It seems there has been many great music DVDs coming down the pike in recent months and the new comprehensive two disc History of Iron Maiden Part 1: The Early Days just may be the very best of the best. Documenting the years 1980 through 1983 and weighing in at over five hours of classic and very rare footage, much of which is presented here for the first time ever, this is one DVD that no self respecting metalhead should be without.
Disc One compiles three concert films of which only "Live at the Rainbow" has ever been legitimately issued on home video. "Live at the Rainbow" is from December 1980 and features Paul Di'Anno on vocals as well as new member Adrian Smith taking over for the recently ousted Dennis Stratton. Looking surprisingly fresh and sounding as powerful today as it did nearly twenty five years ago, it is a shame that this particular segment only lasts for 30 minutes.
"Beast Over Hammersmith" features 45 minutes of footage taken from Iron Maiden's gig at the famed London concert venue in March of 1982 with new vocalist Bruce Dickinson. Although the entire concert was filmed, apparently technical difficulties with the lights meant that much of the material was unusable. The most salvageable footage from that concert is included and although the film is indeed dark and grainy, Maiden are on fire and show why they left most bands of their era in the dust.
Rounding out disc one is most of Iron Maiden's gig at the Dortmund Festival in 1983. The band played a short set on a bill that included Ozzy Osbourne, UFO and Def Leppard among others. Once again, the band are completely energized and by this time they are one of the most popular rock groups in the world.
While Disc One focuses exclusively on concert footage, Disc Two features documentaries and promos as well as TV appearances and other assorted goodies. The main program of Disc Two is "The Early Days", a 90 minute "rockumentary" that traces the history of Iron Maiden from its inception in the mid 1970s through the Piece of Mind era of 1983. This is a wonderful documentary and it's sort of like Mick Wall's excellent Run to the Hills bio come to life. Most key members of the Iron Maiden story are interviewed, including original band members who quit the band well before they ever made it to a recording studio. But wait, there's more! A 25 minute BBC documentary from 1981 is also included and it is well worth watching. Not only does it give the viewer a glimpse of Iron Maiden during the early days while the band was still playing clubs, it also traces some of the history of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Still want more? How about a couple of Top of the Pops appearances featuring the maligned non LP Women in Uniform as well as the hit single Running Free? But there's still more! Such as a 45 minute single camera bootleg video of Iron Maiden at the Ruskin Arms from April of 1980. Shot with a camcorder from the back of the tiny pub, somehow the less than stellar video quality adds a unique element of realism to the proceedings, making you feel as if you were there. Round out Disc Two with 5 promo videos as well as a few hidden outtakes from "The Early Days" documentary, photo galleries, Steve Harris' diary entries from 1975 and a few other bells and whistles and you have a monster of an Iron Maiden video compendium.
Though the quality of the footage varies, it is always watchable and compellingly so. The audio is solid as well, even if there are no Dolby Surround options. No, this is meant to be enjoyed in straight stereo and some of the clips are even presented monaurally. Though it is policy here at Sea of Tranquility to post track listings with CDs and DVDs, the nature of the DVD under review is such that I fear it would take up far too much bandwidth. I have seen this DVD in stores for as little as $13 and if you still find yourself randomly exclaiming "Up the Irons!" after all these years, there is no excuse not to own this one. Keep in mind, this is only the beginning. Apparently, there are at least two more volumes planned and if they are remotely as epic and surreal as The History Of Iron Maiden Part One, perhaps Eddie and the boys will give Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy quite a run for the money. Beyond essential.
Disc One Running Time (approx. 2 hours)
Disc Two Running Time (approx. 3 hours and 15 minutes)