You can bellyache all you like about the Iron Maiden reissue ‘industry’, but the simple fact of the matter is that as long as people want to buy their records on vinyl for the 15th time then there’s a re-release waiting there for them. It’s called fan power.
This new set of 12 180g reissues – released over the next few months, with the option of housing it in a purple Collector’s Box – spans the 12 albums they released between 1990 and 2015. And yes, that includes The Black Bayley Years.
Received wisdom is that Blaze screwed the pooch for Maiden. Granted, only the truly bananas would try to reclaim 1995’s rotten The X Factor (4⁄10) and 1998’s noticeably better Virtual XI (6⁄10) as lost classics. But let’s defend the man here: his voice was ill-suited to Maiden’s vaulting anthems, but he was let down by the quality of the songwriting.
In truth, the rot had set in with 1990’s No Prayer For The Dying (4⁄10). After the glorious highs of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, this was Maiden trying to get back to basics and falling short. Holy Smoke was the worst lead-off single Maiden had ever recorded, and that was one of its better tracks. Fear Of The Dark (6⁄10) was an improvement, but it still lacked the platinum-hued songwriting and Boy’s Own bravado of the band’s 80s classics. With hindsight, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Bruce Dickinson already had one foot out of the door.
We’d have to wait until the turn of the millennium for the Good Ship Maiden to steady itself. The return of Dickinson instigated a run of albums that rightly restored the band to the throne they had accidentally vacated. In ascending order of greatness, we have: Dance Of Death (7⁄10), a great set of songs let down by that Tap-esque title track); The Final Frontier (8⁄10), the most undervalued album in the Maiden canon; and, jointly, Brave New World (9⁄10) and A Matter Of Life And Death (9⁄10), both stone-cold prog metal classics.
The package is bulked out by a trio of live albums: Rock In Rio (7⁄10), Flight 666 (7⁄10) and En Vivo (7⁄10). Strangely, no sign of A Real Live One or A Real Dead One – or The Book Of Souls for that matter. But then maybe there’s too much of a good thing. Even for Iron Maiden.