A couple days ago Iron Maiden released its 16th studio album. This new platter is a double-disc monstrosity by the name of The Book of Souls, and now that I’ve received my physical copies, I’m going to be re-listening to it a dozen times with lyrics in hand. So, while we’re waiting on this I’m taking 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. Here’s the third installment. [And here’s the first and second.]

#9: Brave New World [2000]: In spite of having felt like Blaze was treated unfairly when he was kicked out of the band1 and grumbling about the way the whole thing went down,2 I quickly quit caring and got absolutely psyched for Brave New World when it dropped. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t want Bruce and Adrian in the band! Having been a fan of the band since 1988—but having been 6 in that year—2000 was the first time that Maiden released a record in my adult life. The weekend that Maiden played Minneapolis and I got to see them for the first time was one of the absolute best of my life. I knew all the lyrics to all the songs, had a sore neck for days afterward, and witnessed one of the best live bands in the history of music knock out a set list that was immortalized on the band’s best live record and video: Rock in Rio. (Fight me.)

Iron Maiden - Brave New World

With all that nostalgia attached to it, though, Brave New World doesn’t quite nail it with the same passion after 15 years. While I still think it’s the best production of the post-reunion records (though, A Matter of Life and Death has the best mastering), the album suffers a little bit from what all modern Maiden albums suffer from: a lack of editing. While it has a couple of tracks around 4 minutes—both Smith and Dickinson collaborations, “The Wicker Man” and “The Fallen Angel,” and the Gers burner “The Mercenary” clocks in at 5—the average song length is a lot closer to 7 minutes than 4. While song length isn’t always indicative of song quality, a few of these songs drag (see: “The Nomad” and “Dream of Mirrors”).

The long run-time and a couple of clunkers aside, though, Brave New World is a worthy Maiden album, and a statement of how things would work going forward. Genuinely great songs litter the record, like “Ghost of the Navigator,” the proggy and actually, in retrospect, kind of bonkers “Out of the Silent Planet,” as well as Dave Murray’s token addition “The Thin Line between Love and Hate.” And all that without mentioning the great “Blood Brothers” (and its 700 choruses) and my personal favorite track on the album “The Fallen Angel,” which has amazingly only been played live a handful of times despite being one of the most obvious live tracks the band has ever produced! Also bonkers, honestly.

2000 BNW Band

If I had to pick a best record from the nu-Bruce period, it wouldn’t be Brave New World, but I do think that this album was a powerful statement and one that helped to revive Maiden nostalgia that has driven them to the status of Gods amongst Metal Mortals that they have today. While the band themselves clearly came out against being a hits jukebox, the reunion made it cool for pop stars and others to claim their love of the band. And twenty years after the release of the band’s debut record, Brave New World showed that these guys still had it in the face of adversity, band breakups, and a world that had given up on metal for a decade. I still have the banner for Brave New World on my wall. I nostalgia this record pretty hard.

#8: Iron Maiden [1980]: If ever an album was unfairly maligned (that didn’t contain Blaze Bayley), it’s Iron Maiden. Listening to this album is like listening to a time machine: everything about it screams “debut record” and “shoestring budget,” but it’s got that pizzazz that reviewers like me crave when listening to unknown bands. This was a band who was on the edge of blowing the world out of the water with their unique approach to heavy metal.

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

The biggest strike against this record is really the production, which really is the worst the band would have until after Martin Birch hung up his headphones. Producer Will Malone has been pretty roundly dissed by everyone in the years since its release, and rightly so, the record was rushed and Malone was apparently pretty checked out during the process. He appears to have had no idea how to produce a band that sounded like this, and it doesn’t have nearly the breadth and punch that its follow-up has. Nor does Iron maiden feature any of the band’s most obvious, top-flight tracks. “Phantom of the Opera” and “Transylvania” are the two songs that share the most with the band’s later sound, but generally, Iron Maiden feels like the band in its earliest of phases, as demonstrated by the not-so-stellar “Charlotte the Harlot,” the ’70s stoner ballad of “Remember Tomorrow” and the great, but vacillating, “Strange World.”

But as a whole? Iron Maiden was a cool and sophisticated album. It flows well, and it’s the kind of record you put on just to let it pop. Harry’s unique bass approach and the different guitar approach of Dennis Stratton—who admittedly was a lot more rock than metal—combine with Clive Burr’s blues and jazz influenced feel and Di’Anno’s punky vocals to form a raucous package. Tracks that I’ve heard a hundred times like “Running Free” and “Sanctuary” still hold a lot of charm after 35 years, and the energy is absolutely infectious.

But it’s not just the energy that’s good here; as far as I’m concerned, Steve Harris’s bass approach on Iron Maiden is the first chance to hear the sound that would go on to revolutionize heavy metal. One of the reason I’ve always found debates like Priest vs. Maiden to be so completely nonsensical is that they’re bands who did such very different things. While most of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was firmly rooted in the 1970s hard rock scene, Steve Harris was always a progger. His biggest influences were the likes of Genesis, Wishbone Ash, and Jethro Tull, and this shows in the way that he thought about composition. While the other British bands were primarily writing from guitar, Harris was the primary writer in the band in the early days, and it’s this bass driven writing that creates a riffy sound. On Iron Maiden it’s often the bass guitar that’s doing the interesting stuff or the guitars are mirroring what Steve is doing. His riffy, energetic approach would come to define most of Maiden’s best stuff in the early days, and I think it changed the nature of writing in heavy metal as a whole. But the very nature of the band’s approach to songwriting changed at some point in the 1990s, when Harris’s style morphed away from this bubbly, energetic feel into something much more traditional.

1980 IM Band

The combination of energy and unique, bass-driven composition makes Iron Maiden a truly fun record to listen to after all these years. Whenever I meet those old Maiden fans who hopped off the bandwagon after Killers, I have a certain amount of sympathy for it. The band really did go through a huge change with the years, the change in personnel and a very different approach. Listen to Iron Maiden next to Somewhere in Time with no prior knowledge, and you’d guess they were a different band. And, in a lot of ways, they really were. But the most defining parts of their sound are on demonstration here; addictive, raw, and fun.

#7: The Number of the Beast [1982]: You all probably know the story of The Number of the Beast, the introduction of Bruce Dickinson—who British fans dubbed “The Air Raid Siren” (which was pretty accurate, actually)—and the band’s decision to really push themselves onto the road, particularly in the USA. Looking at their tours from this time is incredible. These guys played the boondocks in rural Wisconsin and went through dozens of stops. This album is one of those records that has the “new vocalist” x factor that bands get when they reboot and the material here is a transition from the Killers era to what I think most people see as the “Golden Age” in Iron Maiden‘s ridiculously long and storied career. It’s also widely considered among European fans as Maiden‘s best album ever.

Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast

The Number of the Beast, for me, is a record similar in nature (though definitely not in quality) to Fear of the Dark: known more for its highest points, than its consistency. Songs like “Run to the Hills,” “The Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” are stratospheric tracks which showed the band developing into what they would become. “Run to the Hills” has gotten a bit of a bad reputation over time because the band themselves have often commented on how sick and tired they were of playing it, but it’s undeniably great. The memorable drums and the razor sharp chorus guaranteed that it would be a crowd favorite forevermore. Similarly, the title track possesses a chorus which is unforgettable, and when it hit in the USA and drove the Christian right absolutely apeshit, half of the band’s marketing job was being done by women with high collared shirts, enormous glasses, and short-cropped hair calmly talking about SAAAAATAN! Finally, and I think rightfully, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” is likely the best Iron Maiden song of all time. This track simply encompasses precisely the feel that we’ve all slavishly craved from the bad ever since: heavy, epic, and it is still—after all these years—an immense live song.

With all the superlatives one can slather on these highlights, though, the rest of the album pales a bit in comparison. The album opens with “Invaders,” which is my least favorite song on the record, and a strange introduction to Dickinson for fans unfamiliar with the band’s vocal change. “Children of the Damned” is an undeniable deep cut that’s gotten some love on recent tours, and I love “The Prisoner” for its chorus, but the other tracks simply don’t gel quite right. Instead, The Number of the Beast was contextually an important and even revolutionary album, and it certainly was a flag in the ground about the band’s new direction. But it’s not “Invaders” and “Gangland” that we remember, nor the album’s flow. Instead, “Run to the Hills,” “The Number of the Beast,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” are the songs that make people put it on their “Heaviest Records of All Time” lists, and that drive bands to release 20th anniversary DVDs about the making of the album.

1982 NotB Band

While I don’t think that The Number of the Beast is Maiden‘s best record ever, I can understand the undying devotion it has received over the years. And while #7 on the list might seem like a bit low, I think it says something that quite a lot of the band’s following material with a more stabilized lineup was simply better. In some ways, Clive Burr leaving the band after this record marks the end of the first era of the band; placing The Number of the Beast somewhere in between the Di’Anno years and the stretch from 1983 to 1988, which starts with the entrance of Nicko McBrain on Piece of Mind. The band got tighter, the writing improved, and just like a future star’s rookie season, The Number of the Beast flashes brilliance, without quite being the refined product that Iron Maiden would absolutely become during the 1980s.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I have since decided that Blaze really wasn’t right for the band, especially considering the direction they’ve gone in the later years. Mostly, though, Blaze getting kicked out of the band led to one of the finest and most under-appreciated bands forming and putting out two extremely good albums. The first, Silicon Messiah, was released on the same day as Brave New World, which may well have been the coffin in the band’s promising career in terms of exposure. The second was The Tenth Dimension, which I have written about elsewhere. Those two records are excellent, and I wish that the original lineup had been able to stay together and continue producing music, because it was good, honest heavy metal.
  2. To understand this, I think you should find the official Iron Maiden biography which was released during Blaze’s time in the band. The way Bruce left the band was rough, and particularly Nicko’s stories of the situation made it sound like a reunion was essentially impossible.
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  • We want information. Information. Information.

    • I do love that. “I AM NOT A NUMBER! I’M A FREE MAN!” Classic.

      • Synthetase

        My girlfriend only recently started listening to Maiden and when she heard The Prisoner she almost collapsed with glee. She was a big fan of the TV show :)

    • Tremens

      You guys should give a spin to Devil Doll’s ‘The Girl who was… Death’, which is entirely based on The Prisonner series. Not Maiden-y to the slightest, but quite a weirdly wonderful album and band.

  • eloli

    Number of the Beast lower then the X factor? I’m grabbing my pitch fork now. Let’s tar, feather and drive this hipster out of town, boys! :D

    • Hipster? I should probably drop the fucking ban hammer for this comment.

      • Alexandre Barata

        I don’t know about the hammer, but Number of the Beast is a beastly number and should be higher! Although not a perfect album, it is the one that defined how IM would sound after. I’m a sucker for it though :)

        • [not a Dr] Gonzalo Salazar

          Actually, it is a human number.

        • Josh Lind

          One thing that makes me like The Number of the Beast so much is that I really enjoy Clive Burr’s drumming here. It is very distinctive and is more integral to the construction of the songs than what Nicko does (though obviously I love Nicko, too). “Gangland” never felt weak to me, and the flow from song to song feels right – and “Hallowed be Thy Name” is a towering achievement that ends the album in an emotionally satisfying way.

      • RuySan

        Good for you for having the guts to put Number of the Beast this low. I would put it even lower. Only song that I love in the record is Hallowed be thy name.

        Just comparing it to the quality of the songwriting in Peace of Mind (and the 3 classics that followed it), and I really don’t know why so many people rate this as their best album

        • Ralph Plug

          Number of the Beast is one of those albums where people mistake “classic” with “best”. Yes, it’s a classic album, and a very important album for the band, but they’ve released far superior stuff.

      • eloli

        I’m deflecting the blow with my pitchfork. :D

        Anyhow, my list would be this:

        1. The Number of the Beast
        2. Piece of Mind
        3. Powerslave
        4. Iron Maiden
        5. Killers
        6. No Prayer for the Dying
        7. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
        8. Somewhere in Time
        9. Fear of the Dark
        10. Brave New World
        11. A Matter of Life and Death
        12. The X Factor
        13. Dance of Death
        14. The Final Frontier
        15. Virtual XI

        I’m not gonna rationalize this order, it’s simply based on how much I like each album. I started listening to Maiden in 1983, and the first album I listened to was Piece of Mind, the first one I bought was Killers, gotta love that cover.

        I don’t really need much overanalizing or good arguments, the Maiden I love is the punchy, hungry band of the early years, proggy Maiden bores me, that’s why I have the post reunion albums in such low regard… IMO, the Wicker Man is the only memorable song the band has recorded since Tailgunner, so that’s that. Regarding Book of Souls, I still have to listen to it properly for a few months to figure out where it stands, but I reckon I’ll probably be putting it in the bottom. At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of taste, no need to argue endlessley.

        • This is pretty much how I assume most fans think. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to do this list. It’s been fun to rile people up/get riled up over this. I love this band so much.

    • Actually, I’m reconsidering this. I AM an Iron Maiden hipster in a way. I liked them before they were RE-cool.

  • ghost whistler

    Brave New World deserves much higher. That is all.

  • robpal

    AMOLAD above BNW? Just nah bro!

    On the other hand, this is the beauty of Iron Maiden. Millions of fans all over the world and everyone would make a different list.

    P.S. BNW is my beloved IM record, with few hundred spins at least. It’s probably sentimental, this is the album that made me love and discover metal. And the closing “The Thin Line Between Love And Hate”… My favorite song of theirs.

    • Mmm, love AMoLaD so much.

      • Juan Esteban Mendoza

        I agree, AMoLaD is the best post-reunion album, I was never able to get into BNW aside from a couple songs.

      • Grumpyrocker

        AMoLaD is a work of complete genius. I wish I’d been able to see it live.

        • Robert Turnbull

          It was quite an experience seeing Maiden play it through at Earls Court. Although it wasn’t straight through due to the power cut which took out all sound and most of the lights, during which they played football on stage with Bruce commentating via megaphone :-)

          • Is there a bootleg of that? What was the date?

          • Robert Turnbull

            Not sure if there is. It would have been 22nd or 23rd December 2006. Have a feeling it was the latter but can’t remember back that long!

          • ssorg

            This same thing happened during somewhere back in time tour in NJ. It also happened, rather appropriately, during Powerslave.

        • Same here. I had tickets for Chicago but missed the show. :(

        • Ralph Plug

          The AMOLAD tour is the only one I missed since Bruce came back, and I’m still sad I did. AMOLAD is an amazing album.

    • cirkus-lizard

      It’s good to see “The Thin Line Between Love and Hate” getting mentioned both in the main article and with others in comments. Has been one of my favorite songs of theirs…but kinda assumed I was the only one.

    • Hideous destructor

      Love both those records. Far ahead of dance of death and final frontier, but same for me with brave new world holding a special place as it was the album that showed me what metal really is – one of my favourite maiden albums.

  • doom-erik

    For me, place 9-7 would be…
    9. Brave New World
    (The Nomad and The Thin Line Between Love and Hate are my favourite tracks, but the overall quality is really strong)
    8. No Prayer for the Dying
    (last of the classic albums for me)
    7. Killers

    (Nice production and energy, but the real standout songs are lacking. As a kid I liked it even less, but it has been growing on me during later years, perhaps because it is the one album from the classic era that I haven’t listened to death)

    • MelbCro

      I agree that No Prayer doesn’t deserve the crap it gets, it should get infinitely more crap for how horrible it is.

      • chris

        No Prayer the only maiden album i never bought. Its place deserved.
        As to the Killers thing.
        I bought it on vinyl. So i am very much biased by nostalgia.
        I do think that it contains some of harris at his finest. The song structures are quirky and just strange at times.
        But i just love it.
        It will forever be their best album.

  • El_Cuervo

    This is where the disagreement and butthurt commences. BNW and NotB are much higher on my list.

    • GrandmasterB

      Fear not! This bombshell will give the butthurt and those responsible for hurting their butts a common cause to rally against. I hereby state that Bruce Dickinson’s Accident of Birth and Chemical Wedding are superior to anything Maiden has released since Seventh Son. So there!

      • ronin1572

        I have really enjoyed those 2 albums. I also like the song broken from his greatest hits album as well as the song Tears of the Dragon.

      • madhare

        :D Not sure if irony or…

        I’m now going to completely abandon any hopes of having tr00 metalcred and admit that… I actually quite like most of Dickinson’s solo stuff. Even Skunkworks!

        And I actually do listen to that stuff still sometimes (except BallsToPic). Unlike re-union Maiden. Which I just can’t be bothered with at all. So… shiii-it… I think I do have to admit agreeing with your idea. …Never really though about it before. :D

        • GrandmasterB

          Exactly! It’s so upsetting that those albums got so little fanfare. I think it’s all about brand loyalty; the ‘die hard’ Maiden fans refuse to recognize anything that doesn’t have the iconic logo or Eddie on the cover. I’m sure that if those albums were to be released as Iron Maiden albums instead, they would be hailed as masterpieces. I also maintain that Dickinson’s decision to re-join and remain in Maiden was done primarily for financial reasons. I do applaud the fact that Maiden finally gave him a chance to exercise some creativity on the Book Of Souls, but apart from that, everything he’s done with them sounds uninspired and stale compared to his solo stuff.

  • george

    As much as i wanted to see you roped in the front row of a whole Bieber tour for putting killers 10th, this list is well said!
    I’m getting tired by the enormous praise for Number of the beast, which sounds extremely DATED.
    The first album is very good but Killers is better.
    BnW is very very good. But for me it symbolizes the time Maiden stopped acting as a band and started to be a business.

    • Tarred, feathered and Biebered. Let t be done.

  • doom-erik

    Never understood the hate for Invaders. Maybe it’s because it was the first song I ever heard with Maiden, but I always enjoyed it (with the tongue-twisting lyrics and all). That one, Hallowed, Children (that one is in my Maiden “top-five”) and 22 Acacia Avenue are the peaks. Gangland and Run to the Hills are the fillers. Title track is good, but not more. I remember really loving the talked intro to Prisoner (and obviously NOTB, too) as a kid.

  • tomasjacobi

    I’m happy to see The Number of the Beast at 7 (it was 10 on my list). Like any sane person, I love the classic tracks on it, but there is a reason that Invaders and Gangland has never (to my knowledge) been played live and it’s a mystery that 22 Acacia Avenue actually HAS been played quite often; I thinks it sucks!
    I often see people claiming it to be the best of the albums, but I don’t think it is when you consider the whole album.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I got 3 words for you
    Live After Death
    Best live album ever made!

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    AMG, do you live in Minneapolis still?

    • Nope. Sweden.

      • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

        I thought so. I think some of the guys over in Last Rites are from around here (I’m in Minneapolis).

        We’ve got a lot of good reviewers for a state that doesn’t get a lot of good concerts.

        • Yeah, there were some people from the cities there. I still love the cities and would definitely move back if it worked out.

  • Logos

    Absolutely agree with Rock in Rio being their best live record. That opening with Arthur’s Farewell + The Wicker Man is the most epic opening of a concert ever. It’s my favorite album altogether.

    • Refined-Iron Cranium

      Just the general performance in that concert was outstanding. Great song choices and an absolutely stellar performance by the band. It’s hard not to enjoy every second of that concert.

      • Chris Timbó

        I was there! :-)
        Though it’s a shame I’m not taller. There was a sea of people standing in front of me, so it was difficult to actually see what was going on on stage…

  • MelbCro

    Oh angry metal guy, you are certifiably insane. Obviously I say that with much affection, but you’re nuts. BNW is top 3 for me and the debut is way too low. I agree with Number of the Beast, I have it in the same spot. An awesome album, yet at the same time an overrated one.
    Just realised that X-Factor and AMOLAD haven’t showed up yet. My God, some people just want to see the world burn.

    My selections so far
    15. No Prayer
    14. Virtual XI
    13. Fear of the Dark
    12. The Final Frontier
    11. A Matter of Life and Death
    10. The X-Factor
    9. Dance of Death
    8. Killers
    7. Number of the Beast

  • CarvedInStone

    Blaze Bayley released more than 2 very good album! All his albums up to and including “Promise And Terror” are stellar and WAY better than anything Maiden did since their reunion. It wasn’t until he fires his whole band again for the 2nd time and hired some Russian guy to write songs with him that the quality of his output went down. “The King Of Metal” was such a hughe disappointment…

    And “A Matter Of Life And Death” is supposed to be better than “The Number Of The Beast”? I think you just lost all your Metalcred with me. I can understand your other choices but claming that the steaming pile of shit that is “A Matter Of Life And Death” (which I considered to be the worst Maiden album until “The Final Frontier” was released) is better than “The Number Of The Beast” is blasphemy!

    My List:
    15. The Final Frontier
    14. A Matter Of Life And Death
    13. Virtual XI
    12. No Prayer For The Dying
    11. Fear Of The Dark
    10. Dances Of Death
    9. Killers
    8. Brave New World
    7. Piece Of Mind
    6. The X-Factor
    5. Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son
    4. Iron Maiden
    3. The Number Of The Beast
    2. Somewhere In Time
    1. Powerslave

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      AMoLaD is great

      • CarvedInStone

        No it’s not. It is the prime example (well, at least it was until TFF came out) of everything wrong with modern Iron Maiden.

        And before I forget it: Blaze Solo list:
        6. The King Of Metal

        5. Blood And Belief
        4. The Man Who Would Not Die
        3. Tenth Dimension
        2. Promise And Terror
        1. The Silicon Messiah

        • Robert Turnbull

          Just shows how much this is all personal preference, as AMoLaD is in my top 5, easily.

          AMG’s metal-cred remains in tact, as should all commenters as we’ll all have different metal tastes.

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          You’re obviously beyond help :)

    • Blaze’s first three are all good, but his first two are EPIC.

      Also, the fact that I’ve listened to all these records enough to be able to create a listing that doesn’t agree with you–having given each of these albums such deep listens that I am literally able to justify what I like and dislike about every single record and put it into a 10,000 word list form–loses me metal cred? That’s fucking dumb.

      • CarvedInStone

        I know it is and I wasn’t being entirely serious when I wrote what I wrote. Sorry if that was’t clear.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Number of the Beast is No 1 for me.
    I say this totally uncritically, hell Final Frontier is 4th on my list for reasons aside from its quality, and no matter how much I repeat to myself SSofaSS is the best heavy metal record ever made… I’ll never hammer down the nostalgia and not love Number of the Beast and Live after Death a bit more…
    Very much enjoying this retrospective, top shelf work AMG!
    If you got the energy after this how about an Amorphis 12 to 1

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      How about a Jorn best of list, 158 to 1?

    • Hulksteraus

      I rate Somewhere in Time and SSofaSS higher than Number of the Beast. I come back to them more than Number of the Beast. I will agree on Live after Death though (although I am glad my son hasn’t started swearing yet… a little self conscious when putting LOD on when he is around…). Bruce introducing Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner is worth the Album alone!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        oh yeah the whole thing is gold!!
        It’s my go to Maiden album most of the time… These days I probably play SSoaSS more than Number of the Beast….but over all I would say NotB has given me the most joy. It was the first metal record I ever had too. I had an older reprobate cousin. He gave me a cassette tape when I was 10 it had NotB on one side and Back in Black on the other… My mind was blown.

        • Hulksteraus

          My first foray into Maiden was LOD. My first foray into “Metal” was actually AC/DC when I was 12 (Blow Up Your Video in 88). Had heard Maiden songs, but it wasn’t till I was 15 before I really heard them. After hearing LOD, bought FOD, then Powerslave, SOT, SSofaSS, and then all the back catalog. Then bought the rest as they came out (although only bought NPFTD about 5 years ago).

  • TheNihilist

    AMOLAD and X factor are very good albums, I agree, they are underrated by the crowd, but in the first six slots, serious?

    • Says the guy who put The Book of Souls at slot #6 on his list after it having been out for a day.

      • TheNihilist

        I know I’m a heretic, was my first damn impression! But I’ve listened AMOLAD 199 times and no way!

        • My first impression was the opposite. That said, it needs a year or two before I can place it properly.

  • Their debut is still my favorite release. The album I go back to the most in their catalog by far. I also think Brave New World is the best Maiden album since Bruce’s return and “Out Of the Silent Planet” is prog royalty. Glad to see X Factor not yet named, an incredibly underrated album. The Blaze era is unjustly maligned.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I’ve been thinking about the way this list is organized and I must say that I agree with most of your reasoning. I’ll even give you VXI above FotD and NPftD. The bottom 4 are in their rightful place and switching them around is pretty useless in the grand scheme of things.

    My most obvious disagreement is Killers at #10, especially since you didn’t give a good enough reason besides ‘I am sick of Wrathchild’. The only other thing is the implication that The X-Factor is somehow among the 6 best Iron Maiden records; somehow better than Killers, Number of the Beast and Iron Maiden.

    Honestly, switch the place of those records in your list and you would pretty much arrive at mine (with other minor disagreements).

    • Killers hasn’t clicked, it’s hard to explain. The songs don’t reach me like they do on other albums. I think the record is a sophomore slump. That’s pretty much the argument.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Really looking foward to the review for Book of Souls. All the other metal sites have been creaming themselves over it, so really curious to see if you’re gonna need to bust out the sock, too

  • Stefano Kevin Prince Vitali

    Ok, now it hurts… I kinda agree with TNOTB’s rank, it’s absolutely a record of highs and meh; plus, the Live After Death version of Hallowed Be Thy Name dwarfs its studio counterpart by miles. It’s the debut’s rank that really stings…

  • RuySan

    One thing that you still haven’t mentioned is how poorer Bruce’s voice sounds on post reunion albums. I know he’s still great, but I wonder how some songs would sound with Bruce’s younger self.

    • madhare

      Exactly. Bruce’s diminished voice one of the reasons why I can’t appreciate the re-union albums so much.

      It seems to me that music fans generally can divided into instrumentalists and vocal… vocal-fans? (Vocalists sounds wrong.) So, for example, in Maiden’s case for the vocal-oriented fans Bruce’s voice is a crucial part of Maiden as a whole. And for the instrumentalists the singing doesn’t make such a huge difference, because they are more interested in the riffs, solos, and song structures.

      I have a strong suspicion that AMG belongs slightly more to the instrumentalist group.

      • Logos

        I have to disagree. I find Bruce’s post reunion voice much better than his younger version. And I would certainly consider myself in the vocal group, as you put it. For instance, I prefer Maiden’s Flight 666 versions of Revelations, Rime, Powerslave than those from Live After Death. I guess it has something to do with having started listening to Maiden after the reunion.

        I think Bruce’s voice aged very well. Just consider how Geoff Tate sings nowadays…

    • Wilhelm

      In ways I think that Bruce is a more well rounded singer. He kind of developed his voice during his solo stuff. of course, he is not the air raid siren anymore, and you can hear his voice straining a bit when reaching the highs. I’m sure this all will be addressed in the new review.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    So… The X Factor better than The Number Of The Beast? Maybe in some parallel universe where… where… I don’t really know what’s going on in that parallel universe.
    I am starting to believe this list is based on cover artwork, even though that doesn’t make sense either

    • Honestly, I’m surprised that you’ve taken in so little of my arguments that you can’t figure out precisely why that would be the case. I think my tendencies are quite clear, and what I value makes perfect sense. The Number of the Beast is a good record, it’s an album I love (need I repeat that I love Iron Maiden’s entire discography and have listened to it repeatedly hundreds of times for two decades?). However, it’s not a super consistent album in the sense that the quality is rather uneven. The records that follow, by that logic, are records that I see as more being more cohesive.

      The thing that drives me nuts is the fact that all the people whining about The X Factor all the time are distracting from what I’m actually saying about the records at hand. You’re not even reading the fucking posts, you’re simply looking at the ratings and saying “Nope, the record I don’t like hasn’t been listed yet. You’re insane. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” That’s an extremely irritating and intellectually weak way to interact with this list and I’m getting pretty tired of it already.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I read your arguments carefully, it´s just that I don´t agree with some of them, so I have been trying to make sense of what makes you like an album better than another.

        I guess that you value consistency in an album over other things. In the other hand I prefer an album with 4 classic and four filler songs over an album with eight average songs, which may be more consistent.

        I was also thinking it may be the case that you started listening to Maiden around the time Blaze Bailey was in the band and so you have a strong sentimental bond to Blaze era albums, which is not the case.

        One more thing in with I differ completely with your opinion is that while I agree that Blaze is a good singer, I believe he should have never joined Maiden. He should have known his vocal range wasn´t appropiate to substitute Bruce Dickinson. I say this in the most objective way, not meaning that one is a better singer than the other, just meaning that Bayley is a baritone, while Dickinson is a tenor and you can’t substitute one with the other. Blaze should have known it, Steve Harris should have known it. Blaze just wasn´t the right fit for Iron Maiden.

        • You know who would have been an appropriate replacement for Dickinson IMO? Michael Kiske.

          Steve Harris is such an insufferable flag-waver that I’m sure it was completely unthinkable to him. (Dickinson is like that too.)

          • ronin1572

            I don’t think Kiske would have done it, even if he was asked. He was losing interest in metal around the same time Bruce left.

          • Yeah, maybe not.

          • Hah “flag-waver.” THESE COLOURS DON’T RUN, GOODWIN!

          • Hulksteraus

            DON”T MENTION THE WAR!!

        • SelfIndulgence

          I don’t think it’s consistency because Powerslave has yet to make the list. While it carries some of their greatest tracks Back in the Village makes me puke a little every time I hear it. Nothing on NotB has that effect.

          • doom-erik

            How can you not like Back in the Village? So much great stuff happening guitar-wise in that song.

        • doom-erik

          I also prefer an album with half great songs and half fillers to one with only good songs. I never really cared so much for the “flow” or “consistency”. I kind of like it when an album takes you on a bumpy ride. Keeps your attention up. Obviously an album with only great songs would be even better, though :)

          • It’s all about the perfect moment of combining the excellent writing with great flow.

        • I didn’t start listening to Maiden around the Blaze Bayley time. I owned all the records, was excited for Fear of the Dark’s release, and was a big fan. It’s true that TXF was released in my teens, and I suspect that’s why I was more open to it than others probably were. But when The X Factor landed, my brother hated it and everyone I knew thought it stunk, and I listened to it and I loved it.

          The other thing I want to say is that I think ranking albums that are half filler above consistent albums with great songs defeats the purpose of an album ranking. It seems strange to me that we’d rank half good records with awesome songs, better than completely good records.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            On the consistency of an album, I prefer an album with 3 great/awesome songs, 3 good songs and 3 fillers than a consistent album with 9 good songs.
            Of course I would prefer an album with 9 or 10 great/awesome songs, but not every album can be Amorphis’ “Elegy”

      • Grumpyrocker

        I have issues with the X Factor that are more about the mix than the songs. But I’ll save those for when it appears on the list.

  • cxj

    How many times you reckon you’ve listened to ‘The Book Of Souls’ by now? I’m still on my first run. There’s a lot to take in.

  • And for his next trick, AMG will explain why Jethro Tull DID have the best metal performance of 1989.

    • FutureBeyondSatan

      It was a worldwide conspiracy against Lars Ulrich.

    • Jan

      ‘The flute is a heavy metal instrument.’

  • ronin1572

    Brave New World is a good album and has some of my favorite Bruce/Adrian returned songs, Its the flow of the album that puts it below AMoLaD for me. Too many slow songs in the middle of album.

    I think Maidens first album is great, compared to many other bands of that era. What it lacks in production, it makes up in song writing.

    I feel Number of the Beast, in my subjective opinion, deserves to be above both X Factor and AMoLaD. It has far more significance to shaping Maiden’s career and far more classic songs.

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I think Number of the Beast suffered more from the popularity it received than anything else. While I’m REALLY not fond of Invaders (that fucking chorus… ugh) and Total Eclipse and Gangland are really forgettable, the rest of the album is still pretty damn excellent – it’s the fact that they’ve been overplayed that hurts it. I don’t care how many times the title track has been played, it’s still amongst metal’s finest. Personally, I feel the album should be rated higher.

    Also, I feel that Brave New World would still have worked if Blaze was on vocals. With the exception of The Wicker Man, Ghost of the Navigator (my favourite off the album) and The Fallen Angel (also a killer song), Blaze could easily have done these songs and sounded good.
    (BTW Janick’s solo on the title track – 10/10)

    As controversial as this list is, I admire you for sticking to your opinions and giving the readers a very interesting read (not to mention ruffling more than a few feathers).

    • Grumpyrocker

      Total Eclipse wasn’t originally on the album. Us oldies remember a time when it was merely a b-side, albeit a b-side that should have replaced Gangland.

      • Refined-Iron Cranium

        Young ‘uns like me usually speak with regards to the re-issues, which gave us the full package, so I just assumed that Sanctuary, Twilight Zone and Total Eclipse were part of the original album when I got them.

        Funny little coincidence; my copy of Iron Maiden lists ‘Sanctuary’ with a running time of 0:00 – either that’s a misprint or a very odd reference to the original UK pressing that didn’t include the song.

        • ChrisGoner

          “Sanctuary” was on the debut and “Twilight Zone” was on “Killers” when I bought them in 1983. Both tunes were on the original U.S. vinyl, just not the U.K. vinyl. “Total Eclipse” was not reinserted into the “TNotB” tracklisting until years later and the reissuing of the albums on CD.

    • doom-erik

      Total Eclipse should have been on the original album in my opinion. Easily belongs to the better half of the songs on NOTB.

  • Wilhelm

    TNoB is slightly over rated, I think that it’s at a good spot on your list. What I don’t agree with is that fact that x factor is better than that or Brave New World.

  • Grumpyrocker

    Don’t see much to argue with here. Though Might put Brave New World above the debut album. I might have been into Maiden since the 80s but I’ve been very much into the later material. I’m not a “Play Classics Only” type. Oh and while I like plenty about X Factor it’s now obviously going to be too high.

    Also want to say how much I LOVE the Thin Line Between Love and Hate. Such Davey goodness on the bluesier moments.

  • I don’t know about that upcoming The X Factor, but seems like lot others are with me there, so… But yeah, why is the debut album so forgotten? I love it a lot. Especially Phantom of the Opera. Ahh.

  • Maxim Samoylenko

    Hallowed Be Thy Name has never resonated with me much and even feels boring, no matter how many times I tried to convince myself otherwise. The true example of the definitive Maiden epic that I just can’t get enough of is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

    • Hulksteraus

      Being a Samuel Taylor Coleridge fan, that is amongst one of my favourites :)

  • madhare

    It seems every Maiden fan’s love for the band has strong generational aspect. Everyone has THE Maiden album they grew up to. And that album, no matter of its actually quality, will always remain in their memories. For you it seems to be Brave New World and the re-union stuff. While for those just before you it was Fear of the Dark. And for those before them it was maybe Powerslave… And then there are Number of the Beast guys and before them were the the Di’Anno & Killers people.

    Some of us will look back after another 10, or 20 years and go like “well, it’s not actually that good, but it was fun then”. While others will always treasure the experiences of their formative years over anything else.

    It just means it’s completely impossible to have any kind of neutral stand on Maiden’s albums. It’s so much dependent on your generational experience. Perhaps more than with other bands, as careers this long are fairly rare.

    And that’s why, for example I myself, can’t ever understand how you or others can value the later re-union albums so high. And rate any of them higher than the albums that belong to our “golden era”. :)

    • Hulksteraus

      Well, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son are well high up in the list, so he rates the golden era. I agree with him with regards to Killers, Iron Maiden and NOTB and I think he is spot on being below the others.

      I like Iron Maiden and Killers and I have a soft spot for Paul Dianno on those two, but Paul Dianno is no Bruce, and Bruce slays the debut album songs when he sings them live.

      For me my favourites are split between POM to Seventh Son era as well as a good chunk of the post Bruce/Adrian return albums.

      I think I know where AMG is going, and if The Book of Souls is in the top 3 I would not be surprised at all. I have been listening to it non stop the past 3 days and really digging the album. I can’t do it in one sitting, but splitting the two sides works well and they both have a flow. Really, Really digging Empire of the Clouds. Bruce does have some writing chops :) But then I do have some Prog sensibilities and this song really does rise to a crescendo and has a very satisfying release.

      I totally agree with you about the generational thing. It is impossible not to have an objective look at albums that have such subjective meaning to people, and given that the band has pretty much been releasing albums since I was 3 years old it is amazing that they have been as consistent for most of that time.

      UP THE IRONS!!

    • Innit Bartender

      I totally agree with you here, and if ever AMG would like to try and do a Metallica run like this, I think the “generational” aspect would emerge even stronger. My first Maiden album was Powerslave and it will ever be my favourite, I don’t have “bests” or “worsts” but favourites, and that is that.

      • Paolo Cumin

        Started listening to Metal Music with “Fear of the Dark” but absolutely loved Seventh Son of a… and found it far superior on first listen

  • Danny Becker

    I disagree with Iron Maiden and Number of the Beast being placed up here. Iron Maiden, without a doubt is Iron Maiden’s most consistent album as it genuinely lacks zero filler. Yes, production, bogs it down, but I honestly like the crunchy, cheesy, garage tone. I might be able to get on board with Number’s positioning, but Iron Maiden should be top three at the very least. I have it placed at two above Seventh Son.

  • Karmazov

    I’m actually really happy with the argument against TNotB. TXF, AMoLaD, and PoM are superior albums in my mind. I disagree with BNW’s listing but I understand the arguments against it haha.

  • Dr_Fisting

    INVAAAAAAAAAAADERS! (DOW dadadadowwww)
    ANTIQUING!!!! (DOW dadadadadadadowww)
    INVAAAAAAAAAAADERS! (DOW dadadadowwww)
    SHOPPING!! (DOW dadadadadadadowww)

    • Well, that song is ruined now.

      • Synthetase

        Only now?

    • Hulksteraus

      A song for the blue rinse set :)

  • Zac Melvin-McNutt

    So this means that you have Piece of Mind and X-Factor ranked higher than TNOTB. Seriously?!! I have no idea why people think so highly of that record, POM, that album is unfathomably overrated. I do dig X-Factor though

    • doom-erik

      Revelations, Where Eagles Dare, To Tame a Land, Still Life, Flight of Icarus. Five reasons right there to think very highly of Piece of Mind.

  • Maxim Kalacnuk

    Although i disagree in a lot of things with you, i must admit that this yours third installement is great, very mell written. The part about Brave New World almost brought tears to my eyes (i saw them live for first time on the same tour as you – we share quite same memories).

    Mine Worst to Best: 9-7

    9.: No Prayer for the Dying – Seems like nobody likes this one. But i love it! Something completely different than Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Simple, unambitious, just fun.

    8.: Iron Maiden – Almost flawless. One of the greatest debutes ever!

    7.: A Matter of Life and Death – What can i say? It’s a monster of an album. Hard to swallow but beautiful.

  • Ralph Plug

    So you’re putting X-Factor and AMOLAD higher than Killers and Number of the Beast… I like where this is going, and so far it’s just about the same as my list, were I to make one. I only think I’d put Virtual XI a bit higher up.

  • Michael Staugaitis

    You know, as looney as it sounds now, I was slightly disapointed when Bruce & H rejoined Maiden because I absolutely loved (and still do) the chemical wedding & accident of birth, which were light years better than anything maiden did since seventh son, IMO. That said, I love brave new world and some of the tracks that were obviously left over from the blaze albums made sense with Bruce back & I could see what Harris was going for.

  • Weirwolfe

    I bought a copy of Wolfsbanes’ Little Kathy Wilson’s Place recently and Blaze kicks all kinds of can on it. I dug out X Factor about a year ago to give it a reappraisal. Made it to the third track and promptly sold it on Ebay to some dude from South America. To place it above Beast makes no sense. Just about every track is a winner. Then again I rate Final Frontier. So far Book of Souls sounds very impressive. Btw..Dickinson shagged one of my mate’s girlfriends after a show back in the day on the Beast tour. Dirty fukn cad.

  • Tremens

    Hey AMG, just wanted to step in to say that despite the fact that I’m just starting to get into Iron Maiden (despite being born in 81, being a metalhead since 96 and being a huge prog rock nut — not that I didn’t like the band before, just that it SOMEHOW never really found its way into my stereo or computer until now, can you believe that), I totally dig reading your list, and am eagerly waiting for each new addition. Your passion for the band and general writing ability makes it a delight to read, even for someone who is quite unfamilliar with the band.

    I haven’t listened to every album they put out yet – there’s a lot to absorb, and I don’t think I’ll really bother trying the post FotD albums except Book of Souls – but for now, I think my favorite album is Somewhere in Time, followed by Piece of Mind.

    Listened to No Prayer for the Dying after reading your (entertaining) take on it to see just how bad it is and, well, I found it pretty fun actually. It totally clashes with what the band was about, and I guess it gives it quite a bit of charm.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and don’t you dare skip a day with the list-posting !

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      I don’t think they have any albums that are bad bad, just depending on your take albums that are not as or not quite good

  • This was an intense read. Good stuff.

  • Semitekoboss

    Very strange to think that book of souls will be my first maiden record as an adult, considering I’ve been hearing these guys since I was 8. I personally get nostalgic about all their eras of music, I started out with number of the beast which is not heir best, but it gives me a warm feeling inside like when I listen to Houdini by the melvins. Listening to new maiden is like a whole new band and I haven’t stopped giving at least one of their albums a few spins every month, I couldn’t take the first half of Final and eccpt for Mother Russia, no prayer for the dying did little for me, fear of the dark I hated when u first heard it and it was one of the later maiden albums I got into, but people have eased on it and so have I, but I honestly cannot say I love a band more than maiden, I think dance of death is one of their best, and had no idea it wasn’t liked aside from the half packed beef sausage apocalypse of an album cover.
    Fuck yeah tk this band and fuck yeah to this land, everything about this rocks

  • Ian Munro

    And here I thought I was the only one who thought that of The Fallen Angel It’s nice to have company.

  • Jase

    Killers & The Beast are easily the best 2 maiden albums – even my mum knows that!

  • ssorg

    I know I’m reading this 2 years too late, but I’m perplexed that you call Remember Tomorrow a “stoner ballad”… I think that’s selling it short, given the awesome balls-to-the walls guitarwork in the song’s middle.

  • Joel

    Goddamn if I’m not in the midst of a masterwork with this series. Outstanding writing, outstanding thoughts…just outstanding!