Iron Maiden

The Essential Iron Maiden

In a classic case of sending mixed signals, the British metal stalwarts of Iron Maiden tagged their uneven career-spanning two-disc set as "essential," but wisely decided to focus strictly on their first four albums during their co-headlining set at this summer's otherwise lightweight Ozzfest. Pulling two songs from each of the band's 13 studio albums in reverse chronological order, the comp can't help but be front-loaded with spotty material. Even if the most recent tracks find the outfit somewhat revitalized by the return of classic-era lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith, the four lackluster and needlessly epic-length tunes featuring fill-in vocalist Blaze Bayley sound about as essential as a gallon of barbecue sauce at an orgy. Outside of the thrashing "Be Quick or Be Dead," the balance of the first disc reveals a band churning out a tired version of the galloping, ferocious metal it had perfected a decade earlier. Not surprisingly, disc two delivers the goods with a relentless onslaught of seminal headbanging anthems that proves just how brilliant Maiden was at the height of its powers. Anyone serious about the best music of these titans should skip this collection and any other compilation -- just bite the bullet and buy all their albums through Powerslave already.

 
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