I was trying to realise how difficult it was to pull through what my chief editor asked me to, namely to rate all of Maiden’s albums, and still can’t do it. Nevertheless, here’s my attempt even though it is sine qua non. It’s like making a parent choosing from his own children. But since I am just a listener and in no way involved in those masterpieces, I will do it highlighting that what will follow is just my subjective opinion and are not in any sense objective facts. I will repeat that whoever thinks that his opinion can be established as objective is plainly deceived. I am not even touching the singles, the lives, the compilations, etc. Only the albums. And what kind of albums…
1. “Piece of mind” (1983)
The three first albums in this list can easily be put together in the first place. But first among the first is “Piece Of Mind”. Untouchable and grandiose. Pure steel that frames the most epic Iron Maiden album all throughout its 45-minute duration that this monumental journey they offered us 34 years ago lasts. If you kidnap Steve Harris and lock him in a studio under the threat that if he doesn’t craft something similar he will be captured forever, he will obviously spend the rest of his life there. “Piece Of mind” cannot be repeated. It was recorded in a few months and will be listened to forever, always fresh and overwhelming. Other bands would kill to have even the record’s most “mediocre” song (“Sun And Steel”). Top song: “To Tame A Land”. You can’t have better than that….
2. “Powerslave” (1984)
…. Or maybe you can? Only one year after “Piece Of Mind” has passed and those villains are plotting another relentless attack. They are in a creative orgasm and they deliver another insurmountable chapter in hard music. From the cover, the lyrical content, the production and the songwriting, everything is flawless. That was my first acquaintance with Maiden (through a cassette that didn’t make it till today) and since then is one of the best reasons never to part ways with them. I cherish dozens of memories, but I would like to share just once. When I was sitting in my English language exams, we had to write something about a fire brigade vehicle that had to put out a fire. Needless to say that I used all the lyrics from “Aces High” (Jump in the cockpit and start up the engines, remove all the wheel blocks there’s not time to waste….) adjusted accordingly and it was regarded as excellent. Top song: “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” (actually top song ever!). There is no mediocrity in there, don’t look for any in vain.
3. “The number of the beast” (1982)
New singer, o tempora o mores. As soon as Dickinson came, he changed everything. The whole musical style was adjusted on his wider vocal range and from an innovative NWOBHM style turned into a firmsonic river of sounds and feelings made of steel. If they ever ask you what heavy metal is, you can answer them it is exactly what is contained in “The Number Of The Beast”. Nothing less, nothing more. This is where the rules were set and the frames were laid in which metal would take off the next years. Top song: “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. Mediocre song: See “Powerslave”.
4. “Somewhere in time” (1986)
Maiden sold out, they are playing pop metal, became glam, used synths… you could listen to all those things and even more when “Somewhere In Time” was released. An indescribable Japanese journalist / metal defender wrote that it was one of the worst records he ever listened to. I have to say that once more Maiden simply kicked ass. They took a risk and it worked out. Take the nightmarish and outwardly production by Martin Birtch, take the excessive tiredness from the “World Slavery Tour” that lasted 331 days and urged them to break out in this album, take the innovative elements that didn’t do any harm to the metal roots, take I-don’t-know-what-else, but the result was magic and maybe it’s a blasphemy that I don’t include it among the first 2 (dear reader we have entered the realm of masterpieces, the first 3 are not to be talked about. They stand on another level, on their own…) Top song: “The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner”, or maybe “Wasted Years”? Ah, yeah, it also has “Deja-vu”. Mediocre moment: See “The Number Of The Beast”.
5. “Iron Maiden” (1980)
Here is where it all started, or maybe a few years before, but here is when things really settled down. Some punk attitude was injected in the metal soundscapes and the outcome is uncompromised, fast and passionate metal, for sure in raw form, but those who know understood that with this album a special child was born and its brothers and sisters that were mere ideas at the time would be even prettier. Paul Di’ Anno at his best, Murray’s and Stratton’s guitars are top notch, Clive Burr is just killing it behind the drum kit and Steve Harris announcing to the metal community that the bass is not a secondary instrument anymore. Top song: “Transylvania”. Hahaha, really now? You want me to find a mediocre song in there?
6. “Seventh son of the seventh son” (1988)
“A web of fear shall be your coat….”.1988 and Iron Maiden are finally in Greece with a tremendous record that was just released. The band was showing us the stars and some idiots were whining because it included keyboards. It is a shame that it has to be put in no.6, but it can’t go any further up, there is traffic at the top! Top song: “Moonchild”. Mediocre moment: See “Iron Maiden”, but in order not to repeat myself, ok, let’s say “Can I Play With Madness” which I like very much. I will not mention any weak moments anymore, I am satisfied even by them!
7. “A matter of life and death” (2006)
I think I can hear people cursing me that this record was put here before other masterpieces. But it took my head when it came out. 72 minutes are gone before you realize it and you are taken in a unique and unforgettable trip. Harris in excellent form, composes as if there is no tomorrow. Top song: “For The Greater Good Of God” (and “The Legacy” what is it then?)
8. “Fear of the dark” (1992)
Madness! Here closes the first Dickinson chapter. And it is being concluded so magnificently, in the same way it started. 12 diamond compositions comprise the by far best album of the year 1992, co-produced by Steve Harris also! If you don’t like it, you either are listening to the wrong music, or there is something wrong with your hearing. Top song: “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”.
9. “Killers” (1981)
This is the second album of the primal period of the band with some great moments and some not so… which means that this album is not in the same level as the debut. Nevertheless, “Killers” is a great one and we will always remember it with nostalgia for Di’ Anno’s last presence and for the 10 great songs that it contains (2 of which are instrumental) that come in the most violent cover Maiden has ever made. Top song: “Murders In The Rue Morgue”.
10. “Brave new world” (2000)
The once departed Dickinson and Smith are back in their home. From then onwards Maiden will have three guitars. The third one (Janick Gers) is also something like the cheerleader on stage with all those incomprehensible gimmicks he does (Gers is like the football player who sits on his contract, he barely knows how to play the game, but he is invaluable for the mood and the overall atmosphere in the dressing rooms, so the coach thinks it’s a pity to drop him). Harris took over the celebration of the homecoming, since he has written or co-written each of the 10 songs. Here only two words can apply: Sadistic greatness! Top song: “The Nomad”.
11. “No prayer for the dying” (1990)
Is it possible for “No Prayer For The Dying” to be in number 11? If it was released by another band we would talk about an untouchable album. Here Smith has already waved goodbye and Gers was aboard. “Tailgunner”, “Holy Smoke”, No prayer for the dying”, “The assassin”, “Bring your daughter to the slaughter” stand out, but even them are bowing to the glory of “Mother Russia”.
12. “Virtual XI” (1998)
Second album with Blaze Bayley in the mic and maestro Harris makes sure that his compositions shut the mouths of all that started whining when Dickinson left in the “X Factor” that came before. He is exploiting Bayley’s skills to the fullest, who of course can’t touch Dickinson, but does absolutely fine. Some songs that stand out are: “The Angel and the gambler”, “When Two Worlds Collide”, “The Educated Fool”, “Don’t Look To The Eyes Of A Stranger”. Even the song from the new comers, “Como Estais Amigo”, is not bad (why am I sure that after the third minute Harris put his magic touch, but it is not mentioned?) Top song: “The Clansman”.
13. “Dance of death” (2003)
At that point the circle of the masterpieces is closing. But before we draw the line we are pushing in “Dance Of Death” without this being a favour. There are 7 songs that stand out of the total 11 (“Rainmaker”, “No more lies”, “Montsegur”, “Dance Of Death” –the best of them all-, “Gates Of Tomorrow”, “New Frontier” –at last crazy Mc Brain is participating in a composition-, “Paschendale”), but also the 4 remaining ones are not falling behind. What a record!
14. “The book of souls” (2015)
Now we are in the realm of the very good – decent (see the following ones) albums. The most recent, almost an hour and a half long, Maiden’s opus could only make their countless fans smile. I wouldn’t be bothered if a few songs were omitted, or if “Empire Of The Clouds” was reduced in half of its duration. I am also not going crazy with the progressive stretching of the songs. Nevertheless “The Book Of Souls” continues the tradition that wants Maiden never to fail the bar of quality. Top song: “The Red And The Black”.
15. “The X factor” (1995)
Maiden without Dickinson is like ouzo without ice cubes in 45 degrees in the middle of the desert while a beduin pours hot oil in your legs. But it is what it is, the show must go on. Maiden till death you cunts! We went through that as well. To be honest, even if they release an instrumental album, I would probably like it, why would Bayleybe a problem? 11 are the songs and mixed are the emotions,but “Sign Of The Cross” is scoring from the first second. All in all I like it, even if in the beginning I was a bit frowned, I made sure I would like it….
16. “The final frontier” (2010)
It was a big commercial success, it entered the charts in 28 countries, it was loved, but in no sense does it justify its duration (76 minutes). It also has an obnoxious and childish cover. Best moment: “The Talisman”.
At that point usually I would start commenting on their shitty albums, but because Maiden don’t even know what that means, I take the chance to write something about the Iron Maiden phenomenon. I understand that beside them there is a whole enterprise and maybe the band itself is responsible for that. Hats, condoms, panties, shorts, flip flops, whatever has enough space to fit the logo of the band on it, you will find it for sale. And you can come across an Iron Maiden t-shirts practically everywhere. From a house lady that ran quickly to the super market throwing it on her just because her son left it laying there, to the Greek parliament member who has been photographed sporting one. Who knows, maybe we will see some future conservative Prime Minister with a Maiden t-shirt trying to break through to the working masses. In capitalism everything is bought and sold. Even more when a band transcends the limits of heavy metal and is embraced globally by all those who understand what they are listening to, but pretend that they don’t. Reading what I wrote about their records, I don’t think I am exaggerating. I would like to listen to your views as well, it’s not enough to hate a band “because everybody listens to them”. Maiden personally have never let me down. And when we are talking about a course that runs five decades that alone takes another meaning. Some years ago, talking with my friend (and comrade) Nikos “Maidan” (he is one of the most devoted Iron Maiden fans in the world, he collects whatever you can imagine and he follows them on tour spending almost all of his salary exclusive for them), I was trying to convince him that it is not worth it to spend all his life for a band. But deep inside I knew that I was not being consistent with some of my own arguments, because I might neither be a collector, nor someone who buys whatever they are releasing (it is enough for me to have their songs), I might not be going to their live show anymore, but I have not stopped being among their “crazy” fans.
Up the Irons!