Review Summary: Time to ban Warner Music from the Iron Maiden group chat.
Anyone who has seen a show from Iron Maiden's Legacy of the Beast
tour knows that it may very well be the band's best tour yet. Pulling out the stops and taking the band's theatrics and performances to the extreme, it boasted giant inflatable spitfires and Icaruses, enough costume changes to make Lady Gaga's head spin, stage dressings that resemble a battlefield, a giant cathedral and Hell itself, and so much more. It also boasted the band's best set list to date, pulling AMOLAD-era material, two Blaze era songs acting as the concert's "set pieces", and even the first inclusion of "Flight of Icarus" since 1986. It also had its currently senior aged musicians playing like men half their age, particularly Nicko McBrain, who makes it impossible to believe he's pushing 70 with his monstrous drum performance. Based on everything I've just listed, this sounds like the perfect recipe for a live album. Theoretically, we should have Maiden's best live album ever.
And yet, for some reason, it just isn't. The writing was on the wall when the band announced the release a scant few months prior, and singled out concert opener "Aces High", featuring one of the most badass performances of this slice of Metal gold smothered by a particularly limp sounding mix. While the lack of bass drowning the rest of the band out was a welcome change, something just didn't sound right. The whole thing seemed to be Bruce, some semi-guitar sounding noise in the background, and drums. And even then, it proves to be the least of this release's worries.
The culprit here seems to be a mix of bad mixing and production choices. Nights of the Dead
was recorded over three sold out nights in Mexico city, near the end of the tour, and the problems found with such releases are well on display here. The performance is great for the most part, but the fact that Steve Harris and Tony Newton decided these performances were the best representation of those three nights raises suspicions. Bruce hits the notes but sounds more strained than ever, and these moments really do rear their ugly head - "Where Eagles Dare" is a fine example of this. While he obviously sounds better than he did on A Real Live Dead One
, which this release often reminded me of, both the decision to choose his most strained performances for key tracks and him often being drowned out consistently now everything presented here increasingly difficult to appreciate. The worst part is, too, that his best vocal performances, along with Nicko's insane performance on display, are things that everybody expects going into a live release, and as a result, tracks like "Sign of the Cross", live powerhouse "The Clansman" and "Flight of Icarus" feel like after thoughts in the grand scheme of things. And as I already have mentioned, the poor mix from Tony Newton does not much to help, as the crowd's presence reduced to a smother whisper, and guitar mixing sounding like an afterthought (the biggest offender here being "For the Greater Good of God") leaves me wondering why they even bothered.
Add to this probably one of the laziest album covers since Live at Doningtown '92
, minimal marketing, the inclusion of a poster featuring future dares that will likely not happen due to Covid, and the decision not to include a visual counterpart, and you get a live release that is less of a representation of a band whose prime seems to never end, and more a towering monument to the fans' worst fears about Maiden's decision to sign with Warner Music and MusicGlue, and corporate greed. Who knows, maybe when all is said and done, Maiden will decide to give us a proper release with an IMAX-worthy concert film, and the new studio album that all of us have been waiting for. But it looks like that day will take a while to arrive.