Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Number of the Beast

Number of the Beast: All Star Tribute to Iron Maiden
Restless/Rykodisc

Not too sure if there's ever been a Maiden tribute album so far. Not everyone'd be brave enuff with the requisite moral fibre to try and nail these masterworks of metal mayhem and gattling gun guitar strafings. Or desperate enuff on the showing of this collection of mainly semi-retired fretboard hackers...whatever, tho, it IS almost uniformly fantabulous, and the overall calibre of songwriting throughout the Irons reign would baffle Bach, even if just for a few ticks. Not hard really when they stay true to the originals, but why alter perfection? Why the fuck not? Me, I'm still waiting for a psychobilly rendition of 'Aces High'. C'mon, it's just begging for Demented Are Go or OS Catalepticos to shoot it down....or worse.

Anyway old General Harry shouldn't be too pissed at this when he gives the troops a once over on the parade ground at Pacific Palisades or wherever, even Dee Snider's straining on 'Wasted Years' should be overlooked, and actually commended for valour as he does inflect more pathos and reflective feel, into it than Dickinson's panto screeching, especially as when the original was recorded he'd rather have been fencing, flying or 'writing'. Old self-mythologizing villain, the Nick Cotton-esque desperado Paul Di'Anno plays for the pipe on 'Wrathchild', still a great song that he obviously identifies with, but I'd rather have had 'Remember Tomorrow' given the production it deserves. 'The Trooper' is tackled by possibly the only men able to take this 'un over the top and not get cut down on their own wire...yup, it's those dastardly Motorhead barstads Lemmy & Campbell...Lemmy's howitzer firing breath actually benefiting the classic tale of an infantry mans death waddle in the Crimea.


Of course, with an album featuring Dio man Craig Goldie, Dokken's George Lynch and Paul Gilbert from Racer X, guitar pyrotechnics (or prattling, if you will) is to the fore. Yuss, I know, Maiden did it anyway but sometimes these chaps kinda think it gives them reason to go just that touch too much in the far-zone, where Maiden, especially Mr Murray, played far tastier solos than their stage-wear would otherwise indicate, as we all know. One thing with your hair, dudes, another on classic metal. Stand up (no surprises here, surely) Nuno Bettencourt who, to paraphrase Def Leppard, pursues some bludgeon widdle-ola on 'Aces High' like the eager new recruit forgetting to watch his wing in the heat of the dog-fight the songs warning of. D'oh. Go to the back of the benefit queue, or be a session muso or something. Whatever you do, bugger off. (Yes, old prejudices from rock club days die hard...get the funk out, indeed, damn him!). It also, quite criminally, guv, lacks the spiraling dive-bombing trem-arm trickery that soundtracks a Spitfires plummet to the green and desecrated land. Similarly on '2 Minutes To Midnight' and 'The Evil That Men Do', tho the latter has a much needed heaviness that the band swapped for synths on the '7th Son' record.

Best is the 'Holy Smoke' meets Skynyrd ballad 'Fear Of The Dark' intoned by Testament's Chuck Billy, and surprisingly the always slight 'Flight Of Icarus' fares better, falling between the way too slow, insipid watery soup version from the 'Piece Of Mind' album, sunning itself instead, even for just an instant, in the reflected glow of the prime rib sizzler on the 'Live After Death' set.


Of course, your willingness to inflict this upon yourselves will depend on your loving or loathing of Maiden. But as an album in itself it should appeal to more than Maiden completists, tho it coulda done with
a few more tunes in there, like 'Drifter' and 'Prowler' perhaps. Even if you're a passing rock / metal fan with a casual interest in our East End ear splitters it's worth a few bob of your Brown Ale fund. In the meantime n' by all means, do contact your local psychobilly heroes and press 'em to do 'Aces High'.

-Stu Gibson

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