Run to the hills: Venerable British heavy metal band Iron Maiden’s “The Legacy of the Beast”

By on August 1, 2019

Earlier this month, the venerable British heavy metal band Iron Maiden launched the U.S. leg of its Legacy of the Beast tour with an incredible stage show based on their popular mobile app game, so we thought we’d take a brief look at the 2004 unauthorized documentary which shares the same name with both, Iron Maiden: The Legacy of the Beast.

You can find it in our Metal & Hard Rock section on Night Flight Plus.

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Fans with tickets to see the band during the tour’s remaining shows will be presented with a stage show presenting visual “realms” — a post-war ruined cathedral set, a second one with the cathedral reinstated in all its glory, and the third stage depicting Hell — which their mascot “Eddie” explores in the mobile app game (available for free on Apple’s App Store and Google Play).

They can also expect to hear at least sixteen classic Maiden songs, including “Run to the Hills,” “The Trooper,” “The Number Of The Beast,” and, “Aces High,” during which a plane dangles over the stage.

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Iron Maiden, Legacy Of The Beast Tour – Tallinn, Estonia (photo by John McMurtrie, from the band’s official website)

We expect these same fans will be annoyed to learn Iron Maiden: The Legacy of the Beast contains no original music by Iron Maiden.

The documentary tells their story — charting the band’s rise to prominence, first in the UK and then across the rest of the world — through rare photos and film footage, and interviews with original lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton (1979-1980), founder/bassist Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson.

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There are also interviews with Ian Camfield (“Dr. XFM”); Martin Blackman (one of the band’s earliest followers); Garry Bushell (journalist); Tony Platt (producer); Chris Clayton (Editor, MetalUK.com); and, Roland Hyams (Iron Maiden’s publicist).

We’ve previously told you about Iron Maiden’s beginnings in our blog about Iron Maiden & the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, so hopefully we’re not repeating ourselves here too much.

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Their formation — in Leyton, East London, on Christmas Day in 1975 — has everything to do with Steve Harris leaving two previous bands, Gypsy’s Kiss and Smiler, to finally form his own.

Their name comes from the film adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas novel The Man in the Iron Mask (its title reminded Harris of the iron maiden torture device).

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Their original lineup proved short-lived, as their first couple of frontmen failed to match the energy and charisma of their songs.

Lead singer Paul Day was replaced briefly by Dennis Wilcock (who wore KISS-style makeup and used fake blood onstage) before they found Paul Di’Anno.

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Original drummer Doug Sampson, meanwhile, played with Iron Maiden for two years until he developed health issues.

His replacement, Clive Burr — who joined the day after Christmas 1979 — stayed with them until 1983, replaced by drummer Nicko McBrain right before their Piece Of Mind album.

Read more about Iron Maiden: The Legacy of the Beast. below.

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On New Year’s Eve 1978/’79, three years after they’d first formed, Iron Maiden recorded their first demos at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge.

These four songs were frequently played at a club called “Bandwagon Heavy Metal Soundhouse,” located in Kingsbury Circle, northwest London.

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Another full year would pass, however, before Iron Maiden signed with EMI Records in December of ’79, after nearly every other record company had passed on them.

Around this same time, second guitarist Dennis Stratton joined, helping to establish their dual-guitar harmonies and galloping rhythms as the sound of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

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In February 1980, Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut album, Iron Maiden, surprised everyone when it made it to #4 on the UK charts. Their first single, “Running Free,” also charted, without the benefit of any airplay.

That Spring, they launched their first-ever European tour supporting KISS on their Unmasked Tour’s European leg.

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Everything was on the upswing, but it was at this point that Stratton decided to leave the band over his many issues and personality problems with fellow members.

Guitarist Adrian Smith (ex-Urchin) took his place in time for their second album, Killers, produced by Martin Birch, who remained with the band until 1992).

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They launched a successful world tour — playing in fifteen countries and finally making their debut in America supporting Judas Priest — and were second-billed to UFO at the Reading Festival in 1980.

It was after their appearance at the Reading Festival in late August 1981, however, that everything finally began to come together for Iron Maiden, after Di’Anno was swapped out for Samson’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson.

Di’Anno grouses in the documentary how his downward spiral into an alcohol and drug problems led to his departure.

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The rest of the documentary focuses on their dominating global success, beginning with the release of The Number of the Beast in 1982, which gave them their first UK Top Ten hit album with a huge breakthrough single, “Run To The Hills.”

Iron Maiden perform “Run to the Hills” live at the BB&T Center on July 18, 2019, on their Legacy of the Beast Tour

Iron Maiden: The Legacy of the Beast follows the band’s history right up to 2003, showing how they became an inspiration to bands like Metallica, Slayer, and hundreds more.

Over their more than forty year career, Iron Maiden have had over ninety million album sales, performed live more than two thousand times in sixty-three countries, and released sixteen studio albums.

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Watch Iron Maiden: The Legacy of the Beast on Night Flight Plus, and get your tickets now to see Iron Maiden on tour this year!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.