Critics of Iron Maiden may point out the vast array of compilations and other ephemera that fans have already shelled out for, but surely none but the meanest could knock this extraordinary collection of interviews, promo vids and live footage - as exhaustive a document on Maiden's rise to fame as will ever be released. With a list price of £19.99 (£14.99 at Amazon), this double-DVD set is rarely less than essential. Longtime fans will probably learn much that is new to them, and newcomers can delight in the gritty, gutsy beginnings of one of the most important bands in metal.
The centrepiece of The Early Days is the 90-minute documentary of the same name. Featuring new interviews with all band members, management, road crew and - best of all - an astonishing number of ex-members, this is a brilliantly realised and completely absorbing ride from the downtrodden boozers of East London to the heady heights of a Number One album and massive world tours. 'It's like when you're at the top of a rollercoaster ride and suddenly think 'Oh shit!',' says Bruce Dickinson. 'We went 'Oh shit!' for four years.'
Elsewhere, there are the usual trimmings (discography, galleries etc) but of more interest is rare concert footage from a packed Ruskin Arms in 1980 and a TV documentary from the same year chronicling the rise of post-punk metal. There are no less than three further concerts featured, and unlike the shaky-cam Ruskin Arms footage, these are magnificently rendered to DVD. You can taste the excitement as Maiden storm Hammersmith, their first single with Dickinson riding high in the Top 10, or watch them at the height of their powers in Dortmund, Germany the following year. Awesome and unmissable.