Undeniably, Iron Maiden have spent the last couple of years at a new peak with a massive globe-spanning tour and backed by their best album since Bruce Dickinson’s original stint fronting them. It’s propelled them to newfound heights and one could make the argument that they’re bigger than ever.
The Book of Souls took a few listens to fully ingratiate itself but after several outings, it stands up there with their traditional best albums. If they were to decide to bow out after next year’s Legacy of the Beast tour, there’s been worse final parting shots. Digression aside, due to the nature of the massive world tour they undertook the mighty Maiden have unleashed a live album. Well, compilation.
Pulling tracks from across cities and festivals, Iron Maiden have arranged it to be portrayed as the live set, cherry-picking the songs from different places. Sadly, it makes everything feel a bit detached and clinical rather than just sticking to one venue and one town. I’ve gone on record in the past saying that’s how it should be done and honestly, my feelings on the compilation approach will never change. Iron Maiden have done it plenty of times in the past and on that flipside, it shows the success and the fun they had touring with The Book of Souls.
However, this approach does come with an advantage. If they flubbed a song one night, they can use an on-point version from another date. But it’s Maiden. By collecting songs from different shows, it highlights how they deliver an incredible performance night after night. Songs from The Book of Souls like “Death or Glory” and “The Red and the Black” can stand shoulder to shoulder with “Powerslave” and “The Trooper”. And looking at the setlist, it shows how strong The Book of Souls was as a studio effort as they rely heavily on it and don’t rest on their laurels by delivering a “greatest hits with a couple of new songs”. So if you’re looking for songs like “Run to the Hills” or “2 Minutes to Midnight”, look for another live album of theirs.
Then there’s the title track itself with an incredible bassline from Steve Harris that matches the equally massive one in “Wrathchild”. Throughout, Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in fine form as if he merely shrugged off his cancer stage and had greater difficulty piloting Ed Force One. Meanwhile “Fear of the Dark” features the usual crowd interaction you’d expect.
Speaking of crowd interaction, two songs from their 2016 headline appearance at Download feature. So you’re probably wondering if that infamous line etched into metal’s annals is spoken. Or should that be screamed? I’m not one for spoiling surprises so you won’t read about it here.
Is this the greatest live album ever? Frankly, no. It’s not even Iron Maiden’s best live album. However, if you’re looking for The Book of Souls in a live rendition, you’ll have a great time with this. Performance and production, you can’t fault either as both are flawless. Setlist-wise, I could have taken a couple of less numbers from the recent album and given what was included, digging out a couple of the less obvious numbers would have worked perfectly. The hardcore fans are likely going to love this but those with a more passing fancy of Maiden but enjoy a live album, track down Live After Death or Live at Donington.