February 22, 2006

Music DVD Review: Iron Maiden - Death on the Road

Iron Maiden is one of those bands that seem to put out as many live albums as studio albums. For some reason, though, I don't seem to mind. The live shows are such incredible spectacles, and the music is so powerful, and they just pull it off so well that I have let go of my annoyance at an overabundance of live material. This DVD is a fine example of a band that can still tear it up live, even past the quarter century mark of their career, while still putting out albums of quality new material.

Before going any further, there are some technical issues with the set. First, the two concert disks were mislabeled, the 5.1 disk has the PCM stereo mix and vice versa. Secondly, the concert skips back to the song select menu after 2 songs "Rainmaker" and "Brave New World." I have further read that the release has been recalled as defective. You can read more about it in the forums at Iron Maiden's website.

I reviewed the CD release way back in October 2005, so you can see what I had to say about it back then. Go ahead and check that out, I'll wait, honest!................ Ok, are you back? Good, let's move along.

Now it is time to revisit what I thought of the music. This DVD sounds a lot better than the CD release. They must have done extensive remixing, because it is 100x better than the CD sounded. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers create this massive wall of sound, yet can flip it around and be as smooth and soft as silk for the mellower moments, such as the opening of "Dance of Death" and the acoustic "Journeyman." Steve Harris' bass is always standout, filling in the low end like no one else can. Nicko McBrain's drums are phenomenal, precise and driving. And what would Iron Maiden be without one of the greatest metal voices of all time in Bruce Dickinson? Together they have put on a great show of pure metal. Bruce may not be able to hit the high notes like he once could, but you cannot deny the fact that he still has a powerful voice.

This disk provides a different experience than Rock in Rio did a few years back. In many ways, I find this show to be superior to that one. For one thing, the stage setup is great, the rotating Eddie backdrops, the giant grim reapers, the gothic castle styled art all give it this old school epic metal look. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the additional stage dressing used during "Paschendale." I also think the performance may be a touch better, and I also like the set list to be stronger here.

There is one thing that the two shows have in common, and it is not a positive. That commonality is the editing of Steve Harris. Harris is a great bass player and and excellent songwriter, but he has no place in the editing bay. It is almost as if he has all this footage to use and wants to get it all in there that cuts are made as quickly as possible to get to it all. I would have preferred to have longer takes. Perhaps using a couple of wide shots as beds and moving in on specific sections, like Bruce for the chorus, or Adrian for a solo, or Nicko for a particularly nice fill. Having so many cuts in such a rapid succession does take away from the overall power of the show. Death on the Road does get a bit better as the show goes on, but I would have preferred the whole show get slowed down a bit.

I don't want to sound like I am complaining, this is a wonderful show. The video looks great, excellent lighting effects, and an overall dark pall covering the stage with spotlighted sections highlighting where the eye should go. This is a darker show than Rock in Rio, and that helps to differentiate it from the two, the darker look and the varied setlist help the two shows compliment each other rather nicely.

The set doesn't end with the show, in addition to the two concert disks there is a third disk. This last disk contains documentaries, interviews, and videos complimenting the Death on the Road tour.

First up is an excellent 70 minute documentary called "Death on the Road" (what else?). This takes us into the studio with the band and producer Kevin Shirley. See how the band worked on creating the Dance of Death CD, how it was different than past recording experiences. This leads into the tour, including aspects of designing the set, costume preparation, traveling, pre-show regimens, it is all covered here. This is an excellent documentary, taking a look at the band in the studio and on the road.

Next up is the 40 minute "Life on the Road" documentary. This contains interviews with the instrument techs and set builders. We are taken through a day in the life, so to speak, of Maiden's support crew, without these guys, the show would never go on in the impressive form in which it does.

The third documentary is simply called "The Fans" and runs for nearly half an hour. This focuses on interviews with fans as they wait to get into the show. This is a fun look at the young and the old, seeing how Iron Maiden continually attracts new fans, whether through the older fans introducing their children, or people just discovering them on their own (like I did). This is a little fluffier in nature than the other two, but it is still fun.

Also included is a 15 minute EPK (Electronic Press Kit), featuring interviews, video, and live footage used to promote the CD release of Dance of Death. Not terribly hard hitting stuff, but it is interesting to see what is used when trying to promote a new release.

What extras set would be complete without a music video or two? Here we get the two videos from Dance of Death, "Wildest Dreams" and "Rainmaker." The former being completely CGI driven and the latter incorporating CG and live in studio footage. There is an extra section set to "Rainmaker" with design sketches for "Wildest Dreams" and on set photos from "Rainmaker."

Rounding out the third disk are a few photo galleries or concert shots, promo images, and studio pictures. Galleries never interested me that much, but there are still some nice pictures here.

Bottomline. This is a fantastic set, glitches aside. Great set list, great performance, nice set. The bottom line is the fact that this is IRON MAIDEN! There really isn't anything else you need to know. If you like metal, this is for you, period.

Up the Irons!

Highly Recommended. **** / *****

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