a heavy drug using, Maiden lost the best person in their time. Typically when new blood in the form of quality songs flourishes, legends are born.

The set is a good mix of both "Iron Maiden" and "Killers", the first two Iron Maiden albums. First four songs goes right on to deliver shockingly fast and wicked punk rock like anthems. The midway is a roller coaster of both personal agendas and guitar shredding. In the end, the band performs the most heavy classics such as the strange "Strange World" and the philosophical "Twilight Zone", which perfectly sums the night up.

This is classic rock, mixed somewhere between pure rock, heavy metal and punk rock. Dianno blasters through his the ever clever, sarcastic and personal voice. Voice that caused the smog in the Britannia, the melting of Greenland and the Osaka sun overwhelming heat. There is just something in the air, magic. The guitarist's shred way better than for example Osbournes fourth guitarist Zakk Wylde, just brilliant. The originality and the place, whoa, Japan!

Something about the songs: "Another Life" must've been the best song from Iron Maiden ever, where "Remember Tomorrow" is the causalitet of the insanity of sleeping to keep you alive. "Purgatory" just simply destroys every modern Maiden song currently. "Killers" puts this concert a nice caution of the dynamicity of the band in these gigs. And also, puts an end to this review, for now.

With the glimmer of metal - 95%

morbert, February 25th, 2010

This EP was released in the same month Bruce Dickinson joined Maiden. Could this be the reason the band or label decided not to release a full length live album? They had the whole gig recorded and as some of us know now (they were released for fan club members in 1999 and on bootleg in 2008), it sounds killer and it would have been a remarkable live album. Never since has Iron Maiden played so fast and furious since then. Di’Anno was rawer than ever and Clive Burr really picked up the pace.

So was it really because Di’Anno was thrown out that only a few songs were released in September 1981? Because what would be the point of releasing (investing in) a full length album and promoting it as such when it features a vocalist who had just been thrown out? I’ve read the original cover featured Eddie holding Di’Anno’s decapitated head. I also read they released this EP purely because of Japanese demands. And I’m glad they did!

Anyway, at that time we didn’t know any better. We all thought they maybe recorded just a few songs, or maybe something went wrong with the other recorded songs, technically or whatever. And we were left with 4 (on some releases 5) extremely good live performances. We already had live versions of ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Remember Tomorrow’ on the Rainbow VHS and ‘Running Free’ isn’t exactly the most rare Maiden song.

Great performances nevertheless with ‘Remember Tomorrow’ being a real gem. But what makes this specific release worth getting is the rather rare live recording of ‘Innocent Exile’. A song which hasn’t been played live since that tour ever again as far as I know.

Because of the pace, energy and the broad live sound, the songs from the debut album sound much better here and are reason enough to get your hands on this EP. Add to this a rare live recording of ‘Innocent Exile’ and ‘Killers’ with the correct lyrics (the story about the version on the Rainbow VHS is hilarious) and you’ll understand we have a must-have here from Maiden's Di’Anno days.

Excellent first reich live offering. - 85%

autothrall, February 16th, 2010

Although Live After Death stands tall as my favorite live offering from Iron Maiden, and perhaps one of my favorite live albums ever, I would have to give credit towards Maiden Japan as a close second, and certainly the go-to recording if you're interested in the Paul Di'anno era of the band. Though it was originally released as a 4-track EP in 1981, I am reviewing the vastly superior 1999 digipak, remastered and sent out to fan club members like a gift from God. It might be a little hard to track down these days, but I have word that it is often carried through a series of tubes, and perhaps you could make out your check to a Mr. Paul Di'anno, the former singer who is possibly NOT rich enough to one day sip daiquiris alongside Walt Disney in cryo-land.

Like so many other great bands, Japan was one of the first countries to throw down enthusiastic support for Iron Maiden, inviting the band over for live performances and getting quite wild here in comparison to some of their reactions at concerts. Maiden Japan was recorded in May of 1981 at the Sun Plaza in Tokyo, and it sounds excellent, a great send-off for Paul Di'anno (his final recording with the band). There are 17 tracks here, and supposedly an even longer bootleg exists with a 2nd version of "Running Free" from the same gig. The debut is represented through "Strange World", "Iron Maiden", "Remember Tomorrow", "Phantom of the Opera", "Running Free", "Transylvania", and "Sanctuary"; but the majority of the material is off the Killers album: "Wrathchild", "Another Life", "Genghis Khan", "Murders in the Rue Morgue", "Twilight Zone", "Drifter", "Killers", "Innocent Exile", and "Purgatory". The set is rounded out with the cover of Montrose's "I Got the Fire".

So basically, with the exception of a few tracks ("Prowler", "Prodigal Son", "Charlotte the Harlotte" and "The Ides of March"), you are presented with nearly the entire content of the first two albums in great, live stereo sound. There is something rugged about this album which has endeared me to it; the band is spot on for almost the entire performance, but the bass is given a bouncy abandon and the guitars feel good and raw. Di'anno is on fire, and even his over the top rock star inflections (which are part of the reason I will always prefer Dickinson) fall into line, making this a 75+ minute essential live audio experience for all but the most softened poseurs among you. In particular I enjoyed "Wrathchild", "Murders in the Rue Morgue", "Phantom of the Opera", and "Remember Tomorrow", but I must admit "Drifter" also really stands out in the crowd, a sonic crescendo of everything good about the late 70s/early 80s, sounding like a party metal warp drive.

It's a crying shame that Maiden Japan has not been given a more mainstream release, because clearly it is worth owning nearly as much as Live After Death, and it's far better than their other official live offerings like A Real Live One/A Real Dead One. Do what you must to acquire this, but avoid the original US EP release, which only included "Running Free", "Remember Tomorrow", "Killers" and "Innocent Exile". As a window into those important, formative years of one of metal's royal families, Maiden Japan is close to mandatory.


Up The Irons! - 100%

BlackFuneral666, February 2nd, 2007

Iron Maiden is not only one of the best metal bands ever spawned, but one of the best live bands by far as well. Unfortunately, one of their best performances caught on tape contained here in Maiden Japan was really only widely available in EP form with only 5 tracks from the show seeing the light of day for years. However, if you were lucky enough to be a member of the fan club and take advantage of the offer, you get the whole show remastered in it's original form.

Iron Maiden, as usual, sound awesome here just thundering along with a great audience response. Di'Anno is in top form here, showing off his voice quite nicely (what a great range, so much better than Bruce), with Adrian, Dave, and Steve tearing up their fret-boards while Clive rips apart his kit. What is also great here is the production is very crisp and clear, along with being remastered makes it sound like your right there watching them. They play the majority of their first two albums here, only excluding "Prodigal Son" and "The Ides Of March" intro from "Killers", as well as "Prowler" and "Charlotte The Harlot" from "Iron Maiden". As some nicely added bonuses here which compensate for the loss of those however, the listener is treated to a cover of the Ronnie Montrose song "I've Got The Fire", a drum solo at the end of "Another Life", and an extended guitar solo in "Transylvania".

Really every song is a highlight here, it's an excellent track selection for a show all of them are classic songs, and as all the studio versions have been described countless times, I won't waste time by talking about all of them, just certain parts of the show. Maiden gets off to a ripping start with "Wrathchild" which is always a highlight of their show, and they play it great here. Another really nice arrangement here is when they play "Genghis Khan", "Killers", and "Innocent Exile" all in a row, their such great songs and sound excellent on this release. Another highlight of song arrangement is "Murders In The Rue Mourgue", "Phantom Of The Opera", and "Iron Maiden" being played in a row. The encore they do is arranged very well with "Running Free", "Transylvania", "Drifter", and then their ass ripping version of "I've Got The Fire".

In conclusion, this is one of the best live recordings I've ever heard, and I strongly suggest getting it if you can find it. This is only one of a handful that actually deserves a 100 rating. It will not dissapoint!