On the 20th November 2020, legendary British heavy metal act, Iron Maiden, release their brand new live album “Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast” into a world that has for the most part been starved of live music for the best part of this difficult and unique year.
It is a 17 track double live album, that was recorded during the bands three sold out arena shows in Mexico City in September 2019. With a running time of just over 100 minutes and overflowing with classic Maiden tracks it is not only a celebration of their Legacy Of The Beast Tour that began in September 2018, and due to the Covid-19 outbreak is still unfinished, but a celebration of one of the greatest heavy metal acts of all time.
To say I was excited to be given the opportunity to review this release which lands in the year that the band celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of their debut album, is a bit of an understatement.
My own personal journey with Iron Maiden started as an inquisitive teenager at some point in 1983, when I was flicking through vinyl on a stall at a local street market and my eyes were immediately drawn to the artwork on an unknown album to me.
That album was Number Of The Beast and without hesitation I knew I had to have it. When I got home, I excitedly put my new purchase onto my turntable and turned the volume up. I remember just sitting on my bed, listening in amazement to the wonderful sounds that were coming out of my stereo speakers and that was that, I was hooked.
When Live After Death, their first live album came out, I rushed out to buy the double vinyl and the VHS, both of which I not only played repeatedly for a long time, but still have those original copies of.
As live albums go, that for me is the greatest of all time but in this release, “Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast”, Iron Maiden are releasing a live album that in many ways rivals that and should not only be an essential for fans of the band, but a mesmerising starting point to any young metal head who wants to know why this band are held so close to the hearts of metal fans worldwide.
Just like Live After Death, Legacy kicks off with “Churchills Speech”. There is something so rousing about it, that just gets your blood pumping, it makes you sit up and take notice immediately. Then that opening guitar riff of “Aces High” kicks in and you are whisked away right to Iron Maiden heaven.
It is immediately very clear that Bruce Dickinson sounds as good as ever and that clearly unmistakeable sound of Steve Harris thundering basslines that run through all of Iron Maidens tunes is front and centre.
Oh man, I’m only three minutes into the album and I’m already smitten, much like I was in 1985 when I first heard Live After Death, yes, Legacy Of The Beast really is that good. Bruce says at the end of the opening track, “Welcome to the Legacy Of The Beast” and what a welcome it is.
“Where Eagles Dare” is up next and I am left thinking, how many bands of the heritage and pedigree of Iron Maiden still sound this fresh, alive and pumped up, 40 years into what can only be described as a phenomenally illustrious career.
The drum work from Nicko McBrain throughout the track and the album is full of so much power and prowess you still sit there marvelling it, even though you have heard and enjoyed it so many times over the years.
The electric atmosphere inside the arena has been captured brilliantly on this album, their 10th live offering. You just have to listen to the crowd throughout a storming “Two Minutes to Midnight” to hear how they are lapping this set list up.
This is an incredible and unrelenting start to the album, just monumental. As much as this is now, you cant help being drawn back to a trip down memory lane and making mental comparisons to Live After Death and then just as you are Bruce utters that immortal phrase “Scream For Me”…..just this time it is Mexico City and not Long Beach Arena. I am in awe, like I was a 15 year old kid again, in fact if I closed my eyes I could well be.
“The Clansman” sees the first of two dips into the Blaze Bayley era of the band and after that ferocious start a brief chance to catch your breath as such. Bruce does this track so much justice, although what else would you expect and it is great to see the track included in the set.
As the tempo picks up, you can feel how mental the crowd are going, it is after all, one of those lung bursting, sing-a-long, jump up and down and let your emotions run wild numbers. This really is electrifying stuff!
The unmistakeable guitar riff that heralds the start of “The Trooper” sends the Mexican crowd wild and sees me trying to write review notes
whilst playing air guitar. I can think of a few singers of Mr Dickinson’s age who would be struggling to sing at the pace of this classic track, but a sign of the great vocalist and consummate professional that he is and with the health issues that he has had, is that he doesn’t miss a note or a word. The air raid siren is well and truly on top form.
“Revelations”, is the fifth track to feature, that was also on Live After Death. It is nigh on impossible with the similar track listing so far to not draw comparisons but what I will say, is how good Maiden sound on this release. It is difficult to believe that the two albums were recorded nearly 35 years apart. The sound, the energy and the musicianship is as ever exemplary and really do make this a stunning album.
2006’s “For The Greater Good Of God”, which is being included on an official Iron Maiden live release for the first time, is one of only two tracks to be included that have been recorded since the band welcomed Messrs Dickinson and Smith back into the fold and became a six piece.
On an album, set list and tour that is full of so many of the bands most iconic tracks from the first part of their career, it is testament to the quality of this number, that is sits there so comfortably alongside much more exalted company. Scrumptious!
“The Wicker Man” from Brave New World is an absolute belter of a studio track, let alone a live one and you can hear throughout how well the crowd receive it.
The crowd sing along and the atmosphere level shows no sign of decreasing or the crowd tiring as the band play on. Just like on the other 9 Maiden live albums, they capture that intense atmosphere and energy from the crowd so well. I think it is what sets their live albums apart from so many others, you can almost imagine being there yourself as it kind of catapults you, like a celestial presence into another time and space.
“Sign Of The Cross”, the 2nd and final trip into Blaze Bayley era Maiden is a monstrous track, an epic if you like, that brings the albums mid-section of post ‘92 numbers to a close in quite spectacular fashion.
It is 11 minutes of brooding, pulsating Maiden at their finest and sets the band up perfectly for the final seven quintessential tracks that close out the release. Laden with infectious time changes aplenty and a somewhat slower yet no less heavy pace to it, it almost heralded what was probably now, looking back on it, the dawn of a new era for the band.
An era that has seen the size of the Maiden juggernaut grow in size and gather pace even, as the years have gone on.
“Flight Of Icarus”, an oldie but goldy kicks off that seven song run and is just under four minutes of pure ecstasy. It leads straight into the big crowd participation number, “Fear Of The Dark” and man do that crowd do themselves and this album justice.
Steve Harris talks about how well the band are received in Mexico and that is clearly apparent as they sing back to and along with Bruce like their lives depended on it.
The subtle time changes, the electrifying guitar work from the three six string sorcerers in the band, Messrs Smith, Gers and Murray, that at times just takes your breath away, make this one of the most crowd pleasing songs for the live stage and live albums that I know.
It never fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck when you hear it and this recording is no different. Just take a moment and listen to the crowd, singing as one, like a many thousand congregation, worshipping at the altar of these British heavy metal legends.
“The Number Of The Beast” needs no introduction and lives up to all expectations. What can you say about one of the most celebrated and iconic metal tracks of all time that hasn’t been said before.
This is Iron Maiden at their best playing one of their most famed tracks and for me it doesn’t get any better than this. “Iron Maiden”, resplendent with a scintillating guitar riff, that is engraved deep into the memory banks follows and gives Dave Murray his time in the spotlight as he roles out a blistering guitar solo.
The one foray into what is my favourite Maiden studio album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, comes in the form of “The Evil That Men Do”. To see that they have included only one track from an album that was one of their biggest sellers, shows you the strength and depth of the catalogue that the band are pulling from.
I could probably write another set list, as I’m sure we all could, of equal measure that they could play and you wouldn’t get a drop in quality, atmosphere or entertainment value.
The penultimate track, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, is without a doubt, my favourite Iron Maiden song. From the storyline, to the way the track builds from it’s sombre, almost melancholic opening to a frantic Maiden epic is just spell binding and to me it just comes into its own when played on stage.
This version sees them tear through it in unrelenting fashion and leaves me wondering how they play a track of that pace, with all the energy they have spent in the previous 90 minutes. I am awe struck with admiration.
Finally, we unfortunately get to the last song of this fantastic album and it is “Run To The Hills”. I mean, how else do you bring a live Iron Maiden album to a close, especially one that is called “Legacy Of The Beast”.
That drum beat, that riff, that bass, the air raid siren in full flow, it has everything that has made this band and this album so special all neatly packaged in one final hurrah. All of a sudden that track finishes, the band leave and I am left wanting more as I guess the crowds were in Mexico on those three nights.
Lucky for me I can press play again and once again get immersed in one of the greatest live bands of all time, playing a stupendously brilliant set of some of their greatest tracks. This album may well yet help define the bands Legacy, only time will tell.
I shall leave the final word to bassist Steve Harris, who sums the album up perfectly, “When the final leg of our 2020 Legacy tour this summer had to be cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, the whole band was very disappointed and deflated and we know our fans felt the same.
We’d been really looking forward to bringing the show to even more countries and although we’ve been able to reschedule most of our European own-shows for 2021, we thought we’d take a listen to the recordings from the tour so far and see if we could create a definitive live album souvenir that everyone, everywhere could enjoy.
I’m very pleased with the results, especially as this set list includes songs which have never made it to a live CD before, such as For The Greater Good Of God, and other older songs like Where Eagles Dare, Flight Of Icarus, The Clansman and Sign Of The Cross which haven’t been included in our live set releases for many years.
We’ve never released a live album from Mexico before and I think this recording does justice to the passion and joy of our Mexican fans who always give us such a fantastic welcome whenever we play there.
The tracklisting is:
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes To Midnight
For The Greater Good Of God
The Wicker Man
Sign Of The Cross
Flight Of Icarus
Fear Of The Dark
The Number Of The Beast
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run To The Hills
Nights Of The Dead, Legacy Of The Beast Formats
2CD Deluxe hardcase
Triple black heavyweight vinyl
Limited Edition heavyweight 180g Mexican flag triple coloured vinyl
Digital (streaming and download) An assortment of bundles are available at www.ironmaiden.com that include album merchandise including t-shirt, lithograph, lanyard and patch.
Iron Maiden are
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Adrian Smith – Guitar
Dave Murray – Guitar
Janick Gers – Guitar
Steve Harris – Bass
Nicko McBrain – Drum
Iron Maiden Online Website: www.ironmaiden.com Facebook: www.facebook.com/ironmaiden Twitter: www.twitter.com/IronMaiden Instagram: www.instagram.com/ironmaiden YouTube: www.youtube.com/ironmaiden
Review by Darren Smith for MPM