Subtitled "A Tribute To The Best Band In A Whole Goddamn World!", this record has the double merit of being the very first tribute album to Iron Maiden and sporting an original cover illustration by Derek Riggs himself. It was originally only released in Japan by a company called Toy's Factory in 1997 and features – with one exception – only extreme Metal bands from Sweden. Many other similar albums were to follow, but – thankfully! – the Black/Death Metal trend didn't last long. Most of the bands covering Maiden on this record belong to this pretty extreme genre, and it is really obvious that doom vocals simply do not fit this type of songs. Gone is the subtlety of the original versions, to be replaced by detuned guitars and animal growls that make you wonder if these covers are a genuine homage or simply a piss-take.
Basically, it mostly depends on the song covered, as the originally fast and rocky ones, like "Aces High" for instance, seem more adapted to Death Metal covers. So, Arch Enemy and In Flames do a pretty good job here, whereas Dark Tranquillity seem to have some real problems with their version of "22 Acacia Avenue". Incidentally, it is quite amazing to hear how much In Flames and Dark Tranquillity sound alike on this tribute album: very similar sound with the guitars tuned in the same way, same doom vocals... It could be the same band playing both song, except that "Murders In The Rue Morgue" still sounds pretty good, whereas "22 Acacia Avenue" is a complete massacre!
Iron Maiden covers by Black Metal bands have advantage, however: you can have a good laugh! Just listen to the doom vocals on "The Trooper" or the growls on the chorus of "Die With Your Boots On" and you'll understand. It sounds quite simply ridiculous and it's hard to take these covers seriously. Only Nocturnal Rites and Decameron succeed in reproducing quite well Maiden's original songs in their own way, and "2 Minutes To Midnight" seems to be the best cover on this album, due to the singer's voice that combines efficiently both aggression and melody, like on the original song.
To conclude, you should only get hold of this CD if you are already into extreme Metal or if you're a collector of such items. You can find it in various places, but as it is quite rare and out of print, expect prices around USD 30-35. This tribute album is merely an amusing diversion from the original versions of the songs, too often close to being just laughable, and there is no real reason for anyone else but collectors to get hold of it.
– Aces High (Harris)
This Black Metal band was formed in 1996 and has since released many albums that the fans of the genre consider excellent. They had already covered "The ides Of March" and the track was included in the Japanese pressing of their very first album, Black Earth. Their cover of "Aces High", with Johan Liiva singing before his replacement by Angela Gossow, is, like the original, very enjoyable and this particular piece is one of the highlights of this tribute album. It can also be found on the two-CD version of their 2001 album, Wages Of Sin.
– 2 Minutes to Midnight (Smith, Dickinson)
This another Black Metal band that appeared at the beginning of the 90s and that recently reformed after a few years in limbo. Their cover is quite close to the original and constitutes one of the rare successful ones on this album, if not the best one.
– Children Of The Damned (Harris)
This pretty decent cover of "Children Of The Damned" lacks however the vocal aggression originally demonstrated by Bruce Dickinson, which unfortunately makes it sound quite bland. I read a review about it stating that we had here a nice parody of what Blaze Bayley used to do live on "The Evil That Men Do", and, as harsh as this may sound, we must admit that some vocal ranges are simply not adapted to songs that were so brilliantly sung by Bruce. In any case, this shouldn't put you off from trying out Therion's original material, mostly since 1995 or so, which is pretty excellent. This Iron Maiden cover can also be found on their 1997 album, A┤Arab Zaraq – Lucid Dreaming, as well as on the 2002 Maiden tribute album, A Tribute To The Beast.
– Die With Your Boots On (Smith, Dickinson, Harris)
This aggressive Thrash band was formed by guitarist Christopher Amott, who was also playing in Arch Enemy before he decided he didn't have enough time to devote to both bands and disbanded Armageddon. However, other albums have subsequently been released, indicating that the band is not entirely dead. In any case, this cover of "Die With Your Boots On" would be quite decent if it weren't for the strained vocals that somehow ruin it.
This version of "Wasted Years", although quite close to the original, lacks the splendour of the original song. The "futuristic" arrangements of Maiden's track have been omitted, rendering this cover about as dull as an English breakfast without baked beans. Nocturnal Rites are however an excellent band in their own genre when they play their own compositions.
Sadist is an Extreme Metal band from Italy that was active throughout the 90s and that disbanded in the early 2000s. This cover of "Wrathchild" is probably not the best thing they ever did, given that you like this style of music. Doom vocals and growls just don't fit Iron Maiden's music.
This cover cannot be taken seriously. The voice and the arrangements are simply ridiculous and, although this band must have put some effort into it, you just can't help but wonder if you should laugh or cry when you hear this track.
– The Evil That Men Do (Smith, Dickinson, Harris)
Although Naglfar are a well-respected band in their own genre, this live cover of "The Evil That Men Do" simply doesn't cut it. The vocals are absolutely ridiculous, mostly with those weird grunts that can be heard in various places of the song. This track was included in the 2001 re-release of their album, Vittra.
– 22, Acacia Avenue (Harris, Smith)
Dark Tranquillity is a brilliant band and their compositions are excellent – needless to say, all of their albums are whole-heartedly recommended. However, this cover of "22, Acacia Avenue" is quite a flop, highlighting once again that some songs cannot be adapted to a different genre, mostly such an extreme one. This version of the song was also included in the 2002 Maiden tribute album, A Tribute To The Beast.
Like Dark Tranquillity, In Flames are an excellent band from the Gothenburg Metal scene. But unlike their compatriots, they succeeded here in making a really decent Iron Maiden cover. The vocals are still a bit hard to stomach if you're not used to this style, this is still one of the best tracks on this album.