Various Artists Slave to the Power: The Iron Maiden Tribute
Released: 2000, MeteorCity
Iron Maiden, in my opinion, are one of the few metal bands that truly defy categorization. They have always been a creative, innovative, juggernaut, ever forging ahead with their instantly recognizable sound: a heavy, percussive gallop that conjures up visions of satanic stallions racing across the burning landscapes of hell. This sound, culled from Steve Harris' very being, was the very thing that propelled Maiden forward and beyond most of the bands that constituted the earth-shaking, mind-melting, New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Whether it be the wrath of Paul Di¹anno, the Bruce years, Blaze Bayley or back to Bruce, Maiden is still Maiden. Love 'em or hate 'em, no one sounds like them and precious few metal bands have had as much of an influence on the course of pure, true metal. Which brings us to Slave to the Power, an album that provides proof that the mark of beast was indeed stamped into the brains of many and has remained there to this day.
The Maiden sound, on this album, has been fragmented, sped up, brought to a crawl (this is usually the case), honored and, here and there, abandoned. All of these formulas can work, but only if one can successfully capture the essence of the original. I was more interested in the bands that filtered the Maiden original through their own personal style and came up with a hybrid that could stand on its own. I could care less about the tracks that sound exactly the same as they do on the albums from whence they came. When a song is merely copied it ceases to be a tribute. It is only an impression. I would much rather hear the real Maiden song. Why? Because they are Iron fuckin' Maiden and can do it better than anyone else, that's why!
Here are a few of the cuts that I singled out as my favorites, as well as a few that missed the mark:
The Prisoner - Las Cruces
Las Cruces chug through "The Prisoner" sounding much like Chicago's no. 1 doom rockers, Trouble. If you dig this version of "The Prisoner," then check out Trouble's first Def American release, Trouble (hell, check out Las Cruces).
The Evil that Men Do - Conquest
Conquest's version of "The Evil that Men Do" absorbs every square inch of the original and sloooowly squeezes it back out as a groove-leaden, emotional monster. Watch out for the "Steve Miller style" keyboard solo tossed in toward the end. It almost works, but maybe this solo would have been better left for Steve to use on "Fly Like an Eagle II: Electric Boogaloo."
Remember Tomorrow - Crowbar
No Iron Maiden tribute could ever be complete without including "Remember Tomorrow." This song was an instant favorite of mine the second I heard it. The song literally hit me like a shockwave, detonated from inside my buddy's stereo. To cover this song one needs to do it right. One must know that the song is a direct gift from God and must be sanctimoniously revered as such. Crowbar was the perfect band to bow down before this Di'anno classic. They greet this holy relic as an old friend: recalling the past, while keeping the present in check, finally realizing what it was they were first attracted to. Warning: Crowbar are in no hurry to crank this sucker out! Go ahead and visualize the syrupy sounds oozing from out of your speakers like a freshly tapped maple. It may take some time to get through this revamped classic, but the rewards are surprisingly sweet.
Powerslave - Dofka
As I mentioned earlier, some tribute songs have a tendency to be too faithful to the originals. This would be the case with Dofka's take on "Powerslave." Don't get me wrong, this is a well done version and the guy has got Bruce down, but what's the point? So, as for Dofka's version of "Powerslave," I say, Tell me why I should listen to this version of Powerslave? I don¹t want to lie, it's pretty good, but the original will live on!
Moonchild - Shallow
Shallow's version of Moonchild, the first of three Seventh Son of A Seventh Son cuts (Seventh Son... being, in my opinion, a brilliant and severely underrated album, but that's another story...), is a perfect example of a band injecting their own personal identity into an original. Here we find murky guitars stuffed inside of a rough-hewn mix reminiscent of Iron Maiden and/or Killers. As for the vocals we get a semi-punk, "from the gutter" delivery. However, come chorus time everything changes. It is here, perpetuated by an eerie falsetto, where our emotional gears are abruptly switched from aggressive mode into one of passive reflection (you know, when an emotional chorus transports you into world of scenarios of what was, what is and what might be. Maybe that's just me???). Definitely a high point on the album and, if you believe Seventh Son... to be vital Maiden, worth checking out.
Children of the Damned - Sebastian Bach
O.K., go ahead, call me a hypocrite. This is basically a faithful, straight-up version, but the difference between this cut and the other carbon copies is that this one is sung by SEBASTIAN BACH! This proves for the 18 billionth time (and life) that he has the best voice the planet has seen or will ever see, period. Sure, the meat of this version is quite literally the same as the one we've all heard on Number of the Beast , but Sebastian's control and mastery of his solid-gold pipes set this one into a new league of carbon copies.
The Trooper - Hoyre-Kone
Now we're getting silly. Complete with horns, strings and Mike Patton style vocals, this version, besides the classic guitar riff, loses the all important connection to the Maiden switchboard. Anyone familiar with Mr. Bungle will understand the Hoyre-Kone schtick. Understand this, I believe that Hoyre-Kone, or any band, has the right to cover anything they want to in this crazy world. Unfortunately, "The Trooper" refuses to be fucked with!
Slave to the Power contains still more excellent offerings (Number of the Beast- Tchort, The Prophecy- Solstice, Invaders- Rotors to Rust...) and a few cuts, here and there, that seem to miss the energy that one should channel when covering Maiden. All in all, your basic tribute album. But, then again, it's not. This mother is 26 songs (on 2 discs) long! And for an album that costs as much as your average disc (singular), that's value! Believe me, there is enough material here for any self-described headbanger to plug into. Every Maiden fan should own this album and every metal maniac should consider it. Also, if you know of any schmucks that haven't discovered the health benefits of heavy metal, this would be a lovely introduction. Actually, the entire Maiden Catalogue would be better, just not as cheap!