different world

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (2006 live bootleg CD)

Part two of a two-part series on live bootlegs. For part one, click here!

IRON MAIDEN –  Revenge Is Living In the Past (2006 live bootleg CD, The Godfatherecords)

Astute metal fans know that there have been couple very special Iron Maiden tours of late that were not commemorated with a live album. That’s shocking considering how many live albums Maiden’s done since reuniting with Bruce and Adrian in 1999 (four). The one I had been seeking the most was the Matter of Life and Death tour. On that tour, Maiden played every song from that excellent album in sequence. Some moaned and complained about the shows being loaded top-heavy with an album 70 minutes in length. Those people did not appreciate what they were witnessing, which was the only time you were going to be hearing most of these songs live. And what great songs they are. I am on record with A Matter of Life and Death being among my favourite Iron Maiden albums.

Then, at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014, I found it: A soundboard recorded double CD from Stockholm, November 18 2006. This was the second of two nights at the Globe arena. (They would return to Stockholm again a week later on the 25th!) I do not pay money for “burned” (CD-R) bootlegs, and one vendor had hundreds of beautifully packaged, factory pressed live bootlegs. They had many from this label, The Godfatherecords, all in lovely digipacks. I paid $40, the most I paid for any single item at the CD show. This was well below the $60 that I paid 15 years ago for the awful Virtual Lights Strikes Over France, also by Iron Maiden. I think $40 was a fair price for a double bootleg CD of this quality.

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How does a live performance of A Matter of Life and Death hold up?  Remarkably well!  In fact there was only one song that I felt didn’t work well, which was “The Longest Day”.  It’s a great song on album, but live, Bruce’s vocal is more erratic.  Still, it is hard to be critical since this is but a blip in the course of the CD.  The songs are remarkably album-accurate otherwise, with Steve and Adrian providing backing vocals where needed.

“Different World” is a brilliant opener, and the crowd is immediately fired up.  Also well received was the single “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”.  At the conclusion of A Matter of Life and Death, Maiden break into “Fear of the Dark,” and the crowd sings along to every word, as they often do.  The set closes with classics:  “Iron Maiden,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Evil That Men Do,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.  All brilliant of course.  It is good to have an excellent sounding commemoration of this tour.  I had never really understood why Iron Maiden did not release their own official CD.  That’s why the world needs bootleggers.

The Godfatherecords generously filled out the second CD with four songs from another very special show:  Rome, October 27 1981.  Why is that special?  It was only Bruce Dickinson’s second show with the band!  Ever!  Paul Di’Anno’s final show was only a couple weeks prior, on the 10th.   From this show, we get “Iron Maiden,” “Transylvania” (what a bizarre song to include since it’s instrumental), “Drifter” and “Prowler”.  I don’t think I have a copy of Bruce singing “Drifter” on anything else I own!

The sound quality is not that great, as expected.  The lineup then was Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Clive Burr.  Immediately obvious is that the band were playing much faster back then, and Bruce’s range was greater.  It’s very cool to hear Steve Harris himself do the song introduction on “Transylvania”!  I don’t think I’ve ever hear him speak so much on stage before.  (He also introduces “Prowler” with Bruce.)   And Bruce singing “Drifter”?  Very different.  The audience “Yo yo yo yo’s!” along to Bruce, but it sure sounds weird to hear anybody but Paul Di’Anno doing it.

This is a great CD, and if you happen upon it, I recommend you add it to your collection.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW/GUEST SHOT: Iron Maiden – A Matter of Life and Death (by Meat)

Photo0637This one arrived too late to slide into the schedule when I posted my own review of A Matter of Life and Death.  Better late than never!  Here’s the infamous Meat with his take on the album.  A more seasoned take, perhaps.  Enjoy!

That’s the Meat Man on the left, in case you didn’t know.

He’s a pretty big Iron Maiden fan…

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IRON MAIDEN – A Matter of Life and Death (2006)

The Reincarnation of Iron Maiden

To semi-quote a good friend of mine,  “I have seen Iron Maiden live…I have seen Iron Maiden live…a lot”

  • November 30, 1984 –Maple Leaf Gardens- World Slavery Tour (Twisted Sister opening)
  • July 20, 1999 – Massey Hall – Ed Hunter Tour
  • May 5, 2003 – Molson Amphitheater –  Give Em’ ‘Ed Til I’m Dead Tour (Motorhead and Dio opening)
  • August 3, 2005 – Air Canada Center – Eddie Rips Up the World Tour
  • October 16, 2006 – Air Canada Center – A Matter of Life and Death Tour
  • March 16, 2008 – Air Canada Center – Somewhere Back in Time World Tour
  • July 13, 2012 – Molson Amphitheater – Maiden England World Tour

I was 15 when I first saw Iron Maiden live.  I remember standing outside Sam the Record Man downtown Kitchener to get the tickets. Took one of those party busses up to Toronto for the show. When I saw Maiden this last July, it was hard to believe that the first time I saw them was 28 years earlier.  While there are specific memories from each and every one of those shows, the aforementioned A Matter of Life and Death Tour holds a special place in my concert-loving heart.

Having seen Maiden four times previous, I was obviously excited for another great show, but was also expecting another “greatest hits” tour with a dabble of new material.  What I and the other 15,799 concertgoers got was something else. I have seen a shit load of concerts.  But never have I seen a band come on stage and literally play their new album to a sold out crowd… from track 1 to the end.  I didn’t really even know the album that well going into the show.   But it was one of my favorite concert experiences ever.  I can imagine that rehearsals for this tour were quite extensive.  It’s one thing for them to get together and polish up “The Prisoner” or “Clairvoyant”. It’s another thing to rehearse all your new material and get it  ready for touring.  And this album especially…for these reasons…

  • The shortest track on the album is 5:08  (“The Pilgrim”)
  • This may be the band’s most progressive album, song-structure wise.

With all due respect to Dance of Death and Brave New World, I believe Iron Maiden had not released something this relevant since 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. A Matter of Life and Death sees Maiden finding a seamless way to connect hooks within unpredictable progressive grooves. This band has always been linked with Thin Lizzy in several ways, but never more than this album.  There are moments where you start to actually appreciate Thin Lizzy more by listening to it, which I suspect may have been a conscious or sub-conscious goal in the creation of this album.

There is not a weak track on this album. There are several A++ songs. The opening track, “Different World” is as such and is and was a great song to start off a show.  “For the Greater Good of God”, the longest track on the album, sees Maiden showing heavy chops while somehow staying bluesy. “The Longest Day” might be the most progressive Iron Maiden track of all time. Also my favorite track on the album, “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns”, hypnotically kicks  ass with melody. Hey, that pretty much defines the band itself doesn’t it?

A Matter of Life and Death is indeed “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns”; one of the most important albums in the Maiden canon.

5/5 stars

Meat.

Thanks to regular reader Deke for showing me this video!

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” / “Different World” singles

Part 40 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

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IRON MAIDEN – “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” / “Different World” (CD, vinyl, DVD, download singles)

There were a lot of B-sides made available for A Matter of Life and Death, so let’s talk about ’em all, shall we?  It’s the last time we’ll have a chance to do so, as since this time Maiden haven’t released any B-sides at all.

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“The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” (CD, 10″ vinyl)

This awesome song was made available in two formats.  Both had BBC Legends sessions.  The CD has a great version of “Hallowed By That Name”, which is also the iTunes bonus track.  If you’re like me, no doubt you prefer a physical format to a bunch of 1’s and 0’s floating invisibly on your hard drive, yes?   If that is indeed the case, then the CD single is where it’s at, and it’s a corker.  I love the sound of the three guitars on this one.  Not one, but two playing the melody, with one playing the rhythm.

There’s also a beautiful 10″ vinyl, with a sticker.  Clear 10″ vinyl, very cool.  The vinyl had two more songs from this session:  “The Trooper” and “Run to the Hills”.  Now, if you’ve been following along, then you’re already aware there are plenty of live versions of all three of these tracks on the various Maiden live albums, not to mention previous B-sides, and the Eddie’s Archive box.  What’s the difference?  Well, if you want all the power and breakneck energy of a Maiden live performance without crowd noise, this is the way to hear it.  It’s live in the studio.

CD

  1. “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”
  2. “Hallowed Be That Name” (Radio 1 ‘Legends’ Session)

10″ vinyl

A. “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg”
B1. “The Trooper” (Radio 1 ‘Legends’ Session)
B2. “Run to the Hills” (Radio 1 ‘Legends’ Session)

5/5 stars

“Different World” (US CD single, UK CD single, DVD single, 7″ single, download)

This is where things start getting a little crazy.  Yes, you had to buy five different formats to get all the tracks.  Incredible.  It’s stuff like this that makes me miss the simpler old days of collecting!  Let’s go through these, one by one.

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US CD

This one was redundant if you already own the “Benjamin Breeg” singles.  This one repeats “The Trooper” and “Hallowed” from that single, leaving “Run To The Hills” as a vinyl exlusive.

  1. “Different World”
  2. “Hallowed Be That Name” (Radio 1 ‘Legends’ Session)
  3. “The Trooper” (Radio 1 ‘Legends’ Session)

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UK CD

Europe had their own exclusive CD B-side, however.

  1. “Different World”
  2. “Iron Maiden” (Live in Copenhagen on the A Matter of Life and Death tour)

So, yes, I shelled out for a live version of a song that I already have numerous live versions of!  (4 versions on the BBC Archives album alone!)  Life of a collector.  How does it differ from other live versions?  Shit, I don’t know.

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DVD single

DVD singles seemed to be a passing fad, somewhat.  I hope so anyway.  I don’t like ’em.  I don’t see the point of 1) putting out a single that you can’t play in some countries due to region codes, and 2) putting out an audio track on a video format.  This being Maiden though, I made sure I bought this, from the UK Amazon site.

  1. “Different World”
  2. “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” (Live in Copenhagen on the A Matter of Life and Death tour)
  3. “Hocus Pocus”

At least the music has some value to it!  A live version of “Benjamin Breeg”, the first and thus far only live release of that song.  And as per Maiden’s usual high standards, it’s freaking great.

But the real cool thing is “Hocus Pocus”, a cover of, yes, the song by Focus!  Lead vocals…sort of…are by Nicko.  No yodeling though.  Just Nicko’s usual nonsensical ramblings in the background! Worth having for sure, but as a cover…what’s the point without the yodeling?  As a cover version, it’s disappointing.  Nicko yodeling?  That would have been awesome.

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7″ single

A picture disc, and a sweet looking one at that, this one has a live version of “Fear of the Dark”.

A. “Different World”
B. “Fear of the Dark” (Live in Copenhagen on the A Matter of Life and Death tour)

Once again, it’s a B-side that we already have lots of live versions of, nothing wrong with it, but nothing especially different either.

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mp3 download single

  1.  “Different World” (Live in Aalborg on the A Matter of Life and Death tour)
  2. “Interview with Steve Harris on A Matter of Life and Death”

And another brand new live track!  Once again, this one has yet to be released on any live albums, so it truly is an exclusive.  It was available via the official Maiden site.  It’s cool to hear Steve and Adrian joining Bruce on the chorus, it sounds great.

The interview with Steve, 10 minutes long, I do not have.  Interviews are not high on my priority list for collecting, and it is no longer available.  It was only made available to those who pre-ordered the mp3 single, which I did not do.  There was also an interview disc made available with the Eddie’s Head box set, which I do not have.  Not a big deal to me, the music has always been what I’ve aimed to collect.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – A Matter of Life and Death (2006 CD/DVD)

Part 39 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

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IRON MAIDEN – A Matter of Life and Death (2006 CD/DVD)

“Majestic” is the best word I can think of to describe A Matter of Life and Death, the 14th studio album by Iron Maiden (and 3rd of the “reunion era). That, and “classic”! This truly is classic Maiden: Most songs running between 7 and 9 minutes long, recorded virtually live off the floor, raw and epic. I truly believe that this represents the absolute peak of Maiden’s creativity. While not a concept album like Seventh Son, it does indeed follow themes: war, religion, humanity.

Anybody who thought Dance of Death sounded tired had better get ready to be blown away by a revitalized band. This is the best album of the reunion era, my favourite from the sextet period, and a shining moment in the Maiden canon.  10 songs, over an hour of music.  If you’re not a fan of long-winded Maiden, then perhaps this one’s not for you.

While “Different World” starts the show in a fast and furious way, similar to “Wildest Dreams” from Dance of Death, this is no re-tread. This time, melody is at the forefront, especially when Bruce lets rip in the chorus.  To boot, there’s a great dual guitar solo before Adrian (the master of melody) takes one of his own.  This one was written by Steve Harris and Adrian Smith, which almost always proves to be a ferocious, melodious combination.  But it is also the shortest number on the album, and not in any way indicative of the challenging songs to come!

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As if the opening was not good enough, “These Colours Don’t Run” is next.  Going through multiple tempos, from that slow-burn Maiden opening that they’d become known for, to a pounding march, this is another winner.  It is a seven minute epic with many changes, never getting dull, dueling guitars and complex rhythms, always sounding like Iron Maiden.  Producer Kevin Shirley says that Bruce laid down all his vocals live off the floor.  If that’s the case, it explains why there is so much magic in his voice.  This is incredible.  The lyrics reflect an older, wiser Maiden.  No longer satisfied with simple war epics, there is a sadness here now.

Far away from the land of our birth
We fly a flag in some foreign earth
We sailed away like our fathers before
These colours don’t run from cold bloody war

“These Colours”, and the next song, “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” were written by the triumvirate of Bruce, Steve and Adrian, which has produced so many Maiden classics in the past.  The lyrics for “Thousand Suns” reflects religion, war and the atomic bomb.  I’m a big fan of Bruce’s lyrics.  There is even a subtle reference to Robert Oppenheimer:

Whatever would Robert have said to his God?
About how he made war with the sun
E equals MC squared, you can’t relate
How we made God with our hands

This song is not as immediate as the first two, and the chorus still has that repetition that had plagued previous albums, but its melodic quality and epic solos allow it to rise above.  It’s 9 minutes long, probably could have been shorter, but aside from a couple repeated lines of chorus, I don’t know what I would cut.  I like it all.

A shorter one (but still over 5 minutes), “The Pilgrim”, was written by Steve and Janick.  Religion and war are the themes here, seen through the eyes of Steve.  Musically it starts with a stomp, similar to a section of “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, but then they release the brake and accelerate, culminating into another melodic chorus.  Short songs like this help balance the longer material, although the previous songs are superior.

“The Longest Day” begins ominously, like a landing craft gliding quietly through the water.  Once again, Steve, Adrian and Bruce have written a war classic.  Something about Bruce’s lyrics, they’re never simple.  They always have layers to them, and “The Longest Day” is like that.  He spits the words out like a rifle, and the song is spellbinding for its entire 8 minute length, guitar harmonies intertwining with Nicko’s relentless war march.  And that ends side one.

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“Out of the Shadows” begins side two on a somewhat mellow note, acoustic guitars mixed with electrics, and a slower tempo.  Bruce wrote this one with Steve, a rare pairing.  It is probably a good thing to sequence a slow song somewhere in here, as the relentless pounding of the previous five may well have left your brain nothing but mush.  Fortunately there is an epic chorus here to keep us firmly in Maiden-land.

And oh-my-God, if you happened to sleep through “Out of the Shadows”, then Benjamin Breeg has arrived to wake you from your slumber!  I’ll say it again:  the rare occasions that Dave Murray writes a song, it usually produces gold.  “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” is a monstrous epic, and even though it starts slow, that riff will make the dead rise from their graves.  “Benjamin Breeg” is certainly one of the most immediate songs on the album, no mean feat for a song that is 7 1/2 minutes long!  That time goes by in a blur so quickly, you’ll want to hit the back button on your player of choice and see what you may have missed.  Awesome song, and a very brave choice as first single.  There is no question:  This one would make any Iron Maiden mix tape that I put together, hands down.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, almost 10 minutes of “For the Greater Good of God” follows.  Another condemnation of the combination of religion and war, “For the Greater Good of God” is the only song written solely by Steve.  That too is a rare thing, as in the past he usually provides half an album on his own.  A Matter of Life and Death truly is a collaborative effort.   Twisting and turning through many sections, light and shade, this song too would fight for space on any Maiden mix CD that I make.  I have heard criticism that its flaw is Steve trying to cram too many syllables into one line during the choruses.  After a few listens, you don’t really notice anymore.

If you still have any life left in you after that pummeling, then prepare to meet the “Lord of Light”.  Yet another Smith/Dickinson/Harris composition, it too exceeds 7 minutes.  Starting quietly, it soon turns into a relentless pummeling, the three guitars behaving as one, Bruce soaring overtop.  Nicko and Steve drive the whole Beast forward, this is probably the heaviest song in many respects, with a great chorus and many changes in tempo.

And finally, “The Legacy”.  Almost 10 minutes long, “The Legacy” is very different for Maiden.  It is a Steve/Janick composition, mellow, and lyrically devastating.

Sent off to war to play little games
And on their return, can’t name no names
Some strange yellow gas
Has played with their minds
Has reddened their eyes, removed all the lies

As if the acoustic “Journeyman” from the last album injected a new dose of courage into the band, “The Legacy” is a daring way to end an album this heavy.  It begins acoustically and takes a little while to start cooking.   When it does kick into gear, it is a relentless rhythm, and a total triumph.  One of Maiden’s more challenging but rewarding epics.

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The sound of this album is the perfect mix of heavy and raw with just enough polish. The sound straight from the mix was so hot, the band and Kevin Shirley chose not to master this album.  The CD on the shelves is straight from the mixing desk, an unusual choice in mainstream music.  I can’t name another album that wasn’t mastered!  But the sound is perfect, I can’t fault this choice.  It has an immediate, lively, vital sound.  Certainly Bruce’s vocals are a highlight, and if they were live off the floor then more power to him.

(Hey, what happens when they eventually remaster the Maiden catalogue?  What will they call this album?  Just “mastered”?)

As far as the direction goes, the tempos are more “march” and less “gallop”, and that’s fine.  It’s not about repeating the past, it’s about making a great heavy metal album, and Maiden have done that.  Did I miss “the gallop” on this album?  No more than I did on previous Maiden platters like Brave New World.  The album is riff laden, complex, and layered.  You can’t “get” it in just a couple listens. A Matter of Life and Death demands that you devote a great deal of time to it, but when you do, it will pay you back a hundred fold.

Even the cover art is a vast improvement over Dance of Death. Even though Eddie is in the background this time, it’s a great piece of art, by Tim Bradstreet with Grant Goleash.  It is evocative of the music and lyrics, and just a great picture to look at.

iTunes offered a bonus track, a live version of “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, but it is available on some of the singles that we’ll talk about later.  Stay tuned and we’ll discuss all the bonus tracks and B-sides.  There is also a bonus DVD, a documentary on the making of the album.  Included is the “Benjamin Breeg” video, a photo gallery, and an in-studio performance of “Different World”.

In summation, I believe that A Matter of Life and Death is the greatest album of reunion era Maiden.  I also believe it to be their best album since Seventh Son, perhaps even surpassing that lofty masterpiece in some respects.

5/5 stars