For the past two decades, Iron Maiden have been nothing if not consistent. They release a studio album; they perform around the world to support it; and then they document the tour for posterity’s sake in the form of a live album. That pattern breaks, however, with the release of the group’s new live set, their second since 2015’s The Book Of Souls. Recorded in Mexico City in late 2019, Nights Of The Dead captures the band during their ongoing Legacy Of The Beast tour, which celebrates all eras of their 40-year history, albeit with mixed results.
While classics from their first three albums with Bruce Dickinson compose more than half of what’s included on the 100-minute release, 20% of that running time is devoted to oft-overlooked Blaze Bailey material, while the Di’Anno years get only a cursory nod via the band’s eponymous anthem. Furthermore, just one song – 2006’s meandering For The Greater Good Of God – hasn’t previously appeared on a Maiden live release, and with so much overlap between Nights Of The Dead, Live After Death, Flight 666 and Rock In Rio, it would be easy to dismiss the release as for completists only.
Those who do so, however, would miss out on hearing Dickinson sound as sharp as ever, as if he’s thumbing his nose at peers who have to tune down to compensate for decaying vocal registers; a stunning and glorious homestretch featuring seven of metal’s all-time greatest songs performed with potency and precision; and – not insignificantly, given the shitshow of a year that it’s been – a poignant reminder of the power of live music. That said, while it might not be the first time we’ve heard the Air Raid Siren repeatedly command a crowd to scream for him, here’s hoping the next time will be in person.