It’s December and the year is now coming to a close. With new releases drastically slowing down, it’s the perfect time of year to take a step back and jam some of metal’s most classic and influential bands. For the rest of this month, the Ride into Glory team will be looking at some of our favorite songs from metal’s finest artists.
When it comes to bands of this caliber, it’s hard to pick a favorite album let alone a song! It’s not easy to single out one song as “better than everything else they did”, so most of us decided to approach this discussion from a completely sentimental perspective. Asking ourselves: “what is that one song of the band that I have the strongest emotional connection?”, it was suddenly easier than comparing songs as if there can be an objective quality ranking. These bands are titans of heavy metal for a reason and you can expect to read about our personal connections and anecdotes related to them in this series.
This week’s article is about Iron Maiden – the kings of the NWOBHM! We’d love to hear what your favorite tracks from this band are as well and why in the comments below.
The Trooper (Marco)
Iron Maiden were the first band I really fell in love with and I owe it all thanks to “The Trooper”. I started to explore heavy metal music around the age of 10 years old and “The Trooper” was the very first song I came across online and I was just immediately hooked. I had the amazing opportunity to see Iron Maiden live a few years ago. During the performance, Bruce ran onto the stage in full uniform waving around a giant Union Jack as they played “The Trooper”. It’s easily the greatest concert moment I’ve ever experienced and I’ll never forget it.
Flight of Icarus (Rhandgar)
Even though lately I seem to default to the debut with Di’Anno whenever the Maiden mood strikes, there is one album that defines the band for me more than any other: Piece of Mind. I had the CD as a very valuable gift ages ago and it was the first full Iron Maiden album that I have gotten into. It also came with some bonus material like video clips and photo gallery as it was the “enhanced CD” version (late 90s/early 2000s technology is crazy!). Through some Windows 95-like looking interface, I used to access the video clip of “Flight of Icarus” in its all glory: a young Iron Maiden in the studio, interspersed with the footage of the hooded man on the shores offering you a piece of mind. This is where it all came together for me: ever so audible bass work of Harris, constant galloping rhythms, melodic and smooth guitar harmonies and leads, and Bruce’s soaring vocals, occasionally getting closer to the highs Icarus flew until he touched the Sun. Piece of Mind in its entirety but especially this song was one of those moments when it all clicked, and I thought that this heavy metal thing is probably actually very cool. Sorry Phantom of the Opera, you could have been my pick, but you don’t have the nostalgic baggage Flight of Icarus carries.
One of the consistent favorites across Iron Maiden’s ‘80s albums for me is the sprawling epic. Usually – but not always – the closer, it’s the singular song that towers over the rest of the album in terms of scope. (Back before 90% of their songs became the sprawling epic, but I digress.) Most people would argue Killers doesn’t have that aspect. I’d argue it would if they weren’t playing the title track so fast it’s over in five minutes instead of seven. Simply perfect.
Running Free (Brandon Corsair)
Did all of the British bands need a song about running? Judas Priest had “Running Wild”, Bashful Alley had “Running Blind”, Mendes Prey had “Runnin’ for You”…well, those last couple weren’t as popular, but you get the point. Iron Maiden had them all beat with “Running Free”, which is quite possibly the best song ever written involving a pickup truck- even and perhaps especially when you add in country music. “Running Free” was the picture of the sleazy, working-class, rocking roots of the NWOBHM and just captures the spirit of a movement better than anything. Iron Maiden has always been one of my favorite bands as far back as I can remember, and the self titled is my favorite of their records, and “Running Free” is simply the best song on a record that is 100% bangers.
Caught Somewhere in Time (Blondie)
Somewhere in Time is my favorite Iron Maiden album so unsurprisingly, this made the cut. The classic tale of being seduced by the devil, rendered with a sci-fi twist and the band’s natural instinct for the cinematic scope. Maiden’s use of the guitar synths give their riffs and harmonies a near-glacial sheen that belies the furious, relentless charge that animates the song. Bruce rarely sang more insistently on a track of theirs and every riff and melody is one of the most memorable in their discog – it’s one of those songs you’ll remember after hearing it like 3 times through. The bridge section where Murray and Smith go at it with their solos prove why they were one of the finest guitar duos of their day. It’s just a flawless executed, passionate song; the kind of thing most EUPM wished they could capture.
Hallowed Be Thy Name (Quorton)
There are not many songs overall where from the very first note to the last I feel chills and goosebumps from start to finish, but this song is one of them. Iron Maiden never shied away from more serious topics, but this long gut-wrenching epic about a man facing the gallows is not only harrowing, it is also very triumphant. The sentenced goes to meet his faith head raised, believing in life beyond, in a way conquering death. The song is therefore not just dire, on the contrary: it has gravitas, it has weight, but it also has power, epicness, and momentum. That stellar songwriting that manages to evoke such strong images would not be possible without the amazing performance with Bruce Dickinson giving wings to the track like not many could. Even after 13 years, “Hallowed be thy Name” hits me deeply every time I listen to it.
Boone: “Déjà Vu” is definitely a song associated with a particular period of my life; I spent many a night in high school spinning Somewhere in Time on a loop, so much that the main melody to this song lies somewhere in my brainstem next to my reflex to blink. The entirety of Somewhere in Time has a certain tired and world-weary vibe to it, but it is most explicitly expressed via “Déjà Vu” in my opinion. The lyrics depicting… well, the phenomenon of déjà-vu can be interpreted to be referencing endless identical days of touring for Powerslave and is complimented by the beautifully melodic and endlessly earwormy main melody from Dave Murray. Topped off by a signature Dickinson chorus, its clear that these boys were inhumanely tired but without diminished passion if they were still writing tunes like this!
Xeco: In that eerie state between wakefulness and sleep, I first heard Somewhere in Time. It took me several listens before I got through the whole album in one go. By the time I would get to Déjà Vu there was always an enveloping feeling of other-worldliness. Iron Maiden is many things – epic, aggressive, morose – but rarely is it ever haunting, and Déjà Vu might be their most haunting song of all. You can almost feel the uneasiness in Bruce’s voice and the guitars. The whole album is drenched in melancholy and a sense of longing and Déjà Vu somehow feels like the most disturbed song of the album. There are really only two Iron Maiden songs I could’ve picked for this writing. The other is Caught Somewhere in Time, but “you just know when you feel deja-vu.”
Aces High (Dzorr)
Like many others, Iron Maiden is a band that immersed me into the world of heavy metal. One of my first CD purchases at the age of 14 was Powerslave at my local music store, one that would seal that record as my favorite from Maiden’s long-spanning catalogue. Powerslave may be the record where the band began to sever the links with the original NWOBHM and went for more ambitious and progressive songwriting – but you wouldn’t know that from the first two fantastic tracks though, particularly the spectacular “Aces High”. A song about an RAF pilot in the middle of the Battle of Britain, the song is fast and frantic as its subject matter. Everything good about Maiden is here, the twin guitar attacks of Murray and Smith, Harris’s incredible bassline, Nicko’s versatile drumming and of course, Bruce’s commanding voice navigating us through the harrowing venture. It’s not one of their epics, but one where you can’t help but sing the chorus every time you hear it – no matter how much worse of a singer you are compared to Bruce.
The Prisoner (Nkane92)
The 1982 release with Bruce Dickinson’s debut is one of my favorites of the entire catalog and it is extremely difficult to choose what song I classify as my favorite of all time. Next week may be completely different. However, if I had to choose one that I am almost always in the mood it’d be “The Prisoner.” If anything it is one of Clive Burr’s best drumming from his tenure in Iron Maiden. The song’s intro shows a bit of Burr’s fast footwork on the kick drum and stylish tom work. His quick and nimble fills and patterns just add enough texture before it becomes distracting. The rhythm he busts out during the solo section has always caught my ears and is a really creative pattern to put under the trading guitar solos. Everything else is classic Iron Maiden with Bruce’s vocals, the harmonies, Steve’s bass rhythm beneath the guitars, and the fast riffing. “The Prisoner” is one of my favorites to jam to and is easily one of the best of their catalog. RIP Clive Burr.
The Clairvoyant (Meta)
Iron Maiden is probably the best heavy metal band of all time, their 1980s run is tremendous and almost unbeatable but to me, their last forray into that decade is their best album. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is a concept album and except for the single “Can I Play With Madness”, it’s pretty much an album first and songs second record compared to their rest of their discography. It’s pretty even and doesn’t have super big hits like Piece of Mind or Number. I remember finding it on tape (even if I still had the CD) and blasting it during a pool party and I have vivid memories of thinking “yep this is my favorite Maiden song”. It was “The Clairvoyant”. It has one of their best choruses and it helplessly represents the progressive tendency this album had while still bringing their signature riffs. It’s an urgent, dynamic song and Bruce sounds like an exquisite madman. I definitely think there’s some sort of Maiden fatigue with some albums and songs but not with Seventh Son and that’s my favorite album from that masterpiece.