Folks, I have never, of my own accord, heard the music of Iron Maiden. As I have mentioned previously, I had a rather religious upbringing, and my heavy metal intake consisted of Stryper and other Christian Rock bands. Sure, over the years, I have absorbed the music of several heavy metal and hard rock bands, including Metallica, Def Leppard, AC/DC, and the likes. Still, I have yet to sit down and listen to Iron Maiden. So….no time like the present!
I have made my selection of songs to sample from Ultimate Classic Rock’s list of the best Iron Maiden songs, as well as similar lists from Loudwire and The Top Ten. I am both scared and excited. To tell the truth, the graphics for Iron Maiden freaked me out in the 80s and they still scare the ever loving hell out of me. Maybe that’s why I never embarked on this voyage until now. Regardless, here I go…boldly into the night.
Wish me luck as I listen to Iron Maiden for the very first time.
The Phantom of the Opera (1980)
I figure a cover song might ease me into all things Iron Maiden, so start I shall with the classic “The Phantom of the Opera.” The ringing guitars at the start of the song show me right away….this is not Sarah Brightman’s version. In fact, as I listen, I realise this is not a cover at all….the two songs just share a name and inspiration. I already LOVE THIS FREAKING SONG!!!!!! I WANT MORE!!!!
Seriously, folks, as I write this, I am sitting in a coffee shop with a HUGE grin on my face….wow! This. Is. Freaking. Amazing! The progressive metal tones, the endless guitar riffs, oh boy! Yes, I like! If Iron Maiden’s other songs are anything like The Phantom of the Opera, I will enjoy this experiment immensely! I will say…I was freaked out by the false ending. In the very ending, a demonic sounding voice screamed “Torture me back at your lair.” I jumped in my seat, as I was not expecting that. But Whatever! The Phantom of the Opera rocks!
Flight of Icarus (1983)
Again, we’re greeted with blaring guitars. An amazing set of vocals joins in with as the verses begin, and an amazing harmony of vocals dominate the chorus! And oh…what a chorus:
Fly, on your way, like an eagle,© Universal Music Publishing Group
Fly as high as the sun,
On your way, like an eagle,
Fly and touch the sun.
Loosely based on the Greek myth of Icarus, who tried to escape Crete with a pair of wings made by his father, the song stands as a beacon of hope despite the hopelessness one faces. Spoiler alert, the wings don’t work for Icarus in the song (or in the myth)….yet the attempt is made.
Getting back to the sounds of the song, Flight of Icarus an upbeat tempo and wailing guitars typical of metal. And the vocals in the chorus makes me want to scream into a hairdryer, 80s style.
Run to the Hills (1982)
Run to the Hills sounds like a social justice anthem by the First Nations people – specifically the Cree. Quite a heart wrenching theme. While I aplaude Iron Maiden for tackling this specific subject, I feel like the fast paced metal stylings seem a little too off. Run to the Hills sounds like a song about adventure, but the lyrics clearly show a song about a lost battle (and war).
So yeah…I’m really conflicted on Run to the Hills. Again, the subject matter is a great choice (holding a depth I did not expect). The music is great as well. However, the combination of the music and the lyrics disturbs me. The music loses the message in the high energy of the song.
Aces High (1984)
Written from the viewpoint of a English fighter pilot during the battle of Britain, Aces High gives us a high energy call to arms! Interestingly enough, I see several similarities between Aces High and Run to the Hills. Both songs talk about a great battle against evil from the point of a warrior. Both songs feature a high energy in their instrumentation and vocals. Yet, Aces High does not seem to suffer the same disconnect as Run to The Hills. Perhaps because the British won the Battle of Britain, while the Cree lost their battles against the white man. So…maybe the difference is hope; one song has it, the other one does not.
With that said, Aces High for a high energy metal song that certainly serves to blast one’s ears, kind of feels generic. I feel like I heard Aces High a thousand times past in other songs.
With Wrathchild, we hear the bass guitar! Of course, the bass guitar is always there in every other Iron Maiden song, but sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle with all the electric guitars. With Wrathchild, even during the guitar solos, the bass guitar is ever present. Iron Maiden wanted us to hear the bass on Wrathchild, but the question is why?
Perhaps because, at its very core, Wrathchild is a blues song. Sure….Wrathchild is a metal song, but the lyrics about an abandoned child overtaken by their wrath? You can’t get more blues than that!
The Number of The Beast (1982)
I’m certain I’ve heard this song before. I was 14 years old at summer camp, and scared of what I heard. I think I’m just as scared of The Number of the Beast now as I was then. With that said, according to Wikipedia, the song was written because of a nightmare Bassist Steve Harris had. I guess I can accept that this song isn’t about blatant devil worship (sarcasm) – especially as Harris’ dream was mentioned in the first verse.
The sounds of The Number of the Beast are rather nightmarish to say the least. About a minute and a half into the song, after the introduction verse, we get a guttural wail that seriously freaks me out. I’m not the only one…All Music called it “the most blood curdling scream on record.” Couple that with an ongoing undertow of rhythm guitars, imitating the constant flow of a river (styx?), not to mention a few wailing guitar solos that sound like the screams of the damned….and voila! You’ve got yourself one hell of a song in The Number of the Beast.
Hallowed Be Thy Name (1982)
Hallowed Be Thy Name might be the best Iron Maiden’s song I’ve heard thus far. Written from the perspective of a prisoner about to be executed, we feel emotions we only feel in our worst nightmares. The lyrics also dive into the philosophical, as the prisoner questions their belief in the afterlife, and even the existence of God – despite the fact the prisoner seemingly believed in God up until that point.
The first verse starts the song off on the slowest tempo I’ve heard from Iron Maiden thus far. The tempo shows the slow passage of time while the convict waits for his execution. Of course, Hallowed Be Thy Name speeds up quite a bit as the prisoner is rushed through crowds, past priests, and to his ultimate demise. Hallowed Be Thy Name is, simply, a perfect song.
Rime of The Ancient Mariner (1984)
By now, I feel like I know what to expect from an Iron Maiden song. Rime of the Ancient Mariner sounds exactly how I expected it to sound. Oh sure, I couldn’t guess the melody or each individual note. I did guess an approximate tempo of several parts though!
That’s not to say Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a cookie cutter song. The guitars, especially the secondary guitars, give Rime of the Ancient Mariner a nice symphonic feel – almost like a faux string section. In fact, Rime of the Ancient Mariner sounds more like classical played with rock instruments than heavy metal.
Of course, Rime of the Ancient Mariner is based off the Samuel Coleridge poem – complete with different sections, each to symbolize a new part of the poem. Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an epic for certain, and brings an epic length of over thirteen minutes! Still – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner does not drag itself out. Each section tells a new part of the story, and every note is put to good use.
The Trooper (1983)
As my first listen of The Trooper ended, I said one word. Wow. The Trooper sounds familiar, so I’ve probably heard the song before. At the very least, I’ve heard songs influenced by The Trooper. From its harmonising vocals, to its endless guitar riffs, to its rythm…..The Trooper boasts – and maybe even invents – some of the standards we hear in metal songs from the late eighties onwards.
As with a great deal of Iron Maiden’s songs, The Trooper is based off a moment in history – this time The Charge of the Light Brigade. However, even if you don’t catch the references to the Crimean War, The Trooper paints its anti war message loud and clear. Emphasis on the loud part!
All in all, The Trooper delivers everything I’ve come to expect from Iron Maiden: thought provoking lyrics, amazing guitar riffs, and a steady, energized tempo. Great Song!
You should listen to Iron Maiden!
As I listen to Iron Maiden for the first time, I realize how much I’ve missed. Iron Maiden really does rock, but they do more than that! They entice you.. Iron Maiden is not the satanic cult band I subconsciously expected. Iron Maiden’s lyrics, often based on historical events and literature, are deep and thought provoking. The composition is solid, and Iron Maiden boasts an amazing master of their instruments.
Honestly, Iron Maiden might be the best metal band of the 80s. I still have a few bands to sift through before I make that claim, but I got to say – I can’t think of any band even close to competing with Iron Maiden.
For those who already knew Iron Maiden’s sheer awesomeness, do not cry for my wasted years. Yes…I have spent all this time not knowing the joys of Iron Maiden’s music. However, now I get to listen to Iron Maiden song by song. Little by little I get to discover more and more of their genius. I’ve heard less than ten songs thus far, and I definitely want more. This is going to be a freaking amazing journey, and one to surely last years.
So yes….listen to Iron Maiden, especially if you like metal. You will not be disappointed. Would Bill and Ted steer you wrong?