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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Iron Maiden – ‘From Fear To Eternity: The Best of 1990 - 2010’ album review

Iron Maiden – ‘From Fear To Eternity: The Best of 1990 - 2010’ album review
Released on: Universal Music Enterprises. Release date: Available now.

Here’s something for you that may surprise many of my regular readers here. Iron Maiden is a band that I kind of liked in the early years, but never really got into following, but that’s not to say that I’ve not continued to admire them.
From their early beginnings with Paul Di'Anno on vocals for the bands first two albums, 'Iron Maiden' and 'Killers,' and playing smaller clubs up to regular size concert halls, then eventually up to arenas and then stadiums.

The band started within a group of UK acts, that fell under the tag, N.W.O.B.H.M. (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) back around 1979 / 80, this group also included Def Leppard, as well as acts that never really rose to the same levels of popularity, by far. Some of those other bands being, Saxon, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang, Samson - The band that Iron Maiden's long term and current vocalist Bruce Dickinson, started with. – Diamond Head, Girlschool, Angelwitch and many more. Indeed other more 'melodic' rock acts such as Magnum for one, also fell into that bracket.
Magnum have in fact, actually been around since about 1976, but that’s another story.

Believe me, getting into rock music when I did, the N.W.O.B.H.M., was something I was very familiar with and could write loads about, but I won’t so let’s move on!
‘From Fear to Eternity’ picks up where ‘1980 – 1990 Somewhere Back In Time’ 'Best of' release left off, capturing tracks from eight studio albums from ‘No Prayer for the Dying,’ up to last years ‘The Final Frontier’ release and we get twenty three tracks, a number of which are lengthy indeed, but that capture the bands time well!
 Opening with the true hard rocking sound of their hit single from 2000, ‘The Wicker Man’ it’s epitomizes the true Maiden sound. Steve Harris’ powering bass alongside Nicko McBrain’s clever drum sequences, the guitar interplay between both Dave Murray and Janick Gers and of course the air raid siren – as he’s been called Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals.
‘Holy Smoke’ next, bounds along at a rate of knots, again in classic Maiden style, with some great twin guitar solos to add to the groove.
‘El Dorado’ is from the last year’s album ‘The Final Frontier,’ which exhibits certainly a more advanced sound from the band, which they have established along the way, almost in prog metal style, but there’s other tracks here that tend to nod more that way than this one.
‘Paschendale’ next is certainly a prime example of just that indeed! A very clever track, that slowly builds and builds in a very prog like style and hearing this actually for the first time, I am very impressed how Maiden have seriously become a lot more ‘thinking man’s metal.’
Editors note: OK Maiden fans, don't get pissed, it's a compliment!
A lot of clever interchanges going on and over more recent years, Maiden have brought in keyboards, string sounds and more.
If like me you’ve not really listened to these guys in a while, I strongly recommend this two disc set and we’re only four tracks in!
‘Different World’ is a great straightforward track, with a great catchy riff, nice solo work too. More please guys!
A live version of ‘Man on the Edge’ next really highlights the bands strength in their interaction with their live audience. A quick paced number, exaggerated by its live presentation and audience participation, is just killer!
‘The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg,’ would seriously have you thinking this was a completely different band. It’s a real epic of light and dark, that impresses me more each time I hear it. Great stuff lads!
‘Blood Brothers’ starts in a similar growing fashion and actually reminds me initially almost of something by Magnum, although the chorus is all too clearly Bruce’s territory and Steve Harris’ clever bass work stands out well and the song really showcases the man’s talent in his writing.
 Back to the classic straightforward Maiden sound with ‘Rainmaker’ next, an up tempo yet steady rocker, with a nice harmony guitar solo.
OK, now here’s a massive track of seriously epic proportions, as the band presents a live version of, ‘Sign of the Cross’ that clocks in at almost eleven minutes! Ironically, it’s a track from the Blaze Bayley period Maiden, but Bruce Dickinson really makes the song his own! Good stuff! 
‘Brave New World’ up next starts kind of laid back and then starts building up, before then getting into a more traditional Maiden groove, fairly steady stuff and then it really picks up for the solo and rocks out.
A live version of ‘Fear of the Dark’ has immediate audience participation with it’s slow intro and then once the song kicks in proper, the crowd is right there again with Bruce. It’s a clever track with plenty of interchanges. Good stuff.

The second disc kicks off with ‘Be Quick or Be Dead,’ which harks to classic Maiden ala, ‘Number of the Beast,’ ‘Run To The Hills,’ etc.
‘Tailgunner’ is great in my opinion. I just love the way this one grows and grows and at times the mid-section very much reminds me of (Thin) Lizzy.
With the eased back intro again, ‘No More Lies’ then kicks into gear and as any Maiden fan would expect it although the keyboard backing may have displeased many fans I’m guessing when it was first released. The down side to me on this, is just how repetitive the chorus lyrics are, with simply ‘No More Lies’ repeated over and over. 
‘Coming Home’ is another one of those mini epics, but it’s a slow to mid paced steady number, slow through the verses and picking up in the choruses.
The long album track scenario is here in number with both the next tracks, clocking in each at about nine and a half minutes!
Epic indeed then with the big live number ‘The Clansman’ next which follows the Maiden standard of slow intro, gradual build and then wham! Into the main body of instrumental work, mid song, I must say with some killer guitar work. A great track, seriously!
‘The Great Good of God’ is massive with time changes throughout and Bruce delivering a powerful presentation, great work by everyone on this!
In ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ the same epic – Yes, I did say that word again! – style is administered. Slow build up, then the chugging style then the pre-chorus, time signature changes to slow it down, then picks up again, etc, etc. Epic indeed!
Steve Harris has certainly got the album epic track style nailed down to a tee!

The massive hit single, that was ‘Bring Your Daughter … To the Slaughter’ is next, enough said there! ‘Scuse the pun, but the track kills!
After this one, the last 3 tracks are just in that mini-epic territory again, the first just under seven minutes, the next just over eight and half minutes and the last eleven minutes!
See what I’m saying about how this band has kind of changed direction, after their first ten years?  
‘Afraid to shoot Strangers’ seems to be a serious prog  type track almost verging on Pink Floyd meets Jethro Tull for a while there and then it picks up and the guitar interplay is great!
Then ‘Dance of Death’ starts in a similar fashion before getting into some acoustic strumming, alongside seriously quick picking, as Bruce’s voice then starts to gets more aggressive before some dueling guitars then the track kicks in for some very clever interchanges.
It’s almost into a sub-Celtic type groove, almost Lizzy like and then then it just becomes a bigger masterpiece. Very good indeed!
 Final track then, the monster eleven minute piece ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ and you know the band although pretty much unique in sound and style, I can see similarities in song structures – i.e. The light and dark touches. – to say Metallica and then again to a degree that Lizzy type style. Think of ‘Black Rose,’ ‘Angel of Death’ and even something like ‘Soldier of Fortune.’
‘When the Wild Wind Blows’ captures all the best elements of Maiden’s style, clever interchanges, tasty lead solos galore, strong vocal presentation, and a very strongly written song of epic proportions.

Overall, this album was seriously a pleasant surprise for me and although many will say, ‘It’s just another compilation.’ That will probably be true for most Maiden fans, but to someone – Like myself – whose lost touch with a lot of their work, check this out, it will be like a great new album for you! Enjoy!
 Rating: 4 out of 5
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