the soundhouse tapes

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


REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Killers (1981, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 3 in my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Killers (1981, 1996 bonus CD, EMI)

After the masterful introduction that was the first Iron Maiden album, the band jettisoned guitarist Dennis Stratton to get the guy that Steve wanted years before:  Adrian Smith.  An old buddy of Dave Murray, Adrian fit like a glove and the next album was recorded.

Written entirely by Steve Harris except for one Di’Anno co-write, Killers was also produced by Martin Birch.  Birch had already helmed the biggest and best albums by Deep Purple, and was more than capable of capturing the Maiden sound in the studio, unlike former producer Will Malone.

Popular opinion is split on Killers.  Some fans see it as a significant up-shift from the previous, others see it as inferior.  Both aruments hold water.  There is no denying that the partnership with Martin Birch created a better sounding album, one more consistent with the band’s live intensity.  The addition of Smith on guitar meant that you’re hearing a more unified sound, two guitar players in great sync with each other.  The songs are also harder and more intricate, with even more sections and changes.

While Killers is a good album in those respects, the songs were not as memorable this time out.  There are two scorchers on this record that are among my all-time Maiden favourites:  “Wrathchild” and “Killers” itself.  Then you have some second tier goodies like “Murders In The Rue Morgue”, “Innocent Exile”, and “Drifter”.  Beyond that, there’s little else here that would make my Maiden road tape.  I don’t know why, but time after time, listen after listen, year after year, the rest stubbornly refuses to grow on me.

Killers contains one ballad (“Prodigal Son”, which is almost like Iron Zeppelin) and two instrumentals (“The Ides of March” and “Genghis Khan”).  Oddly enough, one of those instrumentals, “The Ides of March” is identical to a song by rival NWOBHM band Samson, called “Thunderburst”.  The song was originally an Iron Maiden idea; Samson’s drummer Thunderstick was very briefly in Iron Maiden during the late 1970’s.  Samson’s singer was some guy called Bruce Bruce, known to his mum as Bruce Dickinson.

This picture disc edition of Killers came with a bonus CD containing all the associated non-album songs.  “Twilight Zone”, included here, is actually an A-side of a non-album single.  The US version of Killers had “Twilight Zone” on the album.  Its selection as a single ahead of something like “Wrathchild” seems strange with hindsight.  I never really liked the song that much, aside from Di’Anno’s screamy chorus.  This one was a Dave Murray co-write as well.

Another non-album single, the infamous “Women In Uniform” is also included.  This is the one that the band hated, a cover from a German band called Skyhooks.  I liked it because of my early association with the cheesey music video.  I wouldn’t call it a standout track, but I like it better than “Twilight Zone”.  This single acually pre-dated Killers, and Dennis Stratton is still on guitar.  Its two B-sides, “Invasion” and “Phantom Of The Opera (Live)” are both included.  “Invasion” is an improved remake of the song from the first EP, The Soundhouse Tapes.  It’s still not up to the standard of anything on album #1, but it’s still an entertaining tale of the Norsemen comin’, “raping and pillaging, robbin’ and lootin’ the land.”  An early Maiden history lesson from Steve Harris.

I’ll have to say something about Derek Rigg’s artwork as well:  Now we know what Eddie was up in that back alley on the last album!  No good, clearly, as he’s weilding a bloody hatchet, as a man’s hands can be seen grasping his shirt.  Behind Eddie, you can see a “kinky sex shop” and the Ruskin Arms, where many legendary Maiden gigs went down.  Is that Charlotte in the red window?

Rating Killers is very difficult.  It’s still better than most band’s best albums, yet it’s one of my least favourite.  Trying to be objective here, I will rate Killers:

3.5/5 stars

Also pictured below:  A bootleg CD from the tour called Another Live.

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – The Soundhouse Tapes

Part 1 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews! 

IRON MAIDEN – The Soundhouse Tapes (1979)

I do not own this EP in its original form, unfortunately.  I probably never will — there were only 5000 made, independently.  Maiden were one of the first metal bands to release an indi EP, and among the most successful. For now I’ll have to be content with the CD bootleg that I have, which is called The Soundhouse Tapes and More.  It’s a physical format, at least.  I think Trevor snagged this one for me, at his store.

The Soundhouse Tapes was Maiden’s first official release, a 3 song limited edition.  Guitarist Tony Parsons had just left the band and Maiden did the EP as a four piece:  Founder Steve Harris (bass), longtime guitarist Dave Murray, Paul Di’Anno on vocals and drummer Doug Sampson.

It sounds essentially like a well recorded demo.  The songs lack the energy, speed and fire of their live counterparts, but they are flawless blueprints.  “Prowler” is present with all its components intact, but without the cocky breakneck pace.  It sounds like Maiden were warming up, and perhaps in a sense they were!


  1. “Iron Maiden”
  2. “Invasion”
  3. “Prowler”

“Iron Maiden” and “Prowler” made the first album, and I probably don’t need to tell you how awesome these songs are.  These versions are inferior, but having said that, they still smoke most of the NWOBHM releases of the time.  “Invasion”, a somewhat lesser song, was destined to become a B-side later on.   Steve would revive the subject matter (the Norman conquest of England) and some of the lyrics later on too….

A fourth song, an embrionic “Strange World” with prototypical solos, was recorded but left unreleased for the next 17 years.  It finally came out on 1996’s Best Of The Beast.  As an added bonus to vinyl collectors, Best Of The Best contained a reissue of  the entire Soundhouse Tapes, but only if you bought vinyl.  Which I had the opportunity to do, but not the balls to spend that much in one place, and I blew it.  This remains the EP’s only official reissue, and will remain so for the forseeable future.

4/5 stars