Iron Maiden are a band that need no introduction. As of 2005 they had released 13 studio albums and 6 live albums in their illustrious 30 year existence. They have inspired countless musicians and gained millions of fans worldwide. Their astronomically successful career has earned them a rightful reputation as living legends. Iron Maiden, Ladies and Gentlemen – a band that need no introduction.
‘Death on the Road’ is Iron Maiden’s 7th live album. Yes, seventh. That works out as one live album for every two studio albums; and one live every album every 4.3 years since their conception in 1975. That’s a little excessive to say the least, but in truth very few would complain about Iron Maiden releasing yet another live album. They are an incredible live band are just one of those bands that you have to see at some point in life. So what’s new with this live album" What sets it apart from live classics such as ‘Live at Donnington’" Well, with the advances in technology that we enjoy today the sound is clearer than ever before and the setlist has been refreshed with ‘new’ material from their last release before ‘Death on the Road’. 5 songs off of ‘Dance of Death’ are on the album as well as all the classics that you would expect and hope for from a Maiden set. The album was recorded at the Westenfallenhalle in Dortmund, Germany on Monday 24th November 2003; but this trivial fact holds little significance, except to those that were there and can say “I was there” or, more probably, “Ich war dort”, as it may as well have been anywhere at anytime as the eagerness of this particular crowd is par for the course for Iron Maiden, as millions worldwide respect and love them for the legendary status that they have achieved. Curtain Up.
Carl Orff’s atmospheric ‘Carmina Buarana’
fills the Westenfallenhalle and is pierced by several excited screams. The chants of “Maiden! Maiden” start and the anticipation in the arena is tangible. Suddenly, Nicko strikes the hi-hats 4 times and the band lead straight into ‘Wildest Dreams’
. Right from the off the sound is crystal clear and the band play the song perfectly. The crowd don’t hold back any enthusiasm and come close to drowning out the band, and while this is normal for most bands, it is still amazing to hear nevertheless. Iron Maiden come out of the traps all guns blazing with four highly energetic songs, and the crowd laps it up. Some may say that ‘Can I Play With Madness"’
is cheesy, and although they wouldn’t be wrong, it sounds great here even if the backing vocals are somewhat lacking. It still sounds incredibly fun. What has always been, and continues to be amazing about Iron Maiden is their ability to tell stories so vividly through music. In ‘The Trooper’
Bruce sings with so much urgency that it is as if he really is scared to death out on the battlefield. He shows us why he is called Bruce “Air Raid” Dickinson, as his voice is certainly air raid siren-like in the chorus and he hits all the high notes; although his nickname may also come from the fact that he is a pilot.
Having not allowed the crowd to stop for breath early on, Maiden slow the tempo for ‘Dance of Death’
. The crowd hang on to every word, and clap along during the slow parts and then (we assume) go crazy after the exciting time change. Although this is all well and good, it does seem to drag a little after a while. Another slow song – ‘Brave New World’
’s intro isn’t really acknowledged by the crowd, save for the obligatory cheers, but they come to life in the chorus, and we can only assume that it must have been absolutely deafening in the arena at that point. Before many of their songs Maiden play a short intro over the PA, and these are all very effective. However, few are as effective/poignant as World War I poet Wilfred Owen’s ‘Anthem For Doomed Youth’ is read over the sound of distant shelling and gunfire. Whether it is slow or fast, this rendition of ‘Paschendale’
is incredibly powerful and shows what an emotive topic war can be. It is amazing to think that you are hearing British and German, who as we all know have had their problems in the past when it comes to war, singing along together about the horrors of war. It shows how far we have come as a society. After ‘Paschendale’
Maiden stride confidently into ‘Lord of the Flies’
. Normally it is an underrated and easily forgotten song, but here it is amazing. The crowd sing along and “woah” along with the guitar solo. It is a great end to Disc One, which is by far the better disc despite having arguably the weaker songs. So far it is evident that Iron Maiden played an absolute blinder, at least up until this point.
Disc Two starts off slowly, but powerfully with ‘No More Lies’
as the crowd once again sing along with the opening riff and the excitement levels are pushed even higher. Next up is the incredibly atmospheric ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’
. Bruce expertly personifies the terrified prisoner that he is ‘playing’, as the whole song sounds frantic when it needs to and subdued when required. The fans are simply loving every second of it and when they cheer loudest of all, we can safely say that they were cheering at the first appearance of Eddie. Bruce once again gets into character for ‘Fear of the Dark’
with his evil laughs and inviting the crowd to participate. Although his voice sounds very, very
English, which is a little irritating at times. When the song picks up it is very energetic, and it is astounding to hear men of such age play with such energy. ‘Iron Maiden’
is the oldest song on the setlist by quite some way, but is received just as well as the newer material – proving how long some have been fans for. It closes out the set well, and up until now Iron Maiden have been on fine form. Actually, that is a massive
understatement, as they have played amazingly. They have played each song perfectly, increasing the energy levels and alternately pushing the dramatic envelope further when necessary.
For the encore they come out armed with acoustic guitars for the ‘lighter in the air’ moment that is ‘Journeyman’
. Although starting off strongly, it goes on way too long despite being ‘only’ seven minutes long, and many-a-lighter must have been drained of fluid during the song. “Woe to you oh Earth and sea, for the Devil sends the beast with wrath because he knows the time is short. Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number… It’s number is six-hundred and sixty-six.”
Despite the obvious language barrier, the crowd know exactly what this means and Maiden play the fan favourite ‘Number of the Beast’
with perhaps their last drop of energy. In retrospect it would have been best to end the show there as it had been great so far. However, they honour the tradition of closing with ‘Run to the Hills’
and although on paper it can’t
fail, here it sadly does. The band sound tired and almost rush to the end. This poor ending ill-befits what had otherwise been a great set. However, this is perhaps the only song that is weak on the whole album.
In all honesty there wasn’t really much need for a seventh live album for Iron Maiden, but since at times it is quite amazing, we can forgive them. Although some songs are met with indifference (probably because they were new), the overall impression of the album is that Maiden are indeed an excellent live band, and one that you need to see at some point on life. There are seven albums already proving this fact, and this one just furthers this belief. Released 30 years after the band started, Iron Maiden show no signs of slowing down or worsening on ‘Death on the Road’ and that is something we can be thankful for. Long live Eddie and the Boys.