With this list we are looking at the band who to many define Heavy Metal. Always sticking to their roots, Iron Maiden have soldiered on for over four decades, a fact helped by their extremely loyal fan base. They have progressed dramatically throughout their career, whilst always maintaining their signature sound. Their galloping and melodic sound has been an influence on most metal bands to follow in their wake, even new bands coming out today often cite them as an influence.
Iron Maiden were formed in London on Christmas Day 1975 by bassist Steve Harris who along with guitarist Dave Murray remains the sole remaining original member still in the band. After going through a fair few members in their first few years, they released their self-titled debut in 1980. When vocalist Paul Di’Anno left in 1981 and was replaced by Bruce Dickinson, the band truly became worldwide metal superstars, something which they have remained ever since.
The band have a vast discography which does vary in quality largely depending on which members are involved. They have had three different vocalists throughout their recording career, with Dickinson being their most prominent. Here is a list of our favorite Iron Maiden albums
10 – Brave New Word
Kicking off this top 10 Iron Maiden albums list is the band’s first album of the new millennium. Released in 2000, the album saw the return of Dickinson on vocals after he left in 1993. Also, re-joining was guitarist Adrian Smith, although his replacement Janick Gers was allowed to stay with the band. The whole idea behind this album was that it was reflective of turn of the millennium and was going to be a “resurrection” album for Iron Maiden. It celebrated traditional Metal in general, with them and their peers such as Judas Priest having experienced something of wilderness years throughout most of the 90’s with the advent of the grunge and alternative movements. Among the best tracks on the album is the lead single “The Wicker Man,” “Blood Brothers” and the title track.
9 – Somewhere in Time
Continuing with our top 10 Iron Maiden albums list is one of the later albums of the band’s classic 80’s period, 1986 to be specific. Dickinson had an idea for the band to produce some more acoustic material for this album, which the rest of the band were not into and thus rejected material that he had written, making him completely absent from the record’s writing credits. Guitarist Adrian Smith wrote much more material for it with two of his standout tracks being “Wasted Years,” and “Stranger in a Strange Land,” both of which were released as singles. Although the album appears to be science-fiction themed, the band have stated that it was never intended to be a concept album.
8 – A Matter of Life and Death
Next on the list is another one of Iron Maiden‘s post-millennial output released in 2006. This album had a strong theme of war and death, which made it one the band’s most poignant albums lyrically. When they toured for it, they made the rather controversial decision to play it in its entirety (a tour which this writer saw them on). Although this meant that fans were robbed of hearing much of the classic back catalog, their fan base did not seem to be disappointed for the most part. Standout tracks include “These Colors Don’t Run,” “Different World” and “For the Greater Good of God.”
7 – Iron Maiden
At number seven on our top 10 Iron Maiden albums list is the very first album released in 1980. Although it is very rough around the edges, it is without a doubt a brilliant debut. Featuring Paul Di’Anno on vocals, his punk style is almost the opposite to Dickinson’s operatic range which gives the band’s sound on this album a much rawer feel. The band have retrospectively commented negatively on the album’s production. However, it was very successful for a debut record, reaching number four on the UK albums chart. Among the best tracks are “Prowler,” “Charlotte the Harlot” and the title track.
6 – The Number of the Beast
At the rather controversial (although some might say apt) position of number six is the band’s breakthrough album, 1982’s The Number of the Beast. The album was Dickinson’s debut with the band. Dickinson’s arrival advanced the band’s music in a way which Di’anno never could with his much more wide-ranging vocal style. It is one of those albums where every track on it is pretty much a classic with songs such as “Children of the Damned,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” my personal favorite “The Prisoner” and of course “Run to the Hills” and the title track.
5 – Killers
Beginning the second half of this list is the second album and last with Di’anno, 1981’s Killers. As well as being the vocalist’s last, it was the debut of Smith. It is the best album of this era, with the band having clearly improved from their debut. Harris wrote nearly all the songs on this record himself with most of them originally being written a couple of years previously. “Wrath Child,” which was originally included on a compilation in 1979 is the only cut from the album that the band regularly play live now. Other standout tracks are “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” the title track and “Drifter.”
4 – Seventh Son of Seventh Son
This album from 1988 saw the band indulging heavily in their progressive side with examples of this being tracks being “The Clairvoyant” and “The Evil That Men Do.” However, despite this level of experimentation, the album also had its poppy side with one of the band’s biggest singles “Can I Play With Madness?” It also did not hinder the record’s commercial success, as it reached number one in the charts as well as managing to chart high in several other countries.
3 – Powerslave
At the number three spot is Iron Maiden’s fifth album from 1984 that properly kicked of Maiden’s golden years. Although they had been touring internationally since the release of their second album, it was with this record that they started to cover some serious ground. This album features several classic songs such as “Aces High,” “Two Minutes to Midnight” and the title track. The tour to promote this album was one of their longest which burnt the band out for some time afterwards. It was documented in the live release Live After Death.
2 – Piece of Mind
Just off the top spot is the band’s fourth album from 1983 which introduced Nicko McBrain on drums. With him instated, the classic and longest serving line-up was now solidified. All the band sounded very tight on this record and in retrospect it has the feel of a band who are ready for world domination. Upon its release the album was a success both critically and commercially, reaching number three on the UK album charts. The album is a very strong collection of songs, the best of which includes “The Trooper,” “Revelations” and “Flight of Icarus.”
1 – Fear of the Dark
At the top of this Iron Maiden albums list is an album that would not be a lot of people’s first choice. This album from 1992 was Dickinson’s last of his first tenure with the band and effectively marked the end of the band’s classic period. There was a lot of turmoil going in the band at the time which was not helped by the changing musical climate the 90’s was bringing along. However, despite this, the album reached number 1 in the UK album charts.
What I like about this album is the fact that it has a downbeat feel to it that is different from the usual bombastic Iron Maiden sound. Whereas the band have often relied on literature, fantasy and history for lyrical concepts, many of the songs on this album tackle political and social topics which were relevant at the time. Two that stand out in particular are “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” written from the perspective of a soldier in the Gulf War and “Fear is the Key,” a song about the Aids crisis of the time which the band wrote when they found out about the death of Queen front man Freddy Mercury.
Unfortunately, not many songs from this album are included in the band’s live sets. The exception of course, being the title track, which is a favorite live track with the fans. Overall, this is an underrated album which is deserving of the top spot of this list.