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I guess I'm used to companies like ROADRUNNER and METALBLADE giving you info in their CD booklet about the bands featured and what they have on catalogue. Dwell Records has none of that in the booklet. In fact, they have no booklet; just a single page foldout. The studio credits only list the Executive Producers, Executive Coordinators, Cover art, Graphic Design and Mastered By. I have no idea who the engineer or producer on these songs were, nor do I know what the band's listed have in their catalogue, and that's a shame because some are quite good. What's more, I have no idea whether these songs were recorded especially for this tribute or during the career of the given bands. Who was in the line up was at the time the songs were made? Credit wise this disk totally sucks! A tribute album is always a way for a record company to sell a bunch of no names on the cheap by pasting some popular group's name on the cover. As a corporation, you pay the band recognized, their scale and then go do whatever you want. A small, but profitable group of "complete-ist" fans will buy the album. Looking at this album, I can't help but get the feeling that Dwell Records didn't give a squat about the bands they gathered for this album. Can somebody let me know about this?
Anyway . . .
So how does the album stack up? Well let me give you a few of my rules for tribute albums. I don't care if you simply cover the song. The fans already KNOW that the song ROCKS! I expect, in a tribute, that the bands listed either do it BETTER than the Original band (like Aerosmith did a far better version of the Beatles "Come Together" and Hole did a better version of Fleetwood Mac's "Stardust Woman"), or at least brand it in a way that makes the song the cover band's own. Did I get that? Did they even try to make this old Iron Maiden fan happy? Do they even know that I exist? Waah!
Anywho . . .
The first band up to bat is STEEL PROPHET (the name makes me think of a reggae band) doing their version of Ides of March/Purgatory from Maiden's 2nd album KILLERS. Now understand that I've been listening to Bruce Dickinson sing this song for so long that I forgot how good a Paul Di' Anno type voice can sound. The lead singer does a good job of sounding like Paul and the rest of the band does a good job of sounding like Iron Maiden. SO WHAT? I already have the Iron Maiden version! NEXT!
For those of you who may have read my review of IRON MAIDEN: Virtual XI, I take back what I said about guttural growl voices not working for Iron Maiden songs. ANCIENT WISDOM covers POWERSLAVE and just kicks ass! The lead singer's voice is perfect for POWERSLAVE and the band has enough talent to give their own definite spin on Harris's classic without screwing up the song. I'm going to be looking for this band.
Remember what I said about guttural growl voices and Iron Maiden? This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. Not only does VITAL REMAINS drop the ball on The Trooper from Maiden's PIECE OF MIND album, the band just tries to ape Iron Maiden note for note, but the lead singer's howl at the chorus is unintentional throat clearing hilarity. NEXT!
New comers, ANGEL CORPSE rips a new ass right through Gehghis Khan (again from KILLERS) and takes no prisoners. A great thrashing version of this instrumental piece.
Veteran Metal band, SOLITUDE AETURNUS (very gothic sounding name) takes on Hallowed Be Thy Name from Maiden's NUMBER OF THE BEAST. To be fair, the lead singer has a good voice for Maiden and the band does a fair job of covering one of Maiden's most rocking songs. They stay so close to the original that I nearly wrote them off until the last minute of the song where the band stretched its legs and ran for the gold, saving themselves from a diss. I guess some may consider it respectful to start the song Maiden's way and then drive into your own style of rocking. Good cover.
NEW EDEN (these are names for Heavy Metal bands?) steps up to the mike and covers Phantom Of The Opera (Iron Maiden's first). This is one of those songs that is hard to play and harder to play right. This is not simply a song, but a set piece: in concert Iron Maiden uses it to create a very definite mood in the crowd. NEW EDEN just wants to beat your head against the stage, and they do a very good job of it. I can almost see them regretfully driving into the slow parts of this song, you can tell by the playing that they love to come slamming back. This band sounds very tight.
Most of the songs on this disk come from Iron Maiden's first two albums, and this set is no different. This may be unfair to most bands since it tackles Iron Maiden at their youngest and rawest. Some Maiden fans still feel about Di'Anno the way some AC/DC fans still feel about Bon Scott. OPETH takes an almost 70's tack on Remember Tomorrow (IM's first album, again), reminding me more of Deep Purple and Rainbow than Iron Maiden. OPETH doesn't do it better, but they give the song a feel that's all their own.
Now here comes the kind of kicking cover that I love to hear! MORGION growls through To Tame A Land (IM's PIECE OF MIND) then comes to the slow part of the song and handles it just So Damn Perfect! "The Sleeper has awoken" and the band comes back like a relentless wolf hunting it's prey. The lead's voice is guttural but I don't care, GODDAM what a great cover! The best part is, it sounds so unproduced!
EVOKEN do Strange World (here again IM's first). The lead singer attempts overblown vocal goth dramatics more in tune with Type O Negative's worst or Danzig's best. This style of metal is more in keeping with those ridiculous California mousse hair bands of the eighties. No thanks! Could be a shot at gothic, and Maiden could be done in gothic quite well. Again, the song is good, but I already knew that, and Maiden did it one hell of a lot better. NEXT!
OPERA iX goes for the long haul by taking on Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (POWERSLAVE) which, if memory serves me correctly, is IM's longest song. I mean, it's Coleridge's epic poem for christ sakes! This is the song that's probably more responsible than any other for destroying Bruce Dickinson's pipes. The lead singer tries her luck at alternating between the gutter growl (complete with funky accent! Check out the rolling rrr's!) and grrl singing of Joan Jett. There were times when I wished that the CD gave more info on the bands and this is one of them. I refuse to ask for press packs or bullshit. I should know no more than any other person who picks up this disk. Again, the song rocks, BUT I ALREADY KNEW THAT! OPERA iX loses what little steam they had halfway through the song and just drags their sorry butt to the finish line. Another Gothic attempt that falls short. Trust me, you'll hit the skip button. NEXT!
By comparison, new comers ABSU finish off the album with Transylvania (IM's first album was a goldmine for this tribute). It is fast, hard and has lots of great touches. The drummer is a particular stand out knocking down the original drummer, Clive Burr, with his amazing fistplay. This is a band who seems to not only respect Iron Maiden, but also respect themselves. I was so wowed by this cover that I went back through my Iron Maiden collection and began playing the songs all over again to refresh my memory. Unfair I know, but this cover was that good. Harris', Murray's, and Smith's finger frettin' on the first album set a high bar, but ABSU are worthy challengers. Then I played Transylvania from IM's A REAL DEAD ONE, to see how they stacked up against Nicko McBrain and Janick Gers. There is no question but that ABSU took total control of the song, made it their own and, while maybe not surpassing Iron Maiden, certainly stood head to head with one of my favorite all time bands. I'll be checking the stores for albums from this group!
So there you have it. I take points off for Dwell Records not giving the bands a little more due than just a name to a song. Seems pretty cheap to me. On the other hand A CALL TO IRONS will send me to the store looking for bands ANCIENT WISDOM, ANGEL CORPSE, NEW EDEN, MORGION, and ABSU. Five standouts out of 11, hmm. Only out of respect for Iron Maiden do I give this album one more Perplex Skull than it probably deserves.
3 Perplex Skulls
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.