My Top-15 Iron Maiden songs with the One-Song-Per-Album rule!
I have professed my love for Iron Maiden many times on this blog as well. A list I’ve dreaded doing for a long time now is my Top-10 Favourite Songs from the band. Why? Well, apart from the usual abuse that a music lover has to endure when posting their personal thoughts online, the problem is one of simply being able to narrow down a list of 10 songs from the band which would be my absolute favourites. Iron Maiden has a vast catalogue and, despite the band’s criticism to the contrary, have great variety in their heavy metal repertoire.
So, what I’ve decided is to make two lists. The first one is going to be a rather strictly controlled one. I will present my favourite songs from each album in Iron Maiden’s catalogue. This, of course, refers to their studio albums (of which there are 15) and not live-albums or collections (so sorry, Virus wont be up here, neither will any of the B-sides). So in this list, I have tried to pick out what are absolutely my favourite songs off each album and nothing more (in the case of some albums the choice is really difficult, going more or less down to a coin-toss).
I will follow this Top-15 with another Top-10 later, where I will only focus on songs and not albums specifically. If you want a little idea of what might be on the future Top-10, you can go see what my favourite albums by the band are. And if you’re curious, you can also see what I think are the band’s worst songs.
But on with the list…
If any awards need to be given for Iron Maiden albums with the highest epic-length song counts, The Final Frontier would definitely take the cake. Iron Maiden’s 15th studio-album was, honestly, a bit of a mixed bag with the first half of the album being a bit of an unfocused mess but its latter half including some pretty amazing long-form metal numbers. As a result, this album is never going to be my favourite from the group since it honestly doesn’t offer the fast-paced, energetic songs of the band’s past – but I can definitely appreciate the instrumentation and detail.
And that brings to what is easily my favourite song from the album is the finale track, Where the Wild Wind Blows. It starts with a calm riff and plays on the old-school fear of atomic war as a married couple takes shelter in a bunker. In a great irony, the air-raid sirens have given a false alarm and the couple dies from contaminated food in the bunker. The excellent story-structure and the melody just make this into a stand-out song.
Where the Wild Wind Blows is a really impressive number and it’s only because Iron Maiden have been capable of even more impressive songs why it sadly has to occupy the final position on the list. The Talisman, Coming Home, Starblind and The Man Who Would Be King were also up here, but I think they all fall a great deal more flat compared to the subtext of this fine song.
I hope people don’t take this placement of this song as a negative reflection of the quality of Powerslave as an album. It contains some of the band’s most iconic and powerful songs and is a definite must-have. But just like The Final Frontier, I think it’s an album plagued by uneven quality in song-writing (particularly with stinkers like The Duelist in the set-list). Having said that, I have to of course bring up Aces High, 2 Minutes to Midnight and even the excellent and theatrical title track.
But when impressive song-writing is considered, none is as impressive as the behemoth which concludes the album. Rime of the Ancient Mariner tells the story of an unlucky sea-voyage where a murdered albatross’ revenge leads to the deaths of the Mariner’s crew. Even with its simple melody, the shifts in music and narration keep the song alive through its entire length. It’s an absolutely brilliant story in song-form and by far one of Iron Maiden’s most ambitious songs.
It’s ambition is sadly its weakness as well. With its exhausting 14-minute running time making it easily the band’s longest song. No other song of similarly ambitious length comes close to its awesomeness and that’s why I felt the need to bring it up. This is Maiden at their most daring.
Whenever Bruce Dickinson’s comeback to the band is talked about, Brave New World’s only number that’s often mentioned is the album opening Wicker Man. And don’t get me wrong, Wicker Man is an awesome song and one of the best album-opening numbers I’ve ever heard.
Brave New World is a solid album over-all with excellent songs like Mercenary, Fallen Angel and Blood Brothers just to name a few. In fact, Fallen Angel was my favourite song for a long time and definitely a stand-out number. However, Out of the Silent Planet is a little under-rated in my opinion considering its epic imagery and dramatic delivery from Bruce Dickinson. The same is true of Fallen Angel but I think Out of the Silent Planet has a bit more “umpf!” to it.
Once again, I hope people will not take this lowly position of the song as an indication of my opinion of the album itself. It’s a great album with great songs but perhaps not as close to my heart as it is for some other Maiden fans.
If we compare Brave New World with Dance of Death as albums, Brave New World is clearly better for its sheer quality of songs. Then again, Dance of Death perhaps suffers from too many songs, not all of which are brilliant. That said, the album is actually one of my favourites. The few songs I don’t care so much for are off-set by the high number of really good ones like Gates of Tomorrow, Montségur, Paschendale, New Frontier, Journeyman and of course the title track itself.
Sometimes though, simplicity trumps intricate song-writing and here Rainmaker excels. In fact, I would prefer it to be the album-opener to Wildest Dreams (which is a good song). It’s blunt and straight-to-the-point rock anthem and has a deviously catchy melody. When I think of Dance of Death, I instantly think of Rainmaker. Iron Maiden songs have a tendency of having a long build-up, great melody changes and often a really long solo-section. The honest truth is that Rainmaker lacks most of those elements and that’s why its stands out. It’s a no-nonsense song that starts off immediately, does its business and leaves. And its awesome throughout.
That however is also the reason why it can’t possibly make it any higher. It’s almost a little too no frills for an Iron Maiden song and some people may even look upon it as unimaginative. It’s a rock romp, I’m not denying that but one I enjoy immensely.
No Prayer for the Dying is probably one of the least appreciated Iron Maiden albums and I can definitely see why. Maiden’s attempt at recapturing the more down-to-Earth sound of their early albums after their high-flung concept endeavours in the late 80s resulted in an album with a slightly dodgy musical approach and Bruce Dickinson trying to build up too much mucus in his throat. Regardless, the album does have stand-out songs like the title track, Run Silent Run Deep and I think the rather criminally under-rated, kinky love-romp Hooks in You.
Holy Smoke, however, is clearly and by far the most outstanding of the tracks on the album. Iron Maiden goes on the offensive against the phony (no pun intended) televangelist movement in a really fun song which also includes, probably the band’s most hilarious music video. It’s one of the group’s edgiest and most poignant songs, even with its slightly absurd and over-the-top symbolism.
Holy Smoke would really deserve to be in the Top-10 here, but the fact of the matter is that it’s an outstanding song from an album bogged down by so-and-so material. Also, Holy Smoke is a lot of great fun but on musical credentials it’s really inferior even to a few entries below it.
Virtual-XI is probably the most under-appreciated of all of Iron Maiden’s albums. The second from Blaze Bayley’s short tenure as the band’s singer, Virtual-XI’s lack of appreciation is even more regrettable considering its over-all strong selection of songs. The X-Factor is clearly superior as an album, but I doubt anyone can deny the awesomeness of tracks like Futureal and The Clansman. Admittedly however, the album also contains the single worst song from the band.
Como Estais Amigos was written in memory of the Falklands War between the UK and Argentina but it’s also generally a song for the memory of forgotten and pointless conflicts. The song is already strange in that it’s effectively a ballad and a very moving one at that. It has probably the most quiet opening of any Iron Maiden song but explodes about half-way through. Blaze’s theatrical and booming voice really gets to shine on this one.
Ballads are very rare in Iron Maiden’s catalogue which is a shame because I think the band’s song-writing actually comes through stronger in their more subtle numbers. A delightful oddity of a song from a delightfully odd album.
I’ve had a number of different reactions to this particular song and I think I’ve pretty much gone through the whole spectrum of emotions you can have for a song. Long ago, when I was new to the ways of Maiden and perhaps a smidge more religious, I felt a twinge of guilt over listening to this song. Over time, I perhaps became desensitized and even started to consider the song somewhat stupid and corny. At one point, I was even utterly sick of it since people would always bring it up when I mentioned I was an Iron Maiden fan.
Today however, I find myself really loving the song and, in hindsight, I’ve perhaps always focused on the wrong aspects of it. The song is a theatrical recounting of a man witnessing a Satanic ritual and trying to call the police, but then getting himself sucked into the frenzy. The over-the-top dramatic delivery, narrative switches and the build-up helped establish Iron Maiden’s iconic song-structure and the song stands out really well even to this day.
By comparison, I actually find Run to the Hills to be terribly droning and repetitive. Now, there are other great songs on The Number of the Beast, such as the under-rated The Prisoner, Children of the Damned, the somewhat over-the-top Invaders and, of course, the epic behemoth known as Hallowed be thy Name. However, the title track now has such a playful life with me that it’s really ascended the furious exterior and I now consider it a really entertaining song. One of my favourites in fact.
The Paul DiAnno era of Iron Maiden is also often and sadly forgotten, though not as readily as Blaze Bayley’s. The DiAnno period was admittedly one of more simple and straight-forward song-writing from Maiden and nowhere is this more evident than the second (and last) of the DiAnno albums. This entry perhaps elevates the album a bit higher than it deserves, although on average most of the songs on the album were good, none were really excellent. I love me some Wrathchild, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Purgatory and even Twilight Zone. The rest, though, are a bit of mixed bag, save for the title track.
Killers was first performed live at the Live at the Rainbow concert with DiAnno and Harris quickly scribbling lyrics to what was originally an instrumental. The more refined album version is easily the most dramatic, dark and awesome songs – telling of the murders committed by a deranged axe-killer. It’s the lead-up to awesome song-tales such as The Number of the Beast and DiAnno really makes the song work with his gruff voice.
Killers is also impressive musically with each of the musical alterations sounding awesome but without the song losing direction (something that perhaps happened with Phantom of the Opera from the band’s debut album). I think another song that people forget way too often from an album that admittedly wasn’t Maiden at their finest, but still contains some real gems.
The first version of Fear of the Dark I ever heard was the live performance from Rock in Rio. After that, I became obsessed with hearing the original and one of the highlights of my Iron Maiden album-collecting days was finally getting my hands on a copy of the titular album which contained the song. Fear of the Dark is, generally speaking, an awesome album with many great songs and this one was destined to become one of my all time favourites.
This song has no real story, but it has a great flow from the quiet and subtle opening to the dramatic wailing from Dickinson accompanying the song. The song also bookends beautifully with the quiet guitar opening and I’ve always liked it when Iron Maiden uses this structure for their songs. The lyrics are also powerful and Dickinson brings back some of the theatrical quality that Maiden’s songs were perhaps lacking during their No Prayer – Fear of the Dark period.
As awesome as Fear of the Dark is, I do think the song suffers slightly from its length and the solo-section drags out flow a little bit. In the live performance, this wasn’t such a huge problem but in the album it feels like a bit of musical flab. Never the less, it is a great song from the band from one of their best albums.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A Matter of Life and Death is my absolute least favourite Iron Maiden album. The ambitious and frankly, at times, brilliant concept album is bogged down by over-long songs, unmemorable and repetitive melodies and a distinct lack of fun that was still present in the band’s other albums. As a result, the album can come off slightly preachy and the few songs I even like listening to are mostly for their slightly theatrical flair: These Colours Don’t Run, The Longest Day and Different World.
However, one song from this album has gone down as one of my absolute favourites and it’s a little surprising, not least because it’s by far the longest number from this album. For the Greater Good of God goes into a long and thorough dissection on the meaninglessness of Holy War, fighting for an ideal for its own sake. It features that awesome bookend song-structure and has Dickinson really wailing during the more intense musical sections, a sound like the bellowing of artillery.
Also despite its length, the song stays together surprisingly well, same as with the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It’s heavy, loud and even a little frightening but it also hits you like a ton of bricks. It’s awesome number and definitely the stand-out piece of an otherwise rather paltry collection of songs from the band.
Yeap, it’s a ballad. Iron Maiden’s debut album is a rarity from the band in that I don’t honestly think there’s a single bad song on it. And that makes it very special since there’s such great variety of numbers, from more straight-forward and aggressive ones to more light ones and even some theatrics. I’m not saying that all the songs are utter gems, but there’s a reason why this, the first full Iron Maiden album I owned, remains as my second favourite from the band.
Indeed, it really came down to coin toss as to which song is my favourite, but I like to reiterate that I have always loved Iron Maiden’s slower numbers because they let the music and the lyrics breathe. In comes Strange World which is a strange song. The lyrics are damn near incomprehensible as if written while high. Yet they have a lightness to them and a strange energy and Paul DiAnno’s soft voice is just really lovely on this one.
I may have listened to the album opener Prowler a lot more than any other song, but Strange World just stands out from the rest with its weird vibe and atmosphere. It’s about as close as Maiden ever got to “stoner rock” but it’s also just a really beautiful song, which is why I love it so much.
By far the most under-rated albums in Iron Maiden’s catalogue is their first featuring Blaze Bayley in vocals. The dark and serious 1995 album features some of Maiden’s most powerful songs and has, as a result, always been one of my all time favourites. More so than Virtual-XI, the songs have a lot of push and dramatic energy. From the epic Sign of the Cross, to the aggressive Man on the Edge. There’s many great numbers such as Look for the Truth, Judgement of Heaven and 2 A.M.
Blood on the World’s Hands is similar to For the Greater Good of God in that it’s a powerful, bellowing number with Blaze Bayley screaming at the terrors of the world. There’s genuine power here and the song has excellent lyrics complimenting an extremely memorable melodic accompaniment. I feel out of all of Iron Maiden’s social commentary songs, Blood on the World’s Hands hits home the hardest. I love it so much I even covered it myself.
The song’s one weakness, and it’s a very minor one, is the minute-long bass intro which always seemed a little unnecessary. However, it has its own charm and I don’t think it stretches the song out unnecessarily, it’s just that I prefer the intros of Iron Maiden’s songs to be a little more straight-forward but at the same time the intro adds its own stylistic flair. Blood on the World’s Hands stands head and shoulders above the rest of the songs in The X-Factor and that’s saying a lot considering how good of an album it is.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is another album I have very mixed feelings over. A little over half of the songs are excellent and very enjoyable. The rest of them are so grating and annoying I can’t really stand listening to them. There’s a great amount of variety but I believe that the song’s concept album approach really didn’t serve it well with the album’s longest songs being also the most annoying to listen to. Still, there’s some gems like Moonchild, Only the Good Die Young and Can I Play With Madness.
The Evil That Men Do didn’t really strike me as too grand of a song when I first heard it on Edward the Great: The Greatest Hits. However, as time goes on, I find myself really loving the melodic flow of this one and, again, it’s probably for the song’s more simplistic take why I like it so much. It’s very blunt and to the point and that’s why I think it really succeeds as a powerful song. It lacks that flab that some Maiden (and especially ones on this album) suffer from.
The song also concludes in a cool way. The chorus is repeated until the end but Dickinson begins to give the words more flair and finally the song closes on sturdy note. My love for this song has really grown over time and now it really stands out. The fact that it’s, at least partially, about tragic love might have some part in it as well. Over-all, fucking brilliant song.
Somewhere in Time is easily and by far my favourite album from Iron Maiden. Every single song sounds excellent and has its own distinct character. Also, the lyrical variety provided by Steve Harris and Adrian Smith is what makes the album for me. There’s a great epic, a pounding number about a long distance runner, a trip through the afterlife and even a great rock romp about Deja Vu.
My favourite song from the bunch has always been Adrian Smith’s nostalgia-laden Wasted Years. The strange void like cacophony created by the guitar at the start feels like its sucking you into a time-warp, which is strangely appropriate considering the album’s sci-fi trappings. It’s just a really moving song about how time changes everything and that you shouldn’t mourn over years that have passed you by.
It’s a very emotional and powerful song. It’s perhaps not the most complex from the album, but it has plenty of flavour and phases to stop it from being a one-trick pony, including a quite outstanding solo-section. Definitely one of Smith’s finest.
Here I can say with utmost certainty that my love for this song greatly out-matches my love for the album in question. Piece of Mind is a good album for all its worth and includes quite a few timeless classics. However, it’s another mixed bag and a bit of a let-down if you compare it to the three albums preceding it.
That doesn’t change the fact that it contains what is easily and by far my favourite Iron Maiden song. The Trooper is brilliant story in song-form about a cavalryman in the Crimean War, dying in battle and letting out his final groan. There’s great punctuation to the song with its music, Dickinson’s theatrical voice really brings the lyrics to life and the song gallops as relentlessly as 600 horses. I even like the fact that the song doesn’t technically have a chorus, just a melodic boom from Dickinson’s vocal chords substituting as such.
There’s a lot of Iron Maiden songs for which my opinion has shifted and changed over time, but I never get sick of the Trooper. It’s a metal anthem amongst metal anthems. A fucking awesome song!