Supreme Galactic Overlord
- Nov 11, 2019
Scream for me, Long Beach!
If you were a metal fan in the 1980s and you didn't know this rallying cry, then you weren't a metal fan in the 80s. It really was that ubiquitous. Released 36 years ago this week, Live After Death is, quite simply, the best live heavy metal album ever made. Filmed over 4 nights at Long Beach Arena (not too far from Huntington Beach) in California, late in the year-long "World Slavery Tour" to promote the near-perfect Powerslave album from the Golden Age of Iron Maiden (with an additional 20 minutes recorded from 4 nights at Hammersmith Odeon in the UK), Live After Death is a ferocious picture of Iron Maiden in their glorious prime, with an equally ferocious Derek Riggs illustration of "Eddie the 'Ead" bursting from the grave, a bolt of lightning devastating the bolt holding his skull together after the full lobotomy represented on the Piece of Mind album cover. This is probably my favorite album cover of all time.
My cousin Bobby, who sold me my first used guitar (An Aria Pro II "explorer" style fixed bridge beauty in black), was a huge Maiden fan. By the mid-80s, I was still into the more radio-friendly "metal-lite" fare, like Def Leppard and Quiet Riot, with a few other similar bands sprinkled in. I was still fairly new to the scene, and new to guitar, but Bobby pushed me to dive into Maiden. I bought Powerslave on vinyl, because I had a record player in my room. I remember pulling the album out of the sleeve and putting it on, gorging myself on the Egyptian imagery as I laid down on the bed with the dust jacket draped in song lyrics.
About halfway through Aces High, the guitar solo kicked in, and it was so much longer than any solo I'd ever heard before that I had to wonder if they'd simply NOT used the rest of the lyrics printed on the sheet and finished the song as an instrumental. Of course I was wrong. By Two Minutes to Midnight, the gruesome lyrical imagery ("jellied brains" and "feed them to our babies," etc) made this the most "evil" thing my young mind had ever been exposed to (so far). Maybe they really WERE satanic??? Back in the Village was among my favorite tracks on the album. The riff was just crazy. So fast, so powerful. The nearly 14-minute Rime of the Ancient Mariner was amazing, though I thought it was a bit too repetitive and the slow section in the middle just way too long (and I got my literature teacher to play the song, in its entirety, in our class when we studied Coleridge).
That album changed my life. Seriously. And the cover had so many "easter eggs" all over it. I studied it for days.
Soon after came the live album, Live After Death. I asked for this album for Christmas, and to her credit, Mom (disgusted by the cover art as she was) wrapped the vinyl double-album in Santa paper to put it under the tree. I absolutely devoured it. For all the songs that weren't on Powerslave, these versions were the very first ones I heard, and therefore they will always be THE proper versions of the songs. Hearing the studio versions of songs like Revelations later made them seem slow, and dull. Lifeless. Everything on LAD was absolute ferocity.
Then there was the home video of the entire show. So much to see, from the Eddie props, to the Egyptian backdrop, to the live performance, with each and every one of the members on top of their game. Watching Dave and Adrian trade licks, Adrian leaning on Dave's shoulder. It wouldn't be until over 30 years later that I could actually see them do the same thing in-person from about as close, and I was as giddy as a schoolboy when I did. Bruce running the massive stage end to end over and over again, never missing a note (and I can confirm, he can STILL fuckin do it, even over 60 years old and recovered from throat cancer!).
When I got a little older and had a car, I bought LAD again on cassette. Then when the CD came out, I bought it yet again, without realizing the entire 4th side (The Hammersmith songs, some of my absolute favorites on the album) weren't included because they wanted to keep it to one CD. Eventually, the 2-CD version was released and I bought it YET AGAIN.
Favorite tracks: Revelations, Hallowed be Thy Name, 22 Acacia Avenue, Children of the Damned, Phantom of the Opera
Dislike: No "Back in the Village," and the ripping version of "Sanctuary" on the companion home video release is not included.