Eamonn Stack 2008-05-09
This new collection of Iron Maiden tracks contains work from a period that was creatively their busiest and, arguably, most successful. It's a mixed bag with some tracks certainly sounding their age (like The Trooper in particular). It's straight-ahead, grab-some-furniture, shake-your-brain-for-three-and-a-half-minutes (stopping when you get a bit dizzy, or to have a swig of snakebite), rock.
This collection is a fascinating reflection of the extent to which Iron Maiden defined heavy metal's enduring themes and styles: Alienation, allegory, fantasy, the occult, exploitation and abuse of power. They're also pioneers in terms of understanding that this music is theatre: not just something to be played but really performed.
You also can't discuss 'Maiden without touching on Dickinson's voice. The vocal equivalent of smoking, freshly smelted Sheffield steel, sweating, soaring, clad in leather and studs; it's a combination of gifted genetics, operatic chutzpah and gallons of Newcastle Brown Ale.
One of the early highlights is 2 Minutes To Midnight. Its opening drum damage dives into a finger-itching bassline and infectious hi-hat, over the top of a brilliantly energetic riff that's perfectly complemented by Dickinson's galloping horse vocal delivery. It's an example of hard rock perfection.
Can I Play With Madness and The Number Of The Beast are charging, grand, anthemic, operatic stadium fillers, built on a wall of drum and guitar hooks. Like all great rock, they thrive on increasing volume. They also illustrate Dickinson's vocal dexterity and ability to lift songs that could sound ordinary if they weren't delivered with such bravado and abandon.
Available to download from the Maiden website as a free-for-three-listens bargain - with this album it looks like metal's old warhorses are intent that their mighty legacy will live on well into the next millenium.