One of the greatest and most consistent bands, not just in metal but music in general, there are so many incredible songs to choose from when it comes to deciding upon a top 10 from this band. Although my list mainly contains tracks from their ‘golden era’ (1980-1988), there is so much quality material beyond those years. Even though there’s probably three or four tracks that would make every Maiden fans list, there would be so much variation on what would make up the rest. After much deliberation and editing, here are my 10 favourites –
10. Paschendale (from Dance Of Death (2003))
The newest track on my list, as mentioned previously this doesn’t mean there’s not a ton of great stuff to seek out after 1988, it just means that the earlier material is that damn good. This was taken from the second album to see the return of Bruce Dickinson on vocals and Adrian Smith on guitar and the whole record is well worth a listen, my definite favourite of any album they released post ‘92. This song has all the hallmarks of what an Iron Maiden classic consists of – epic in length, structure and sound, a war theme, soaring vocals from Bruce, huge guitars from the triple threat (Adrian, Dave Murray and Janick Gers) and a rhythm section that is so locked in. It deserves more recognition than it probably gets and should be a staple of their live set list, in my opinion.
9. The Clairvoyant (from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988))
Taken from one of my favourite Maiden albums, this (alongside ‘Can I Play With Madness’ from the same record) may just be the most accessible (poppiest?!?) they’vr ever been. The bass intro is superb and leads us into a track that is multi-paced, powerful and catchy as hell. You can also really hear the synths on this one, which they’d introduced on the Somewhere In Time (1986) album but really made the most of come Seventh Son. Although released as a successful single, it feels like a track that is sometimes overlooked, tucked away at the tail end of the album but is one that deserves to be played loud and hollered along to even louder.
8. Iron Maiden (from Iron Maiden (1980))
Their theme song, if you like, this is almost always guaranteed to be a set closer live and is one of their fastest and most vicious tracks. It has a raw, almost punk-ish feel to it, which a lot of the debut album has and Paul Di’anno’s snarling vocals really give the band a different edge to what was to come once Bruce came onboard. The dual guitar riff is instantly memorable and Steve Harris absolutely pummels his bass with speed and power. The first two albums (Iron Maiden (1980), Killers (1981)) are both excellent and well worth a revisit if they’ve slipped from your listening lists lately.
7. Powerslave (from Powerslave (1984))
The title track to one of their best albums, this one is epic in both sound and scope. In keeping with the theme of the song and the album artwork the track has a Middle Eastern sound to it, especially in the guitar riffs throughout. It also contains one of the band’s finest ever solos, courtesy of Dave Murray, that is just majestic in it’s construct and caps off a brilliant midsection. I could have included the live version of this from Live After Death (1985) which is my absolute favourite album of theirs but I stuck with the studio version as it’s so well produced and crystal clear in sound that I felt it was definitive.
6. Aces High (from Powerslave (1984))
One of the all time great album openers and used to blistering effect on the World Slavery tour, as evidenced on Live After Death (1985), this is one of the quickest paced tracks in their catalogue. Full of awesome riffs that evoke the act of an World War II dogfight, which Bruce describes in superb detail lyrically, this never lets up and builds to an anthemic chorus that contains some on their most on point harmonies. When coupled to Winston Churchill’s rousing speech, which precedes it when played live, it can’t help but make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in anticipation of the sheer power of what’s to come.
5. Fear Of The Dark (from Fear Of The Dark (1992)
As well as being an exceptional piece of metal brilliance, this one holds a special place in my heart. Back in the distant past, at the tender age of 15, I was playing bass in a metal covers band and we decided this would be a great addition to our set. Now trying to emulate the incredible bass playing style of Steve Harris is certainly a tall task and even though I didn’t hit those heady heights I got this one nailed and for the first time I felt like I could be pretty good at this bass playing lark. As it was there was to be no superstardom heading my way in the music biz but every time I hear this song it always transports me back to those days. It’s another epic Maiden track, starting slow and atmospheric before exploding with power, it also contains a couple of their most sing-alongable riffs which are amazing in the live setting being hollered along to by tens of thousands of fans. Also, check out the parent album if you haven’t in a while/haven’t at all, it’s aged well and I like it more these days than I did when it was released.
4. Phantom Of The Opera (from Iron Maiden (1980))
An absolute heavy metal classic, this encapsulates what Iron Maiden are all about and gave them a template for the epic pieces they would produce throughout their career. Surrounded by more compact, short sharp bursts of tracks on the album, this stood out not only in terms of length but also scope and musicality. Split into sections, each part has something that stands out, be it the riffs, the speed, the bass playing in the midsection or the blistering solos, this was Maiden announcing themselves as the leaders of the NWOBHM and was their stepping stone to becoming the rulers of the whole metal kingdom. Amazingly in 1985 it was used as the soundtrack to a Lucozade advert featuring British decathlon competitor Daley Thompson!!
3. The Trooper (from Piece Of Mind (1983))
One of their most famous and very best songs, this is a true anthem for the band, so much so that they named their very own brand of ale after it. Another rousing track, it has pace, power and precision and one of the greatest riffs of all time. The galloping rhythm fully captures the essence of a charging battalion making their way onto the battlefield and you can’t help but be swept up in all its drama and glory. The dual guitar solos are exceptional and every member of the band are at the top of their game. A special mention must be made to Bruce Dickinson on this one, his voice is an absolute thing of beauty, so strong and clear and the energy of his performance really locks you in and makes you want to wail along and pump your fist in the air and let out your best battle cry!! Or maybe that’s just me!!
2. Wasted Years (from Somewhere In Time (1986))
Over the years the Somewhere In Time (1986) album has really grown on me and this track has climbed up through my top 10 to now almost reach the pinnacle. I always liked it as a kid, it’s instantly catchy, has some of their best hooks and a superb riff but it now just feels like it gets better with every listen. The synths that are sprinkled throughout the album and that were so heavily criticised at the time, really flesh this song out and give it a completely full sound and a sheen to the production that sets it apart from pretty much anything else they have recorded. It’s the brainchild of Adrian Smith and is the best thing he has contributed as a writer to the band on a list which includes some absolute classics. It’s become a staple of their live sets, quite often featured as a closer and that suits it’s euphoric feeling perfectly, putting a smile on your face every time you hear it.
1. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Live) (from Live After Death (1985))
Going to see a band live, especially a good one, is an exhilarating experience. It’s something I’ve done many times in my life and I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the greats. Weirdly, I don’t really like live albums!! I can’t really put my finger on why that is exactly but I will always choose the studio versions over any live recordings when it comes to my listening habits. The exception being the Live After Death (1985) album. It’s my favourite Maiden album, has been since I first heard it and over the years I have owned it on cassette, vinyl, cd, dvd and streaming!! I even once rigged up a tape recorder to my vhs player as a kid and recorded the audio from that onto a blank tape!! It’s safe to say I hold it in the highest esteem. The live version of ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ takes an already great album track from The Number Of The Beast (1982) and transforms it into one of the greatest tracks of all time. It really beefs up the original, being faster, more impactful in it’s transitions from epic tension builder to blistering riff filled juggernaut and allowing Bruce’s voice to truly soar. It is Iron Maiden’s sound, their feel, their whole ethos captured in seven minutes of pure brilliance and will forever be my number one song of theirs. My only disappointment is that when I have seen them live, they haven’t included it in their set list!! Oh well, at least I’ll always have this version to give me an idea of just how amazing it is. Check it out and it’s parent album and if you are new to Maiden then it is a perfect place to start.