Wednesday, March 17, 2010
ROW: Iron Maiden - Best of the Beast (EMI)
The great thaw is in full swing in these parts and that means a return a regular running regimen for yours truly. Soundtracks to said exercise are essential and this set serves frequently in that capacity. At two discs crammed with 150+ minutes it’s probably far more than any casual fan needs. I spend most of my time with the second disc which leans heavily on the early-Eighties era when ostensible band leader Steve Harris’ song-smithing reached its zenith and singer Bruce Dickenson was at his operatic, bombastic best. Songs like “The Trooper”, “Aces High” and “Number of the Beast” sound dated in their pulp-saturated lyrics and topical numbers like “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Run to the Hills” shave things down to the most basic of good and evil dichotomies. Melodrama runs high, but there’s no dismissing the layered guitar fusillades, chugging proggish bass and trip hammer kick and snare drum salvos that form the foundation of the band’s grandiose, fist-pumping sound. Even epic odes like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, which could easily sink into florid pretension, are saved by serious musicianship and the theatricality of Dickenson’s delivery. His wry preamble to the 13+ minute live version of “Mariner” pokes holes in any accusations of pretension at the outset: “And the morale of this story is this is what not to do when a bird shit’s on you.” It’s a synopsis of the Coleridge source that is at once hilarious and on point.