The concept of this tribute album is pretty good: it is a 2-CD album with one disc of the eleven bands covering Maiden, and the other with the same bands playing one of their original compositions. The bands are all American and more or less known, which is an ideal opportunity for them to get some exposure. When a band covers Iron Maiden, you don't necessarily know what they actually sound like when they play their own stuff and this album allows you to have a clearer idea.
Unfortunately, the quality of most of the covers is uneven and, as an average, not very high. Some are quite bad and most of them are rather poorly recorded (mostly the drums) and lack the power and energy of the original versions. But there are some good ones, though. The second CD is in fact much better, showcasing the real sound of the bands and more enjoyable than the sometimes failed attempts to play Maiden songs.
This album would be mostly recommended to discover some of the bands with their own compositions, but not really for the cover versions that they play.
– Aces High (Harris)
Ingenuously starting with the sound of an air-raid siren and machine-gun fire, this decent cover of "Aces High" lacks however quite a lot of the power of the original. Pharoh's original song, "Solar Flight", which features on their 2003 debut album After The Fire, is fast and powerful, although the production could have been better. Good band, but nothing really transcendental. Pharaoh also covered "Revelations" on the 2000 Slave To The Power tribute album.
A promising American traditional metal band, Pharaoh formed in 1997 in Philadelphia and spent their formative years working on material, but by the time they had written enough for a full album, they had still not secured a vocalist. They attracted the interest of Tim Aymar, well known for his work in Control Denied, and he agreed to take part, at first only on a session basis (he later became a permanent member). Due to various record label difficulties, the recording of After The Fire took some time, but was finally completed and released by the new Italian label Cruz Del Sur. Musically, the band has drawn frequent (and justified) comparisons to Iron Maiden, with some nods to 80's American power metal as well. Aymar puts in a fine performance, as does the rest of the band. After The Fire lacks that one something that puts it in the absolutely-must-have category, but it's a fine debut effort, and there's plenty of potential here to be tapped in the future.
Strange intro, strange snare drum sound, strange solos... interesting version of one of Iron Maiden's best songs, but not one of the best covers, though. On the other hand, "Holy War" is a very good track, indicating that it is often difficult to judge a band on a single cover version. Omen seems to be a band that needs more attention.
Omen was one of the more successful Metal Blade artists of the eighties, employing a classic 80's metal sound vaguely along the lines of Priest/Maiden. Frankly I remember little about them, though I thought they were decent (if not outstanding) at the time. The Escape To Nowhere album marked a slight departure from their early style, and shortly after its release, the band broke up. It wasn't until 1997 that founder Kenny Powell resurrected the Omen name with a new lineup, and his own son Greg taking over on vocals. The resulting album, Reopening The Gates, reportedly had more in common with 90's metal than with their earlier albums, which left many core fans longing for the classic Omen style. The band took a break, then came back together with a new vocalist (son Greg having moved on to his own band, Stomping Ground). A new album, Eternal Black Dawn, said to be in the vein of the classic older Omen material, has now been released.
Final Prayer is a Death Metal band that seems to have disappeared without traces. When you listen to both their cover of "Killers" and their original composition, "Lambs To The Slaughter", you understand why. Pretty awful...
– Remember Tomorrow (Harris, Di'Anno)
Although the 80s-sounding vocals are a little bit weak, Born Of Fire recorded here a decent rendition of "Remember Tomorrow", as well as a quite good original song, "Fire And Brimstone". Not the best on this album, but certainly not the worst either.
– Powerslave (Dickinson)
Want a good laugh? Listen to this cover version of "Powerslave"! Pay special attention to the background vocals during the chorus, they sound like a whole bunch of doped up hippies singing along at Woodstock. It also sounds like the drummer is using dustbin lids instead of a proper kit – could this be where Lars Ulrich got the idea from for St. Anger? Simply ridiculous. On the other hand, "When All Is Said And Done", their original song, is actually quite decent. Twisted Tower Dire is not such a bad band after all.
Twisted Tower Dire have been unabashedly waving the banner of true metal for almost a decade, formed back in 1995 in Virginia and releasing several singles and EPs as well as three full-length albums. Musically, the band truly is reliving the glory of 80's traditional metal (Iron Maiden being a prime influence, but far from the only one) but manage to do so without resorting to stale cloning of the good old days. This band is a solid choice for true metal purists.
Death Metal drummer Richard Christy is brilliant. However, he simply does way too much on this cover of "Genghis Khan", which tends to ruin the track. Sometimes, less is more! The guitar work is excellent, though. "Chapters Of Youth" is a typical Death Metal song. If you're into this style of music, you'll probably like it.
– Heaven Can Wait (Harris)
This is a rather bland cover of "Heaven Can Wait", with a singer who sounds pretty much like Anton Maiden. The "Take my hand..." part has been skipped and the ooh-ooh chorus is a complete flop. "Beggars & Children", from their 2000 album Catharsis Instinct, is however musically pretty good, and the Doom vocals of the singer contrast with their Iron Maiden cover where he tries – and fails miserably! – to emulate Bruce Dickinson. Could it be that he chose the "growling" style because he simply can't sing?
– Wrathchild (Harris)
"Wrathchild" in a Death Metal version may surprise some, but this cover is actually quite decent, with the vocal style seemingly highlighting the "wrathchild"'s anger. "Come Forth the Haunting", from Equinox's 1994 demo, is pretty atmospheric and could almost be called "progressive". Good stuff.
– Hallowed Be Thy Name (Harris)
Both "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Aries Shield" feature on Edenrot's 1999 self-titled demo CD. In the case of "Hallowed...", the vocals are, to say the least, "interesting", even if the instrumentation is really good. It's a bit as if Ozzy Osbourne was trying to sing Maiden – got the picture? The background vocals are in a similar vein, but the whole cover is decent. The original song sounds like some kind of sub-par Black Sabbath of the Ozzy-era mingled with some weird more modern Death Metal. Not bad, but nothing fantastic either.
– Invaders (Harris)
What starts as a good cover of "Invaders" becomes quickly totally ruined by the vocals. Horrible! "Mask", from their 1997 album Elements Of Anger, is however quite good. This is another really decent band that screwed up a cover, even if their original material is good.
The home of bassist extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio (the perennial extreme metal session player/guest star), Sadus straddles the fine line between thrash and death, similar to Sepultura's early days. The band lapses into long periods of inactivity while DiGiorgio and the others keep busy elsewhere.
This cover of "Iron Maiden" is the most original of the whole album, which probably also makes it the best. Slowed down and played totally differently in the beginning, it bursts into a powerful rendition of the original track, but with Doom vocals and even trumpet during the chorus! A brief jazzy passage with horns makes this cover even more interesting. Really ingenious and creative! Their original composition, "Almond Beauty" from their 1998 The Spear Of The Lily Is Aureoled album, is also very good, with an alternance of clear and Doom vocals, as well as a horn section.
One of the more unique bands to emerge in quite some time, Washington's Sculptured seem determined to expand the realm of metal rather than simply stay within the normal confines of the genre. On the debut The Spear Of The Lily Is Aureoled, the band mixes doom metal, somber semi-death metal (both clean and death vocals can be heard), acoustic and quiet passages, and even horns. Though not sounding like anyone in particular, the band does have a Scandinavian flavor to them, particularly the melancholy moments (think, maybe, Katatonia, a little). The arrangements flow nicely, there is a wide variety of emotions at work here. On Apollo Ends the band pushes the envelope still further, incorporating more influences and instruments, with the brass section fully incorporated into the sound – this is really the first time horns have been grafted onto metal without sounding like a cheap novelty. Definitely a band to keep an eye on. With several core members also serving in Agalloch, the future of this band is uncertain.