Most helpful critical review
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Yet again sound lets Maiden down
on 6 April 2012
Often when bands reform, the problem is the songs - they struggle to write them like they used to; they are often not that great. In Maiden's case, imo, they've written some fabulous songs since Brave New World. What a shame then that the sound of most of the releases during this time is substandard.
I used to blame (just) Kevin Shirley. I know he has a penchant for dry-sounding 'natural' productions but in fairness, he got a decent balance on Brave New World (the only one) and he's done a good job in the past with Dream Theater, Rush and some others. So, I think 'Arry has to take some, perhaps most of the blame as he co-produces with Shirley.
I was elated when I heard Flight 666. Finally Shirley has got it right. Maiden sounded as they should, big, wide, and dynamic...exciting. But perhaps his hand Harris' arms were twisted because it had to meet certain cinematic standards given it was a film and not just a music video.
So, En Vivo comes as a disappointment - back to the old days. I can't imagine what they are both thinking when they sit there and listen to such as muddy mix. Bruce sounds like he is straining and detached from the rest of the mix for much of it and it's far from flattering for him especially.
I don't have a DTS facility so I can't comment on that audio but interesting the Dolby 2.1 track seems different (read:better, more ambient and 'live' sounding) than the PCM audio. Perhaps it's me but once I found it, I enjoyed the concert far more. However, both tracks have a certain harshness when they are turned up and that illustrates another interesting thing. The PCM audio track is unusually quiet. I've typically found most PCM audio tracks to be mastered significant louder (perhaps because they don't have to meet Dolby's level requirements, not sure) than the corresponding Dolby. This (PCM) one is actually slightly quieter! Now, I'm all for dynamics and am not afraid of my volume control but both mixes sound so compressed, having all that headroom is wasted.
Now, it would be unfair not to give Shirley some kudos for getting a far better drum sound and bass sound than we used to get in the Birch days and certainly listening on the Dolby track I was able to enjoy these aspects. Nicco's drums actually sound like they have some sustain for once and that the heads aren't just made of hard plastic. And 'Arry's bass sounds like a bass not a guitar which was probably some feat on Shirley's part given the Harris' playing style.
Maybe we're getting to something here. Harris represents the rhythm section of the band as the bass player, perhaps that's where all the time was spent. Still, it's no excuse, Shirley is a professional of many years and should easily be able to get the right compromise.
Well I won't go on about the songs, others have covered that. I think it's nice to have some of the new stuff but I'd like more from Seventh Son...maybe the next DVD given what I've heard they are planning to play on the current tour.
I felt the performance was a bit rushed at first, they were all running around having such a good time I guess it's inevitable to a point but this is a highly professional band who know these songs inside out and always spend money on great PA systems and monitoring (I bet it sounded better at the gig!) so I can't believe they can't hear themselves and yet at various points in the early songs they all seemed to be ahead of the beat to different extents...of maybe Nicco was behind! Still, no biggie, if the sound had been great I'd have ignored this as it's Maiden.
Other points of interest... Hair and Les Pauls!
Adrian Smith has been playing a Les Paul more and more but what's this, Dave Murray playing one too...surely not...what's the world coming to, this is Maiden after all. But good old Janick won't have any of it, he sticks to his old faithful (I suspect the Les Pauls wouldn't stand up to his gymnastics!). I found myself breathing a sigh of relief when Smith got out his White Jackson for The Evil That Men Do (ooh, I was left wanting more) along with guitar sounds straight out of the 80s. It made up for those Les Pauls :)
We have two new Wi...hair cuts being displayed by Messrs Harris and Murray. Harris' has got even longer and even blacker (not bad for his age eh ;o) and Murray's, well...it seems he's gradually morphing into Bernie Marsden! And no I'm not having a dig (only in fun) I know he's a lovely, lovely, lovely bloke!