best of the beast

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Virus” (1996 single) / Metal For Muthas (1979)

Part 23 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!  Continuing where we left off with Best of the Beast, we’re also taking a glance back to the past…

IRON MAIDEN – “Virus” (1996 two-part CD singles)

Last time, I was talking about Maiden’s first-ever greatest hits set, Best of the Beast.  But there was also the single to be had, “Virus”.

Much like other UK singles, “Virus” was released in two parts each with its own B-sides and cover art.  If you bought the first, you also got a box with 5 postcards and space to store the second disc.

The first disc contained the (unadvertized) single edit version of “Virus”.  I can happily live without the slow, boring, goes-nowhere first three minutes of that song.  At least the single edit only has the up-tempo part of the song.  I recall when the single came out, a few of us had grumbled that Maiden seemed to be losing it…

The B-sides on this first single were the previously released covers, “My Generation” and “Doctor Doctor”.  You could get these tracks on the previous single, “Lord of the Flies” from The X Factor.  Having said that, these are great versions, among the best covers Maiden have ever recorded in this writer’s opinion.  “My Generation” is of course the Who classic.  Maiden breathe their original punky sensibilities into this one, and it rocks like nothing that actually made it onto The X Factor!  “Doctor Doctor” is a beefed up version of the classic UFO song, and my preferred version.

The second disc was the really, really special one.  It had the album version of “Virus” (all bloody 6:15 of it, ugh) but it also has the ultra rare “Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild” from the 1979 compilation album, Metal For Muthas! When I had first picked up the single for “Virus”, I didn’t even know these recordings existed.  Collectors rejoice!  These tracks were previously unavailable anywhere else but Metal For Muthas, and this is the first CD release.

“Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild” both feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals, and are from the short-lived Maiden lineup of Di’Anno, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Tony Parsons, and Doug Sampson.  This represents one of Maiden’s earliest recordings.  There are more from this lineup, but we’re not going to talk about those for a while yet…

Do I need to mention that these two tracks are just pure smoke of the early-Maiden variety?

A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that there is a 12″ single release of “Virus” as well, this one with the two missing Soundhouse Tapes tracks that weren’t on the Best of the Beast CD.  Adding to “want” list!

I found the cover art of the “Virus” single to be a little lacklustre, particularly the one in the petri dish.  Like, really?  It didn’t scream to be made into a cool poster for my wall.  There were some cooler things on the postcards including one by Derek Riggs.

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Best of the Beast (1996 2 CD edition)

Part 22 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996)

I’m not sure what prompted Iron Maiden to put out their first greatest hits disc in 1996, but at least they did it in style.  Originally available as a limited edition 2 CD book set, it was pretty extravagant packaging for the time.   My only beef is by the nature of such packaging, the paper sleeves will always scratch your discs, 100% of the time.

This album was also available in a standard edition single disc, with the songs in a different running order.  I don’t have that one so I’m not going to talk aboot it.

The 2 disc version, perhaps to emphasize that Blaze Bayley is the current Maiden vocalist, starts at the present and then rewinds all the way back to the beginning, closing with The Soundhouse Tapes!  An interesting approach indeed.  As a listening experience I’m not sure that it works that well.

Since we’re starting at the present, the album kicks off with a new song.  “Virus” is 6:30 of same-old same-old X Factor Maiden, but not as good as anything on that album.   It drags and drags for three minutes before finally kicking into gear, but it is otherwise repetitive and boring until then.  Lyrically, it is another attack on the sicknesses in society, much like “Be Quick Or Be Dead” and “Justice of the Peace” were.

Then back in time one year, to “Sign of the Cross”, the dramatic 11 minute epic from The X Factor, as well as “Man on the Edge”.  (I would have preferred “Lord of the Flies” to “Man on the Edge”, but perhaps “Man” was the bigger single of the two.)

To bridge into the Fear of the Dark album, a new live version of “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” is featured, with Blaze Bayley singing.  It’s a good live version, but it’s immediately obvious that Blaze is no Bruce.

Bruce takes over on the next track, “Be Quick Or Be Dead”, and we’re back in the saddle.  Singles (including the popular live version of “Fear of the Dark”) and album tracks are counted down from 1993 to 1986’s Somewhere In Time album, ending disc 1 with “Wasted Years”, a great closer.  My beef here:  I would have preferred the single “Stranger In A Strange Land” to the album track “Heaven Can Wait” (but I know the Heavy Metal OverloRd doesn’t agree with me!)

Disc 2 is the glory years, if you will, everything from Live After Death to the beginning.  It begins with the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a ballsy move for a greatest hits album, and the live version at that.  Chasing it is the live single version of “Running Free”.  Then we count them down, all the singles from Powerslave to “Run To The Hills”, plus “Where Eagles Dare” and  “Hallowed Be Thy Name” thrown in for good measure.

Then it’s the Di’Anno years, which are given an unfortunately brief expose.  “Wrathchild”, from Killers  is one of the best songs from that era, but the only included track from that album.  Maiden’s first epic, “Phantom of the Opera” and the single “Sanctuary” represent the debut Iron Maiden.  Finally, an unreleased track from The Soundhouse Tapes sessions (“Strange World”), and the rare Soundhouse version of “Iron Maiden” close the set.  To read my review of The Soundhouse Tapes and these tracks, click here.

There was also a 4 LP vinyl edition available, with 7 extra tracks:  “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”,  “The Prisoner”, “Killers”, “Remember Tomorrow”, an exclusive live version of “Revelations” from the Piece of Mind tour, plus the final two songs from The Soundhouse Tapes, “Prowler” and “Invasion”. You can read a story about the 4 LP edition by clicking here.

And there you have it, Maiden’s first greatest hits set, with lots of the hits and plenty of rarities thrown in for the collectors.  I confess that I don’t listen to it often, and this time for this review was the first time in roughly two years.

The cover art was once again by Derek Riggs, doing a sort of mash-up of his (and nobody else’s) Eddie’s.  It’s a suitably glorious piece of art for such a monument of metal.  The inside of the book is loaded with concert dates, lyrics, liner notes, and chart positions, as well as more Eddie’s and photos!

I still want to talk about the single, “Virus”, but I think that it should get an article of its own.  Check back soon for that!

Curiosity: the cover features an ad for the never-to-be Iron Maiden video game, Melt!  Maiden did eventually release a video game, but we’re not going there yet….

For the 2 CD edition of Best of the Beast:

4/5 stars

Part 123 / NON-REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Missing Maidens! (Live!! +one and more)

Not really part of my series of Iron Maiden reviews.

There are a few Iron Maiden musical items that I’ll probably never own.  I know I won’t own all the singles, but that’s OK — The First Ten Years set, and the first 10 albums with bonus discs takes care of those songs.  There are rarer things to be discussed.  As I pause between Live After Death and Somewhere In Time in my review series, this is a good time to talk about a couple items.

IRON MAIDEN – Live!! +one (EP, 1980 Japan, 1984 Greece reissue)

This four song EP was released in Japan shortly after the “Women In Uniform” single came out.  It contains two songs from that single:  the title track, and the live version of “Phantom of the Opera” from the Marquee.

It also contains two live songs not available anywhere else:  “Sanctuary” and “Drifter” from the same Marquee show.  They’re awesome of course, if you’ve heard the early live Di’Anno stuff that I talked about in my Maiden reviews, then you can imagine these are just as good.  Di’Anno does his “yo, yo yo yo” thing on “Drifter”.

I have seen them go for around $100 on eBay.   This is definitely on my current “Holy Grail” list.

4/5 stars

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996 four-LP box set)

For this, I’m going to take a moment and slide into a Record Store Tale because this is one of those moments that I wish I could change!

RECORD STORE TALES PART 123:  Missing Maidens!

Trevor and I frequented record shows several times a year.  On one such excursion, we were in a Dr. Disc store.  It was in Hamilton, Ontario.  That same visit, the same Dr. Disc store even had Chikara, a rare Japanese Kiss compilation, on CD.  But I passed on that, and I passed on the vinyl edition of Best of the Beast, too….

You know those high shelves where they put the expensive items?  And you have to ask someone to get it down for you?  And they’d go to the back room and get a step ladder?  That’s where Best of the Beast was.

Back then, information about such sets wasn’t readily available.  I didn’t know it existed until I saw it.  If I did, I would have known that the vinyl version had an exclusive live cut of “Revelations”… not the live version from Live After Death!  This wasn’t immediately obvious from the back cover.  It is only today that I know this!


The vinyl version had plenty more music as well, including album cuts such as “Where Eagles Dare” and “The Prisoner”.  It also had the only official re-release of The Soundhouse Tapes ever, since the original 5000.   I had that bootleg copy of The Soundhouse Tapes and More so I deemed this to be a less essential purchase.  Especially for the $200 that Dr. Disc was asking.  But it was sealed, mint, brand new.

I recently saw one in questionable shape on eBay for $240.  Some joker on Amazon is asking $900 for sealed copies right now.

So, right now, odds do not seem to be in my favour of lightning striking twice.  I don’t know if I will ever have another chance to own this at a decent price in good condition.  Alas.  I wish I could turn back time!