IRON MAIDEN – 2018 Re-masters

IRON MAIDEN – 2018 Re-masters

Late last year, the amazing ensemble that is Iron Maiden remastered their first four records and issued them via the ever-reliable Parlophone Records, which is fucking great news even if you already have some of the earlier re-masters such as the ones from 1998 somewhere in your collection. Housed in nice albeit simple-looking digipaks, the first batch of discs include the self-titled debut offering (1980), "Killers" (1981), "The Number of the Beast" (1982), and "Piece of Mind" (1983). Many of you out there already know how immaculate and utterly timeless these albums are, and they totally changed the course of metal history back in the day. What makes these 2018 re-masters essential is of course the sound and audio quality, and I might as well start off by telling you that they sound glorious when cranked up high on a proper stereo.

In the eyes of yours truly, the debut album (which is rated 6 out of 6 here in case you were wondering) is without doubt one of the greatest albums of all time, and I am not merely referring to heavy metal albums as such, but music in general. Every damn song on the record is a disciplined and focused affair with a fearless attitude to it, and the amount of energy that has been poured into the entire creation is almost ridiculous (in a good way, obviously). The band themselves have often stated that they were unhappy with Will Malone’s production of it, but I think "Iron Maiden" sounds absolutely superb and the exceptional thing about the album is that it still sounds fresh and vibrant today. If there is such a thing as being more metal than metal, this disc is surely it. You cannot argue with the quality of classics such as "Prowler", "Remember Tomorrow", "Phantom of the Opera", and "Charlotte the Harlot", just to list a few examples. This is flawless and perfect…and abso-fucking-lutely mandatory if you do not already own a copy of it on vinyl, tape, or CD. But take my advice, this 2018 remastered edition sounds tremendously good and truly captures the dynamics and all the subtleties of the tunes, so make sure you check this one out.

The sophomore album entitled "Killers" is slightly more progressive and musically adventurous than the debut, and it also boasts a slightly better and more powerful production thanks to the legendary Martin Birch. Is it better than "Iron Maiden" then? No, not necessarily, but the song arrangements are a little more complex this time around and you can hear that Maiden were branching out and covering more musical territory here. As with the first record, there is not a single bad or weak track to be found on "Killers". Those heavenly bass lines courtesy of Harris, the guitar wizardry of Murray and Smith, the clever yet powerful drumming of Burr, and those inimitable vocals of Di’Anno, all of which are simply to die for. The album is as cohesive and coherent as they come and although it may not possess the youthful charm of the debut, this masterpiece is of course being awarded 6 out of 6 as there are no mundane or unmemorable tunes to be found on it. The re-mastering has done wonders for this record as well in that the guitars and bass are a bit more prominent while the drums sound as if they have a tad more punch to them, so again, this ought to be a most welcome addition to one’s collection even if one already has the either the old CD versions or the 1998 re-masters.

What can I say about "The Number of the Beast" that has not been said a million times before? It was the first to feature Bruce Dickinson on vocals and therefore marked the beginning of a new and highly creative era for the band. The majority of tracks are so well-known that it seems kind of absurd to talk about the content of the record or the depth of the songs and so on, but allow me to point out that this one benefits quite nicely from the re-mastering process in that it has rarely sounded as vigorous and muscular as it does here. Truth be told, this one has never been my favorite Maiden output (and it is not even in my top 5 either), but that does not mean that I do not love and cherish it. We just played this fucker to death when I was a pimple-faced kid and I find myself listening to the live renditions of its songs more often than the studio counterparts…but I reckon that is just me being a weird fuck. In all honesty though, it is neither as flawless nor perfect as the first two records are, and I also consider "Piece of Mind" and "Somewhere in Time" superior to this one. Still, there can be no denying its place in history, and the weight and substance of the song material is way up there with the very best of them. Well, "Gangland" has never done much for me, really, but all in all I am going to rate this gem 5.5 out of 6, so there you have it.

"Piece of Mind" is one of my all-time favorite outputs and not just by Iron Maiden, but by bands in general. Featuring the wild and wonderfully unpredictable drumming of Nicko McBrain, I have often felt that this incredible and driven opus is somewhat overlooked compared to both its predecessor ("The Number of the Beast") and its formidable follow-up ("Powerslave"). If anything, this is perhaps the one record by the band that I think deserves even more praise simply because it is exceptional from start to finish and perfectly balances the NWOBHM elements with the progressive tendencies and experiments so confidently and to such great effect. From the galloping "Where Eagles Dare" to the epic "To Tame a Land", this 2018 edition is crisp and powerful, and it sounds as organic and colorful as one could have hoped. Martin Birch’s production was top notch to begin with, but here it sounds as if each instrument has been given a tiny bit more space to breathe, which is cool. How to rate this then? Are you kidding me?! 6 out of 6!

All in all, these four discs sound absolutely massive and one can tell that they put a lot of time and effort into re-mastering them. Simply put, they sound just right to my ears. The dynamics are there, there is plenty of punch to them, and they retain all the characteristics of the original recordings while simultaneously enhancing the very best aspects of them. When Iron Maiden worked their magic back then, it became something altogether bigger than anything else that was out there at the time, which is evidenced by the 2018 re-masters of these monumental recordings. I consider this batch of extraordinary discs a total success and so should you, damn it!