Released: 2013, Backbeat Books
The publication of this book came as a bit of a surprise to me. In 2012, Voyaguer Press, as a part of their ‘Illustrated History’ series, released a book about Iron Maiden, written largely by Neil Daniels. Now, just about one year later, Backbeat Books has released TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT-An Iron Maiden Day By Day written by Martin Popoff. Some people had commented that Maiden was the only big band Martin has not covered yet. While not exactly accurate, that is pretty close and it struck me as strange that this book was released at all considering Popoff contributed to the Iron Maiden book written by Daniels. At first glance the two books seem to be released too close together, and are too similar thematically and there is too much cross-over for TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT to add value to a Maiden fan. However, considering the insatiable appetite for metal fans of all things Maiden, I’d rather have another book about Maiden, than not have one. The Popoff version is pretty much the exact size, shape, length and style as Daniels book and both are a visual history that run chronologically through the history of Iron Maiden. This only adds to the mildly unsettling nature of the scenario that begs them to be compared. Ultimately, Daniels book has features that Popoff’s does not have and Popoff’s book has features that Daniels does not have.
In all fairness we should not base the entire review on a comparison of what has been published previously. As it stands alone, TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT is a fantastic work. The illustrated history runs chronologically by date starting back in 2500 BC as Horus and Osiris are a starting point in the sands of time for the inspiration for POWERSLAVE, some 4483 years later. The chapters are broken down by decade, and many, many key points (and some not so key points) in the history of the beloved band are detailed down to the day. The amount of trivia is astonishing. This goes beyond album release dates but includes first times bands played in certain places, days people joined (or quit), birthdays, anniversaries and much more. There are lots of little deep nuggets of trivia that are drawn out from history and documented here. One of the strengths is the large amount of first person interviews and quotes from the members of Fortress Maiden and the band members themselves. Popoff has interviewed the band many times and so much of the material is pulled from his considerable archives and those delicious quotes are put to good use on virtually every page.
Despite a somewhat lacklustre cover, the visuals of TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT are very attractive. The layout and design are very nice, it is a readable format with tons of rare images courtesy of Maiden uber-fan Dave Wright. There are countless full-colour images of all sorts of memorabilia, shirts, and of course multiple images of young Master Edward splattered all over the place. This is the kind of book where you leave it on your coffee table and every day you flip to a page and say ‘What did Iron Maiden do on today’s date, back in 1987'? It is comprehensive, detailed and very entertaining.
At first blush there are many similarities between TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT and IRON MAIDEN: THE ULTIMATE UNAUTHORIZED HISTORY that might dissuade a non-discriminating book buyer, but if you really compare the two tomes, TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT stands on it’s own merit. Absolutely essential for any Iron Maiden fan.