There are very few bands in heavy metal as influential as Iron Maiden. To many people, they are THE band that springs to mind when the genre is mentioned due to their melodic style of guitar playing, epic songwriting, Bruce Dickinson’s powerful voice, and their mascot, the undead skeleton Eddie. One of Britain’s finest metal exports, all of the biggest bands to have come out after them owe them a debt, from Metallica to Cradle of Filth all the way up to the modern stars of the genre such as Slipknot and Trivium.
Formed in 1975 by bassist Steve Harris, the band went through several lineup changes before releasing their self-titled debut in 1980. Their discography contains thirty-eight albums in total, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four Eps, and seven compilation albums.
Originating from the New Wave of the British Heavy Metal movement, Iron Maiden was one of the most successful rock bands of the 1980s. 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.
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 that 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 is undoubtedly 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 the 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 is doing, they are just doing their job, which can refer to any war across modern history. The opening riff shows Iron 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 Wicker Man was the lead single from Dickinson’s comeback album, 2000’s Brave New World. The song 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.
# 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 – Fear Of The Dark
The title track from the final album of Dickinson’s first stint with the band was released in 1992. It featured Dickinson going 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 band’s live sets. Lyrically, the title speaks for itself, literally about a man afraid of the dark.
# 5 – 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 heard any other Iron Maiden song have heard. Also from Number of the Beast, it was the band’s lead single of the album, charting at number 7. Another track that is 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.
# 4 – The Trooper
If you’re looking to turn people on to the band Iron Maiden, playing the song The Trooper may be one of the best selections you could make. Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” was released on the Piece of Mind album. The song, penned by Steve Harris, the band’s bassist and one of its founding figures, draws its narrative from the historic Charge of the Light Brigade during the 1854 Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. Lord Tennyson’s poem of the same name, written in 1854, served as a key inspiration.
Just take a listen to those dual guitar leads by guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith in the song ‘The Trooper’ and you will understand why we ranked this song so high on our Iron Maiden songs list.
# 3 – Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
After the success of Somewhere in Time, Iron Maiden put the pedal to the metal even harder while adding a can of progressive rock fuel to the tank. The result was a mind-blowing progressive rock metal album that was as much influential as it was celebratory. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was released on April 11, 1988, and stands as a monumental release in the band’s discography, incorporating keyboards for the first time in a significant way instead of just for effects like they had done in the past.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son also holds the distinction of being the last studio album featuring the classic lineup that spanned from 1982 to 1990, as guitarist Adrian Smith departed from the band in early 1990.
The thematic core of the album, centered around the mystical lore of the seventh son of a seventh son, known for his supposed supernatural abilities, was sparked by Steve Harris’s encounter with Orson Scott Card’s narrative. Harris, intrigued by the blend of mysticism and the coincidence of this being their seventh studio release, saw it as a fitting theme. The concept grew more intricate and fleshed out as Harris discussed it with Dickinson, ultimately weaving a rich tapestry of narrative and music that underscored Iron Maiden’s adventurous and innovative spirit.”
# 2 – The Number Of The Beast
“Iron Maiden’s ‘The Number of the Beast’ stands as a towering achievement in the world of heavy metal, encapsulating the essence of the genre in its powerful melodies and thematic depth. Released as the band’s seventh single and a highlight of their 1982 album bearing the same name, this track has woven itself into the fabric of metal history. Its re-releases in 1990 and 2005, as part of ‘The First Ten Years’ box set and on its own, reaffirmed its timeless appeal, with the song ascending to significant chart positions in the United Kingdom each time. They love Iron Maiden in the UK.
The genesis of ‘The Number of the Beast’ is as intriguing as its content, with bassist Steve Harris drawing inspiration from a chilling nightmare influenced by the film ‘Damien: Omen II’ and the stirring narrative of Robert Burns’ ‘Tam o’ Shanter.’ The track is notorious for its opening, a haunting spoken passage delivered by Barry Clayton, setting a biblical tone that preludes the electrifying energy of the song. This choice was a pivot from the initial desire to have Vincent Price lend his voice, a plan diverted by Price’s steep fee.
Bruce Dickinson’s vocal prowess is unleashed in an iconic scream that punctuates the intro, a moment born from the tension and repetition of recording takes under the meticulous direction of producer Martin Birch. This track also holds historical significance as it showcases the last appearance of drummer Clive Burr before Nicko McBrain’s arrival and features a live version of ‘Remember Tomorrow’ recorded during a pivotal moment in Iron Maiden’s journey.
The song’s influence extends through numerous covers by a diverse array of artists, appearances in video games like ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4’ and ‘Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.’ and inclusions in film and television, demonstrating the song’s enduring resonance and its role in shaping the metal genre’s legacy.”
# 1 – Hallowed Be Thy Name
I will never get tired of listening to this song. While many may pick “The Number Of The Beast” as the band’s number one song, in my opinion, as well as many Iron Maiden fans, this is the band’s truly epic masterpiece. Bruce Dickinson delivers one of the most extraordinary vocals of his career on this spellbinding tune. Listen to those dual guitar solos; they will leave you breathless. The ending will blow your mind if you have never heard this one before. The song “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was the closing track on the band’s 1982 album, The Number of the Beast. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was written by Iron Maiden’s brilliant bassist Steve Harris.
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Professional Sources, research, experience, and citations
Charting information used in the analysis and research of the commercial success of these songs comes from Billboard Magazine Charts
Other sources for important factual information include the band’s website
Further analysis and original thoughts are provided by the writer Brian Kachejian’s experience as a professional musician and music collector for over 50 years and his experience as a New York State certified music and history educator and professional music journalist with the New York Press.