By Sean Palmerston
No, this isn’t a review of the cool Eddie’s Archives that came out a few years ago, I was never lucky enough to be able to find one of those to buy for myself, instead this is a collection of stuff that I have written on Iron Maiden over the years for various publications…
METAL MANIACS live review – May 2008
Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON Canada
March 16, 2008
The opportunity to catch Iron Maiden live is something I do not like to miss. In fact, I have only skipped one Toronto-area appearance by the band since 1986 and that was when a last minute family crisis kept me away. So when a delicious early-afternoon lunch with my wife and kids ended with me throwing up all over the restaurant’s washroom only minutes after completion, I thought my nearly four-month wait to witness my first fave metal band again was going to be shot down in flames. A few gravol pills and a quick nap in my pal’s van during the hour drive into Toronto’s Air Canada Centre seemed to do the trick enough to get me down to the show, but I still stuffed a plastic bag in my jeans as an impromptu barf-bag just in case.
Arriving to our seats as opener Lauren Harris was finishing her set, the only thing heard coming from the stage was “thank you and goodnight,” which received at best a half-polite round of applause. After all, no one wants to be rude when your dad is the leader of the headlining band. Our vantage point in the stands gave a great overview of the floors, and really there’s little that is quite as fun as crowd watching at an Iron Maiden show. Between the search for the rarest Maiden shirt of the night – I spotted one from their first show India and another from a festival gig in Buffalo NY in 1981 – it’s always fun to see who’s come out for the band that evening. Aside from the many recognizable Toronto-area metal musicians seen skulking around, the biggest surprise was to see Metal Blade owner (and noted Maiden super fan) Brian Slagel bounding around behind the soundboard with a shit-eating grin on his face.
Just as the crowd-watching started to dull, the familiar tones of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” tore through the PA and the lights soon went down, with all eyes glued to the giant video screens flanking each side of the stage. After a neat introductory video showing the band at various stops on the tour so far, the all-so familiar strains of Winston Churchill’s infamous 1940 speech that precedes “Aces High” on Live After Death filled the air along with the famous footage of bombers and those gnarly jaws about to envelope Great Britain. The capacity crowd was already at a deafening roar when the twin guitar intro of said song broke in and it was going absolutely bonkers by the time Bruce Dickinson showed up on stage to deliver the song’s first line. This was a die-hard, ready Maiden crowd that was hungry and willing to eat out of the hands of one of the greatest metal bands of all time – one that was more than ready to let them do just that.
No sooner had “Aces High” finished than the band kicked straight back into Two Minutes To Midnight. Bruce, dressed in those crazy leather pants, a cut off camouflage jacket and a Eddie-emblazoned ski hat proved why after all these years he still is one of the greatest front men ever. Dickinson owned the stage: he ran, pranced, waved and guided the crowd through every song with the slightest of ease and never lost control of his game. Even in between songs the man had the audience listening to every word, something only the best can do. Of course, when someone has as many nice things to say as Dickinson did, it’s not all that hard to do, truth be told. Before heading into the third song of the night, Revelations, he dedicated it to Canada and all their fans across the country, which he was quick to point out embraced Maiden long before the USA came around to the band and had made the newly released Live After Death DVD the best-selling music DVD in Canada for the previous four weeks straight.
With the band proclaiming the tour as the Somewhere Back In Time tour, connected to the aforementioned DVD, it made sense that most of the material played in the set came from the albums widely considered to be their most successful. While their Early Years/Ozzfest tour of a few years back found them concentrating on their first four albums, this time the band was dealing directly with songs that ranged primarily from 1982’s Number Of The Beast through to 1988’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. This meant the band had the opportunity to go into their catalogue and pull out some album tracks that had not been revisited on past tours and perhaps even leave out one or two that could use a rest for a tour (or ten).
Of course, it would not be a Maiden show without a rip through The Trooper, one of their signature live songs. It followed Revelations, with Bruce changing into a Canadian Mounted Police jacket for the song, while waving the British flag triumphantly from the top of the amplifiers. With the stage adorned in the same Egyptian-themed set up the band took out on the 1984 World Slavery tour, albeit with rotating backdrops taken from various albums and singles, the appropriate backdrop would appear for songs starting with this one.
As good as our faithful lead singer was on this night, it goes without saying that the rest of the band were in top form as well. Anchored by the always dependable Steve Harris and Nicko behind the drums – which it must be said seem to be getting bigger and bigger every tour, as he’s almost impossible to see behind his kit these days despite only having one bass drum – the three lead guitar attack was spot on throughout the set (especially the two that actually play their guitars instead of spending half the night humping them). The highlight of this guitar triumvirate occurred during Rime of The Ancient Mariner, the epic Powerslave track pulled out again for this swing. Shortly after Steve Harris finished his bass arpeggios in the song’s quiet mid-section, the trio really breathed an unexpected ferocity into the song’s latter half. While Rime has never been a personal favourite, it was the definite highlight of this night.
I never had to use that makeshift barfbag stuffed into my jeans pocket, but unfortunately I did end up having to puke into a bathroom garbage can during Fear Of The Dark. While I believe it had nothing to do with the song, perhaps it was my body asking ‘what the fuck?’ since it clearly doesn’t fit in wth the time period of the rest of the show. The band did however represent Seventh Son well, with a double shot of Moonchild and The Clairvoyant in the encore before fittingly finishing things up with Hallowed Be They Name.
Maiden were fantastic musically from start to finish and Mr Dickinson never had a misstep vocally – as far as I could tell. I say this because while the band played their asses off for the the appreciative sold-out Canadian crowd, the sound mix being pumped out through the PA was simply horrendous. There was almost no high end, the sound was very box-y and the bass was way way way too high in the mix, even by Iron Maiden standards. Guitars were lost in the overall mix at times and I can honestly say this was the absolute worst sounding show I have ever experienced by the band in the nine times I have seen them.
Numerous people I discussed this with both at and since the show have commented how terrible the mix was, including two live sound engineers who were both appalled at how muddy and mid-range it was. You would expect that those supporting one of the most professional and legendary bands in metaldom would make sure each and every show sounded as absolutely fucking killer as possible but who knows, maybe they had food poisoning that night too.
VIEW MAGAZINE DVD review – April 3, 2008
Iron Maiden – Live After Death DVD
The greatest UK metal band of the 80s at their peak, the awesome Live After Death was filmed in 1985 over the course of four nights at L.A.’s Long Beach Arena during their World Slavery tour. Just releasing the original film on DVD would have been enough for most, but instead Maiden again give the fans what they want and include a second DVD containing an hour–long documentary on said tour, another hour focusing on their first trip behind the
former “Iron Curtain” to Poland and beyond and another documentary piece shot in Texas. On top of that, their 1985 appearance at the first Rock In Rio festival is also included, although to be honest the footage is muddy at best. An exhaustive and essential purchase for any discerning metal fan.
EXCLAIM! DVD review – December 2004
The History Of Part 1: The Early Years
By Sean Palmerston
If there’s one thing Iron Maiden has learned to do right over the years it is to give their fans what they want. This two-disc set chronicles the band’s first four albums through filmed performances, music video, television specials and an exhaustive 2004 documentary on disc two that interviews nearly every member of the band, from its first line-up in 1976 through to 1983’s Piece of Mind album. This really is every Maiden fan’s dream come true and is also a great place for the curious to learn the history of one of the best metal bands ever. (EMI)
EXCLAIM! album review – December 2003
Dance of Death
By Sean Palmerston
When Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith rejoined Iron Maiden in 1999, very few expected the band to regain the momentum they had before both originally departed. It was assumed a good reunion tour would occur — this happened with the Ed Hunter tour — and maybe one good comeback record (2001’s Brave New World), but I think it’s fair to say most assumed it would end or at least go downhill from there. Dance of Death proves this wrong. In fact, this album succeeds over Brave New World and is, in all senses, a classic Maiden album. If there was one major complaint about Brave New World, it was that the guitar tones on the album sounded dated. In today’s metal world guitars are expected to heavy heavy heavy; Brave New World’s tones bordered on being a little fey. That’s not the case this time about. The guitars have a fuller, rich sound to them — still not up to your typical post-millennium death metal band, but a noted improvement. The songs themselves are also more up-tempo. Apart from one major stinker, the AOR-sounding “Rainmaker,” this is one of the strongest collection of songs the band has offered since 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Opening track “Wildest Dreams” is a kick off. It has an intensity that’s similar to “The Wickerman” on the last album. The epic “Dance of Death,” clocking in at over eight minutes, is similar to songs like “Fear of the Dark” and “The Clansman” in the way it builds. The synths that follow the guitar lines in the song are a little much, but those into symphonic power metal like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody will absolutely love it. As for old school Maiden fans, will they be satisfied? I think it’s safe to say Dance of Death will be a pleasant surprise to any that are still proud to say they’re still a fan, although it’s not going to be an all-time band classic. (EMI)
EXCLAIM! live review – Sept 2003
Iron Maiden / Dio / Motörhead
Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto ON – August 3, 2003
By Sean Palmerston
This triple bill was made for old school metal-heads. Motörhead kicked things off, storming the stage early and sending the crowd scrambling for their seats. Ploughing through classics like “No Class,” “Metropolis” and “Killed By Death,” the trio played deafeningly loud and left everyone with a lust for more after a fantastic encore of “Ace Of Spades” and the ultimate closer “Overkill.” Dio had a lot to live up to and failed miserably. While the 63-year-old warbler still has a hell of a voice, even his honed chops couldn’t lift a lifeless, limp performance by the rest of his band. The end of Dio’s set couldn’t arrive quickly enough, especially knowing Iron Maiden was up next. And up they were. This was the Maiden set I have always dreamed of. This show was nearly perfect. With a set depicting their mascot Eddie throughout his different incarnations, they opened with five straight songs from their peak: “Number of The Beast,” “The Trooper,” “Die With Your Boots On,” “Revelations” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” You couldn’t have asked for a better beginning and they just built on it. Playing before the largest crowd they’ve had in Toronto in more than a decade — at least 12,000 — the band made good use of their allotted time and wowed the crowd. Upcoming single “Wildest Dreams” was the only new song; its “Wickerman”-style intensity shows promise for the upcoming album. The rest of the show was classic after classic. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand and was in fine form, except during “2 Minutes To Midnight,” when he was busy kicking beach balls into the crowd. His exuberance and the band’s surprise at the warm reception Toronto gave in return supercharged their performance and made it the best metal show I have seen in Canada this year.
EXCLAIM! album review – August 2000
Brave New World
By Sean Palmerston
Iron Maiden did the inevitable in 1999 when its most successful line-up (plus additional guitarist Jannick Gers) reunited for the Ed Hunter tour. This version of the band was responsible for the albums that made Iron Maiden arguably the most influential metal band in the world. After recording two terrible albums with replacement vocalist Blaze Bayley, there was worry from long-time fans that even with the reunion, the recorded output would be sub-standard, but Brave New World is a pleasant surprise. Kicking off with the initial wallop of album starter “The Wicker Man,” the band burns through a speedy introductory track not entirely unlike “Aces High,” Powerslave’s legendary leadoff. But instead of creating a record full of simple stock and barrel rockers, à la “The Wicker Man,” throughout, something they could have easily done and actually did with 1990’s No Prayer for The Dying, the band allow themselves the opportunity to stretch out musically and make one of their most adventurous albums yet. With tracks such as the nine-minute-plus “Dream of Mirrors” and “The Nomad,” the band takes a progressive edge in songwriting that surpasses any conceptions the listener may have as to what Maiden2K should sound like. They take chances in almost every song and manage to do so without sounding embarrassingly silly or dinosaur-like. If anything, Brave New World is the most modern and intelligent album the band has made in over a dozen years. (EMI)