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Iron Maiden

This is the debut that started it all, and Iron Maiden were riding high on the crest of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Released in 1980, bassist Steve Harris' vision of Heavy Metal finally comes true with the aid of the brilliant axework of Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton, the terse vocals of Paul Di'Anno, and the aggressive drumming of Clive Burr. Every song is tight, brilliantly executed, catchy, heavy, and has an appealing rawness to it. This is a promise of what is to come to in the future albums.

This is the must have for all Metal music fans: Prowler, Running Free, Transylvania, Charlotte the Harlot, and Iron Maiden are all Heavy Metal classics. The bonus disc contains Burning Ambition, Drifter (live), and I've Got the Fire (live, with some searing guitar work).

"Won't you come into my room, I wanna show you all my wares.
 I just want to see your blood, I just want to stand and stare.
 See the blood begin to flow as it falls upon the floor.
 Iron Maiden can't be fought, Iron Maiden can't be sought."
                                   ---Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden



In their second album, the music of Iron Maiden (or should I say Steve Harris?) takes a direction which will be present in all the future albums. This is primarily due to the introduction of Adrian Smith (who replaces Dennis Stratton), whose guitar work is prominent on this and other future albums. The album is heavier and faster than the first, and Paul Di'anno's vocals are more smooth and less punctuated here. The engineering of Martin Birch makes its presence felt. The highlights of this album are the instrumentals (The Ides of March and Gengis Khan) showcasing the lead and rhythm sections of the band, and the tracks Murders in the Rue Morgue and Purgatory (where Di'Anno's pleas are extremely believable).

The bonus disc contains the tracks Women in Uniform, Invasion, Phantom of the Opera, Running Free, Remember Tomorrow, Wrathchild, Killers, and Innocent Exile. Except for the first two tracks, most of them are all live tracks from Maiden Japan. It gives a great indication of what Iron Maiden is like live with Paul Di'Anno on the vocals. It also shows how great Iron Maiden live recordings were (the sheer energy and performance level even beats stuff like Live After Death).

"There's some people coming down the street;
 at last there's someone heard my call.
 I can't understand why they're pointing at me;
 I never done nothing at all.
 But I must have got some blood on my hands
 because everyone's shouting at me.
 I can't speak French so I couldn't explain
 and like a fool I started running away."
      ---Iron Maiden, Murders in the Rue Morgue

Number of the Beast

This album marks the departure of Paul Di'Anno and the arrival of Bruce Dickinson (formerly of Samson), who is significantly different in style than Di'Anno. However Dickinson fits in well. The songs and the lyrics are more deeper and philosophic, addressing topics such as objectification (The Prisoner: "I am not a number, I am a free man."), war (Invaders, Run to the Hills), and religion (the title track and Hallowed be Thy Name). Again, the trend of putting out albums where every song is brilliant is maintained. The bonus disc contains the tracks Total Eclipse and Remember Tomorrow (live).

"Not a prisoner, I'm a free man,
 and my blood is my own now.
 Don't care where the past was,
 I know where I'm going---out."
    ---Iron Maiden, The Prisoner

Piece of Mind

If you thought Iron Maiden couldn't top their previous effort, Piece of Mind is by far one of the most powerful Iron Maiden albums, starting another trend where the albums are not just great, but absolutely brilliant! The album production is of high calibre, and the energy of the band is clearly evident as the sound washes over the listener. The change in drummers (Clive Burr being replaced by Nicko McBrain) doesn't seem to have affected the sound in any way. In fact, it is this lineup that has produced some of the most memorable releases. The bonus disc contains covers of I've Got the Fire and Cross Eyed Mary.

Dickinson's voice is incredibly powerful and his screaming is something that has to be heard to be believed---on this album, he'd give Ian Gillan of Deep Purple a run for his money. Dickinson also starts taking an active role in the songwriting process.

This is the first Maiden album I listened to (when I was eleven), and it remains one of my favourites. You're going to have a sore neck after listening to this one. I can't find a single flaw with this release.

"O God of Earth and Altar,
 Bow down and hear our cry,
 Our earthly rulers falter,
 Our people drift and die,
 The walls of gold entomb us,
 The swords of scorn divide,
 Take not thy thunder from us,
 But take away our pride."
          ---G. K. Chesterton, 
                English Hymnal


Iron Maiden has always had a storytelling way of writing songs, and it is most evident in this album, especially in their magnum opus, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's work of the same name). The song clocks almost fourteen minutes (!) and epitomises Steve Harris' brilliant songwriting skills. Here they continue to maintain the energy displayed in Piece of Mind. There are no lineup changes with this release, and there's a vague "concept" interwoven through the music and lyrics of this album. An excellent solid album, up there with Piece of Mind. The cover buries their mascot Eddie with full honours, Egyptian style. The bonus disc contains the tracks Rainbow's Gold, Mission from Harry (which is an interesting six minute conversation/argument between Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain), King of Twilight, and Number of the Beast (live).

 "One after one by the star dogged moon,
  too quick for groan or sigh
  each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
  and cursed me with his eye
  four times fifty living men
  (and I heard nor sigh nor groan).
  with heavy thump a lifeless lump,
  they drop down one by one."
                        ---S. T. Coleridge, 
            The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Live after Death

This album not only writes in cement Iron Maiden's status as one of the definitive heavy metal bands of the 1980s, but also proves that they can do it just as well (if not better) live also! This contains faster-paced, live versions of songs that are all Iron Maiden classics, and a lot of songs from Powerslave and Piece of Mind show up here. There are times when I am not happy with Bruce Dickinson's vocal performance (especially when he sings stuff originally performed by Di'Anno), but overall, it's a fine album. Martin Birch (who was also responsible for Deep Purple's Made in Japan) manages to get across the energy of the live show on this album. The bonus disc contains live versions of three old Maiden classics sung by Dickinson: Losfer Words, Sanctuary, and Murders in the Rue Morgue.

Oh, and Eddie is back!

"Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die." 
                 ---Iron Maiden, Aces High.

Somewhere in Time

Continuing the successes of their two previous studio albums and their live epic, Iron Maiden displays that there's still a lot of spirit left in them. Again, this album is packed with 51 minutes of heavy Maidenesque music with classics such as Caught Somewhere in Time and Alexander the Great. It appears as if the Dickinson/Murray/Smith/Harris/McBrain line-up can do no wrong. Smith takes a more active role in the songwriting process here, whereas Dicksinson moves to the background.

The cover is highly symbolic and contains a lot of references to Maiden's past. It makes for an interesting puzzle to try and identify the objects on the cover. The bonus disc contains powerful performances by Adrian Smith on Reach Out, and Bruce Dickinson on Sheriff of Huddersfield, That Girl, and Juanita.

"My son ask for thyself another kingdom,
 for that which I leave is too small to thee."
                   ---King Philip of Macedonia

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

This is the icing on the cake. Previously, you could see vague concepts woven through the lyrics in the Iron Maiden albums, but with this release, the music and the lyrics narrate the story of the mystical Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Listening to this album isn't just an headbanging experience, but it takes your imagination on a wild trip. The album chronicles the birth of the Seventh Son ("Born of woman the seventh son") who has magical powers which let him fortell the future. However, no one believes in him or his powers and he finally gets fed up and leaves his people.

The music on this continues to remain on the high plateau attained in the previous three studio albums. The synthesiser work adds a nice touch to the storytelling. It would be cool to see a movie using this music as the soundtrack. The bonus disc contains the tracks Black Bart Blues, Massacre, Prowler '88, Charlotte the Harlot 1988, The Clairvoyant (live), The Prisoner (live), Infinite Dreams (live), Killers (live), and Still Life (live).

"Walking on water are miracles all you can trust.
 Measure your coffin does it measure up to your lust.
 So I think I'll leave you, with your bishops and your guilt.
 So until the next time, have a good sin."
                      ---Iron Maiden, Only the Good Die Young

No Prayer for the Dying

The fourth verse of Only the Good Die Young could've almost been sung by guitarist Adrian Smith, and the song could well apply to Iron Maiden themselves. The prolific brilliance exhibited in their previous releases, particularly the period from Piece of Mind to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, takes a huge nosedive with this release. I think the loss of Smith (who went on to form The Untouchables) had a lot to do with it. Newcomer Janick Gers is a pretty decent guitarist, but he and Dave Murray simply do not mesh as well as Murray and Smith used to. This is all compounded by the fact that the sound quality/production isn't the best and Bruce Dickinson seems to be losing his voice. I consider this one of the worst Iron Maiden albums ever, even though it is still better than a lot of the dreck out there. The songwriting isn't terribly spectacular either; for the first time, instead of letting the lyrics tell a story, the group seem to have assembled a collection of 11 songs. My favourite tracks include Fates Warning, Running Silent Running Deep, and Mother Russia.

The bonus disc contains the tracks All in Your Mind, Kill Me Ce Soir, I'm a Mover, and Communication Breakdown, all covers. Dickinson's, and the rest of the band's, performances on these tracks are way better than anything on the album.

"Running silent, running deep, we are your final prayer.
 Warriors in secret sleep, a merchantman's nightmare.
 A silent death lies waiting, for all of you below.
 Running silent, running deep, sink into your silent sleep."
                ---Iron Maiden, Running Silent Running Deep

Fear of the Dark

The problems that began in No Prayer for the Dying continue to plague the group, though I think this is a better effort than the previous one. Dickinson lacks conviction and power in his voice for most of the songs, but he does growl powerfully through Be Quick or Be Dead, From Here to Eternity, and the title track. Again, the album comes off as being a collection of songs put together lacking any sort of continuity. I really think this would've been a great album had Blaze Bayley or Paul Di'Anno sung it. Some of the guitar solos in songs like Afraid to Shoot Strangers are really tasteful and almost poetic. I think this album balances the positive and negative aspects well and we start to see a musical trend which is later seen in Dickinson's solo effort Balls to Picasso. While it works well there, I don't think it fits in well with what we know and have come to love as Iron Maiden.

The bonus disc contains the tracks Nodding Donkey Blues, Space Station No. 5, Roll Over Vic Vella, I Can't See My Feelings, No Prayer for the Dying (live), Public Enema Number One (live), and Hooks in You (live). Again, the energy of the band on the bonus disc is more apparent than on the album!

"Covered in sinners and dripping with gilt,
 making your money from slime and from filth.
 Parading your bellies in ivory towers,
 Investing your lives in your schemes and your powers."
                    ---Iron Maiden, Be Quick or Be Dead

A Real Live One

Just what we needed: a live release with Bruce Dickinson not really into singing the tunes. It might seem as though I'm really bearing down on Dickinson, but it is really sad to me that a vocalist with such potential could simply lose interest in a band he was partially responsible for catapulting to stardom. One good thing that can be said about this album (and its successor) is that the song selections are interesting, and it's not a total rehash of Live After Death. The production sucks: the volume of the vocals is too low, the crowd noise is repetitive and annoying, and the guitar solos are barely discernable above the muddled mix. In spite of all this, it is a fairly enjoyable album (it's sort of like listening to a good audience bootleg recording) and that speaks volumes about the band's songwriting skills. Except for Dickinson, all the other members of the band are very enthusiastic; the degree of improvisation is just right, and the guitar work by Dave Murray and Janick Gers is excellent. Nicko McBrain's drumming stands out and I think the songs from the later albums (after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son) start sounding a bit better in the live setting. The case as usual is cool, and the imprinting on the disc (which typically isn't unusual in other Maiden discs) is innovative.

"Hell ain't a bad place, hell is from here to eternity."
                   ---Iron Maiden, From Here to Eternity

A Real Dead One

Even when Dickinson was at his best, I never thought he did a fair job on the tunes originally sung by Di'Anno. This album does nothing to change my mind. However, it is nice to hear contemporary Maiden perform old classics, and I think Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain do a fairly decent job in catching up with the past. Once again, the energy of the band is clearly evident; it's a shame the mix is so muddy. The CD comes with little pin up, the back of which has the entire Maiden tree, with groups such as Gillan and Samson on its branches. Speaking of Gillan, Dickinson sounds a bit like him when singing some of the older Maiden tunes. I really like Nicko McBrain's drumming on this one. Anyways, these two albums are worth getting if (i) they never remix and remaster them again, and (ii) you've never seen Maiden with Dickinson and want to find out what they sound like live with him.

"White man came across the sea, brought us pain and misery.
 Killed our tribes killed our creed, took our game for his own need.

 We fought him hard, we fought him well, out on the plains we gave him hell.
 But many came too much for Cree, Oh will we ever be set free?"
                                           ---Iron Maiden, Run to the Hills

The X Factor

At a time when metal music appears to be declining in popularity, when bands are disintegrating and/or changing style in face of increased pressure, Iron Maiden is back in the forefront producing one of their best albums since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The loss of Bruce Dickinson, their former vocalist and frontman, in 1993, doesn't seemed to have affected them much: they still kick some major butt.

I had thought that Maiden was going downhill after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and I think this was partly due to Dickinson's lack of enthusiasm in his vocals, but I wasn't sure how a new vocalist would fit in. Right from the first, the new vocalist, Blaze Bayley (formerly of Wolfsbane), put any fears I might've had to rest. He fits in beautifully with Steve Harris' first composition on the album, The Sign of the Cross. The song reminds me why I got into heavy metal and Iron Maiden in the first place: long, intricate, and harmonious melodies that change every every few measures. The lyrics are still as insightful as ever, though I'd say they're more preachy on this album than on any other. Bayley's performance throughout is pretty consistent, even though I think he could do a lot more with his vocals. I think the approach taken on this album is good since it facilitated a smooth transition between the vocals of Dickinson (which have dominated the groups' previous releases), and Bayley. I hope he's this good in concert!

Harris' songwriting is as strong as ever, and it is he who remains the most powerful force driving Iron Maiden. His bass serves as a guiding beacon throughout the album. Dave Murray and Janick Gers do a great job on the guitars, playing really well off of each other, and some of the guitar work is reminscent of Adrian Smith's playing. I think Gers has finally settled in. The drumming is tight and solid, and Nicko McBrain does an excellent job. The minimalistic keyboards add a nice touch. The production is excellent: there's a fine balance between the various instruments, and the sound (especially the drums) is very heavy. Not only do I think that this is the best album since Seventh Son musically, but also in terms of production.

The most interesting thing to me about this album is that it sounds just like any other Iron Maiden album would (i.e., they have not compromised their sound in any way whatsoever), but yet it still remain fresh to the ear. The storytelling approach is back. I really think bringing the new vocals in has reenergised one of the leaders of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The fresh sound is also due to the incorporation of new engineer Nigel Green, who replaces Martin Birch. This comes highly recommended---every song is a classic.

"After the war, what does a soldier become?"  
               ---The Aftermath, Iron Maiden

Best of the Beast

If you're a serious Iron Maiden fan, you probably own this release by now, but if you're not fanatical (pardon the pun), and you've been questioning the direction Maiden has been taking for the past few years, you're wondering whether it's worth buying this double-album release which is probably going to put a small dent in your wallet. What does the album contain that makes it worth your money? First of all, the two discs together contain about 150 minutes of music. A lot of the songs are classic Iron Maiden tunes, some of them rare collectibles (including the song Iron Maiden, which is from their legendary Soundhouse Tapes, and a previously unreleased track from those sessions, Strange World), some live tunes, and one new song, which will not be included on the next album.

The new song (first on the album) is Virus, and Blaze Bayley does a great job on the vocals. While it doesn't compare to some of the other tunes on the disc (which are some of the greatest songs ever written), I think it is better than almost all tunes on Iron Maiden's last album, The X Factor (with the exception of Sign of the Cross). Also, the live version of Afraid to Shoot Strangers, recorded at Gothenburg, is better than the album version with Dickinson on vocals---Bayley's vocals don't sound as muffled as in The X Factor album and there's an energy in the song that's lacking in the studio version.

To top it all, the album comes packaged in a style resembling Pink Floyd's Pulse (minus the blinking light) with a 60-page booklet that features some great photos (Eddie live in various incarnations), lyrics, a detailed history of events, an updated family tree, and a fairly detailed discography of albums, singles, and videos.

To summarise, if you want the new song, want the two tracks from the Soundhouse Tapes, and excellent packaging, you couldn't find a better deal.

Virus (sampler)

This promotional sampler contains nine of the songs from Best of the Beast, including the new song Virus. This also has the live version of Afraid to Shoot Strangers, apparently the first live song released with Blaze Bayley, and contains the two tracks from the Soundhouse Tapes. I must remark that Virus is indicative of Maiden writing songs that actually suit Bayley's vocals, and this is a good sign since Bayley's voice blends in well with the music instead of sticking out like a sore thumb at times. However, the music could be better, and since this is a single on its own, I'm hoping there're better things in the future!

Virtual XI

With the release of Virtual XI, Iron Maiden have finally started writing songs that suit Blaze Bayley's vocal style much better than those in The X Factor. As Bruce Dickinson himself once said, this had to be a necessary step for the new Maiden to succeed. This has resulted in Bayley's vocals staying in the lower ranges without any hint of the operatic stuff Dickinson used to do.

But the best aspect of this release is the music. Dave Murray and Janick Gers are finally coming together with the rhythm and lead guitar parts, and the guitar work here is some of the best since Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Each song changes dynamically and are strongly riff-intensive, backed by Steve Harris' solid bass work, and Nicko McBrain's tight drumming.

Maiden also aren't scared to experiment with long songs (three are above 8 minutes). The lyrical work has its moments as well. I thought that the last Maiden album, The X Factor, was a fine album, and that it showed a great deal of promise. While this album lacks the quality of the song writing displayed in The X Factor (Sign of the Cross is one of my favourite Maiden songs), the band is definitely more in sync. You really have to listen to the album to understand what difference it makes.

The vastly improved chemistry between Murray and Gers is why you should get this album. The adaptation of the songs to Bayley's vocals also makes everything come together smoothly. This is refreshing because while giving us new music, Maiden also provide a great deal of familiarity. However, if you took the best songs from the last two albums released by Maiden, I think you may well be on your way to making a new classic Maiden album, à la Powerslave or Peace of Mind.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||