Review Summary: A perfect introduction for anyone who's never looked past Maiden's classic years.
Still going strong after all these years, Iron Maiden are a rare example of a band that has continued to draw faithful fandom from each new generation they were introduced to. Although more popular on the stage than ever, they certainly are at a point in their career where retrospectives are in order. The band deliberately took 2008’s Somewhere Back in Time
, a perfect summation of their 80’s heyday for the newcomer, to rock the current generation. From Fear to Eternity
is a logical successor, chronicling not one, but two decades of Maiden for those who wish to look further.
Things are however a little different with this collection. Truthfully, the 90’s were by far the band’s least inspired period, featuring two albums with a vocalist that was feeling less enthusiastic about his role, and two with a near-opposite replacement that nobody really liked. No Prayer for the Dying
and Fear of the Dark
felt recycled, derivative, dull; The X Factor
and Virtual XI
tried to work things into a new direction but felt overlong. Though thin-spread, the era did create some gems, but hardly enough to fill a proper compilation.
Enter the 2000’s, the return of Smith and Dickinson; a decade of revival. In the end, Maiden came through not entirely unscathed, but still bigger and more professional performers than ever. They reworked their lengthy late-90’s material into an epic style that actually worked (most of the time), rather than making a foolish attempt to relive the 80’s. Brave New World
, Dance of Death
and A Matter of Life and Death
had some kinks here and there, most of them still lingering in the length of the tracks and the repetitive choruses, but with last year’s The Final Frontier
, it seems they finally took the notion to work those out.
The length of Maiden’s newer work is also the main reason why this compilation features two discs instead of one, more so than the fact that the songs cover two decades. Occupying 9 out of 23 tracks, the 90’s are covered less extensively, which is a fine choice considering their overall quality. The three Bayley-sung originals, Man on the Edge
, Sign of the Cross
and The Clansman
, have been replaced by later live takes with Dickinson, a move to which there should be no objection (the same was done with the Di’Anno studio versions on Somewhere Back in Time
), as he sings them fine, if not better.
The rougher tracks off No Prayer for the Dying
and Fear of the Dark
, Be Quick or Be Dead
, etc.) aren’t a particularly great fit in the overall tone of this collection, but serve their purpose well in representing their album of origin. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
and the fantastic Rock in Rio
rendition of Fear of the Dark
(really the only possible choice) are obvious exceptions, merging perfectly with the other epics. For the post-2000 records, there is little to complain about either. Some fans may feel the absence of such moments as Ghost of the Navigator
, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns
, The Longest Day
, and Final Frontier
, but this isn’t meant for people who are already fans in the first place. Like Somewhere Back in Time
, the track selection here is pretty spot-on.
And with that in order, an Iron Maiden compilation simply can’t go wrong, even if it is one solely composed of things made past the 80’s. If its predecessor presented us with exactly what made these Brits legendary, From Fear to Eternity
proves how well they’ve held up, even in darker days, and how they eventually were able to grow, not conforming to former glories, but still keeping intact just what makes them such a potent force. These are two nicely wrapped-up decades of Maiden for anyone who’s never been there; twenty years that have proven their worth.