To be completely honest, I have never really listened to Iron Maiden’s music that much. But in this case that will be no problem at all, because I can give my undivided attention to Maiden United’s beautiful music without running into the risk of comparing them too much to their inspirational counterpart. Because the great thing about Maiden United is, they don’t have to be compared to the band they are “covering”. This can be made perfectly clear when you listen to their previous releases and especially their previously released EP Empire of the Clouds, which they also performed superbly in Royal theater Carré. But with The Barrel House Tapes, Joey and his band of ever-changing musicians have really outdone themselves.
The album has many new musicians and vocalists and that really creates a lot of diversity, not only in comparison to the previous albums, but also compared to the tracks on this particular album by itself. Warmth is created by adding the trumpets of jazz musician Erik Vloeimans who artistically shows his skills in the beautiful Powerslave and The Phantom of the Opera. On Powerslave we can also hear the unique voice of Jos Severens, who returns later on the album. But that is not the only great force that can be found on The Barrel House Tapes. The quiet campfire version of Alexander the Great with Jeroen Voogd on vocals, which was the first single released for this album, is breathtaking and easily one of the biggest highlights on the album. I find it really difficult to describe what I’m hearing when reviewing this album, because there is so much going on, so instead I’m writing what I feel and I can tell you that’s a lot!
It doesn’t end with these two vocalists, because whether it is the powerful Back to the Village with Frank Beck on vocals, of whom I had the privilege to see in Trianon in Nijmegen with Maiden United, or the eccentric warm voice of Doogie White on Wasting Love and Stranger in a Strange Land, all of them do their own thing and it somehow all fits together.
As a bonus track, there is the beautiful Caught Somewhere in Time sung by Eszter Anna Bauman who, with this, provides a beautiful closing track on the album.
I certainly don’t want to sell short the earlier works of Maiden United with respectively Damien Wilson and Wudstik on vocals, but with The Barrel House Tapes Maiden United have not only again shown that they are much more than a glorified cover band, but also that they’re not afraid to take risks and that they keep on doing what they love to do with the people they love to do it with. This is what makes Maiden United unique and I really hope that they continue to do this for a long time!