2002 is supposedly a year off for the Mighty MAIDEN. Some year off: Benefit gigs in March and in November not one but two high profile releases: "Edward The Great": yet another greatest hits package and the salivating "Eddie's Archive" 6 CD box.
However neither of them brings any new MAIDEN material with them.
For the MAIDEN collector the "Edward The Great" album is a necessity and no questions will be asked over its validity. For the casual MAIDEN fan then the sumptuous and glorious 1996 offering "The Beast Of The Beast" has already been purchased and just why they would buy this release is open to debate.
So at what spectrum of the buying public is this aimed for? The promotional people will tell you that this is a chance for the new MAIDEN fan, I assume being integrated into the MAIDEN family via 2000's "Brave New World", to hear what MAIDEN sounded like when, for nearly a decade they turned out wave after wave of classic molten Metal!
I am not sold on that idea. If you are a MAIDEN fan (and I am by the way and one of the biggest), at whatever stage you entered their career then it's a good chance that you've already got all the albums and are well aware of the bands pedigree and standing in Metal.
No this album and to some degree the Archive box sees MAIDEN wringing as much cash out of the fans as possible and turning them into an aging dinosaur a la KISS. Bruce Dickinson has often touted that he did not rejoin the band as some sort of nostalgia trip and he was prepared to put the work in and deliver MAIDEN at the forefront of Heavy Metal once again. This release is a nostalgia trip and for all the wrong reasons. 1996 saw "The Beast Of The Beast" with one new track; 1999 saw "Ed Hunter" all old tracks then 2002 brings "Edward The Great". Since 1996 MAIDEN have only had three studio albums hardly conducive to a new "Greatest Hits" package! Does anybody think that if Blaze Bayley was still in the band then there would be two releases like this?
Of course it's important to keep the MAIDEN merchandise juggernaut in the public's eye but to release something as awful as this is merely scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Even the Eddie on the sleeve is awful. The departure of Derek Riggs and the artists that replaced him have failed to capture Eddie quite as menacing or as real as he did in the 1980's. Look at the sleeve for "Out Of The Silent Planet" (2001) for proof.
However it's not the music to blame. "Edward The Great" is chock full of classic songs. "Run To The Hills", "The Number Of The Beast", "2 Minutes To Midnight" etc, etc all songs that are instantly recognisable the world over as being IRON MAIDEN so for that reason alone the album gets full marks but the question still remains just why release this at all?
The fans don't need this. MAIDEN doesn't need the money it will generate. I think it will only succeed in tarnishing the great name of IRON MAIDEN. Furthermore no Di'Anno tracks so nothing from the albums "Iron Maiden" or "Killers" but four tracks from 1988's "Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son". Weird.
This whole thing has a decidedly end feel to it and would better have been left on the shelf. So where now for Eddie and the boys?
Letters to Eddie The 'Ead at EMI Records UK please. (Online February 28, 2003)