(TheBRHM.com) Iron Maiden is one of the truly legendary acts of heavy metal. You could put them as an introductory act since they’re as synonymous with the genre as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Motorhead.
We’re doing another “Best of the Decade” and ranking Iron Maiden’s best albums of their hottest period: the 1980s. As always, the last album is the best. We’ve got seven albums to go through so let’s get this countdown started.
Iron Maiden – Killers (1981)
The follow up to Iron Maiden’s debut was really more of the same. It’s also one of the albums that gets a nod from heavy metal diehards but is sometimes overlooked as it exists between the explosive debut and the third album which introduces the band’s best lead singer Bruce Dickinson.
So, this one isn’t entirely lost in the sauce. Killers is a very good album but it just falls between two pivotal albums for the band while not really standing out a landmark offering. It’s heavy as hell, has that NWOBHM speedy bounce to it, and I love former lead singer Paul Di’Anno’s vocals.
Recommended Tracks: Wrathchild, Murders in the Rue Morgue*, Killers*
Iron Maiden (1980)
While I typically hold the debut release Iron Maiden in my top three Iron Maiden albums, I can recognize that’s far from the band’s top three quality-wise. That said, I love the heavy 70s punk sound and pace mixed in with that metallic approach of Di’Anno-era Maiden.
This line-up delivered several songs that only sounds right with that particular singer. However, Dickinson delivered a good “Running Free”, Di’Anno brought that attitude to the band that I loved.
Recommended Tracks: Running Free*, Phantom of the Opera**, Iron Maiden**
Piece of Mind (1983)
Since we’re not going order, Piece of Mind will be a hard album to explain without looking at the third album The Number of the Beast which establishes the new direction of the band.
This fourth release sees Iron Maiden explore a more epic sound and some complexity. The Number of the Beast was still a little stock NWOBHM with a bigger sound and this new, amazing lead singer from Samson.
Honestly, this album and our next entry are interchangeable in this position. If you like a meatier Maiden, Piece of Mind would rank higher, obviously.
Recommended Tracks: Where Eagles Dare*, Die with Your Boots On, The Trooper*
The Number of the Beast (1982)
Now then, with Piece of Mind you had the rumblings of a bigger sound and things to come from the band. In The Number of the Beast, you had what I liken to Motorhead’s Ace of Spades or Judas Priest’s British Steel as far as being more commercial and digestible.
Of the albums on this list, I’d say this is the best introduction not only to Iron Maiden but to Dickinson’s singing. I definitely give the nod to Beast for songs that will instantly hit and those songs sit on the album’s B-side, really.
Quality-wise, Piece of Mind definitely ranks over Beast but Beast is the album that really introduced the world to Iron Maiden in the 80s thanks to being MTV friendly. Also, give “Hallowed Be Thy Name” for a short introduction into what to expect in future Maiden albums from the 80s.
Recommended Tracks: The Number of the Beast*, Run to the Hills, Hallowed Be Thy Name**
Somewhere in Time (1986)
With a sound that leads into our next entry, Somewhere in Time is a ridiculously strong album that I’d actually give the nod over the next entry quality-wise. The problem I have with Somewhere in Time is that as good as the tracks are, I can’t really point to one song that I would note as a memorable standout that I enjoy.
This is an essential listen for Maiden fans but lacks that digestibility of The Number of the Beast and catchiness of some of the next entry. I’d say it’s worth listening to once you familiar with Iron Maiden’s first Dickinson era or if you really enjoy epic, lengthier songs.
Recommended Tracks: Caught Somewhere in Time, Heaven Can Wait*, Alexander the Great*
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)
Closing out the 1980s, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son an album that is rare for a Maiden release—at least for me—in that it has a number of tracks that just hit instantly.
There are definitely some that are either “This is fine” on first listen but are much better on second listen but the majority of the tracks really slap and slaps hard. It’s the hardest album to just point at three recommended tracks because the previous four albums went for this epic sound and Maiden just constantly built on it.
As a matter of fact, they built on that sound until we got Seventh Son of a Seventh Son which also features the synth sound approach having a somewhat more prominent role from Somewhere in Time.
Recommended Tracks: Can I Play with Madness*, The Evil That Men Do**, Only the Good Die Young*
Iron Maiden – Powerslave (1984)
Powerslave is that perfect mix between epic and digestibility for Maiden albums. I’d say it’s the best parts of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and The Number of the Beast. Let’s put this at the second-best introduction to Maiden but it’s also my favorite Maiden album.
Actually, it’s interchangeable with The Number of the Beast as both have similar approaches and that catchiness factor that makes an album worth listening to again soon afterwards. You won’t need a break from it or the band after listening to it at all.
When I first heard Powerslave, I was like “This is some good sh**”. Sure, it’s lengthier than I’d like but it’s pretty much perfect down to the track placement which contributes to the pace of listening to an album that is almost an hour in length.
All of these factors are why I’d put the 1984 release as Iron Maiden’s best of the decade.
Recommended Tracks: Aces High**, 2 Minutes to Midnight**, The Duellists
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.