Fresh off their first Grammy Award, Iron Maiden has released their seventh compilation album, From Fear To Eternity. This 23-song, two and a half hour collection picks up where the band’s previous compilation, Somewhere Back In Time, left off. Whereas Somewhere In Time covered the band’s 1980s commercial peak, From Fear To Eternity tracks the band through the uneven 1990s and their 2000s revitalization when Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the band.
I’ve always been of the impression that Iron Maiden plays this kind of galloping riff that nobody else does. It’s their signature sound, like the audio equivalent of Sherman’s army pillaging its way through Georgia. The Iron Maiden sound features this galloping rhythm – no coincidence that bass player Steve Harris is the group’s principal songwriter – with twin guitar shredding and Dickinson’s operatic vocals.
The best example of this sound is the Grammy winning song “El Dorado” from Maiden’s latest studio release, The Final Frontier. The galloping Maiden rhythm builds up an almost suffocating momentum before Dickinson hits the choruses in his highest register. The song is a worthy successor to other high-tempo Maiden epics like “Powerslave.”
As I said before, much of Maiden’s career in this period was uneven. The band went for a lot of big, epic compositions during this time, some work, some don’t. “Paschendale,” “For The Greater Good Of Good” and “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” are all a bit overblown. “Tailgunner” is an attempt to recreate the ferocious stampede of “Aces High” but doesn’t quite measure up. “Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter” might be the most absurd song Iron Maiden has ever done (it was cut just before Dickinson left the band in 1992).
Of the epics, “Blood Brothers” is an interesting departure for Maiden, a simplistic high-hat drum pattern and Harris’ strutting bass line overlapped with soaring guitar solos and Dickinson’s vocals. The live take on “Fear Of The Dark” is tremendous as Dickinson seemingly fights to be heard over the crowd.
Besides “Fear Of The Dark” (a highlight of Maiden’s live set), other live cuts include a nearly 11-minute take on “Sign Of The Cross” is one of the most progressive tracks on the album, with its military drum march opening before exploding in full-on rawk. The song sounds a bit like another Maiden epic, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” “The Clansman,” recorded originally with Blaze Bayley, is presented as a live cut with Dickinson on vocals and the singer belts the hell out of the song.
Oddly, considering the direction the band went in this period, the shorter songs on this compilation may be the best, as the band plays with the relentless energy of guys half their age. “The Wicker Man,” “Different World,” “Be Quick Or Be Dead” and a live version of “Man On The Edge” smoke with intensity.
All told, From Fear To Eternity provides an interesting snapshot of a period of transitions and rebirth within Iron Maiden. None of the band’s big commercial successes are here, other than “El Dorado.” But this is a solid collection that Maiden fans will enjoy and gives the band the chance to do another world tour. From Fear To Eternity shows where Maiden went to get to the renewed success that was The Final Frontier album. This is an entertaining set from one of heavy metal’s most enduring bands. — Ryan Mavity