Formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, the band went through several line up changes before releasing their self titled debut in 1980. Their discography contains 38 albums in total, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four Ep’s and seven compilation albums.
Originating from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement, Maiden were one of the most successful rock bands of the 1980’s. After Bruce Dickinson replaced Paul Di’anno on vocals in 1982, they released a string of multi platinum selling albums which to this day are considered classics of the metal genre such as 1982’s The Number of the Beast, 1983’s Piece of Mind, 1984’s Powerslave and 1986’s Somewhere in Time.
They experienced something of a decline in the 1990’s when Dickinson left and was replaced by Blaze Bayley. Bayley was not a terrible vocalist, but Dickinson’s boots were ultimately to big for him to fill, with the two albums he recorded with them being considered by most to be their worst. Thankfully, after he left in 1999, Dickinson decided to come back and they have experienced a second wave of popularity ever since, with their most recent offerings such as “The Final Frontier” reaching number 1 in 28 countries and being very well received by critics. The Book Of Souls achieved similar success.
Despite being largely ignored by mainstream radio and television, they are one the all time most successful heavy metal bands, having sold over 100 million albums worldwide. In addition to this they have reportedly played over 2000 live shows over their four decade career. Here is a list of 10 of their songs which show what makes Iron Maiden so special to their adoring and extremely loyal fan base:
# 10 – These Colours Don’t Run
The second track of 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death this is without a doubt one of the most poignant Maiden songs of the post-millennial era. Seen by some as a song promoting nationalistic flag waving, the point of view that the song takes is not so one-sided.The song deals with idea of soldiers being sent to war and is not openly pro or anti-war with the position it takes. The song’s title means that whatever you think of what the military are doing, they are just doing their job, which can refer to any war across modern history. The opening riff shows Maiden at their melodic best starting off quietly with the guitar riff and the rest of the of the group quickly kicking into action, the highlight though is undoubtedly Dickinson’s “whoa” chant before the epic chorus is performed for the final time.
# 9 – The Wicker Man
The lead single from Dickinson’s comeback album, 2000’s Brave New World it opened the album making it his official reintroduction to the band. Inspired by the cult horror film of the same name, it is classic maiden through and through. The return of Dickinson’s voice brought back the epicness that the band was known for, which was lacking on the Bayley-era albums.
# 8 – Wrathchild
One of the best known songs from the Di’anno era, “Wratchchild” from 1981’s “Killers” is one of Di’annos finest moments. It has that feel of the band in their early days slogging about in clubs and pubs in the London Scene, thanks to his gritty and punky style-even if the band claimed to hate punk!
# 7 – Man on the Edge
The Bayley era may not be the best, but it was not without its moments. Lyrically inspired by the film “Falling Down”, it deals with the subject of mental illness and having a nervous breakdown. Despite this subject matter, it is a rather upbeat sounding tack, with an energetic sounding tempo, and a strong performance from the riff section. Taken from Bayley’s first album with the band, 1995’s “The X Factor”, it stands out as one of its highlights.
# 6 – No Prayer for the Dying
The title track from the first Maiden album of the 90’s, specifically 1990, this track shows that Maiden can do emotive ballads very well. The song has a slow pace most of the way through, not exploding until towards the end. Lyrically, the song deals with feeling lost in life, with certain lines hinting a slight criticism of religious faith.
# 5 – Running Free
The best known single entitled “Running Free,” from the self titled debut, is perhaps Di’annos finest moment as a Maiden vocalist. Still a fan favourite to this day, it is a true fist in the air song about teenage rebellion, with Di’annos edgier sounding style suiting it more than Dickinson’s operatic style ever has.
# 4 – Fear of The Dark
The title track from the final album of Dickinson’s first stint with the band released in 1992, it saw him go out with a bang, as it has become one of Iron Maiden’s greatest songs. With its epic chorus, classic riff, and epic build up, it is a song that is an absolute staple of the bands live sets. Lyrically, the title speaks for itself, it literally being about a man who is afraid of the dark.
# 3 – The Number of the Beast
The title track of bands third breakthrough album, and the one that caused much controversy upon its release with religious censorship activists. One of their most famous songs, they just have to play it live at every show. With its dark riff and Dickinson’s high-ranging vocals, it is a true milestone of traditional heavy metal.
# 2 – The Trooper
Another one of the bands greatest hits, this time off 1983’s “Piece of Mind”. With yet another of the all time classic metal riffs, lyrically it deals with what Maiden do best- charging into battle! Chronicling a battle that took place during the Crimean War, it was so good that years later they named their own beer after it.
# 1 – Run to the Hills
Perhaps an obvious choice, but it would seem wrong to have it any other way. It is probably the one Maiden song that people who have never any others have heard. Also from “Number of the Beast” it was the bands lead single of the album, charting at number 7. Another track that almost the ultimate metal number, from its defiant intro, to when it kicks in and Dickinson starts chanting the lyrics which deal with the native Indians fighting the white man coming over to their homeland, it is a true battle cry and is Maidens number 1 track for a very good reason.