Journey, if you dare, to a land where young British headbangers wear armbands and belts made of metal studs, leopard-print vests, black-and-white pinstripe pants and long greasy hair. Then kneel down and pray to the metal gods at the foot of an altar built upon the almighty power chord. After three hours staring at Iron Maiden's latest DVD, Visions of the Beast – a comprehensive 31-clip video history of the band, run chronologically from 1980 to 2001 – you'll think you've found metal's Holy Grail.
Most early clips are dominated by live or staged footage of the band playing, showcasing the Maiden's strongest points – although, frankly, many of these clips start to look quite similar to each other after awhile. The ones that stand out are the ones that feature non-band footage, such as images of Adolph Hitler in "Aces High" and scenes from old monster films in "The Number of the Beast." Maybe it's just me, but I don't remember seeing many of these on MTV when I was younger, save "Run to the Hills." Of course, back then, videos that now seem tame and even cheesy could have been considered late-night-only viewing fare. Singer Bruce Dickinson's haircuts and bass player Steve Harris' outfits were certainly scary enough.
By the time the mid-Eighties rolled around, Maiden had graduated from cramped stages in small venues to elaborate sets at famous venues like Donington. With stage landscapes straight out of a fantasy land, Maiden performed some of the most over-the-top shows of the era, with band members managing to retain their toughness and old-school cred in an image-conscious scene dominated by pretty-boy bands. In the Nineties and beyond, Maiden moved on to concept videos, from the truly bizarre ("From Here to Eternity") to the overtly political ("Afraid to Shoot Strangers") to the compellingly dramatic ("The Wicker Man") to the disturbingly frightening ("Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter") to the downright annoying ("Virus"). Then there's Iron Maiden's attempt at a making a romantic video, as the power ballad "Wasting Love" comes complete with an amorous couple, a sick voyeur and a man dressed like the Pope.
The animation in the interactive menu is worth taking the extra time to watch and holds up to repeated viewings. And every song is introduced with its title superimposed over a different image of Eddie, Iron Maiden's mascot. Extras include fascinating never-before-seen Camp Chaos versions of some videos (will somebody please tell me what Camp Chaos is?), clips from Maiden's Rock in Rio DVD, a handful of videos mixed in 5.1 surround sound and a lame discography. But this collection is most effective at giving viewers a sense of just how lethal and relevant Iron Maiden proved to be. While watching Visions of the Beast, you can actually see, hear and damn near feel the band's influence on a gazillion other groups gushing out of your speakers.