REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Live After Death (1985,1996 bonus CD, 1998 remastered edition)

Part 8 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Live After Death (1985, 1996 bonus CD, 1998 remastered edition)

…We shall go on to the end.  We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.  We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!

With that dramatic, adrenaline pumping speech from Winston Churchill, Iron Maiden hit the stage, careening across the boards ripping to shreds the opening riff to “Aces High”, guitars cranked and perfectly captured by producer Martin “Live Animal” Birch! Live After Death may be the perfect live metal album.  Running over a mammoth 100 minutes (on LP anyway), it required specially skilled engineers to cut the vinyl, so long were the records!

I have played this album so many times I could review it in my sleep. I own three copies of it, each one for its own reasons (more on that later). Iron Maiden could very well have released this album and retired, and their place in metal history would have been secured. Great value for the price of a double live album, this was at the time one of the longest double live albums ever released, with not one second of precious vinyl wasted.  The package was loaded with photos and text.

Inside the gatefold

Recorded in Long Beach, California (you can tell by Bruce’s incessant shouting, “Scream for me, Long Beach!”) and the Hammersmith Odeon, the crowds are absolutely nuts for Maiden. This is one of the best recorded live metal albums of all time, thanks to Birch. The crowd is loud, the band is clear, and the harmony vocals of Adrian and Steve are perfectly audible.  I’m certain there’s overdubs on those backing vocals, they’re too perfect.  Whatever.  Do I like the album?  Hell yeah.

There are some tunes here that you don’t hear live very often, such as “Die With Your Boots On” and the 14 minute epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (made even better with Bruce’s intro: “This is about what not to do if a bird shits on you!”). “Powerslave” is as powerful and dramatic as the original album version, glorious solo intact. There are a handful of key Di’Anno-era tracks, such as the single “Running Free”, the growling “Wrathchild”, and the band’s early opus, “Phantom of the Opera”. Indeed, this album is worth buying for “Phantom” alone, so rarely is this played. As for “Running Free”, this may now be the definitive version of that song.

(Note: the cassette version of the album edited out the long Bruce/crowd interplay.)

Here’s the three versions I own, and why:

1. Vinyl. This was what I bought back in 1985  (my first Maiden LP), and I still have it. The original vinyl was a gatefold sleeve enabling you to read all the hidden messages on the tombstones.  “Letit R.I.P.” was my favourite. Inside, the album unfolds with two fully coloured photo record sleeves and a generous booklet with liner notes from Birch and a complete list of every date on the tour. Also amusing was a list of everything they went through on tour, from guitar strings to cans of beer.

2. The 1998 remastered CD edition. The original CD releases everywhere were only one single disc, and comprised only the first three sides of vinyl, ending after “Running Free”. This CD version restores side 4 on a second CD, which included “Phantom” and “22 Acacia Avenue” among others — you can’t do without these songs!  It also includes a completely different set of photos from the album release, so that’s cool if you already have the vinyl.  No overlap.

3. The 1995 UK CD reissue of this album, which included all three B-sides. The “Running Free” single had two exclusive songs, which were “Sanctuary” and “Murdered In The Rue Morgue”, both with Bruce singing of course. The “Run To The Hills” single included the very rare instrumental “Losfer Words” which, as far as I know, was only played a handful of times and never again.

Briefly on the cover art:  You recall last time we saw Eddie was being buried.  Well, he seems to have recovered.  You can see the pyramid in the background.  How much time has passed?  Maybe we’ll find out next album….

If you don’t own Live After Death yet, then it’s time to fix that!

5/5 stars.

I’m going to pause here for a few days, as this seems a natural place to do so.  Not only does Live After Death summarize the previous 6 years appropriately, but the Iron Maiden that emerged after it would be a newly modernized Beast, “Caught somewhere in time…”

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12 comments

  1. Not just one of the best live albums. Just one of the best albums period. Superb. I’ve got the vinyl and the 98 CD and agree you must have both! (I’ve got the B-Sides as part of the 1st Ten Years box).

    My favourite moments are the Powerslave solo which is just the greatest solo ever. And the part of Rime… where the band comes back in for the “then down it falls….. comes the rain” bit. Bruce’s screams and yeahs at that point just make the whole song! It’s hard to go back to the studio version after hearing that! :)

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  2. Did you ever mention before that you have the 1st Ten Years Box? I don’t recall…maybe you did a while ago.

    I know what you mean about Bruce’s scream and then the “yeaah heahh!” or however it should be spelled. That’s so cool. I played this album so many times man.

    I can remember one summer during my awkward grumpy early teen years. My walkman had broken. My parents let me to listen to the whole album in the car while on a road trip. Unbelievable. I have really cool parents. They were never into the music, they never got it, but they got that I was PASSIONATE about it and they never did anything to discourage me.

    My sister tells me that when I wasn’t around, my mom would watch my music videos and make sure there was nothing weird going on in them. But she never said anything to me, and I still got the albums for Christmas, and I still got A’s and B’s in school, so I guess all was well.

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    1. Yeah, we chatted about that a wee while back. I’ve got the Ten Years Box Set but lost the lid! I also had the Eddie’s Head with the flashing eyes but got fed up with the head blinking at me all the time and threw it out. I’m such an idiot sometimes… But I’ve still got all the albums and that’s the main thing (I keep telling myself)

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      1. Oh man! I have Record Store Tales about guys like you! Hahah. I always wondered why somebody would throw out the box to, say the Led Zep box set!

        Could you not take out the batteries? I had Pink Floyd P.U.L.S.E., but I just took out the batteries.

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        1. It’s not something I would normally do. I did stick with it for a few months and, if I remember right I did take out the batteries…

          really only bought it cause it was the cheapest way to get all the albums (and I got a staff discount on it too) and I actually wasn’t that fussed about the box. I just thought it looked naff and it was really cheap and plasticy. So I turfed it. But I kind of regret it because it is probably a rarity now!

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  3. I agree with u fellas this IS the greatest Live album of all time!!!
    What can be said about it that hasn’t been said …packaging layout everything.
    The ultimate must have!
    I remember I was 18 when this came out and I picked it up on a Friday after school and raced home and unwrapped it and was blown away…..
    Powerful stuff and excellent marketing…..
    I really like the Hammersmith side and Running Free, I remember my buddy bought it on tape at the time and he was pissed cuz they edited out Bruce’s talking to the crowd during running free due to time constraints on the cassette.
    But even inside the cassette I remember they still stuffed the inside with photos,recording notes etc,my buddy thought it was cool until he seen my copy of the Vinyl layout of Live After Death,than he wanted to puke!
    Haha

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    1. I remember my buddy Bob had it on cassette…the night that he brought it over the first time, we were listening, and I THINK “Phantom of the Opera” was missing from the track list on the cover. Because it started playing, neither of us knew the song yet, and we had no idea what was going on. I seem to remember it was printed on the cassette, but not the cover. Or vice versa!

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  4. I plugged in this record and looked at the tracklist. And you know what? That’s all you need to know that this is absolutely fucking unbelievable. A band at one of its peaks. The only way it could fail is if the recording was of poor quality, or if the versions of the songs were weak. Pfffbbbppt. With Maiden, you know it is QUALITY! This is unreal:

    Intro: Churchhill’s Speech/Aces High/2 Minutes To Midnight/The Trooper/Revelations/Flight Of Icarus/Rime Of The Ancient Mariner/Powerslave/The Number Of The Beast/Hallowed Be Thy Name/Iron Maiden/Run To The Hills/Running Free//Wrathchild/22 Acacia Avenue/Children Of the Damned/Die With Your Boots On/Phantom Of The Opera.

    That is all. And that is incredible.

    Holy shit. Those fans lucky enough to attend shows on this tour got their MONEY’S WORTH.

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