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DVD Review: Iron Maiden – Death on the Road

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Iron Maiden is one of those bands that seem to put out as many live albums as studio albums. For some reason, though, I don’t seem to mind. The live shows are such incredible spectacles, and the music is so powerful, and they just pull it off so well that I have let go of my annoyance at an overabundance of live material. This DVD is a fine example of a band that can still tear it up live, even past the quarter century mark of their career, while still putting out albums of quality new material.

Before going any further, there are some technical issues with the set. First, the two concert disks were mislabeled, The 5.1 disk has the PCM stereo mix and vice versa. Secondly, the concert skips back to the song select menu after two songs — “Rainmaker” and “Brave New World”. It’s been noted on Iron Maiden’s website forums that the release has been recalled for these defects.

I reviewed the CD release back in October. As much as I liked the CD, the DVD sounds even better. They must have done extensive remixing, because it exceeds the sound quality on the CD. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers create this massive wall of sound, yet can flip it around and be as smooth and soft as silk for the mellower moments, such as the opening of “Dance of Death” and the acoustic “Journeyman”. Steve Harris’ bass is always standout, filling in the low end like no one else can. Nicko McBrain’s drums are phenomenal, precise and driving. And what would Iron Maiden be without one of the greatest metal voices of all time in Bruce Dickinson? Together they put on a great show of pure metal. Bruce may not be able to hit the high notes like he once could, but you cannot deny the fact that he still has a powerful voice.

This disk provides a different experience than Rock in Rio did a few years back. In many ways, I find this show to be superior to that one. For one thing, the stage setup is great, the rotating Eddie backdrops, the giant Grim Reapers, and the gothic castle styled art all give it this old school epic metal look. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the additional stage dressing used during “Paschendale”. I also think the performance may be a touch better, and I also like the set list to be stronger here.

There is one thing that the two shows have in common, and it is not a positive. That commonality is the editing of Steve Harris. Harris is a great bass player and and excellent songwriter, but he has no place in the editing bay. It is almost as if he makes cuts as quickly as possible to include it all. I would have preferred to have longer takes. Perhaps using a couple of wide shots as beds and moving in on specific sections, like Bruce for the chorus, or Adrian for a solo, or Nicko for a particularly nice fill. Having so many cuts in such a rapid succession takes away from the overall power of the show. Death on the Road does get a bit better as the show goes on, but I would have preferred the whole show if the visual material had been slowed down a bit.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining, this is a wonderful show. The video looks great, excellent lighting effects, and an overall dark pall covering the stage with spotlighted sections highlighting where the eye should go. This is a darker show than Rock in Rio, and that helps to differentiate it from the two, the darker look and the varied setlist help the two shows compliment each other rather nicely.

The set doesn’t end with the show, in addition to the two concert disks there is a third disk. This last disk contains documentaries, interviews, and videos complimenting the Death on the Road tour.

First up is an excellent 70 minute documentary called (what else?) “Death on the Road”. This takes us into the studio with the band and producer Kevin Shirley. See how the band worked on creating the Dance of Death CD, how it was different than past recording experiences. This leads into the tour, including aspects of designing the set, costume preparation, traveling, pre-show regimens; it is all covered here. This is an excellent documentary, taking a look at the band in the studio and on the road.

Next up is the 40 minute “Life on the Road” documentary. This contains interviews with the instrument techs and set builders. We are taken through a day in the life, so to speak, of Maiden’s support crew; without these guys, the show would never go on in the impressive form in which it does.

The third documentary is simply called “The Fans” and runs for nearly half an hour. This focuses on interviews with fans as they wait to get in to the show. This is a fun look at the young and the old, seeing how Iron Maiden continually attracts new fans, whether through the older fans introducing their children, or people just discovering them on their own (like I did). This is a little fluffier in nature than the other two, but it is still fun.

Also included is a 15 minute EPK (Electronic Press Kit), featuring interviews, video, and live footage used to promote the CD release of Dance of Death. Not terribly hard-hitting stuff, but it is interesting to see what is used when trying to promote a new release.

What extras set would be complete without a music video or two? Here we get the two videos from Dance of Death — “Wildest Dreams” and “Rainmaker”. The former being completely CGI driven and the latter incorporating CG and live in studio footage. There is an extra section set to “Rainmaker” with design sketches for “Wildest Dreams” and on set photos from “Rainmaker”.

Rounding out the third disk are a few photo galleries of concert shots, promo images, and studio pictures. Galleries never interested me that much, but there are still some nice pictures here.

Bottomline. This is a fantastic set, glitches aside. Great set list, great performance, nice set. The bottom line is the fact that this is IRON MAIDEN! There really isn’t anything else you need to know. If you like metal, this is for you, period.

Up the Irons!

Highly Recommended. **** / *****

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  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    Just picked up mine yesterday…fell asleep watching it simply because I was drained, but I look forward to watching it soon. I did notice the video editing issue with the scenes changing rapidly, sometimes too much so for my taste. I thought with DVD technology, then can allow you to have custom views. They should have done that here.

    What little I did see and hear, however, made me quite happy. Maiden are really something special.

    Excellent review, by the way.

  • Paul Roy

    I can’t wait to pick this one up. I loved the Rock In Rio DVD. These old guys are still rockin like they are in their prime. I think I actually like most of their newer stuff better than the old classic stuff. Not too many bands I can say that about.

  • Saqib

    Nice review. Not the richest setlist for a Maiden fan who are equally familier with both old and new stuff but I can see the reason behind that.

    Dont agree with Chris’ Bruce hitting high notes bit. In my opinion the highest note ever hit by Bruce was in the song ‘dance of death’. You may argue ‘Where eagles dare’. This is a vaild point but in DOD his vocal is equally soaring but with more power and less squeaky. Only you cant do this in a concert where you have to sing 12/13 song non stop. And thats precisely why Bruce avoid hitting those high notes. But what he does still is a dream of most of any singer.