Why Iron Maiden’s ‘Live After Death’ Is Their Best Concert Album
Released on Oct. 14, 1985, Live After Death documented Iron Maiden’s historic, though cheekily named, World Slavery tour. They covered two dozen countries with an amazing 187 concerts spread over 11 months, then offered this four-sided souvenir with a beautifully packaged gatefold sleeve.
On the outside, fans were presented with a stunning new "adventure" for the band’s inseparable mascot Eddie, painted by longtime collaborator Derek Riggs. On the inside, dozens of action photos of Steve Harris and his crew and their amazing, ancient Egyptian-themed stage production brought the tour back to life – no pun intended – for anyone not lucky enough to have attended one of their shows personally.
Most copies of Live After Death also included a detailed, multi-paged booklet that compiled comprehensive statistics about the entire mammoth trek, even more photos, and introduced fans to the band’s loyal crew — all of which gave the band’s fans a Pharaoh’s treasure trove that they could pour over as they listened to the album.
And then there was the music: all 100-plus, vinyl-busting minutes of it, comprised of 18 songs — many of them typically epic in nature and spanning the length and breadth of Iron Maiden’s still young, but already quasi-legendary career. The blistering “Aces High” (introduced by Winston Churchill’s famous “We shall never surrender” speech), “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “Powerslave” and the gigantic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” were chosen to represent the band’s most recent, fifth studio album Powerslave, while “Running Free,” “Wrathchild” “Phantom of the Opera,” “and “Iron Maiden” covered the band’s first two releases with singer Paul Di’Anno – only now delivered by his replacement Bruce Dickinson, of course.
And the remaining nine songs were culled from the twin triumphs of 1982’s The Number of the Beast and 1983’s Piece of Mind, including must-have fan favorites like “Run to the Hills,” “The Number of the Beast,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” “Flight of Icarus” and “The Trooper,” as well as more surprising choices like “Children of the Damned,” “22 Acacia Avenue,” “Revelations” and “Die With Your Boots” — most of which exploded with new-found power in a live setting such as this. Finally, though these top performances were handpicked and collated from separate concerts in Southern California’s Long Beach Arena and London’s Hammersmith Odeon, they were mixed as such to mimic the experience of a single Iron Maiden gig, further enhancing the listener’s feeling of actually being there, in the moment.
All these qualities contributed to Live After Death’s instant success and enduring popularity over the years. Iron Maiden have, of course, continued to prosper ever since, releasing numerous amazing live albums along the way, but Live After Death remains their undisputed, definitive concert recording.