Back in the 1970s, the terms “heavy metal” and “hard rock” were used interchangeably. Looking back, that was a mistake since many bands and songs identified then were definitely not metal as the genre further defined itself over the years; however, it is understandable because at the time hard rock bands were usually making the heaviest sounds.
As the decade wound down, so too did the three biggest bands identified as pioneers/influences of metal. The last two remaining original members of Deep Purple dissolved the band in 1976. Ozzy’s alcoholism resulted in his firing from Black Sabbath in 1979. Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door traversed many genres as a result of John Bonham and Jimmy Page's limited creative input, due in part to their substance abuse problems, and contained only one bombastic track.
Up-and-coming bands began making a name for themselves trading the bloated excesses that plagued rock and infusing the energy and excitement of punk into their music. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal saw bands like Motorhead and Judas Priest shape different aspects of metal, but in the early ‘80s there was one band that set the bar all others were measured against: Iron Maiden.
With virtually no radio play and before there was MTV’s Headbangers Ball, the British quintet released three classic albums in a row (The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave), taking the world by storm through their compelling songs, talented musicianship, Bruce Dickinson’s powerful vocals, and of course, their mascot Eddie who graced album covers and concert stages. The band was at its peak in support of Powerslave and they captured the World Slavery tour during a four-night stand in Long Beach, CA in March 1984. Released the following year, Live After Death was a live album and concert video taken from different nights.
Over 20 years later, Live After Death is available on DVD for the first time and will surely please any Maiden fan. The 90-minute concert captures the power and majesty of the band; the newer tracks blend well with their greatest hits based on the audience’s approval. The video looks great and the stage set design is impressive. The audio is available in either the original stereo soundtrack or 5.1 Surround Sound mixed from the original concert audio. I recommend the latter as the Surround really puts the viewer in the middle of the moment.
Disc 2 contains all sorts of goodies for Maiden fans. “The History of Iron Maiden, Part 2” continues their story from The Early Years DVD with 60 minutes of interviews as band and crewmembers discuss the end of the World Piece tour and the creation of Powerslave and its tour.
“Behind the Iron Curtain” follows the band at the start of the World Slavery tour in Aug. 1984. They were the first major artist from the West to play in Eastern European countries, and even though an album could cost a month’s wages, the band had plenty of fans, grateful for the chance to see them live, on each of their stops. The feature, which shows the band as regular folk, hanging out with fans, giving an impromptu performance of “Smoke on the Water” at a wedding reception, and playing soccer, previously aired on MTV and was released on VHS in a truncated version. The music didn’t sound like it was taken from the performances.
“Rock in Rio ‘85” is for the hardcore fan that has to have it all. This rare footage is of the band appearing at the very first Rock in Rio event in front of 300,000 people. The audio is terrible. It’s hard to make out the drums and the guitars have a very limited range. Yet there are still compelling moments with Bruce. During “Revelations,” blood runs down his face after being struck by a guitar, and during “Powerslave,” he puts out a small fire on stage.
The last treat is “‘Ello, Texas” filmed during the World Piece tour. The band can be seen at the Alamo, doing interviews, backstage, and performing “Flight of Icarus” and “22 Acacia Ave.” It should have been included on The Early Days DVD, but was discovered afterwards.
There is some repetition of songs as the band is captured on different parts of their tour, but Live After Death is a must-have concert DVD for all fans of Maiden and metal.