The story of British heavy metal megaliths Iron Maiden is brought up to date with this ‘best of’ collection; the second instalment following 2008’s Somewhere Back in Time: The Best Of 1980-1989. Arguably covering much shakier ground in terms of the band’s history than its predecessor, From Fear To Eternity covers the first half of the ’90s, a time of critical and personal strife for the mighty Maiden. The band now fly – piloted by singer (Captain) Bruce Dickinson – in their very own customised Boeing 757, travelling every nook and cranny of the planet to play ever bigger stadium shows. Eight albums ago, there could have been a very different narrative.
The band endured several years in the critical wilderness after original guitarist Adrian Smith departed following the release of No Prayer For The Dying (1990). Iron Maiden were accused internally and externally of suffering from a (s)lack of musical direction, culminating with Dickinson also abandoning ship to ‘pursue a solo career’ in 1993. This was in spite of the band celebrating their only UK singles chart No 1 with Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter. They were being panned from every direction.
Which brings us to the bit of ‘history’ Iron Maiden don’t want recorded for posterity. Wolfsbane vocalist Blaze Bailey – who took over vocal duties on The X Factor and Virtual XI – has been recorded over for this distilled collection of the last 20 years. In the same vein that Paul Di’Anno’s voice was removed from Somewhere Back In Time, live versions of tracks from 1994 to 2000 (Man On The Edge, Sign Of The Cross, The Clansman) are used instead. Bayley, who may have been at the helm during the band’s least commercially successful period – Virtual XI sold a mere million copies worldwide – has apparently been written out of the band’s history. He wasn’t that bad.
Given that Maiden’s stock rapidly rose upon Dickinson’s return, it’s fitting that this double disc compilation kicks off with The Wicker Man, the anthem from 2000’s Brave New World album. From there to 2010, the second half of the timeframe includes playing mega-gigs in places like Rio (where the live tracks are culled from) and winning their first Grammy Award for El Dorado (from last year’s No 1-in-more-than-40-countries Final Frontier album). The tracks from these later albums show a more polished musical side to the band, yet it’s pleasing to note that the early ’90s albums are well represented too.
Brave New World may have been a turning point in the bands success. Dickinson and Smith’s returns, combined with the epic big production numbers – including that album’s title track and Blood Brothers – united the fans once again. Yet it is tracks like Fear Of The Dark, Afraid To Shoot Strangers and Be Quick Or Be Dead, from the criticised Fear of the Dark and No Prayer For The Dying LPs, that really shine through on From Fear To Eternity. Looking back to look forward, these were the tracks that made Iron Maiden who they are today: the most recognised heavy metal band on Earth.