In this ongoing slow series of album reviews we have reached all those that begin with “Live”. So we now get an eclectic mix of albums recorded live although I don’t think we will cover the best live album, which is probably No Sleep ‘Till Hammersmith by Motorhead. I’m not sure how long this project is going to take. This series of communications started on 29 April 2013 and it’s nearly six years later and my music tastes have moved on. This list doesn’t include any albums I’ve purchased since 2013 and there’s a whole new genre to explore and explain. Anyway, onto Live After Death.
This album ROCKS. The gatefold sleeve was amazing and the images convinced me that Iron Maiden could put on a show. Even though all these songs are live and so will be individually reviewed elsewhere in this site this probably deserves some of its own mentions. This double album was recorded in Long Beach Arena and Hammersmith Odeon. Just the idea of having a job where you play an arena in California seemed amazing to me as a teenager. Of course, I also bought the video and watched it over and over.
I’m reasonably sure that W.A.S.P.s Live In The Raw was recorded on the same tour and that album is pretty amazing too. They supported Iron Maiden.
One of the appeals of this music is that it scares your parents. It’s a way of rebelling. It’s new and for you only. While at the same time being what all your mates listen to as well. You don’t want your parents to like this stuff and you want to make that break of the parental bond and music is one way of doing that. Before I was ten I grew up on a diet of ABBA and Jean Michel Jarre. While this is not bad music, I’d even say it’s bloody good, it wasn’t what I was after. I’ve talked about my descent into metal elsewhere and so will save you that story.
Iron Maiden had a monster on their album covers and the detail in the artwork was incredible. We all liked trying to find some new part of the image that no-one else had seen just to stand out, just to impress and show how much we concentrated on the art. Then there’s the stories of devil worship and Satan. The idea that this music was evil itself. I mean that’s bullshit but the puritanical press loved ranting about how this music was ruining the mind of children. The dying age of stiff-upper-lip and backward-repression of feelings and conformism was breaking as a new generation found their feet and wanted to make their mark. This happens all the time. I look at it now and think that I am just not that fussed by the new music. I have my niche and am happy to stick in it.
I think the bigger problem might be that trying to convince me your are weird or different is going to take some doing. I’ve been there and see it all. I’m still part of this counter-culture. I still go to club nights which would be considered “seedy” and rebellious. I mix with people whose day jobs are professional but who live in the boundary of conformism as we struggle to fit in to everyday society. What I do know about this culture is that I’ve never met an idiot or arsehole. Everyone seems to appreciate everyone else and people don’t make judgments. The society is more tolerant by definition and it survives and thrives because of that. It’s a microcosm of a better world where people are treated with respect and trust.
Back to this album. It kinda works on a sense of patriotism and harking back to the good times when Spitfires ruled the air and Britain worked to defeat evil [not my choice of words really and I struggle with the idea that the state can ask me to die for the state]. We start with Churchill’s fight them on the beaches speech with the sound of Rolls Royce engines in the background and BLAM – Aces High blasts out from the speakers.
After that we get one of my favourite Iron Maiden songs, Two Minutes To Midnight and its anti-war message. The lyrics in this astound me.
The body bags and little rags of children torn in two
And the jellied brains of those who remain to put the finger right on you
These aren’t nice lyrics, they aren’t meant to be. They also don’t glorify war in the way that the popular press might have you believe about metal and heavy rock. It’s a song against war.
The Trooper is a classic. Along with Revelations I heard this album before I had Piece Of Mind. The live version of Revelations is better than the studio version by a long way. Again, lyrically it’s amazing.
The Flight Of Icarus is boring.
Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is a good song and deliberately long. It build the atmosphere for the whole song and comes crashing down at the end.
Powerslave I love. A brilliant song and a masterpiece in how to end a piece of music. I’ve always felt that fading a song out is a lazy way of ending a song but I don’t think you can get better than the last two minutes of this song as a way of exploring how to finish a masterpiece.
All the other songs are from the first three albums and by default are the best that Maiden have to offer.
Number Of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name [at about 150 bpm], Iron Maiden, Run To The Hills [a song explaining the mas slaughter of native Americans by white men], and then finally Running Free with its extra long audience participation which Dickinson manages with sheer aplomb.
The only problem with this album is that Sanctuary isn’t on it. But you can get it elsewhere. This is a stunner of a show.