Metal Insider’s Top 5 is a column where we count down the top five of…well basically anything.
Following closely to the origin of the world and the universe, one of the oldest topics of discussion is what are best and worst albums from British legends Iron Maiden are. With their long-awaited sixteenth solo album, The Book of Souls, coming out in less than two months, the world is about to get swept up in Maiden mania again. Bruce Dickinson’s battle with (and subsequent victory over) cancer, the ambition of their first ever double album, and the inevitable tour next year in support of the album is putting the band in the forefront of metal discussions. With that in mind, we’re ranking the top five Maiden albums as chosen by Metal Insider contributors – as well as the worst.
5) Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
It took Iron Maiden seven albums, but they finally went and wrote themselves a concept album. What’s it about? Well there’s some folklore about the seventh son as a mystical figure with paranormal powers, but none of that really matters. It’s also the band’s most progressive album, using keyboards and reaching further towards a theme than they had in the past. Songs like the title track, “Can I Play With Madness?” “The Clairvoyant,” and “The Evil That Men Do” are songs that the band will be playing for the rest of their careers. It holds a special place in my heard because I’d really gotten into Maiden in between Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son, and it was the first Maiden album that I got to buy on the day it came out and listen to it over and over again. Also, given the fact that it was Adrian Smith’s last album for 12 years, and it’s no surprise that it was viewed as a fan favorite, even if many were initially put off by all the keyboards.
Maiden’s second full-length album is notable for a bunch of reasons. It is, of course, the last album to feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals. It’s also the first album to feature Adrian Smith on guitar, two huge developments that would not only affect the history of this band, but really the history of metal in general. It’s also worth noting that this was the first album the band worked with Martin Birch as their producer. He’s the reason why they went from the first album sounding hollow and somewhat poorly produced to this album having a rich and dynamic sound to it.
More than just being well-produced, this album is extremely well written. Iit’s important to note because this album was written almost solely by bassist Steve Harris. While Dave Murray and Adrian Smith (and to a lesser extent Bruce Dickinson) would take on more songwriting duties as the years and albums went on, at this point in their careers it was still the Steve Harris show as far as songwriting was concerned. Because of that this album still maintains a lot of the punk rock edge that the first album carried. There’s a grittiness to the first two albums that they polished away after Di’Anno left the band. That tenaciousness in style gave birth to some of the most underrated songs this band ever wrote – “Wrathchild“, “Murders in the Rue Morgue“, “Drifter“, “Purgatory“, and the title track. Not to mention that Di’Anno delivers a brilliant performance on this album. It stands as not only one of the greatest albums to ever emerge out of the NWOBHM scene but one of the greatest metal albums of all time. Period.
– Chip McCabe
3) Piece of Mind
If Number of the Beast marked the arrival of a confident new vocalist in Brice Dickinson, Piece of Mind cemented that the band was here to stay. In addition to it being the first album with Nicko McBrain on the drums, it’s also one of the most solid front to back albums the band’s released, showing a band that was realizing the potential that they’d been hinting at on their previous three albums. “The Trooper” is a staple to this day, but the whole first side of the album (“Where Eagles Dare,” “Revelations,” “Flight of Icarus” and “Die With Your Boots On”) are solid. “Still Life” is another solid song. It slows down a bit towards the end, but when you’re talking about an album that’s 66% amazing that solidly followed up what many are considering their finest moment, that’s a great place to be.
Powerslave is the end piece on the trio that many consider to be Iron Maiden’s greatest works, and it is one hell of an end piece at that. If Maiden’s career had ended after Powerslave, they still would have been destined for legendary status, becausePowerslave is the exclamation point on a statement that rocked the whole metal world. Where The Number of the Beast andPiece of Mind showed the world that Iron Maiden was much more than just a punk band borrowing metal riffs,Powerslave revealed that Maiden knew more about metal craftsmanship than almost any other band on the planet. Starting with the blazing “Aces High” and the apocalyptic “Two Minutes to Midnight“, Powerslave weaves through countless instrumental styles and techniques, as Bruce Dickinson’s voice soars over the full spectrum of highs and lows that make him the incredible vocalist that he is. The album ends with the timeless epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, the grandest story told in Iron Maiden’s career. There is so much greatness packed into this album, one listen feels like it lasts much longer than the album’s 51-minute run time. In a career of masterpiece albums, Powerslave stands among the greatest of the great, a timeless classic that has inspired countless others.
– Chris Colgan
1) The Number of the Beast
This 1982 classic is regarded as one of the most iconic from the band’s entire discography. Containing their biggest hits like “Number of the Beast,” or “Run to the Hills” this record is one of the pillar albums for any metalhead who’s getting into this style of music and an absolute must to any seasoned fan. No matter what part of the world we’re talking about, if there is an Iron Maiden fan, he will know these songs like anthems from one of the biggest nations in the entire world which is the metal community, even if those are the only words in English he can speak.This is also the first full-length release featuring the legendary frontman, Bruce Dickinson, taking them to the next level of vocal performance and breaking them into the mainstream. Musically speaking, each riff in this album is an archetype within the New Wave of British Heavy Metal style and the perfect mold to any aspiring musician on any heavy-oriented instrument. The melodies and phrasings flowing through the entire album will remain as one of the most memorable tunes for years to come.
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Iron Maiden’s worst album (tie)
There is an era of infamy in any band’s history and for these guys that would be between 1995-1998 or the Bayley era with Virtual XI and The X Factor. Blaze Bayley had recently joined the band to replace the charismatic and talented Bruce Dickinson during a difficult time and the band wanted to prove to the world they were more than just a vocalist but an actual band who goes beyond their members but the band failed to accomplish their target and made two albums who to this day are actively kept away from long time fans’ Maiden collections and considered as a gap in time during the band’s history. There isn’t much to dissect from these records that many haven’t said previously and at this point, there is no reason to remark the obvious other than just stating a fact instead of the establishment of a serious argument but what is clear is that even one of the biggest and long-lasting bands of the world of heavy metal, can do wrong at some point and the only option we have, as fans, is to go back to the work you cherish and made you an avid follower and forget about the existence of the unparalleled.