bosouls-webOn the 4th of September Iron Maiden will release its 16th studio album. This new platter is slated to be a double-disc monstrosity by the name of The Book of Souls, and I’m currently listening to the promo and putting together an equally epic review of it. In honor of this, I’m going to take advantage of the moment to do something I’ve wanted to do for a very, very long time: a huge Iron Maiden retrospective, spanning the band’s entire studio discography.

Iron Maiden is the iconic heavy metal band in my mind. While others are honored members of the heavy metal pantheon, it is my opinion that Maiden mastered heavy metal and presented it as it should be presented. Of course, things have progressed since they left their biggest mark on the scene, but at a time when the genre wasn’t nearly as sophisticated and broad as it is today, Iron Maiden was a unique beacon, driving for the horizon of what metal could be as an art form.

I spent most of my youth playing the band’s discography to death, and much of my late teens and 20s blowing my paychecks on Iron Maiden merch. I have been (but am not today) a card carrying member of the Iron Maiden fan club, and I can’t think of a band whose discography, minutiae, and history I know better. And that is why I am the perfect guy to write this thing.

A disclaimer: this may come off as pretty harsh at times, but know that this is all done with love and adoration. When one spends as much time as I have with a band, one begins to have a very honest relationship with what’s good or bad about that band. As this is a “Worst to Best” list, you shouldn’t expect this all to be a fawning celebration of every note the band has produced. But I can’t think of a band that has brought more value to my life than Maiden, and every one of these records has received hundreds of spins. So before you go getting your panties in a bunch, remember that the better you know someone, the more you see their flaws, and if I didn’t love this band as much as I do, I could never have written a 10k word retrospective of every single album.

Up the Irons!


#15: No Prayer for the Dying [1990]: When I asked what the worst Iron Maiden record ever was over at the AMG Facebook, I was rewarded with two responses: Virtual XI and No Prayer for the Dying. This wasn’t really a surprise to me as that’s essentially how I’ve traditionally felt about the matter, too. But the fact that No Prayer for the Dying is less popular is kind of an interesting tale. How did the follow-up to Iron Maiden‘s massive success of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son end up with such a tremendous disappointment?

Iron Maiden - No Prayer for the Dying

There are two major things that happened in Iron Maiden in the run up to No Prayer for the Dying that almost certainly doomed it to this position on the list of greatest albums. Remember, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was the band’s (to date) largest commercial success in the United States and No Prayer for the Dying sold like hotcakes because of that success. But Adrian Smith left the band in a fight over the future direction of the sound. He wanted to do what would naturally be seen as the obvious direction for an Iron Maiden record after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, similar in tenor and heavily produced with synth, epic writing and so on. He was overruled by a band that felt they’d lost that lovin’, er, old school feeling and wanted to put out a record that had more in common with Killers than Seventh Son. H probably said something cute and English like “Ah, this is bollocks!” or “Sod off!” and bailed to eat biscuits and smile politely while thinking nasty thoughts about the rest of the band. Enter Janick Gers who, while distracting live, is actually a really cool guitar player in a lot of ways. He doesn’t complement Murray like Smith did, as both Murray and he seem to be of the same school of blues-based, off-the-cuff soloing, but he’s not a bad player by any means.

The other major development was that Bruce Dickinson discovered that he had vocal chords in his scrotum. His vocals on this record are hard to swallow, and generally give the impression that he was lacking passion. I think the idea with Dickinson getting this old, horny blues rock vocalist thing on was part of this ‘return to their roots’ bit that Maiden was on with; y’know, intentional. But for me, it just sounds like he’s singing from his crotch, and the vocals are tough to get past. Those vocals—combined with what are some of Iron Maiden‘s absolute worst lyrics on “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” “Holy Smoke,” “Hooks in You” and the godawful “The Assassin”—conspired to execute a perfect underwhelming.

1989 NPftD Band

Still, I actually think this record is better than it’s given credit for. While Dickinson’s performance makes the whole tough to swallow at times, the composition on this album is actually consistently better than quite a few records that will land higher on this list. The songs are tight—listen to the intro to “The Assassin,” for example, or the leads and solo on “Run Silent, Run Deep”—the production is excellent, with Harry still playing bass like he was in a metal band where all the material was written from bass. The problem is that few of the songs really ever come together (unlike VXI which has a couple that glow). The only real standout win on NPftD is “Mother Russia.” This song is special, with an amazing bass line and fantastic feel: a single rose blooming in a barren field.

Given, though, that the music on here was actually really quite good, well-edited and well-produced, I believe that No Prayer for the Dying was unnecessarily bad. The band misfired on the lyrics and the feel, but not on the fascinating riffs and great solos from both Murray and Gers. “No Prayer for the Dying,” “Public Enema Number One,” “Fates Warning,” the masterful “Mother Russia” and others keep me coming back to this record in spite of everything.


#14: Fear of the Dark [1992]: Fear of the Dark was a hard record for me to admit was bad. Honestly, when it came out in 1992, I was the only pre-teen Iron Maiden fan left. I remember my brother buying me the tape (that makes me super trve, I guess) and then I listened to it repeatedly—even if the A side was a bit stronger than the B side. Still, despite the years and the nostalgia, I just can’t bring myself to say that this was a really good record. Instead, all the excesses of the death of glam rock and a band in turmoil mar what could have been a serviceable recouping of the losses from No Prayer for the Dying. Add to it that the band discovered that the LP was officially dead and started recording for the CD–consequently writing their longest record to date at 58 minutes—and this tops out a record that competes with the band’s poorest material, saved only by having a pair of timeless classics.

Iron Maiden - Fear of the Dark

There are a lot of problems with Fear of the Dark, but let’s be honest, there’s still some things to love about this album. While the production screams 1992, there are moments of brilliance that shine through. The title track has become a crowd favorite—despite its oddly un-metal topic—and “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” was a brilliant song. I will never get those guitar harmonies at the end of the song out of my head. “Childhood’s End” is a song that few people give much credit, but I’ve always been a big fan of Nicko’s tom work and the leads. And while “Wasting Love” sounds like it came out of the same studio sessions as Skid Row‘s “Quicksand Jesus,” it’s still got a soft spot in my heart.

The problem with Fear of the Dark was the ‘b-side.’ While it started off with the terribly underrated “The Fugitive” and finished with the epic “Fear of the Dark,” the path between the two is a journey through the belly of the beast. Jackyl-esque gang choruses on “Chains of Misery,” terrible blues rock on “The Apparition” and Bruce at his absolute worst in “Weekend Warrior.” They could easily have cut three or four songs. Sure, you might ask “What would this record have been without ‘Weekend Warrior,’ ‘Fear is the Key,’ ‘From Here to Eternity’ and ‘The Apparition’?” My answer is simple: better. This isn’t A material by anyone’s standards—and from the band that wrote “Moonchild” and “Powerslave” this was tripe.

1992 FotD Band

But it wasn’t just album length that was a problem, those songs weren’t good. Fear of the Dark is the specific point in time when Steve Harris starts to sound dangerously like a crotchety old man who is wondering whether or not his life is worth anything. The lyrics of “The Apparition” are the lyrics of an old man, shaking a crooked finger at society, while and “Fear is the Key” (“The kids have lost their freedom / And nobody cares until somebody famous dies!”) is an admirable, but clumsy, attempt at being topical that never really worked for me (h/t to Grumpyrocker for his insight on this matter). Bruce doesn’t help, either, with his vocal performance. By Fear of the Dark he was already pretty much out of the band and was singing with all the passion of a used pair of tights. Uninspiring stuff.

The ’90s were not kind to popular metal bands and Fear of the Dark, despite its nostalgic appeal to the little kid in me, isn’t an exception, definitely marking a pretty low point for these guys. Fortunately it’s onward and upward from here. Also, I just listened to “The Apparition” far more times than I’d ever wanted to.


#13: The Final Frontier [2010]: I can say that I was definitely on a fanboy high when I actually finally got a hold of The Final Frontier. I gave it a really great review and then a few weeks later I felt pretty embarrassed. In this context, I finally put my finger on the bane of Iron Maidenan invention known as the compact disc. Let me take a short diversion1. Rod Smallwood once bragged that Iron Maiden always gives you, the fan, his or her money’s worth. Indeed, the band routinely filled up LPs to the very brim. Roughly 45 minutes was the limit, but Maiden was getting their records over the 50 minute mark at times. This meant that if they wanted to include an epic, other songs had to be shortened down because nobody, and I mean not even Iron Maiden, got to make double LPs in those days. Fear of the Dark didn’t break Iron Maiden‘s string of great records, but it was the first Iron Maiden record that lagged. It was definitely not the last.

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

What occurred to me about The Final Frontier is that if the record had removed the first two songs and the last two songs, it would have been a pretty damned good record. I’m a huge fan of “The Alchemist,” “Isle of Avalon,” and “The Talisman” as much as tracks from almost any album. “Starblind” is standard modern Harris in form, but it totally works, and while “Coming Home” is kind of a melodramatic song about being a commercial pilot, it’s still a fine song. Put those together and you’ve got basically 42 minutes. Yeah, those are long tracks, but there’s great material.

But the brackets of the record really drag it down as a whole. “El Dorado” is miserable, shades of No Prayer for the Dying in terms of lyrical content and vocal performance, while “Satellite 15… The Final Frontier” was an interesting idea, it feels out of place, weird and lacks energy. On the back end “The Man Who Would Be King” and “When the Wild Wind Blows” are bloated, and lack the spark of the album-ending epics from A Matter of Life and Death. These long, plodding tracks are, well, long and plodding, with only the occasional meandering into unique or cool parts. They could have been edited down and made far more interesting–but you know, why? It’s not like they’re making records for VINYL anyway! “Give folks their money’s worth. All 80 minutes of it!”

IRON MAIDEN ft Lauderdale 2010

It’s worth saying that The Final Frontier features some of the worst lyrics that the band ever produced. While NPftD was bad from a lyrical perspective due to the sheer amount of cheese, this record sounds like the lyrics were written by Steve Harris in a single go without ever giving consideration how they would sound in context. The worst offender here was “The Man Who Would Be King,” but the whole record is laced with text that truly should never even be called ‘poetry.’ It’s hard to listen to at times, as the turns of phrase are just so awkward: (“I don’t hold with bad religion / Understand what’s underneath it / Now I come to think of it, I just don’t hold at all you know it.”).

While The Final Frontier is definitely the least of its modern kin, it is not a total loss. I just wish someone would say to Harris “Hey ‘Arry, write this next record for an LP and see how it turns out…”

Show 1 footnote

  1. Please note, this section actually predates my longer piece “Angry Metal Guy Speaks: On Editing and the Death of the LP.” This argument is better developed in that article.

Share →
  • El_Cuervo

    So far, this exactly matches my bottom 3 Maiden albums #meanttobe

  • No Prayer and especially Fear of the Dark are not that bad! You so crazy!

    • Juan Esteban Mendoza

      I agree that Fear of the Dark is not THAT bad. There a few songs that I consider are massively underrated, and Afraid to Shoot Strangers is among my all time favourites I would’ve put Virtual XI as #14, even though it also has some good songs. No Prayer for the Dying is just boring.

      • tomasjacobi

        Yay for Afraid to Shoot Strangers!

      • No way. FotD actually was reaaally close to being 15. Really one of the few Maiden records that was genuinely _bad_.

        • Final Frontier is far far worse than either NPftD or FotD and Virtual XI is even worse than that!.

          • No. No it’s not. The Final Frontier contains 42 minutes worth of material I want to hear. That’s not true for either FotD or NPftD.

          • Insanity.

          • Bloat and mediocrity.

            I think it’s pretty straight forward, frankly. FotD and NPftD were records that were really fraught inside the band. There was very bad blood with Bruce by the time he was going. It shows.

          • Bloat and Mediocrity would be a great name for a law firm.

          • Hulksteraus

            Messrs Bloat, Mediocrity and Bland

          • Michael Staugaitis

            agreed.

          • André Snyde Lopes

            Final Frontier is ungodly boring. At least I can sit through Fear of the Dark without feeling the need to punch something.

          • doom-erik

            I knew I could trust Lord Druhm!

          • Ralph Plug

            Virtual XI contains a few great songs, which work even better with Bruce on vocals. Look up his version of Futureal for example. There are reasons the band doesn’t play anything from NPftD or FotD these days (except for the godawful title track from the latter).

          • André Snyde Lopes

            The live atmosphere during Fear of the Dark is unbelievable. Listen to A Real Live One to see what I mean.

          • ghost whistler

            Do they turn the lights off?

          • Ralph Plug

            I’ve seen them live a number of times, I know the atmosphere during Fear of the Dark is great. That still doesn’t make it a very good song. ;)

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          Fight fight fight

    • Maxim Kalacnuk

      AMG don’t understand Maiden at all:-( The thing, that AMG loves most about Maiden, is Blaze Bayley:-)

      • I love the hubris of accusing me of “not understanding Maiden” because I don’t agree with you.

        These records are poor, regardless of the singer.

  • Grumpyrocker

    I’m not going to argue with your choices, but they wouldn’t be mine. I have an issue with the whole concept because there’s no such thing as a “worst” Maiden album. :)

    While I don’t like some of Harris’ grumpy old man lyrics such as on Age of Innocence I think Fear of the Key is being treated harshly here. The song was about the aids epidemic and how it had been ignored in the 80s by polite society, how the death of a few high profile people – most notably Freddie Mercury at that time – had finally raised awareness. To me the song was Maiden being topical rather than reactionary, it was lamenting the attitude of stuffy old society, not supporting it.

    • Oh, well now I feel like an asshole. I apparently missed that tidbit about that song.

      But sorry, man, there are “worst” Iron Maiden records. You’re lookin’ at ’em.

      • Grumpyrocker

        I know there are worst, hence my smiley :)

        Though Fear remains one of my favourites. I was in my late teens and my mother bought me a ticket for the FOTD tour. By the time I went to the gig she’d passed away and that album had become something very close to me during a very difficult time in my life.

        I really like NPFTD too, I like the raw sound and I like the excitement Janick brought with the wild playing on that album.

        • I think Imma have to do a little bit of editing and footnoting. I could’ve sworn that “Fear is the Key” was a Harris song.

    • tomasjacobi

      There definitely are “worst” Iron Maiden albums. But even their worst are still pretty good. I agree with this list so far but I still listen to those albums (with some songs skipped) on a regular basis.
      Iron Maiden is the only band I can think of where I still listen to their worst or least good albums.

  • Rob Liz

    I have a feeling that I’m going to think that your rankings of Fear of the Dark and Dance of Death should be swapped :) Other than that I agree, Final Frontier and NPFD only had a couple of songs I liked so I’d rank them pretty low too.

  • tomasjacobi

    I would probably swap NPftD and FotD on the list, but I agree with everything in this article. Good work, AMG!

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    These are pretty much my least favourite Maiden albums as well. That being said, I still think it’s impossible for Iron Maiden to release an album that’s flat-out bad. They all have some redeeming qualities and even on their worst, they have some outstanding songs.
    I’m glad you didn’t put Virtual XI right at the bottom though. Been giving it another spin recently and there are some real gems – The Clansman alone is a saviour from the album’s place in the pits.

    Also, you missed your opportunity to call this list “From Worst to Beast”.

    • omfg. How did.. oh.. oh man.

      • Refined-Iron Cranium

        Haha you’ll get another chance, AMG ;)

      • Grymm

        I know, right?!

        I just did the same thing when I got to that part.

    • Grumpyrocker

      Virtual XI is one of the weaker albums for me, but I do like some of the tracks on it. The Educated Fool is one of my favourite Maiden songs.

      • Refined-Iron Cranium

        I wasn’t denying that it was a weak album, I just feel its high points make it slightly better than the 3 listed here. I actually should give Fear of the Dark another listen though.

        • Grumpyrocker

          My only real issue with Fear of the Dark is the production. The rhythm guitars are buried.

          • There’s so much wrong with that album. It’s just not very good generally speaking.

          • Grumpyrocker

            I disagree, I really like most of the songs. I happily spent a summer learning to play them and got to know them inside out. I think The Apparition is the only one I don’t like very much.

          • I loved it at the time. It just didn’t age well, despite my happy memories.

          • Chris Timbó

            I’m not crazy about it, but i like that it stands out as a different kind of song. I can’t seem to enjoy Weekend Warriors and Childhood’s End. In fact, I always skip them both.

          • ghost whistler

            weird; for me it’s the best track on the album. It’s tonally different than just bluesy rock. The lyric is slightly playful. It ends a bit abruptly. More interesting than the rest of the album IMO.

  • Grumpyrocker

    El Dorado’s lyrical content was about some of the banking scandals in the UK – a theme it shares with Fear of the Dark’s Be Quick or Be Dead.

    • Yeah, but it’s the performance and the construction, not the content, that’s the problem.

      • Grumpyrocker

        It’s not a great song. I think it’s the only one on the album I don’t like.

        I do feel sometimes the band double up on albums – have two songs that seem a little too similar. On this album it was The Man Who Would Be King and When the Wild Wind Blows. It might have helped just not putting them next to each other. I really like the latter of the two – it was great live when I saw them.

  • RuySan

    As an huge Maiden fan, I look forward to the rest of the articles.

    TFF is actually my favourite nu-Bruce Maiden record. I like it’s heterogeneity, and while aMoLaD has great hooks, it sounds too samey for me.

    Well, as long “Number of the Beast” isn’t in the top 5, i’m fine with it. The title song and Run to The Hills might be my least favourite maiden songs. I don’t understand what other people see in them.

    • Grumpyrocker

      Some of us are old enough to remember when those old albums were the only Maiden albums.

    • tomasjacobi

      Number of the Beast and Run to the Hills are both great songs. However they’ve been played to death to the extent that I would be happy to never hear them played live ever again!
      Hallowed be Thy Name should ALWAYS be played though…

      • RuySan

        Hear! Hallowed be Thy Name is indeed on a whole different league of amazingness.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      666 the number of beast
      HELL and FIRE were spawned to be released

      Don’t tell me you weren’t singing the lyric as you read them! :)

    • Man, I love AMoLaD and I hate the word samey. You just made my list…

      • RuySan

        You prefer “homogeneous”? If I had put there it would made my post too samey. It’s just for aesthetic reasons.

        BTW, I just bought The Book of Souls. Hearing it now. It sounds good so far, but i love that the album looks so simple and slick. A much better artwork than The Final Frontier. Eddie looks like Eddie!

        I will be a bit hard to convice that there was no way they could edit this, though.

  • Borijo

    The worst Iron Maiden album is The Final Frontier…I hate it. I can´t listen it from start to finish, i get bored at the first song.
    At least “The book of souls” is better…not Somewhere in Time or Seventh Son better, but you know…better

  • Mikko Ojanen

    Fear of the Dark is certainly a very uneven album, yeah. A few standout tracks burdened by a heap of bland poop.

    Childhood’s End is probably the most underrated Maiden song, though. Such an awesome track and I barely ever see it mentioned anywhere.

  • Monsterworks

    Feeling compelled to fill a CD in order to “give good value” is the downfall of many a band. All hail LP length albums. I will wander down to the record store (we still have one locally) to get the new album but the 90 minute run time is daunting.

    • tomasjacobi

      I’ve listened to the leaked album for a week now. I recommend looking at it as 2 albums; one is 50 minutes, the other 42. Not daunting at all…

      • Monsterworks

        Funnily enough I did that with Soilwork’s The Living Infinite. I cannot recall now if I ever listened to the second disc.
        Far be it from me to give Rod and Steve business advice, but they should have released them separately in the first place, six months apart. Book of Souls: Chapters I and II.
        That is, unless they don’t believe the material is strong enough to stand on its own independently.
        I guess I will find out to today when I finally hear it!

        • tomasjacobi

          I’m happy they didn’t do that. This is an absolutely stunning album and while the material IS strong enough to be released as 2 separate albums, I would hate to have to wait for the 2nd one to be released…

  • Lasse Momme

    Any chance you will be doing more articles in the same style as this one going forward? The reviews are absolutely stellar on here but these types of pieces really provide some interesting context on what makes the staff members tic and are an interesting supplement to the discussions as well.

    • I might have to do an Opeth one in the lead up to the next record when it drops.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Great article and great idea for a series of articles but… Holy shit! Fear of The Dark is better than any Maiden album with Blaze Bailey!

    • Hideous destructor

      Any of the vast selection of two Blaze albums…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Yeah… They were so good they only made two of those.

    • Michael Staugaitis

      yeah, the blaze albums are hot garbage.

    • Nope. Actually, the Blaze records are more consistent than the albums listed here.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I agree they might be more consistent. They are consistently inferior to Fear Of The Dark.

  • Hideous destructor

    Those are my 3 least favourite maiden albums too. But I’d put FOTD last, the TFF, then NPFTD. I’m surprised how excited I am for the new album given how underwhelming the last one was.

    Also totally agree with your sentiment that maiden are THE metal band and your comment about knowing the minutia of the band. I reckon I could blitz mastermind if my specialist subject was iron maiden.

    Looking forward to the rest of the article.

  • Michael Staugaitis

    I am a life long Maiden fan and, like you, I know them in and out and can admit when they put out complete shit, like NPFTD and FOTD; but I love and still love The Final Frontier. I feel you are dead wrong on that. It is my favorite of the reunion albums. It is far better than the dull as hell AMOLAD and not nearly as cheese ridden and Dance of Death.
    Fear of the Dark is a terribly stupid song.
    I have never been more disappointed in an album than when NPFTD followed up the classic 7th son.

    • jageorge72

      Agree on The Final Frontier! My favorite of the reunion albums as well. It absolutely blows away Brave New World. To be honest….. I think a lot of the massive buzz leading up to The Book of Souls release has to do with just how great The Final Frontier album really was. I think it was their best Bruce-led album since Seventh Son, which is why expectations and interest are so high right now.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Couldn’t agree more… Can’t wait to have it in hand!

  • Maxim Kalacnuk

    Mine “Iron Maiden from Worst to Best: 15-13”:
    As we all know, AMG is Blaze Bayley fan. I am not. So, mine will be more “objective”:-)
    15.:
    Virtual XI – Worst songs Harris have ever written. Blaze Bayley sings
    atrociously, almost constantly out of tune. My mother (she is singing
    teacher) confirmes this.
    14.: X Factor – The songs are not so bad, but Blaze Bayley still sings out of tune.
    13.: Fear of the Dark – Few great sons, few not so much. It feels like the band is quite tired.

    • “My mother (she is a singing teacher) confirms this.” Really, dude?

      Blaze does go out of tune when he holds notes. He was singing out of his range on those records, but he’s not out of tune _all the time_ and he’s just right for the material on TXF.

  • Mauro Bossetti

    The guitar solo in Judas be my guide is one of Iron’s best :)

    It’s funny how much I listened to the album in 1992 and how much money I would charge to give it a whole spin now.

  • Robert Turnbull

    Thanks for starting this list AMG…always good to read other Maiden fans’ thoughts even though we’ll inevitably have our own favourites.

    Interesting too to see some that find AMoLaD boring, because for me it is in my top 3!

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      It has really grown on me since I gave it another chance and is in my top 5. Honestly, I feel it’s their best album post Seventh Son, with Brave New World coming in at a close second.

      Waiting to see if The Book of Souls will edge any of those out of their places!

      • Not to give too much away, but I agree broadly with your sentiments.

      • Hulksteraus

        I am thinking that it may just do that… purchased today and have only just finished the first CD… about to jump into the second…

    • AMoLaD is a great album. Love it.

      • Hulksteraus

        Indeed, particularly the back end of AMoLaD. For the Greater Good gets me every time.

  • SelfIndulgence

    Interesting start indeed. I have been an Maiden fan since I heard Sanctuary in a record store (1980 I believe) and I have bought every album since and seen them live every time they show up (…and yes I though getting rid of Di’Anno was a bad idea….until I heard Bruce).

    I have never thought to rank their albums in any order before but there are some songs that just drag down some albums from greatness (looking at you Powerslave). Interesting lead up to the new album review. I am looking forward to the rest.

    • doom-erik

      Nothing drags down Powerslave. Their only album without any weak song :)

      • Rime of the Ancient Mariner drags down Powerslave.

        • Blasphemy!

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            I double up arrow this comment!

          • Hulksteraus

            I triple up arrow this comment (and who says we KowTow)…

          • I just DOWNVOTED your post. That song stinks.

        • Grymm

          Ever hear Opera IX’s version of this song? It’s… unique.

        • Chris Timbó

          No words … no words … just … sadness …

    • madhare

      Yes, totally agree about Powerslave. I’ve always felt that it’s the most over-hyped album from the classics. In my opinion, every Iron Maiden classic album has had at least one or two fairly bad or mediocre songs (e.g. Gangland, Quest for Fire, Back in the Village, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner…).

      So I would never claim that any of their albums are perfect on their own. Instead it’s the whole canon of stuff, which allows one to conveniently forget the bad ones and concentrate on the amazingness.

      • Grymm

        YOU SHUSH ABOUT “THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER” RIGHT NOW, MISTER!!!*

        *-EDIT: “Deja Vu” was the “skip me” track for me on SIT.

        • Hulksteraus

          +1 because I used to do long distance running listening to Somewhere in Time and that whole album has a rhythm and pace to it that lends itself very well to a good long run. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner always got me going on those long runs.

          • madhare

            See, I’m more a gym guy than runner. That explains everything, doesn’t it. ;P

          • Hulksteraus

            Touche :)

        • madhare

          :D The funny thing is, I used to like Loneliness… when the album first came out. Not anymore.

          But I’m glad you proved my point that there are those one or two “skip tracks” on that great album too.

        • Chris Timbó

          Second that. Loneliness is crazy awesome! Deja Vu is the black sheep of the album.

  • Maxim Kalacnuk

    One more thing (for AMG): I’ve been reading your blog since far beginning and i loved your blog. Now it’s became like the community of YESSAYERS. Like: “Of course Master, You’re right Master, I would probably swap NPftD and FotD, but You’re right Master!”

    • I love how people generally agreeing with my takes isn’t about the fact that there is agreement among me and the people who wrote (and the fact that maybe your opinion is not in the majority), but instead it’s about how other people are kowtowing to me.

      If you’re that pissed off about my list not agreeing with you, go write your own.

    • How dare you defy the Master!

  • Hulksteraus

    The first “album” that I listened to was Live After Death, however the first that I bought with my own hard earned dosh was FOTD, so there is some sentimental attachment to that album, but coming back to it after a number of years there are only probably 3 songs on that album that I like (and I agree that Bruce was singing out of his scrotum on that album too :) ).

    My all time Faves are Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son, and I have really enjoyed their post reunion albums as well. I think the 2 with Blayze have a few good songs on them, but there is quite a bit of poor songs (Steve I think was still trying to write songs with Bruce in mind to sing on those 2 albums and Blayze was trying too hard to be Bruce…)

    I am really, really, really looking forward to Book of Souls and the second that the tour details are announced I am hitting the purchase button for tickets :) Living at the arse end of the world means that I only got to see them live in the last few years. The last tour to AS before the Somewhere Back in Time tour was waaaay back in 92…

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I find the lack of Blaze Bayley-era records in this post disturbing.

    ;)

    • Ralph Plug

      The material on these records is, overall, worse than a lot of stuff on the Bayley-era albums.

      • Preeeach!

        • Ralph Plug

          Snaaaaake! Oh wait.

          Both Bayley albums get a lot of flak, and a lot of it is justified, but there are a number of great songs on both The X-Factor and Virtual XI. Which becomes even more apparent when you hear Bruce belt out tracks like The Clansman, Futureal, Man on the Edge or Sign of the Cross live. I wish they’d play more from those albums.

          • Hulksteraus

            Yeah, I think that the problem with those albums is that there are some great songs but Blayze never quite pulls off the vocal performances, although Sign of the Cross and Heart of Darkness from X Factor and The Clansman from Virtual XI he almost nails. I think that he was trying too hard to be Bruce, and you can tell that Steve was still thinking of Bruce when he wrote them cause Bruce absolutely nails some of the Bailey era songs live

          • ronin1572

            i feel with X Factor they at least tried to tailor the songs to Blaze’s voice. With Virtual it kinda felt the songs were written for Bruce. Weather it was just pressure from fans or wanting to go back to a more epic feel for their sound.

          • ghost whistler

            There are, but Blaze sings like there are too many words for him to get out. Every line sounds like a mouthful. His voice oddly overwhelms the sound and is monotonous.

            Sorry Blaze!

    • That’s ’cause you’ve never bothered to listen to them next to these albums.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        You are right, I think. Since you’re a much bigger fan (and for a lot longer) than I am and you had to evaluate each of them next to each other to create this series of posts, you are more of an authority on this than I am.

        But…

        In my listening experience, there is no way I can immediately appreciate VXI or XF more than FotD. FotD has the appeal of the classics and the (somewhat dubious) distinction of feeling like an Iron Maiden album. I simply cannot say that I enjoy VXI or XF more than FotD.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I’m guilty of never even listening to them because I had shamefully written the band of after Bruce’s departure. Given I like the above albums and AMG has decreed them ‘not as good’ as the Blaze material, I may have to remedy this.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        If only for completionism, please do.

  • Wilhelm

    I never really got the hate on Fear of the Dark – I think it’s a really dark album, well written and catchy songs. Bruce’s vocals might be seen as a bit lagging but they compliment the material well enough. I know I’m probably alone, but I wouldn’t put this anywhere near the bottom of the pile and I would put it over No prayer, Dance of Death, TFF, and possibly Killers (and the blaze albums, but I don’t count them as they are eternally at the bottom).

  • jageorge72

    Wow….. very shocked at the low ranking of The Final Frontier. I can’t get enough of this album, and would rank it very high in their discography. The Satellite intro does drag on forever. Mother of Mercy is good, but nothing great, and The Man Who Would Be King is just OK. Other than those minor blemishes, everything else is fantastic…… especially Isle of Avalon and The Talisman. Also, Where the Wild Wind Blows, to me, is very Afraid to Shoot Strangers-like.

    Looking forward to the rest of the list!

    • Nick Rzeczkowski

      I love The Final Frontier too, but it starts and ends so poorly. The Talisman is absolutely epic and is the sound I have in mind when I think of post-Brave Maiden (and The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg).

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I have a big love for Final Frontier, as it (along with SSoaSS) is my 10 year old sons favourite maiden record and the first one he engaged with on his own. When it’s just the two of us driving together somewhere we will always listen to a Maiden album (with the occasional Queen, BOC and Steely Dan exception) but FF and SSoaSS are the ones we go to most.

    I can see your criticism of it but don’t care :) the spacey start and epic chorus to FF always gets us in the mood then singing along. The epic cheesy ballads are pure gold. We love Where the wild wind blows it normally gets him staring out the window in contemplation and me making bad dad fart jokes…

    What a huge couple of days for the blog, Uncle Acid, Amorphis, ROTM, Wolfheart and A massive Maiden retrospective all dropping!
    Thanks for keeping us, the volatile masses entertained!

    • Hulksteraus

      Ha! my 4 and a half year old son loves powerslave and Somewhere in Time. He also wants me to put on FF and was super excited today when we went down to JB HiFi and purchased the digipak book version. Have really only had a chance to listen to the first side/cd, however I am liking what I am hearing…

      Also picked up Amorphis too (got him into them too – my wife is hating me at the moment :) )

      Am going to pre-order the new Anathema Blueray (the one they recorded at the Union Chapel).

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Always good to have back up :) We will be picking up the digi book version this weekend too!

  • doom-erik

    15. Virtual XI
    14. Final Frontier

    13. AMoLaD
    Virtual and FF are without doubt the two worst albums they made. There are a couple of contenders for place 13, though.

    • Virtual XI isn’t great, but I think it’s actually a more consistent album than the ones named. Well not more consistent than NPftD, but better. :p

      • doom-erik

        I actually agree with you there. Virtual XI is consistent – consistently bad :P

  • MelbCro

    Bottom 3 for me is
    15. NPFtD
    14. Virtual XI
    13. FotD

  • Danny Becker

    Wow, an angry metal guy post I actually agree with. I’m absolutely shocked that I agree with EVERY single point you make on these. However, I would put fear over final frontier. That’s about it. Fear of the dark suffers from the primacy effect. The first and last songs are the best. The band new it was not that great of an album, so they framed it such, so the fans would be sidetracked to realize that everything in between was luke warm!

    • Ha! Are you saying you read this blog and you never agree with any of us? Or just me?

      • Hulksteraus

        He’s not angry enough for you AMG…

      • Danny Becker

        I was being disingenuous with my comment of course. There are many things I disagree with though, but that’s OK: the haunted unseen review, ghost infestissuman, Heritage. I would argue that Heritage encapsulates the 70’s offbeat prog rock more so than Pale Communion. I actually think Heritage > Pale Communion but it’s an acquired taste. Pale Communion is more straight forward and does have more audible and better drumming.

        I love this site because I think there is a great balance of writing, objectivity, humor. I also like the fact that this site more than other is highly critical, giving out 4.5/5.0 more infrequently than any other site.

        I also based my Yelp account after this site as ANGRYFOODGUY, lol. Don’t worry, if I ever monetize off my yelp reviews, I’ll pay tithe don’t worry

        • Thanks for the kind words! And while Heritage is an excellent homage to offbeat prog that’s kind of what I hate about it, because that’s not what Åkerfeldt is good at.

  • 517H

    Awesome. Love these off-the-cuff kind of posts. Looking forward to the rest. I’m still waiting for the Cannibal Corpse Crimean War concept album update

  • Ralph Plug

    “The only real standout win on NPftD is “Mother Russia.”

    YES! Thank you. For about twenty years now I thought I was the only one.

    • Hulksteraus

      You’re not the only one, that is a killer song. I also liked running silent, running deep. Not that keen on the rest of the songs on the album

  • My biggest quarrel with No Prayer is its compilation-esque semblance. The songs ain’t too bad separately, but following several albums with their very own distinct vibe, No Prayer lacks all kinds of coherency.

    Where Seventh Son and most precursors had its own unique uniting aura with every song fitted the whole mood, No Prayer has the structure of a collision, merging seemingly random songs.

    Whilst I agree with your arguments, I also feel that the albums biggest flaw is its complete lack of singular atmosphere.

    Still, my rule of thumb is that everything from the first Di’Anno/Dickinson era surpass everything else, thus I’m not entirely in agreement of both No Prayer and Fear being ranked this low. Yet, I’m not startled either.

  • TheChronosus

    I couldn’t disagree more about The Final Frontier. I was on a fanboy low at that time after AMoLaD, which was far from bad, just it’s atmosphere was kind of to drab and devoid of energy for a Maiden record.

    So, I expected more of the same from TFF but once I got it into my car, it didn’t get out for months.

    Curiously, the songs you mention as the worst are to me best (I was always fond of Maidens epics), especially WtWWB. The ONLY bad song for me is The Alchemist, which to me is just another stereotypical Maiden song. The rest is gold, and I put it in my top 3 albums, next to Seventh Son and Powerslave.
    I just can’t fathom that for someone this is worse record than Virtual XI…

    Well, to each his own I guess.

  • madhare

    I literally grew up with Maiden. I got a cassette of Powerslave for my 6th birthday and that was pretty much the first ever “grown up music” I owned.

    So when No Prayer and Fear of the Dark came out I was in my teens. And despite being – in retrospect – bad albums, I loved them with my adolescent fanboy heart. And while lot of people are dissing “Bring your Daughter”, I absolutely loved it live. What a great piece to make the audience sing! And I was totally stoked to find out that Maiden had recorded the concerts and suddenly they were putting out albums (Real Dead/Live One) where I could joke to my friends that “hey, that’s me singing there… in the crowd”.

    I still continued with Maiden through the Blaze Bailey era and also tried picking up some of their later stuff. At least I was still onboard with Dance of Death.

    But then… I just had to admit it. The Maiden that I had loved, that shaped my whole childhood, was no more. Maiden has moved on to the “legendary haunting grounds of the old masters” like Black Sabbath. Sure, technically they were still continuing and making music and touring but… it just wasn’t the same.

    I remember staring at my pile of Maiden CD:s and wondering “will I actually ever listen to half of those ever again?” So with a fanboy’s bleeding heart I sold them. I kept stuff only until Fear of the Dark. …and even then, I have to admit that No Prayer and Fear of the Dark I’m keeping mostly just for the memories. I don’t really listen to them.

    I haven’t gone to see them since either. I got to see them as a teenager four times. Once with Blaze. That’s better than good. (Could be better though, I’m still sooo envious to the people who were older and saw them during the amazing Live After Death shows… What wouldn’t I give to have a time machine and go there!) I don’t want to see them now. Old men playing bad or mediocre songs. And I can’t stand Bruce’s voice now. He used to be such an amazing singer.

    So to me, it makes absolutely no difference… or even sense, really, to discuss the ranking of ALL their albums. Only until Fear of the Dark. Or perhaps until the Blaze era, which I see as formally the end of the “old Maiden”.

    I’ll rather just stick to my memories and the albums from the golden era. Hearing Hallowed Be Thy Name still gives me goosebumps every time. Just like it did two days ago when it caught me unawares in the middle of the night in a metal bar. (They also played Fear of the Dark, and it shocked me to see how many more people were howling that instead of Hallowed… kids these days! ;) )

    It’s very much like Black Sabbath. I find very little point discussing anything else than the first four classic albums. Life is too short, and there is too much culture on this planet, to contemplate mediocrity when one can concentrate on the amazing stuff. (I also don’t want to see any of the old bands live. They’re pensioners now, not the amazing rockers and metalheads that are on the albums. I don’t want to pretend otherwise.)

    Yeah sure, call me an old jaded fart. I don’t care. :D

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      Old jaded fart :)

      • madhare

        Oh shit, I just clicked +1 to that… that signals that I actually DID care about you saying that.

        ***plop! – vanishes into a logical time-space paradox***

        • Hulksteraus

          Doctor?

    • It’s fun. I love people telling me I’m ignorant, clearly don’t understand, am wrong, etc. :p

  • Art Saves

    Fear of the dark was the first metal album I heard, ordered it through Ginza when they used to send out magazines in the 90s.
    I got to get one album and choosed FotD just because the cover was so cool. And I still think its one of the best Iron Maiden albums. Def doesnt deserve a spot under top 5. ;)
    Amd a final input is that The book Of Sould is Iron Maidens best album since Brave New World. What a return compared to the boring The Final Frontier and A matter… /Dance of death. :D

  • Jan

    FINAL FRONTIER the 3rd worst MAIDEN? I know, taste and all. But you guys are clearly absofuckinglutely insane. :)

    Seriously, I think it’s one of Maiden’s best. AVALON, STARBLIND, TALISMAN and WILD WIND alone make it stand out. FRONTIER, EL DORADO and ALCHEMIST are great fun as well. And the rest is at least okay. It’s one of my most played Maidens since it came out. So there… ;)

    • A person writing in all caps should definitely not accuse anyone of being insane.

      • Jan

        Oh, I guess I just picked up this habit of writing titles in all-caps on a movie forum. I now recognize that it’s something else to have one all-caps word in one paragraph, talking about a movie. Unlike with songtitles, where it’s starting to look weird real fast. If it bothers ye metal guy’s eyes, I shall refrain from doing that. :)

  • madhare

    Now that you got me reminiscing the good old days… Maiden’s classic covers by Derek Riggs were the best thing ever!

    There was nothing like buying a new Maiden LP and spending the next few days listening to it and staring at the album front and back cover, finding new details and references. Live After Death was my absolute favourite, followed by Somewhere in Time, and then maybe Powerslave. And, really, all of them so bloody evocative!

    …and the H.P. Lovecraft quote was probably the reason why I started reading H.P.L. in the first place!

    Funnily enough, the classic Maiden era ended at the same time the band started taking stuff from other artists besides Riggs. MAYBE that’s the real reason why they lost their amazingness?!?! ;)

    The Di’Anno records were also funny, because for a long time I thought they were deliberately painted into some dodgy dark dystopian society. Years later, when I moved to the UK I realised that it was just a realistic depiction of UK street lamps. (I have no idea why they stick to their creepy yellow ones, whereas other Northern Europeans seem to prefer whiter lights.)

  • While Im disappointed to see how little you think of Fear of the Dark, I am glad you resisted to urge to immediately throw the Blaze era stuff on here. I actually think the X Factor is a great album. Definitely the best 90s Maiden album and still better than a lot of the new stuff they’ve been making.

  • TheNihilist

    Fear of The Dark is in my top five by the way, was my first Maiden cassette. I must have heard this album ten thousand times and always discover something new.

  • Innit Bartender

    The thing with the A side being better than the B side is somehow a recurring theme in Maiden. I’ve always made a case about Piece of Mind with its damn-perfect side A and… somehow weaker side B. I’ll wait to read what His AMGness has to say about it.

  • Darren

    I have come here just to say that Dance of Death is my favourite Maiden album. I suspect this will not be a popular opinion, but Rainmaker is what got me into metal (yeah, I’m a relative youngster) and it was my first real exposure.

  • ghost whistler

    Bloody Hell! No Prayer is the worst? Seriously? Fear of the Dark is far worse; despite a couple of corkers it’s seriously underwhelming and sounds like the band had run out of steam. The Bayley albums weren’t musically bad but he was totally the wrong choice. I have no idea how he came to be chosen (I’m sure he’s a top bloke), was he the only person to audition?

    No Prayer has some stunners on it and is Harris’ finest bass playing: tailgunner, Mother Russia (aka Seventh Son part 2), Running Silent, Assassin (stupid lyric, admittedly).

    Final Frontier is a very mixed bag: Alchemist is a corker, the last few songs are boring and too long, as are most of the tracks.

    A Matter of Life and Death is also a bit weak, the tracks are all the same vibe and too dour.

    The lyrics of The Apparition are, like most Maiden, quite literal: it’s spoken from the perspective of…an apparition, a ghost. A bit like the way Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is just about…long distance running!

  • Carl Anderson

    I largely agree — excepting that I actually like “El Dorado”. There: I’ve said it. ;)

  • Maxim Samoylenko

    Iron Maiden is my favourite music band by far, and one of the reasons for that is that they put consistently great material without truly low points for me personally. I know that some people don’t like 90s stuff, but I love it.

    My first Maiden album was NPFTTD, I listened to in by a random chance when my elder brother bought the CD, and I was HOOKED. I love the album, it holds a special place in my heart because it was the first and it brought me into Maiden.

    Back in the day I liked FOTD as well, particularly because it sounded so different. VXI never bothered me much (so many great tunes on that album), and I just absolutely love TXF and consider it among the greatest Maiden masterpieces.

    Oh, and TFF is the best post-reunion album. And I particularly like Starblind, The Man Who Would Be King and When The Wild Wind Blows, my favourites off the album. To each its own.

  • 6500G00N

    We have a new WORST. Book of Souls.

  • The Metal Pigeon

    Surprised at no mention of Judas Be My Guide from FoTD, which despite its clunky title is one of the best early 90s Maiden cuts and frustratingly one of a few select songs the band hasn’t played live. That chorus!

    Great retrospective idea though, I am in awe of you for even attempting the challenge. Maiden is my favorite band and what you wrote in your series preamble pretty much describes what I feel about the band. Paraphrasing, but that not all of Maiden’s moments are perfect even to fanboys like ourselves, but no other band has GIVEN us quite so much…. I’m lacking a word for it…. Maiden simply makes me happy.

  • TrevMann

    Call me crazy, but The Final Frontier very well may be my favorite Maiden album. Two extended songs from Adrian push it over the edge — Isle of Avalon is how I want Iron Maiden to sound.

  • KingKuranes

    I’m listening to all these albums back to back following this series and I’m actually enjoying NPftD more than I remembered. The title track is really good IMO.

  • markus o

    i agree on NPftD being kinda weak. i listened to it a million times, on tape (kvlt as fuck), and it’s the first maiden album i actively went to a store to buy (fun story, a couple years earlier my older cousin bought seventh son and gave it to me because he discovered he hated it and i were into hard rock at the time… man, if that album changed my life), so it’s got a special place in my heart even if it aged awfully… but “tailgunner” and “bring your daughter”, along with the aforementioned “mother russia” are classics, in my opinion.

  • RDGEEK

    Revisiting this write-up after revisiting FOTD today (first time in decades) because I needed to introduce my son to “Fear of the Dark” in preparation for the upcoming concert. I agree that both NPftD and FOTD deserve the rankings you’ve given them, but listening today I became really fascinated to know more about the state of the band at the time. Everyone knows the outlines of course, but still, they continued to soldier on and agree on some level that these songs were acceptable to be included on an Iron Maiden album. I mean, listen to “Fear is the Key”: that whole middle section where Bruce is essentially making shit up on the spot is just…awful and yet everyone said “yep, that’s great!” at the end of the session. Same thing with “Weekend Warrior”. I mean, who was minding the store when, during rehearsals leading up to the recording, no one said, “uh, guys, WW really isn’t doing it.” No one?

    Bruce’s vocal change also really stood out to me because I remember being so turned off by it originally on NP. It just doesn’t work at all — he’s not a growly Bon Scott singer, and the fact everyone thought he sounded good enough on NP to do it again on FOTD is really interesting to me in a morbid sort of way. Certainly when the reunion happened no one seems to have urged him to pick up where he left off with that sound.