Live After Death

Iron Maiden

Raw Power Records, 1985

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For the longest time, I considered Live After Death, Iron Maiden's 1985 concert snapshot, to be the ultimate live album ever recorded. Even watching the home video, recorded at the front half of Iron Maiden's four-night stint at Long Beach Arena, helped to intensify the performances that I heard.

It's now 17 years since this disc was issued (and, thankfully, re-issued in its unexpurgated form, tacking back on the five tracks from Hammersmith Odeon), and I still think that this disc captures Iron Maiden at the top of its game. Is it still the best? I don't know if I could still say that, though I'd have a tough time naming any disc that could claim the throne. Let's just say that Live After Death is still one of the best live albums ever released.

Touring behind Powerslave, Iron Maiden had everything they could ask for at the time. They had, for the first time, recorded two albums with the exact same lineup. They were in top form musically, cranking out songs that still are considered legendary. Popularity was at or near its peak, and heavy metal was very much in vogue. What could possibly go wrong?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The answer: nothing. And for damn good reasons, too. First, Iron Maiden had been smart to make use of Martin Birch as a producer for many years - and, having helmed Deep Purple's Made In Japan, knew how to capture the live sound of a band at its prime. (Birch also seemed to know how to bring out the best in Iron Maiden in the studio.) Second, Dickinson and crew were showmen as well as musicians; there was something to the seriousness of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's playing that counter-balanced the more comedic aspects of Dickinson and drummer Nicko McBrain. (Halt the flame wars; I'm not calling either man a clown; if you've watched the home video, you know how animated Dickinson is on stage and McBrain's sense of humor.) Anchoring all this, with his thundering bass lines and singing along to every word, is Steve Harris, one of the best bass guitarists in the business.

The simple fact is this: everything clicked right into place for Iron Maiden, and Live After Death is a snapshot of that perfection. Sure, Dickinson's voice is showing signs of wear thanks to the non-stop touring the band was doing at that point, but the sheer energy of the performances make up for this small flaw. Add into this a pretty well-balanced set (though only one track from Killers is featured - and even that didn't make the cut until you get to the Hammersmith Odeon tracks), and you have quite possibly the Iron Maiden album to own if you can have only one. From the Winston Churchill soundbite that starts out "Aces High" to the mini-epics of "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and "Powerslave," this album simply throws all abandon to the wind and fires its guns constantly. Fortunately, they always hit the target.

It would be incorrect to say that this disc marked the end of Iron Maiden's superstardom, since they would still release an album that I believe has been misunderstood over the years ( Somewhere In Time), and they would still enjoy some level of success on the singles charts. Live After Death, though, did serve as a snapshot into a magical time in Iron Maiden's career, and still remains one of their best albums ever.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Raw Power Records, and is used for informational purposes only.