The MAIDEN Years: 2018/19/20/21/22/ad infinitum (Rock in Rio and Nights of the Dead)

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle - Powerslave isn't perfect but I would still count 5 legitimately fantastic songs in there. Moreover, those songs are well spaced throughout. There is a little filler, but around the same as the two albums that preceded it.

Speaking of those, I would still take TNOTB out of the three. POM suffers the most as an album due to the song layout but there's still a ton of great stuff there.
Despite of the songs, Powerslave on original vinyl is a unique experience. I started with the second side and damn what a banger back in the village was. You cannot surpass this riff and when drums and bass kicked in my sound system exploded, my windows shattered, the paint in my walls peeled from the margin of this punch. In terms of sound quality this is the best it gets, get the original vinyl, country doesn't matter, get it now.

In terms of album, Ive seen many people saying they stopped there, this is stupid since SiT and SSOASS are maiden's best works but powerslave is one of the seven great records of Maiden where they kept progressing and getting better with every record and none could touch them.

This record has everything really, artwork by derek riggs you can stare at for hours with no end, signature martin birch sound (oh god what a sound), killer small songs with great riffs, two of the greatest first songs ever;2 minutes to midnight and THE song to start a concert with, Aces High, up there with Futureal. And most importantly, it only had 2 sides.

Oh and btw, to everyone who states that Back in the village is a filler: Are you out of your mind?
Live After Death
From a time when a live album could count as the band’s album release for that year and was overall a pretty big deal. These days I think Live After Death is more notable for what it represented for the band, its historic context, and as a cap to their early era. For many listeners, especially in America I’ve found, this is Maiden’s peak.

For folks like me, who came quite a bit later, Live After Death is just one of many live albums. All of these songs are represented on other live recordings, and this tour’s Setlist in many ways set the template that the band would follow for the rest of their career. Songs like Two Minutes to Midnight and The Trooper are still fresh, but are clearly destined to become classics. Meanwhile, The Number of the Beast and Run To the Hills are clearly tried and true staples.

While this was the Powerslave tour, the show isn’t dominated by that album. From the outset, the band had only put 5 Powerslave songs on the setlist, and by the time they reached America they were down to 4. The least amount of new material to be played on a tour at that point. The live Losfer Words was released as a b-side later, but it’s absent from this collection. You also get 4 songs from Piece of Mind, 5 songs from The Number of the Beast, and 4 songs from the Di’Anno era. So a very even spread of material, it’s almost as if they intended it that way.

The energy of the performance is a lot different from Beast Over Hammersmith or any other live recordings from the band’s more humble days. This is no longer a group of young East Enders playing in sweaty clubs. This is a well rehearsed, tight shipped arena rock band. The playing is tight, the show has a very dynamic flow, the banter is clearly a bit more rehearsed, and you can hear the uniformity that comes with being a touring group. They put this show on literally hundreds of times over the course of 2 years and it shows. It’s actually really exciting to listen to, but in a different way that the earlier live material is. The stakes are higher, yet the show feels more inconsequential as one in many. Despite all this, Bruce is still able to shrink Long Beach Arena to club size in Running Free.

The highlights on this album are for sure Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Powerslave. You can tell that the band enjoyed playing these songs the most. So much energy and everyone sounds incredibly together. These are the only cuts that I feel outdo the original studio versions.

I also really dig side 4, with the Hammersmith cuts. I hope someday they release a whole Hammersmith show, those performances were much better IMO. Earlier in the tour, Bruce sounds less tired, and they played a longer setlist that includes Losfer Words. I get the impression that they were more interested in showing off the magnitude of Maiden as an arena act than anything else, hence the selection of Long Beach. But those Hammersmith recordings are awesome.

Live After Death is a weird one for me. I remember being kinda disappointed when I first heard it. This was the legendary live album everyone was talking about? Bruce didn’t sound very good, the recording was a bit thin, why listen to this when there’s Rock In Rio (which largely has the same material + more)? Like I said before, the importance of this album is obscured now that there are so many other better live recordings out there. But I can imagine hearing this as the first Maiden live album, maybe even an introduction to the band in general, and being totally blown away. When I let myself get caught up in the hype and magnitude of these recordings, I get a lot of enjoyment out of them. This album is also a godsend for guitar players, because you get the first documentation of who exactly plays what on these songs, which is kind of cool.

By the way, “motherfuckers!” At the end of Revelations is one of the greatest moments of Maiden’s recorded history.
By the way, “motherfuckers!” At the end of Revelations is one of the greatest moments of Maiden’s recorded history.
That it is. Whenever Revelations from LAD comes on during shuffle when I'm driving that ending always brings a smile to my face.
If I had to guess, probably @Cornfed Hick
That would be cool, but alas, no. I did get to see the World Slavery Tour in person at the age of 14 or so, it was my first real rock concert. (Not bad for starters!) I grew up in Kansas, so I saw the show in Kansas City, not Long Beach. Didn't move to L.A. until I was an adult.
Live After Death is a bit overrated in my opinion, but it’s also a fucking awesome slab of live Maiden. While Bruce’s performance is a bit spotty, the energy of the rest of the band more than makes up for it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve spun my CD much more often than the other live albums (I only have NOTD and TBOSLC beyond LAD), but I do think it deserves its reputation, with perhaps an asterisk attached at the end of that.
Somewhere In Time
“You can’t play metal on synthesizers!”

A lot can change in two years. To be fair, in the 80s there wasn’t much you could do with synths other than as a support role to fill out the sound. Regardless, I’m glad they didn’t prevent themselves from experimenting with sounds.

Somewhere In Time is a real mixed bag. I think there’s a lot of good and there’s a lot of bad. It has a lot in common with the reunion album material, so I laugh when SIT fanatics complain about repetitive Harris choruses on the new albums. This album is probably the biggest offender other than Virtual XI.

I’ll start with the negative stuff. You can tell the band is exhausted after the Powerslave tour. Their energy is much more restrained and a lot of the effects and synths seem to be there to overcompensate for stuff. Bruce sounds strained, tired, and honestly kind of bored. No air raids here, and his voice is drowned out by the reverbs and effects. Steve Harris has a much more involved writing role, akin to the earlier albums, but we really miss having Dickinson as a writing foil. This album is full of the Harrisisms that people complain about with the recent material: repetitive choruses, wordy lyrics with awkward phrasing, bloated songs, etc. Heaven Can Wait in particular is one of the most annoying Maiden songs (the middle section is cool though). I like Harris a lot as a songwriter, but I think he works best in collaboration with other members of the band or when writing big epics. I think his shorter to mid length songs tend to be a bit unfocused. Somewhere In Time is kinda the beginning of that trend.

With this album we continue to see a split between the quality of vocal portions and instrumental portions which was shown on Powerslave. Here it’s much more apparent. Pretty much every song has fantastic instrumental work. Alexander the Great is the prime example. Awesome instrumental, one of the best things Maiden ever put to tape, but the verses and choruses are just kinda dull.

But that brings me to the positives of the album. The instrumental work is truly awesome. Murray and Smith continue to be a guitar playing force. Virtually every song has some sort of cool guitar solo or harmony part. The instrumental parts in between and even during vocal sections are also really intricate and cool. This is the Maiden album to check out if you want to be challenged on the guitar. Harris and McBrain feel more locked in than they ever had been. Some of the bass and drum breaks are incredible tight, especially on Alex. Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner also has some incredible instrumental work.

The quality of this album is also brought up big time by Adrian Smith’s writing. His three songs are easily the best three songs on the album, Wasted Years, Sea of Madness, and Stranger in a Strange Land. Not sure which is the best or how they rank, but they are all 9/10 or 10/10 songs, the only ones on the album. Adrian has some songwriting chops that Steve just hasn’t ever really shown. His songs have hooks, dynamics, flow, the lyrics are well matched to the vocal melodies and the rest of the instrumentation. It’s an intricacy and attention to detail that is honestly kind of abnormal for Maiden. It’s refreshing to hear. Each song also has a great guitar solo that really allows Adrian to stretch a bit. If there are any missed opportunities on this album, it’s that Harris and Smith didn’t directly collaborate. If there’s anything that makes Maiden’s recent output much better than the stuff on Somewhere in Time, it’s that Harris and Smith work together a lot more. They complement each other extremely extremely well. Get Bruce in there and you are very likely about to hear the best song on the album.

Finally, while I strongly believe they used a lot of the effects to cover up weaker songs and a weaker Bruce, I also genuinely enjoy the sounds they came up with. The album has a great vibe, the guitar tones are really cool, and it’s really cool to hear Maiden experiment with being a studio based band. Of course it resulted in these songs being more or less impossible to pull off live properly, but I think it’s cool that Maiden has one album that is mostly a product of the studio.

Somewhere In Time is a weird album, but it makes a lot of sense when you put it in context. The band were clearly ready to transition to something else by Powerslave, and it usually takes some experimentation to get it right. With this album we start to see a foundation laid for what would become modern Maiden. They haven’t quite figured out how to marry their sound with extra instruments and effects, as well as more complex song forms. But you can hear the potential for a lot of really exciting musical developments.

At the same time, we’re also hearing a band that has been touring and performing non stop for 12 years. The exhaustion shows in a lot of different areas on this album, it’s even referenced directly in a lot of the lyrics. Wasted Years is an obvious example, but I think there’s a lot of nuance and metaphor in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Alexander the Great that isn’t often talked about (mostly because it probably could’ve been better executed).

While I miss Bruce’s presence on this album, honestly the ideas he had that were rejected sound terrible based on the way they’ve been described, and it sounds like Maiden successfully avoided a real Stonehenge moment. It gave him a chance to recharge and come back with some of the best material he’s contributed to the band later on, but we’ll get to that.

I do really enjoy Somewhere In Time, it’s an interesting album and definitely something that stands along in Maiden’s catalog, which definitely contributes to its cult following. But there’s also not a lot on here beyond Smith’s three songs that I am usually excited to listen to. Admittedly, I am also just a little exhausted by people complaining about no SIT songs every tour, or pining for a SIT sequel.

Live in Oxford

Ah the Somewhere In Time tour. Somehow, just as mythical, if not more than, the Somewhere in Time album. No official footage exists, not even an audio recording. Bootlegs are plentiful, but no great video footage of what was a really big production. The official story is that Rod didn’t want to film two tours in a row, which honestly I believe. It seems that many artists (across a lot of media) weren’t thinking about archiving this stuff. There’s some pro recorded video out there, but no full shows. The best we have is honestly probably the music video for Stranger in a Strange Land (which incidentally came from one of the few shows that has a bootleg video so you can see the camera crew go on stage for that one song verifying that is in fact all they filmed). The lack of footage is a double whammy for Somewhere in Time fans. Not only are the songs rarely played live, but there is no official record of the tour where they were played.

Luckily, like I said, the bootlegs are plentiful and there are some really good ones. I went with Oxford 1986 mostly because it is high quality for an audience recording, and it’s a really good performance. Bruce sounds great (better than on the album in some places) and the band is on fire. It’s also early in the tour before the album was released and you can tell the band is still warming up (but in a good way). They had some really iffy performances on this tour, but they started off very strong.

Honestly, the Somewhere On Time setlist is one of the coolest ones in the band’s history. You’ve got all the Somewhere In Time songs, which are mostly rarities, but you’ve also got Rime Of the Ancient Mariner, Where Eagles Dare, Children of the Damned, and Phantom of the Opera. It would be a really long time before a lot of these songs got played again, if ever. And of course, the Adrian Smith/Dave Murray guitar duet is one of the most unique concert pieces the band has done. Really cool stuff.

It really is a shame the band never released official stuff from this tour. The lack of any Somewhere In Time material on the Maiden England DVD is probably enough to verify that there isn’t anything hidden in the vault, but one can still dream.

Also some food for thought: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner was only played a couple times on tour, specifically during the band’s warm up tour behind the iron curtain. The only reason we know this is because of a bootleg. It always makes me wonder what other songs have been played before that we don’t realize because there aren’t any bootleg recordings. I know there’s been rumors of Back in the Village being played early in the Powerslave tour, for example. Fun to think about!
Such a great write-up once again, cheers! I've really enjoyed these. The Oxford gig was a great pick for live representation of this particular album/tour cycle. Bruce definitely sounds quite good, reaching the high notes rather well and all. Overall, he really did very well on that tour, until the cold/exhaustion streak caught him.
Good posts and it's really unfortunate they didn't ever release proper proshot show from SOT. Atlest there's some pretty good sounding shows and videos (few even proshot) but I have dreamed of them one day releasing proper series of boxsets containing audio and video of each tour.
I've now signed up to this forum after years of lurking- a note to say thank you for these very interesting posts. I'm really enjoying this album by album breakdown.
This is fantastic to read. Welcome aboard!
Great stuff, as always @Mosh

I gotta add that the rhythm section was at the height of its powers on this one - a Ferrari racing down a mountain road.
Listening to SiT as we speak, the song titles are written in Greek and apart from the cringe factor they are wrong too. This is a flawless album it would be my favorite if SSOASS didn't exist. The sound is awesome, the cover too. This album had the best B Sides, better than SSOASS. Every song is so unique yet consistent. I mostly listen to this album or bootlegs of the songs from the tour while running. The title track has my favorite Maiden solo of all time and that gallien krueger guitar sound makes me wet. The loneliness of the long distance runner is probably my favorite, awesome intro too. They played this one on Belgrade. This album doesn't feel repetitive at all to me.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
I find this album to be not just better than Somewhere in Time, but the 2nd best 80s album after Piece of Mind. During this listen, I tried to hone in on why this is the case, and I found a few things.

For one thing, despite often being grouped together as being part of the synth era of Maiden, I actually think Seventh Son and SIT are pretty opposite each other on the more substantive elements. In fact I think SIT has a bit more in common with Powerslave. Both albums are very instrumentally driven, both albums have a lot of word salad-y Harris lyrics, and overall just a very similar energy. To that end, Somewhere in Time very much feels like a reaction to Powerslave and the following tour.

With Seventh Son, a lot of things change. The album is much more collaborative, with only three songs composed only by Harris (and these are the only two without multiple writing credits). This makes a huge difference and results in an album with more variety and color. The Smith/Harris/Dickinson combination is almost a guarantee for greatness. Bruce Dickinson is back and in too lyrical and vocal form. He turns in one of his best performances on any Maiden album. The guitar players are also in top form, continuing the streak of each album being an improvement in the guitar department. This is, imo, the best performance Dave Murray would ever have in Maiden (fingers crossed he outdoes himself in Senjutsu, but I’m not holding my breath). It’s everything we love about 80s Maiden, but kicked up a notch with better-than-usual songwriting.

Having a concept to work with really helped too, I think. Even if the concept is murky and unfocused, it resulted in a best of both worlds situation. Sure it wasn’t as dramatic and epic as Operation Mindcrime, but there also isn’t any fluff and has much more material that works out of context. The concept helped spur some major creativity in the lyric department and the lyrics just seem more prioritized than usual here.

The production is also vastly superior to Somewhere in Time. The synths and reverbs are still there, but they don’t overpower the music or performance. The effects on Bruce’s voice complement rather than compensate.The bass and drums sound extremely crisp. Guitar tones are thick and wide. The synths are used very creatively and bring in a lot of atmosphere. It all works.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the songs, and Seventh Son has really fantastic songs. Like Piece of Mind, it perfectly threads the needle between the commercial (Can I Play With Madness, The Evil That Men Do), the proggy (Seventh Son and Infinite Dreams), and the deep rockers (Moonchild, The Clairvoyant, Only the Good Die Young). It also has the best “filler” material perhaps of all the 80s albums. The two songs that didn’t get played live, Only the Good Die Young and The Prophecy, are really high quality. Seventh Son has it all and is a triumphant cap to the band’s first decade of recorded music.

Maiden England
Before I said that Beast Over Hammersmith was my favorite live album from the 80s, but this listen through of Maiden England is giving me second thoughts. First of all, what a setlist! I like how they took the effort to minimize repeats of stuff that appeared on Live After Death, which results in a setlist of b-tier classics that don’t get played quite as often. In addition to the 6 Seventh Son tracks, three of which would end up becoming rarities, you get Die With Your Boots On, The Prisoner, Still Life, Killers, all songs that would cause a pretty big stir of excitement if they were played on the next tour. It’s a really great slab of 80s Maiden without leaning too heavily into the usual suspects.

Bruce sounds pretty good here. He was inconsistent live in the 80s, to say the least, but he’s mostly on pitch here and is giving really energized performances. Older songs like The Prisoner and Killers sound refreshed after a few tours without them. I really like the addition of synths in Still Life. Almost every Seventh Son song sounds amazing live. Another thing that makes SSOASS a better album than Somewhere In Time is that it is still really studio oriented but yet was probably the most live ready album they’d done since Number of the Beast. The performance just really works. Can I Play With Madness never really worked live imo, but it has a good energy at least.

There are a lot of contrasts between this and Live After Death, but it especially shows in the way they recorded on their home turf in a smaller and more intimate venue. The live energy is more reminiscent of Live At the Rainbow than Live After Death. This is especially noticeable in the video which uses more closeup shots and darker lighting, but you can hear it in the looseness of the performance and Bruce’s more conversational banter with the audience. It’s a nice document that shows Maiden maintained a connection with their hardcore audience even as worldwide superstars. I also think it serves as a prelude to the 90s; they were clearly thinking about stripping things down when this video and album were made.
“You can’t play metal on synthesizers!”
I assume most people already know this, but for those who don’t, that is (almost) a direct quote from Bruce:

I still kinda agree — you CAN, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.
Seventh isn't maiden's best album, its the best album to ever exist in general. Everything is perfect, the sweet gallien krueger sound, the Derek Riggs cover that cant be matched, its art, its calming. The bsides were nice too. The setlist was awesome, it had still life, killers, the prisoner, heaven can wait.
This album has a magical feeling, its just perfect, words cant describe it. This is the last true Maiden album, theyve had nice moments since then but never a 10/10 album.