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The guys from Iron Maiden were so excited about the recording of their first album in December 1979 – after facing countless of line-up changes and being nearly dissolved after the departure of lead vocalist Dennis Wilcock, after experimenting with bizarre sounds (remember the addition of Tony Moore?), after dealing with the extravagant attitude of Thunderstick. However, by the late-70’s a competent, stable line-up was completed with the incorporation of Burr and Stratton – the group had recorded their first demo The Soundhouse Tapes and had signed with a major label like EMI. However, the long-awaited debut exposed the lack of experience and direction of the band.
Of course, this album features classic anthems Harris & co. still play on each gig – “Running Free” and the homonym track might not be the most spectacular tunes they did, but they represent the attitude, hunger and humble potential of Iron Maiden in the early years. Before all the future splendor and greatness, they were technically limited musicians and song-writers, though – riffs and licks on those songs are pretty repetitive, song-structures are designed without much inspiration and choruses are emphasized excessively, making the music commercially accessible and simple, in contrast with other emerging underground NWOBHM acts. “Prowler” and “Sanctuary” present a similar configuration, with more solid, serrated riffs and more diverse tempo shifts, yet still deprived of real power and punch – repeating the same minimalist song-structure patterns unashamedly.
A more serious effort is displayed on “Charlotte The Harlot” and “Transylvania”, on which harmonies are accented and instrumental passages constructed with greater efficiency – although some of the fills, transitions and solos are designed without consistence, vision or inventiveness, making the sound generic and predictable most of the time. The music remains quite melodic and sophisticated during the record, getting mellower and cheesier on some sections on “Remember Tomorrow” and “Strange World” in particular, on which Maiden lack direction and once again come up with repetitive structure configurations that make the songs overlong and unfocused. Fortunately, there’s an exception to the rule entitled “Phantom Of The Opera”, a much competently-arranged piece that introduces a bunch of rich instrumental sequences, more meticulous lengthy solos and pretentious rhythm changes Harris & co. can be proud of still to this day.
Steve Harris knew what he wanted from the very beginning: “To sound like Wishbone Ash with 2 guitars” but the crystallization of the trademark Iron Maiden sound that made them rich and famous in the mid-80’s required an inevitable long and tough creative process. This first album has no specific direction, no distinctive methodology or own musical identity – it doesn’t sound much better than the primitive The Soundhouse Tapes demo either. Even though songs like “Phantom Of The Opera” and “Remember Tomorrow” include at times certain innovative ideas and uniqueness, their music sounds still conventional and generic without making a difference from what the veterans of UFO and Thin Lizzy were doing in the early-80’s. Actually, tempos are predictably weighty and traditional, guitar lines still bluesy and instrumental level mostly unspectacular.
Definitely, this is one of Iron Maiden’s most mediocre formations – specially Stratton’s parts and Burr’s simplistic drumming are deprived of detail, originality and virtuosism, making songs like “Prowler” lack the necessary instrumental fluidity, richness and presence – but it could be worse (“Women In Uniform”). Song-writing is also rudimentary and uninspired, exposing the absence of experience and instinct from Harris, who is mostly obeying the usual 70’s rock formulas and old tricks, as you can check on the bluesy nature of the riffs, the random solo sections and as I mentioned, the weighty beats. Malone’s infamous production is certainly terrible but that’s no excuse – what made this record so forgettable is the lack of experience and imagination from Harris at the time, and the poor harmony and chemistry between this line-up members.
Yes, we all know they later became the most popular rock band in the world but this album pales beside the cool stuff other British acts were doing that year, long before Harris & his team achieved all that massive success and recognition, unable to push away the predictable 70’s rock clichés completely – revealing the fragility and limitations of this line-up. Better things to come – better 1980 NWOBHM albums you can pick up instead.
Iron Maiden is one of the most influential bands of the heavy metal world, surely this beloved world would not be the same without them. Being influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or The Who, Steve Harris formed his third band in 1975, "Iron Maiden", passing various musicians before the lineup of this album. Iron Maiden in turn has influenced many bands of various genres such as thrash or power metal.
In 1980, Steve Harris and company released their first full-length (after recording a demo), self-titled name, with excellent musicians. It's a great start for this music legend. It’s an album with a dirty sound, however, the production is not bad at all, but it can be much better. Steve Harris never got completely satisfied with this but I like it because it gives an especial essence. You can hear perfectly all the instruments without forcing the ear and that's enough for me. But this not last long, in the "Killers" album, the production change completely, with a much better sound.
"Iron Maiden" has very punk style songs as "Prowler", "Running Free" or "Iron Maiden" and other more heavies as "Sanctuary" or "Phantom of the Opera" and the amazing instrumental "Transylvania" and the beautiful ballad "Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World".
Clive Burr is a machine at the drums (it’s a shame that he’s no more with us) especially in songs like "Phantom of the Opera" where it looks incredibly good or the catchy "Running Free", he's just an excellent drummer. And not to forget Steve Harris, with his legendary bass and the feeling that he gives, so characteristic of Iron Maiden and distinctive, one of my favorites bassists of all times. I also highlight the voice of Paul Di'Anno, a singer with a big charisma and a perfect voice for the first Iron Maiden phase, with that raspy voice on songs like "Prowler" or "Iron Maiden" and the beautiful and clean vocal lines in "Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World".
Dave Murray (loyal to the band since the beginning) and Dennis Stratton do an impeccable job creating and executing excellent riffs, as the beginning of "Phantom of the Opera" and all the incredible solos it has; or the catchy riff from "Iron Maiden", a fast track and a very thrash drumming. We also have "Strange World" with a beautiful and mysterious sound at the guitars, it reminds me to "Planet Caravan" from Black Sabbath.
Concluding, "Iron Maiden" is a highly recommendable album, here begins the legend and the best was yet to come. High quality songs, very worked, memorable and catchy. By the way, on the cover, we see an angry Eddie with war appetite and his long hair that would last three more albums until the poor creature get his head opened.
"Beware the Morbid Killer"
This album was the very first steps of what would grow into something legendary. With that said, however, I have quite mixed feelings on this first one from Iron Maiden. I've always felt that Paul Di'Anno never got enough credit for what he did on the two records he was on. Sure, he's far from Dickinson's level of talent; however, throughout this album, Di'Anno still shows a consummate talent level throughout his and Iron Maiden's first release. Iron Maiden's self-titled certainly has it's strong points, though for almost every strength this album possesses, there is a weak link to counter it.
First, let's begin with the musicianship. The guitar work on this album is, for the most part, very good. The track "Remember Tomorrow" exhibits some of the strongest guitar work we've ever heard from Iron Maiden. It's quite complex, but not complex to the point where it becomes overwhelming and repetitive, like some musicians fall victim to. Another track in which the guitar work stands out greatly is the Iron Maiden classic, "Phantom of the Opera". Honestly, everything about this song is borderline perfect to me, although I do prefer the later live versions of Bruce Dickinson singing it; nothing against Di'Anno, I still think he was a strong vocalist, but as most Iron Maiden fans, I've simply always preferred the range that Bruce brings to the table. However, despite the talent that Adrian Smith and Dave Murray exhibit in the strong points of this album, there are also points in this album where the riffs feel a little bit weak and are nothing compared to the riffs found in later Iron Maiden albums (i.e. Powerslave and Piece of Mind). For example, the riffing in songs such as "Running Free" and "Charlotte the Harlot" have always seemed a bit lacking to me, after a while becoming a bit repetitive and bland.
This album also shows the promising beginnings of having a guy the likes of Steve Harris on the bass; sure, it's not quite as strong as in later releases, but I still find his work on this record as a bit of a glimpse of things to come for him. Also, Clive Burr was for sure a solid drummer, however, he seems to have been for the most part unable to play some of the more difficult things that his successor in Nicko McBrain could do, which somewhat hurts the rating, as the drumming on this record is pretty simplistic.
Di'Anno's vocals, on the other hand, aren't quite as strong as the instrumentation on this record. Let me begin by saying I've always liked Di'Anno more than most Maiden fans; this may be because the first Iron Maiden album I ever heard was Killers. With that being said, however, I'm not as much of a fan of his vocals on this release as much as on Killers. I feel like he doesn't show enough range on this one as he does on their sophomore album. That's not to say his vocals on this one are bad, because they most certainly are not. Di'Anno's vocals just are not the best, and it feels a bit unfair to him to have to compare him to his successor in Dickinson, because their styles are completely different and with Dickinson, honestly, it's a bit unfair to compare almost anybody to him considering his overwhelming vocal talent.
The songwriting on Iron Maiden is very strong, as is the vast majority of the work that Harris has written throughout his musical career. The lyrics are spectacular, as all Iron Maiden lyrics are, though of course not as strong as their later releases when they further develop into musicians, lyricists, and song-writers. The songs themselves are formatted and written very well, though there are a few parts here and there that made me stop and think "I'm really glad they developed into much more powerful musicians."
Though this album certainly does not live up to many of it's later records to follow, it certainly shows promising beginnings of a band we all know to later become legendary. In terms of a band's first record, this album is certainly up there, as very often a band or artist will struggle a bit with their first record in finding what fits them best, being more well-developed in song writing, etc. Iron Maiden showed strong points in all of this, but it was relatively weak, as to be expected from a first album.
This is an almost perfect example of what a first album should sound like, and "Iron Maiden" has definitely made it's mark in heavy metal history. Although Bruce Dickinson is considered by many as the true Iron Maiden lead vocalist, the who can fire up an audience with his theatrics, his voice, I'm sorry to say, would probably not be as good as Paul Di'Anno's on this debut album. "Iron Maiden" and "Killers" are care-free (almost destructive) and less thought-through than Iron's Maiden's later albums and Paul's voice embraces that side better than Bruce would have.
Also, (and this has no direct impact on how you appreciate their music) on a personal, emotional note, it's both heartbreaking and heartwarming to hear Clive Burr's amazing skills at the drums.
Most of the songs on this album, edge more towards speed metal (i.e "Prowler", "Running Free") but the surprisingly soft "Remember tomorrow" (incidentally stuck right in between of the two previous ones) doesn't go along with that idea: whereas most of their songs want to make you pump up the volume and scream along with Paul, this one creates a totally different atmosphere, with softer sound, slower tempo and an more "sensual" voice from Paul (he doesn't hit the note, he creeps up to it). It's even more surprising when you listen to other NWOBHM bands, and it shows just how much range this band has, even in it's earliest years.
Now, how can you talk about "Iron Maiden" without talking about Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton's amazingly technical guitar solos or Steve Harris's surprisingly progressive musical ideas? Answer is, you can't. The progressive sound Steve Harris gives to some tracks on this album (especially "Phantom of the Opera") is innovative for his time, and the fact that he uses it here, in Iron Maiden's debut album, means that the band can evolve in the more progressive sound they favor nowadays while staying true to their roots. And Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton's technically demanding solos add some interesting melodies in songs that otherwise would be poor and lacking in consistency (like the song "Iron Maiden").
And yes, that was a criticism. I mean, Iron Maiden is one of my favorite bands and I up the irons and scream for Bruce Dickinson whenever I can, but a lot of the songs on this album lack the creative composition their later songs have, and have become favorites because they're catchy but not because they're great musically speaking (and certainly not because they have beautifully dark lyrics, for that matter: their lyrics on this album are average, for the best). Also, the fact that every song has a different style is a very ambitious thing to do and the order in which they displayed the songs doesn't make much sense, and it kind of feels like they had no idea what they were doing.
But, as a conclusion to this review, they probably didn't have any idea what they were doing, because this was their first album, but they had idea together, with passion and they gave it their all. So if you really go for it, even if you don't quite know what you're doing, you can still create one (and a lot more) killer albums (no pun intended).
I once spoke with another Iron Maiden fan who told me that he counted 1982's "Number of the Beast" as the band's 'true' debut. To him, Maiden couldn't be Maiden without Bruce Dickinson's trademark vocals. Of course, by the time Bruce had joined the gang, Iron Maiden were already running wild with potential. True enough, Dickinson's quasi-operatic tenor is now one of the band's most distinctive qualities, but this debut, and its sequel, "Killers", still hold up well. Even before they had truly made their mark on heavy metal, Maiden were already rocking.
I was first introduced to DiAnno-era Maiden through the mini-epic "Phantom of the Opera". Now a longtime favourite of mine, it's easily enough to foster some sort of interest in the band's early work. Especially regarding this track, it's not surprising that it took Steve Harris such a long time to find musicians willing to pursue this then-relatively progressive and technical brand of heavy metal. Fusing galloping rhythms with guitar harmonies and the atmosphere of progressive rock, "Phantom of the Opera" is a certain foreshadowing of what would later come for the band. Add in the trademark literature-based lyrics and you have a classic Maiden song, in spite of Smith and Dickinson's absence. Before even discussing the rest of the album, it's enough that one of the band's best songs is here.
"Phantom of the Opera" is above and beyond the most complex piece of music on "Iron Maiden", but the band gives a touch of sophistication to their aggression throughout the album. It's true that there is a sense of punk-ishness in large part thanks to the pummeling rhythm, but Steve Harris' progressive influences are in plain sight. Particularly on the eerie "Remember Tomorrow", Maiden divulge a sense of atmospherics that I've rarely heard in a NWOBHM act. On the other hand, there's raw carnage to be experienced in "Running Free" and the upbeat title track. One of the most common criticisms of this album is that Iron Maiden had not completely found their 'sound' yet, but in spite of the lineup differences, these guys seem to have had a firm idea of where they wanted to go musically.
Naturally, Paul DiAnno's vocal performance will be the sorest part for Maiden fans, if only for the fact that he ain't Brucey. For one, he's certainly not as brilliant a vocalist as Bruce is, yet his carefree, almost brutish approach to singing works well for the rawer sound Iron Maiden were bringing at this point. I imagine the 'rawness' will turn off some of the band's softer, or more progressively inclined fans, but it brings a more organic sound to their music than most of their following studio work. The production is a real highlight on "Iron Maiden", in spite of the fuzzy distortion and busy performance, things come through feeling warm and 'in-your-face'. The best way I might describe the production is that this sounds most suited for the atmosphere of a small club show, whereas "Number of the Beast" onwards gives the impression of a bombastic arena affair.
It's obviously nowhere near as 'matured' or 'realized' as the Iron Maiden they would become with later albums, but this debut should not be discredited by fans or newcomers. Although the band we know nowadays as Iron Maiden only shares two members with this incarnation, the signature sound and style is here, not to mention that "Phantom of the Opera" still stands as one of their greatest compositions. Check it out!
I'm always kind of intimidated when I approach albums (and bands) such as this one just because I feel hopelessly out of my element. Iron Maiden doesn't feature nearly enough slams to make it into my personal collection of favorites; there's a complete lack of wiggerisms in the lyrics, and gravity blasts are all but totally absent. You have to keep in mind that when it comes to metal, I really got into the scene through black and death, skipping most of the formative heavy and thrash bands most people are listening to long before Morbid Angel. This makes listening to bands like Iron Maiden sort of an odd, reverse-formative experience; in short, it's sort of alien to me, especially because I don't feel the sort of connection to bands like this one that others do. "Altars of Madness?" Of course, inspires youthful joy like nothing else. But "Powerslave?" I'm not so sure.
But I guess it's easiest for someone like me to tackle Iron Maiden's discography from this particular location; in short, where Iron Maiden basically lacks all the elements that would later define it as Iron Maiden in the minds of most people. Much in the way Black Sabbath's first, blues-oriented album is grandfathered into the metal scene due to its association with releases like "Paranoid" and "Master of Reality," Iron Maiden's scrappy rock/punk debut gets to cut the line even when, all things considered, it's not much of a metal album. At a stretch, I'd call four of the nine cuts here substantially metal, and even then not purely- to me, there's just as much Iggy Pop to this music as there is heavy metal. This doesn't really suggest anything about the quality, of course- just keeping it real. But what's there to expect? Heavy metal didn't really exist as a fully formed ideal yet, and Iron Maiden WERE one of the bands that helped establish it, so...
We're getting away from the album itself, though. In short: it hasn't aged very well at all. It might be perceptions getting colored by Iron Maiden's more substantial and seminal career as a heavy metal band, but hearing this album full of street punk-cum-prog rock songs tends to be a jarring and pretty unsatisfying experience for the most part. I wouldn't say that it's because Iron Maiden were particularly substandard songwriters at this point; more that they were using their particular brand of songwriting on a style of music that didn't lend itself to it. The influences of '70s prog alongside that same decade's style of punk run parallel from track to track (and sometimes even within them,) making for an album that attempts to be burly and aggressive but also nuanced and evocative in that Queenish "arena rock with a frontal lobe" manner.
Where the album tends to fall apart, in my eyes, is in its inconsistency from track to track alongside the vociferously mediocre sound. The latter, to begin; the production is fairly excruciating. Produced in the manner of a budget rock and roll album, the guitars lack bite and the bass is almost irritatingly loud and rubbery. More than any individual failure on the part of instrumental tones, however (and there are many,) is the incredibly shallow, flat mix which tends to highlight absolutely nothing going on in the song. It lacks depth of field; every instrument sounds paper thin, with no sense of aural space. It's like the band is playing right in front of you, but with practice amps and $50 guitars. There's not much that could be done to improve on it, though, and I try not to molest albums too badly for their sound, but in this case it's a serious issue that badly affects the music.
Beyond that: the inconsistency. I've always felt it took Iron Maiden a good four records before they started to actually make proper albums; all the way through "The Number of the Beast" the band had a tendency to arrange tracks in a haphazard, almost careless manner, making for releases that sound like a shuffled playlist more than a whole artistic piece. The debut is no exception to this rule, with some ghastly bizarre track arrangements (along with some songs that simply shouldn't have been present at all). The most obvious and glaring is "Phantom of the Opera" being stuck right in the middle of the album; the most ambitious and thoroughly Iron Maiden track on the release, it (and its cousin, "Transylvania") should have formed a suite to conclude the LP; instead, it's not given the significance it deserves, especially when followed by a set of sub-par tracks which do nothing but detract from it.
The final weak link? Paul Di'Anno. It's almost too easy to shit on him, particularly when considering how easily Bruce Dickinson snatched the crown from him (so to speak,) but the man's vocals are consistently one of the weakest and most grating parts of the album. Perpetually strained-sounding, like he was recording with a cold, Di'Anno's warbling, affectatious performance is bearable at best and sort of cringe-inducing at worst. He's functional on the more punk-influenced songs, where his throaty, somewhat hoarse shouting can come off like a cleaned-up, charming version of Lemmy at times, but he's completely lost on the more involved and metallic tracks on this LP, sounding weak and flabby when forced to compete with stronger and more bombastic guitar melodies. No wonder he's still so pissed about everything.
This release is basically an album of three, maybe four tracks: the eponymous rager, "Phantom of the Opera/Transylvania" (I consider them one song, in essence,) and perhaps "Prowler." The others are hit and miss, and mostly miss. The slower, ballad-style tracks ("Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World") are pretty dire, though the latter is better developed than the former, which is likely the single worst moment on the album, sounding like the sort of thing a 14 year old Iron Maiden fan today would pen as a tribute to their idols. "Sanctuary" and "Running Free" come off as filler, while "Charlotte the Harlot" is definitely the worst of the more aggressive tracks, with no structural coherency or real hooks for the audience. The album ends up being a life support system for what are far and away the most important tracks; the line differentiating the "real" songs from the filler is so stark I'd be amazed if the band themselves weren't firmly aware of it.
Many of the kinks from this release would be worked out fairly well by "Killers" and entirely absent a couple albums later, but Iron Maiden's debut still comes across to me as the immature, shaky first steps of a band unsure about their place in the greater musical community. I'm not going to damn it as awful, but I will say that I rarely, if ever, put this one on; considering the sheer volume of records in Iron Maiden's discography which are so far superior to this one, it just doesn't seem so necessary. The best songs from this release are better represented on live albums with better mixing and Dickenson on vocals; while this is historically relevant, the content itself might be better off forgotten by many.
When it comes to talk about one of my favourite band's debut album, I feel torn between many diversified and innovating tracks and complete lack of coherence concerning the composition of the album. I feel torn in between many lacks in the song writing and composition and on the other side the legendary status of this milestone.
From dreamy progressive rock ballads to straight punk influenced rock songs and a heavy metal epic blueprint you get pretty much everything on this record but the whole thing simply doesn't quite fit together yet. The whole album feels like an experiment, a compilation of ideas of different personalities, like some first careful steps into different directions. The fact that this album is so imperfect with its simple cover artwork, rather mediocre sound and has a considerable miss of equilibrium gives a very charming and authentic touch to the final result, though. One should also pardon the band their first mistakes as their whole epic career was continuously build upon this first album.
I happen to like the part of the atmospheric progressive rock ballads most. "Remember tomorrow" shows for the first time the band's great technical skills, their capacity to write long and coherent songs with a magic atmosphere. "Strange world" is even more simple, dreamy and atmospheric and it turned out over the years that this very unusual track happened to be my favourite one on the record.
"Phantom of the opera" is the band's first epic track and one of the first and most important epic tracks of heavy metal music that distinguished the band from many other that wrote short and sweet tracks to satisfy the masses and take advantage of a new hype. Iron Maiden were always more progressive and courageous than any other heavy metal band of the same age and delivers a stunning and diversified epic blueprint for their own and other band's future epic works. This track has a very important historical meaning even though it's far from being perfect. The vocals are too hectic and not always perfectly audible. The instrumental parts are sometimes way too long. There is not enough emotion and atmosphere in a song that refers to a legendary musical. But nevertheless, this song is something great and fits neither to the progressive rock ballads nor to the straighter and shorter punk rock influenced tracks. This song is the first one that simply sounds like Iron Maiden. This is where they get their own identity and deliver something one has never heard before in that way.
To come back to the punk influenced heavy metal tracks, they happen to be great and entertaining live tracks but the studio versions vary from very enjoyable like the straight and yet diversified bonus track "Sanctuary" to boring and faceless like the album's weak point which is "Charlotte the Harlot" as well as the unnecessary and overrated instrumental filler "Transylvania".
In the end this album is divided into three different parts that don't fit together and that vary from great to inspiring but imperfect to rather faceless material. The record is without a doubt technically and musically the most simple and in my opinion weakest track of the band's legendary works from the eighties. But this album should nevertheless please to any fan of heavy metal music as this first and rather shy debut album was a huge milestone for a whole genre and the begin of an incredible legacy.
What we have here is the legendary debut album of Iron Maiden. This album is a metal classic. This here is great quality NWOBHM with a sprinkling of 1977 era punk rock. These guys had talent right from the start and you can tell on this album. One of the extra special things about this album is that this is one of the two albums where Paul Di'Anno is singing, and he was definitely a great singer and his vocals suited the early style of Iron Maiden very well. They were a little different earlier on.
The production is a bit raw compared to most Iron Maiden albums, but the rawness fits the attitude of the songs. Everything manages to somehow sound cleaner on the more mellow songs though. Despite the rawness, the music is still your typical Iron Maiden, it's just with Paul Di'Anno singing instead of Bruce Dickinson. Paul's rough voice is fitting for the gritty atmosphere of the album, he sings a little on the raspy side. But despite Paul's rougher voice, he can still hit those high notes pretty good, and he proves it quite a few times on this album. All the instruments sound good here and Iron Maiden's classic galloping sound was already established on this album. Steve Harris was a great bassist then and you could really hear it the most on "Running Free". The bass is relatively audible, but it really sticks out in certain parts of certain songs, like the previously mentioned "Running Free". There is a definite punk influence in some of these songs. Actually, the way the guitars sound on this album is similar to a late 70's punk band called X Ray Spex. You'll find some gritty sounding guitars on this album. The drumming is also quite good, the drummer manages to mimic the guitar riffs with drum beats as best as he can, and he does it successfully. The music isn't very heavy here, but this is from 1980 so we can let that slide. This album's unique sound helped make Iron Maiden easily distinguishable from the other NWOBHM bands of the time.
There is a good variety of songs here, you've got your fast stuff, your mid paced stuff, and your slow stuff. "Prowler", my personal favorite "Sanctuary" which is about running from the police, and "Iron Maiden" are good examples of faster songs, "Prowler" has some of the catchiest riffs ever to be used in an Iron Maiden song, and is one of the heavier songs on here. The very galloping "Running Free" is mid paced and the lyrical content is quite rebellious. "Remember Tomorrow" and "Strange World" are slow and mellow with a melodic sound, but are still good. Paul also sings more softly on these songs. "Charlotte The Harlot" which appears to be a catchy song about a prostitute, the cool instrumental "Transylvania", and "Phantom Of The Opera" have a lot of changes in pace. They can be going fast and then suddenly be mellow. "Charlotte The Harlot" is a speedy number but has a couple of melodic breakdowns. "Phantom Of The Opera" is also speedy but has some creepy riffs thrown in here and there, especially in the beginning.
This is a good Iron Maiden album to start off with. If you prefer Bruce Dickinson as a singer then Paul Di'Anno may be an acquired taste. This is a different Iron Maiden after all. But I would still recommend this album for the music alone. There's a reason this is a classic. Go check it out.
First impressions are important, and I can only imagine how much they accomplished for Iron Maiden when they released their 1980, self-titled debut, the first mile marker on a long, fast paced marathon straight to the very summit of metal music and worldwide notoriety. This was unfortunately not my own first exposure to the band, as I hitched a ride on the wagon with Killers and then had to listen back. I don't enjoy it quite so much as its successor, since that album simply kicked my ass a lot harder in the long run, but there are a number of tracks here which are nearly impossible to shake out of the memory. At the very least, the firm roots were planted which would blossom into the steel fruits of the next three decades, and beyond...
Iron Maiden is notable as the only album in which the original lineup is over 50% different than the current roster, and to think...the band had a fair number of vocalists, guitarists and drummers before this one even took shape. Paul Di'anno and Clive Burr would go on to the sophomore album Killers, and Burr to The Number of the Beast, but this is the only studio album to feature Dennis Stratton on guitar alongside Dave Murray and Steve Harris (the two remaining 'original' members today). This is also perhaps the album which most matches the 'NWOBHM' motif that many of the band's peers were exploring, a very 70s vibe which comes as no surprise since some of the songs were written in that timeframe. It's not entirely heavy (none of their albums are), and several tracks maintain a somewhat psychedelic vibe, but that's actually one of the things I enjoy most about the album.
"Prowler" is the first at bat, a steady rocker that belongs at the heart of any Western 80s metropolis, as the ladies of the night and their admirers stalk the seedy city streets and the hard bite of the chords shuffles on, erupted by the forceful melodies that pick up the pace. Perhaps the best part of the song is the wild bridge at 1:47, where the guitars burn off like a brand against the mind and the solo explodes like a supernova. "Remember Tomorrow" feels like the Iron Maiden answer to "White Rabbit", with a psychedelic slur to the bass and a gently bouncing rhythm that bristles at the edges with its slight guitar shudders, only to transform at the 2:00 mark into a powerful stretch of chords that mirror other NWOBHM bands like Angel Witch. When all and said is done, this is one of my favorite tracks on the album, memorable and covering a wide spread of emotional impact. But "Running Free" is one of the most recognizable, due to the steady splash of the drums and the wonderfully delivered chorus line. There's a reason this song has been a live standard ever since...it's the type of sentiment that can seek out relation far wider than the band's core metalhead, hard rocker fanbase.
"Phantom of the Opera" is the 'epic' of this debut album, at about 7 minutes long, so not quite as involved as some of their sprawling, later tracks. It's tightly controlled, with mesmerizing, spry, memorable acrobatics on the guitars and a fantastic bridge laden in even further melodic musings, before returning to its savage final verse. The instrumental "Transilvania" features some killer speed metal before the drum beat enters to marry the slower, thundering pace of the pre-verse, which feels half like a pirate shanty. Another of the timeless classics of this album, it features the most intense guitar exchanges and Steve Harris losing his mind on tape. "Strange World" is by far the most psychedelically charged song in the Iron Maiden discography, like the band were jamming to some lost Pink Floyd cycle but incorporating the shimmering melodies of the metal guitars.
I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of "Charlotte the Harlot", it's not that the ballsy blues metal atmosphere bothers me, simply that the riffs do very little for me. But regardless, it's got some intensive drumming and a shuffle to it that feels similar to several of the tracks the band would later release on Killers. The band's namesake "Iron Maiden" stands alongside "Running Free" as one of the tracks here that the band will simply not forsake, having played it in their regular live set for 30 years. It's not my personal favorite, but certainly infectious, with fun little melodies that launch out of the chorus and delightful bridge melodies. I should also mention "Sanctuary", which may not have been included on the original release of the album, but has been a part of so many subsequent re-issues that it deserves a spot here, a fun and firm fusion of Maiden heresy and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" with some wailing solos and busy bass.
Clearly the start of something beautiful, much of Iron Maiden holds up well to this day, though not so much as the crushing followup Killers. There are fans out there who still rank this as the band's finest hour. But, the rose-tinted goggles of nostalgia aside, it does not fully represent to me the characteristics of the band's best work, which would arrive in spades over the next 5 full-length efforts. I don't often find myself going out for a "Charlotte the Harlot" or "Sanctuary", and though "Strange World" is peachy, it feels to me like some other band. Still, the performance of the original members Stratton and Burr is strong here, and Di'anno's tones sound natural with the more 70s hard rock and psychedelic foundation that permeates about half the album. It's an important album, and a very good album, critical in helping to usher on the onslaught of 80s metal evolution and its many hydra-headed revolutions and sub-genres, but I honestly feel the band has surpassed this many times over.
Highlights: Remember Tomorrow, Running Free, Phantom of the Opera, Transilvania
The one thing that always sticks out for me about this album is the way it is generally regarded by most Maiden fans and also metal fans in general: It's a decent start for one of the world's greatest and most influential heavy metal bands, but lacking something in comparison to their later 80's works.
It's a ridiculous attitude that unfortunately has been passed down by generation upon generation of Maiden fans, which is mostly related to one thing: Bruce Dickinson doesn't sing on the debut or Killers. And according to these people, due to the lack of Dickinson both albums are inferior to Number Of The Beast and everything after that up until Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Which is a disgraceful, insulting, and idiotic manner of thinking that shows very little respect for what Iron Maiden really are. People who think this way are forgetting that while The Number Of The Beast was indeed Maiden's breakthrough album, without the first two albums the band would never have achieved the popularity they needed in order to truly "push ahead", as it were, with NOTB. They complain about Paul Di'Anno's singing, saying it pales in comparison to Bruce's operatic vocals, and often label it "too punky". Newsflash: Maiden's early stuff WAS actually influenced by punk, even though was hardly just punk rock - it was something special, different, unique; something that changed the heavy metal scene as we knew it forever, and led to thrash and thus by extension death and black metal too, and of course speed and power metal(it is true that Maiden's later 80's records admittedly did have more of an influence on those scenes). So when people criticise those records for their sound they should keep in mind just how influential the debut and Killers were, and that Paul's voice and style of singing, no matter how much less "operatic" and "soaring" than Bruce's, was also perfectly suited to the way Iron Maiden and Killers sound. Which is also something very interesting and at the time unique: the amalgamation of heavy metal with punk, plus some rock influences, and a very gritty, harsh, dirty, and raw sound that is very unlike Maiden would ever sound again. Even Killers, despite being perhaps more punk influenced than the debut, was definitely lacking something in the rawness department.
Long rant aside, it's that same rawness, grittiness, and realistic, urban kind of lyrical darkness and seediness that draws me back to this album time and time again. It's what makes it special and one of its greatest strengths. That's not to say that it has no weaknesses at all, though; while I am frequently disgusted by the lack of respect for Maiden's first two records in comparison to the five that followed(I'm looking especially hard at you, Powerslave, and at you, Number Of The Beast), I won't deny that Maiden were indeed less experienced songwriters at this point, and that a few moments of astounding compositional genius aside, are also far less progressive than they would become. Again, however, that's another part of the album's appeal: it's not only raw, dirty, and gritty - just like its subject matter, which deals mostly with the kind of shit that goes on in the decrepit alleys and deserted, rundown, slummy areas of London and other major cities(reflected brilliantly in the simple but awesome cover, which creates an incredible atmosphere all by itself), but also filled with youthful energy and vitality, a desire to go out there and do something special, and a completely unpretentious nature that only makes me respect it even more. One thing I absolutely despise is pretension, and in the case of musicians, it's people who are usually inferior to others trying to prove they are better than they really are, and showing themselves up as arrogant, self-righteous and utterly fake and pathetic assholes in the process. And one of the most amazing things about Iron Maiden's debut is that even its most progressive songs(Phantom Of The Opera and Remember Tomorrow)never seem remotely pretentious, even for a second. They are utterly genuine, not to mention extremely well written and fantastic anyway.
That elusive, often dark and frequently seedy and decrepit atmosphere created by the music which is completely fitting to both the artwork and the lyrics is one of my favourite aspects to this album, and again, it only completely rings true here. Killers still had it but was a little too cleanly produced to give that truly gritty feel(which is also characteristic of a lot of early NWOBHM, I admit, although I still think Maiden did it best). Number Of The Beast had it in places but that album was more of a stepping stone between this one and Killers and everything that came afterwards. I love albums that evoke not only a lot of feeling but also a great sense of time, location, and mood, and this is one of the best pre-thrash records I've heard that gives off a truly harsh urban feel. Sure it's upbeat a lot of the time, but it also has plenty of slower moments. The band shines equally in both, the best examples of the former being Prowler, Running Free and the title track, the best examples of the latter being Remember Tomorrow and Strange World(and to some degree Transylvania), and Phantom Of The Opera and Charlotte The Harlot showing the band's ability to combine speed and aggression with mood and feeling equally brilliantly.
Whoa...I just mentioned every song on the album there! Well, that just goes to show how great this album truly is: it has only one real weak point, that being the bonus song "Sanctuary" which, not coincidentally, is the only song on the debut I didn't mention in the previous paragraph, for a good reason. While not a bad song in and out of itself it's extremely forgettable in comparison to all of the other songs, which is not a good thing for any Iron Maiden song. One of Maiden's greatest strengths(and another reason why they are so popular, in a good way)is their ability to write songs that are not only catchy but also very memorable. "Sanctuary" isn't either, unfortunately.
Another thing worth mentioning here, which I also touched upon earlier, is Paul Di'Anno's vocals, and how this ties in with the album's completely down to earth and unpretentious nature. He really adds to the already intense and amazing atmosphere created by the instruments, lyrics, and cover art, because his voice is so fitting to what he is singing about that it's almost uncanny. As good as Bruce is, I cannot imagine these songs ever having such a powerful atmosphere without Di'Anno. The grittiness of his voice prevents any descents into the over the top and corny territory that some of Maiden's later 80's stuff would sadly be plagued with, which unfortunately also led to power metal often sounding really corny, dumb, and yet again fucking pretentious because they took what Bruce did literally and expanded it to even more cartoonish extremes. Sorry, but for my money there is only one man in the world who absolutely never sounds pretentious no matter what he sings about or how over the top he goes. That man is the metal god, Rob Halford of Judas Priest. Iron Maiden never had a singer who quite reached his calibre and nor did any power metal band. Bruce, for all of his own excellence in that more operatic style of singing(which was also a big influence on power metal), wasn't capable of always sounding unpretentious and completely genuine. Di'Anno was, and the Maiden records he sung on also didn't really possess any of those "qualities"(yes, I do mean that in a mostly negative sense)to begin with, and thus none of that crap was ever an issue prior to Number Of The Beast.
But I digress. This is a fucking masterpiece of an album, the beginning of one of the best heavy metal bands ever, and incredibly influential in ways that are still being felt even today. Judas Priest's late 70's records(and a lot of their 80's stuff, too, but especially their 70's stuff)are often said to have hugely influenced speed metal, particularly Stained Class, and equally, I would say Iron Maiden's debut influenced thrash due to its tempos and punk influence. Thrash, as anyone with a decent understanding and knowledge of music knows, was created by combining the heaviness of metal with the speed and aggression of the hardcore punk scene. But I would say that the genre's pioneers(Exodus, Slayer, Metallica, etc)were also influenced by what Iron Maiden did, which was combining heavy metal with some elements of punk rock. Judas Priest's British Steel is often considered to be one of the defining albums of heavy metal as a whole, and part of its legacy is that it stripped down the blues influences of metal and focused more on pure heaviness. Iron Maiden's debut, while perhaps not so obviously sounding as much like one would imagine pure heavy metal to sound like as either the aforementioned Priest record or their own monumental third album two years later, was undoubtedly just as influential as British Steel in its own way; it also stripped down the blues element of metal to almost nothing, but by adding the tempos and some of the sound of punk rock to heavy guitar riffing and finishing it all off beautifully with fantastic songwriting and exuberant energy, it has rightfully earned its place as one of the most important albums in the entire history of the genre. And yet it is still underrated in comparison to Number Of The Beast, even though it was first and thus probably more, not less influential, simply because the majority of fans consider its songs to be of lower quality, the guitar tone doesn't sound quite as heavy, and Paul sings on it instead of Bruce.
And things like this are the reason why I rarely pay that much attention to how well an album is regarded by the metal mainstream. Iron Maiden's debut album is one of the cornerstones of heavy fucking metal, and nothing less than that. For any and every metalhead, owning this album is absolutely mandatory, both as a piece of metal history and as a fucking awesome masterwork of heavy music. Nothing less than essential.
Now of the early Maiden albums this is by far the worst. It’s sloppy, has a very amateurish sound, and has this unappealing attitude to my ears. I’ll give them the praise of highly melodic solos that sometimes sound improvised (in a good way) and the riffs themselves are catchy, but the rest needs work. The members at the time no doubt knew what kind of music they wanted to play. Di’Anno has a terrible range when compared to Dickinson; his singing is clear, raucous, and more personal than Dickinson’s. You don’t get the same kind of arena vocals that will soar over thousands upon thousands of fans crammed in a stadium. Upon first listen his voice sounded like crap when compared to Killers, but only as I kept coming back to this did I find that he just sounds unfocused and thus off key. His performance is in no way standout like it would be on the next album, which is a damn shame because the songs could use a leader to follow.
The first few tracks on this album really paint a grim picture. Maybe I’m not in the right “mindset” or “mood,” but I felt no connection with these songs. I could feel the dark tendencies brooding in the air when hearing “Remember Tomorrow,” and when “Running Free” galloped on through the mist I felt the jazzy vibe kick in. The chill factor went up and Di’Anno’s started to grasp his routine better than before. However, the moment was short-lived and the song pretty much ran it’s course. It ended up going nowhere fast and left me with little to take back. Drumming is highly forgettable since all the attention is focused on the leads. They’re aggressive and sound great since production surprisingly didn’t hamper their vibration pitch, but as you can see they’re the last things I noticed when it came to these songs.
Again I must compare this album to Killers, which is superior in every way. That album had a theme, personality, charm, focused vocals, and really just better riffs. The songs here, although inspiring, have no defining traits or class. The only songs I can say that go above these claims are the three that follow. With “Phantom Of The Opera” the songwriting is spot on with contagiously melodic leads, a captivating bridge, and that distinct Maiden progressiveness that wipes the floor in the blues, psychedelic, and doom departments. Thankfully it wasn’t alone in this endeavor, for the succeeding instrumental “Transylvania” resurrected this persona and played around with it jovially. It definitely has a sloppy, albeit charismatic, sound.
Guitars are pretty mixed here, with everything before “Phantom Of The Opera” sounding like insistent drivel with no standout style. I guess the first few songs just didn’t utilize their potential all too well, which explains why they really suck hard. Murray and Stratton play lively with thrills and frills when required, dipping into an emotional side here and there. “Strange World” puts me in this spell when listening to it – I’m entranced by the fat bass, which plays a huge role in Maiden songs as it always is heard alongside the guitars. It grumbles along in the grumpiest of moods ala Geezer Butler's grooves in Black Sabbath.
This is not an impressive start. “Phantom Of The Opera,” “Transylvania,” and “Strange World” are the only great songs off this. Iron Maiden is a pretty mediocre album with some hope attached. Killers will always be the superior of the Di’Anno albums, but I can’t really blame Maiden. They just came out of their gig days of the late 1970s and this is the kind of wild shit they were used to playing. Killers would aid in refining the best of it.
It is pretty safe to say that the Iron Maiden that released their debut in 1980 is quite different than the more famous version that would come in just a few short years. Fronted by the infamous Paul Di’Anno, this Iron Maiden is more raw, angry, and hungry than the one that most listeners are familiar with. This album is particularly notable for being the only album to feature guitarist Dennis Stratton and producer Will Malone.
Musically, this album’s songs can all be grouped as being almost punky rockers, more progressive borderline epics, and even a few atmospheric ballad tracks. "Prowler" opens the album with some sleazy guitar playing and sleazier lyrics. "Remember Tomorrow" is a somber ballad that features a melodic vocal performance and some cool heavy/soft constrasts. "Running Free" is a bluesy mid-tempo tune with a bouncy rhythm section performance and fun vocals. "The Phantom of the Opera" finishes the first side off with some fast paced vocal/guitar trade-offs that soon go into a more melodic bridge that then leads into some excellently played twin guitar solos.
The instrumental "Transylvania" proceeds to open the album’s second side with plenty of great guitar riffs. "Strange World" is another ballad in the vein of "Remember Tomorrow" with its somber vocals and spacy Pink Floydesque guitar pings. "Charlotte the Harlot" is another straightforward rocker with a gritty chorus and a melodic bridge. The title track closes the album out with catchy twin guitar wails and a strong (though somewhat repetitive) chorus. In short, every song is nicely done and there isn’t a filler track to be heard. The 1998 remaster also includes "Sanctuary," a catchy single with a bouncy main riff, a great sing-along chorus, and mock sirens during the solo section.
The band’s performance is also pretty strong. Stratton and longtime member Dave Murray put out plenty of great riffs and solos, Steve Harris’s bass is always audible and up to the IM standard, Clive Burr provides a solid foundation, and Di’Anno makes up for his limited range with charisma and a gritty attitude. In fact, the latter member may be the only flaw in the line-up. He’s a great singer but he may be an acquired taste for fans more used to the cleaner ways of Bruce Dickinson. . .
Iron Maiden would go on to do even greater things, but this is a most ambitious start.
1) Excellent guitars, great rhythm section, and charismatic vocals
2) Great songwriting and variety
3) Not a filler to be found
1) May be a little too punky for some fans
2) Di’Anno is an acquired taste
My Current Favorites:
"Prowler," "Remember Tomorrow," "Running Free," "Phantom of the Opera," and "Charlotte the Harlot"
Since I've only recently "discovered" Iron Maiden (shortly after discovering this site), I thought it would be an interesting experiment to listen to all of their albums in order. I've already reviewed their most recent album, A Matter of Life and Death, and so now I'm going back to the beginning: the eponymous Iron Maiden.
Listening to this album is kind of like listening to early Deep Purple: many of the renowned elements are in place, but they haven't yet added the elements that would make them great. Basically, seen on its own merits, this is a good album. The guitar work is great, the blistering riffs, the changes in tempo and meter, the dark atmosphere. The most noticeable thing, knowing what Iron Maiden would later become, is the vocals. The main element that made me take notice of Iron Maiden in the first place, Bruce Dickinson's amazing voice, was not yet a part of the Iron Maiden sound. Not that Paul Di'Anno's voice is bad. He's a capable lead singer, but he tends to be overshadowed by the excellent guitar work. Once again, the parallel to Purple is inescapable. I wonder what it would be like to have heard this album before all the other ones. Did the early Iron Maiden fans welcome Bruce Dickinson into the fold, or did they regret the loss of Di'Anno?
There are certainly some standout tracks here, "Phantom of the Opera" being one of the most notable, perhaps. "Charlotte the Harlot" must have struck a chord among Maiden fans, too, as it became so legendary. Listening to it today, I was struck by the almost prog rock sound of the track: lots of meter changes, with the drums playing the same rhythms as the vocal line. Sadly for Paul Di'Anno, I think "Charlotte the Harlot" most exposes the weakness of his voice. But you gotta LOVE the guitar work in that tune. And I personally really enjoy the different levels of "Remember Tomorrow." There is also some very fine guitar work on the track "Transylvania." The track entitled "Iron Maiden" reminds me quite a bit of "Speed King," by Deep Purple (without the organ). Fast and energetic, it also suffers from substandard vocals by Di'Anno.
I guess you have to appreciate the success of these early albums, which apparently worked well enough to lead to the later glory of the Iron Maiden, while being thankful that the band realized what they needed to adjust to reach their potential. I think we can safely say that, if Paul Di'Anno had remained in the group, it would have been difficult (if not impossible) for them to become the Iron Maiden we know and love. I probably won't listen to this album nearly as much as I will many of their others, but it's still an enlightening experience.
Iron Maiden is one of the few bands that can boast an entire decade’s worth of quality material – the only other bands that come to mind are Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. And all legacies have to start somewhere; for Maiden, it’s their 1980 debut. NWOBHM to the core, yet harboring subtle tendencies for something radically new and different (which the band would realize once they acquired the legendary Dickinson), this album takes what was an established genre and raises it to an entirely unprecedented level. From the raw, gritty production to Derek Riggs’s phenomenal cover art, Iron Maiden’s eponymous offering unrelentingly bores “metal” into your psyche like a drill.
There’s a ton to like here, whether it be the straightforward, headbang-worthy rockers, the progressive epics or (surprise, surprise!) the moody ballads. The band takes no prisoners with constant yet varied barrages of musical domination. The guitars drip with steely power, Harris defiantly flaunts his unique bass prowess, and the underrated Clive Burr does much more than simply keep the beat. At the forefront is Paul Di’Anno, proving himself a force to be reckoned with.
Songs like “Prowler” and “Running Free” abound with cool riffs and street-smart lyrics. Maiden are not content to stagnate into repetitiveness as so many other bands do, and so even these straightforward rockers vary quite a bit. The former includes tasteful wah-wah guitar (take that, Metallica!), a proto-Dickinson-era solo (which is inherently good) and subtle changes in tempo, while the latter contains a distinctive drum intro and the first example of Harris’s famous galloping bass – not to mention some of Di’Anno’s toughest vocals. That section in the middle where he shouts “break!” has to be one of the coolest things ever, something revisited in the later “Revelations” to great effect.
Again choosing to make their music more eclectic, Maiden balances the heavy rock with slower, more brooding numbers like “Remember Tomorrow.” It’s full of cryptic lyrics (apparently about Di’Anno’s father) delivered in a more sentimental way, proving Di’Anno is quite multitalented. The song plays with sections of heaviness up to its climax, where it explodes into something much more than your typical metal ballad, finally erupting into its famed bass-led outro. “Remember Tomorrow” ranks among the best songs Maiden ever did – no wonder Dickinson sang it at his audition!
Iron Maiden also shows progressive tendencies with the epic “Phantom of the Opera.” A precursor to later numbers such as “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” or “To Tame a Land,” it eschews the strictly heavy metal riffs for those of progressive rock (not a bad thing by any means.) The song is multi-layered with alternating heavy, soft, fast, and slow parts, yet again proving that Maiden will not cement themselves in one style. The long instrumental sections hint at those of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and Maiden’s other seven-plus-minute opuses.
Following Maiden’s number-one track is their longest instrumental, “Transylvania.” It sounds less like an instrumental in the vein of “The Ides of March” or “Genghis Khan” in that it rather resembles a section in one of Maiden’s longer works, containing multiple parts and several guitar solos, in sections highlighting each instrument. The album is rounded out with a couple more rockish tunes, not quite up to the level of the aforementioned “Prowler” and “Running Free” but still drenched in quality.
It’s not quite the most famous or the best thing Maiden’s ever done (those honors go to The Number of the Beast and Killers, respectively), but it’s a highly respectable first step. Trailing behind only its follow-up in innovation and variation, it’s the important beginning of Maiden’s storied career – and Maiden would only get better as time went on.
“Iron Maiden” is the first studio album by the respective metal legends. Noticeably different from what came after, the first album was seriously NWOBHM. It has a very raw production and lacks the fantasy lyrical themes of later releases. Also worth mentioning is Paul Di’Anno and his more punk-like style of singing. Pretty much, if you haven’t heard this album, but have heard their later material, do not expect the same thing!
Put simply, this sounds like a more rough and raw version of Maiden. I must say that this album’s sound really reminds me of Eddie’s environment on the cover; London’s slums at night. All the guitars have that distorted, screechy, sound to them (Even in ballads), and the vocals sound more gruff. The band wrote two ballads along with some ballad-like sections for this album, so expect some slow stuff. It is nice that this had a good deal of ballads, as you will probably find that raw production and dark atmospheres really work well with them. Looking at the cover, you’ll likely notice Eddy’s odd design. Comparing this Eddy to modern Eddy is just like comparing this album to say, Powerslave; different, but in a cool way. (Keep all of this in mind as you read the song reviews.) Also some of the band’s most catchy choruses are here including Charlotte the Harlot, (“Charlotte the Harlot, show me your legs! Charlotte the Harlot, take me to bed!”) and the title track. (“Oh well! Wherever… wherever you are! Iron Maiden… is gonna get you! No matter how far!”) If singing along is your thing, check this out now!. If amazing heavy metal is your thing, yes, you should also check this out! Maiden’s debut is the ultimate album to turn on and shout, hell yeah! Simply put, I’d call this Maiden’s most bad-ass release thus far.
The band does quite well here. First let us talk about Di’Anno. His vocals are rather inconsistent on some tracks, yet still get the job done as they always fit. He sounds the best on the ballads, Prowler, Iron Maiden, and Phantom of the Opera. He manages some very catchy singing at times, but during some verses, he sounds like a bad Lemmy impression. (Motorhead guy) This is why Running Free and Sanctuary suffer. Ultimately, Di’Anno sounds better on “Killers”, but he has some amazing moments here. Dennis Stratton and Dave Murray are a great guitar duo. It would be interesting to see where this may have gone, if Stratton stayed with the band. Clive Burr is a nice heavy drummer, very fit for this album. Steve Harris is very prominent here and has a bit of bass soloing to keep things moving. Steve also contributed the majority of the songwriting, so he did very well with that as well. I’ll go track by track from here, so read if you wish.
First up is Prowler, a classic by all means. The song begins with some catchy verses and a slightly distorted guitar riff, but soon quiets down with some darker guitar that quickly turns a powerful solo. This solo is rather varied, with some long notes, standard soloing, and a little tremolo at the end. The song then ends similar to the way it began. Di’Anno sounds awesome here and matches the instrumentation perfectly. This is a great Maiden song to headbang to, especially in that kick-ass solo. The bonus track, Sanctuary has three sections; each one lasting a little over a minute. Summed up, it’s like this: Minute one: Bland verses and singing with very average instrumentals. Minute two: Wild and tough solo. Minute three: A mix of bland verses and cool special effects (Police sirens and some vocal effects). Overall it’s a decent Maiden song. There are some great parts, but a lot of repetitive lyrics bring it down. Remember Tomorrow is a rather good ballad. It largely consists of slow and quite sections that build up into heavier sections, and repeat. There are some good solos and a heavy, powerful ending.
Running Free is… bleh. It’s pretty much a collection of weak verses, but It has some good moments (mainly Di’Anno’s screams) and fun drumming. Easily the worst song here. Phantom of the Opera, on the other hand is beyond amazing! The first two minutes of Phantom is mainly singing, which consists of Di’Anno singing as if he were in a theater, and operatic singing with the band following Di’Anno’s lead. The next four minutes consist of emotional solos, some slightly Middle Eastern guitar work, standard solos, and many other instrumental passages; very progressive. The last minute proceeds to return to the format present at the beginning. This will take many listens before you fully grasp it, especially considering that I forgot most of it already after five minutes.
Transylvania is probably Iron Maiden’s best instrumental. (Genghis gives it big competition) The song has an adventurous beat early on before speeding up greatly little over a third through. It features many very NWOBHM solos (wild, a tad distorted etc.) and ends with a more acoustic passage… that connects into the next song Strange World. Strange World has the acoustics from Transylvania’s end playing in the backround the whole time with some nice melodic singing from Di’Anno. It also includes two emotional, yet still very NWOBHM solos. All in all, it’s one of Maiden’s best ballads. Charlotte the Harlot begins as a catchy song with plenty of sexual innuendo, but slows down to a ballad-like section. After some improved “clear” singing by Di’Anno, Burr initiates a rapid drum buildup into a solo and outro. (It ends the same way it began very much like Phantom and Prowler) A very well written song; Murray should write more often! Lastly, the title track I guess can be classified as the band’s “theme song”; good, idea because the song is almost as catchy as the later 2 Minutes to Midnight. The band’s performance on this song is incredible, containing crazy screams from Di’Anno, powerful drumming by Burr, and even a short little bass solo by Harris; awesome! Also can’t forget the very memorable guitar riff that is very prominent on this song.
-Middle of Phantom of the Opera
-Middle of Prowler
-Chorus in Iron Maiden
If you like heavy metal, feel free to buy this album. I would call it unnecessary to download beforehand, unless you’re not actually familiar with heavy metal. This is an absolute classic, more so than Number of the Beast, and is a rather essential listen. Iron Maiden’s path of glory started here, and would continue to produce some of the most amazing heavy metal works of all time.
Author's note: Yeah, this review turned out to be much longer and a little more pretentious than I had originally intended, so if you're looking for a review that succinctly describes the music and tells you whether or not you should go buy the album, well, there are plenty of others on the site. If you've already heard the album a million times and want some insight into why it's a classic (beyond "it's, uh...really good, George!"), I try to give some, so read on. Also, the penultimate paragraph contains generalizations for the sake of a point (and brevity), so all you types who like to find exceptions can keep them. Anyway, on with the review.
Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden! What hasn't been said about Iron Maiden? Easily the most well-known and important band of the NWOBHM movement, and consequently one of the most well-known and important bands in all of metal, their impact on the genre is so great that it's all but impossible to imagine it without them. The paltry few that came before, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath the best-known of those, could still be considered a part of rock & roll, and indeed today might still be if not for NWOBHM and Iron Maiden. To me, that particular movement with that particular band perched at its prow like a figurehead represent the birth of Heavy Fucking Metal; not just as an idea or tentative theory or passing trend, but as a full-fledged genre, an important subculture, a force to be reckoned with.
After reading that last paragraph some of you may be wondering how I could give an album I recognize as being so important anything but the highest of scores; it's undeniable that they influenced a shitload of people (fans and bands alike), and left their permanent print on the genre so that it would be impossible to imagine metal without Iron Fucking Maiden. Even if a band sounds nothing like them, you can bet that band was aware of Iron Maiden, and so even the decision to not be like Iron Maiden is still influenced by them in a way. I mean, how in the hell did Iron Maiden do all that? What was so special about them? Obviously something has to be, as it's clearly more than just a case of being at the right place at the right time, though they certainly were. However, despite all that historical significance and subsequent influence, in an album review the album must be judged on its own merits and no others. For much of the album, Iron Maiden's genius shines through like a beacon, lighting metal's way to the future; but occasionally they clearly fall short of that. After all, they're only human, and as with all genre pioneers they were stumbling around in the dark; no one had done this before, so they had only their own mistakes to learn from.
Iron Maiden's brand of NWOBHM is at its best deadly serious and aggressive, eschewing rock's penchant for fun in favor of a dark, violent tone; still, the band takes a more musically sophisticated approach to composition, which separates them from their peers. Steve Harris apparently composed the bass parts first and then worked the riffs up around them, which may contribute to the band's unorthodox, bouncy sound, even when compared to similar bands like Diamond Head or Angel Witch. Also, at times the bass and guitars play close three-part harmonies, as with the opening melody on the title track; I think it's fair to say Iron Maiden invented or at least popularized the oft-imitated NWOBHM dual-guitar lead (the idea of counterpoint in a metal context? Quite possibly). It's certainly true I've never heard anything quite like that bit of instrumental magic in "Phantom of the Opera", and I can only imagine how it must've dropped jaws back then. Really, though, what I get from Iron Maiden is a kind of violence that I haven't heard in the metal that came before them. Sure, Black Sabbath were morose, but to me it seems they sang more about violence and evil than actually epitomized it themselves; the immortal "Black Sabbath" is from the perspective of someone being chased by that ominous figure in black, rather than the other way around. Judas Priest on the other hand were violent, sure, but songs like "Genocide" or "The Ripper" are still slick and clean, as if you're watching a high-budget movie version of violence rather than experiencing it yourself. Iron Maiden, however, put you right there in the rough, gritty midst of things with songs like "Prowler". Thematically speaking it's practically identical to "The Ripper", but compare the lyrics: both are from the perspective of their respective murderous protagonists, but while "The Ripper" is narrated in a fairly straightforward, almost gentlemanly manner, "Prowler" is told using barely coherent stream-of-consciousness rambling, as if you're inside the prowler's head and hearing his repulsive thoughts as he's stalking his victim ("Got me feeling myself and reeling around"), with a much more chilling result. The lead guitars and bass build on the riffs in classic Iron Maiden fashion, practically never staying still; with so many parts going on at once, it lends the song the illusion of barely-controlled chaos which again serves to heighten that violent and gritty tone. Overall, "Prowler" is a quintessential Di'Anno-era song, one of my all-time favorites from the band. The title track is also in this vein, and it's fucking awesome too. The way the main melody builds up with the first guitar entering, then the second, and finally the bass completing it is just fantastic. The chorus is a little disconcertingly upbeat, but it's fun and doesn't ruin the atmosphere, so whatever. I'm going to group the tracks based on similarity rather than album order, so bear with me.
Unfortunately "Sanctuary" is nowhere near as good; it's an upbeat, forgettable rock song with a mediocre main riff made all the worse through extreme over-repetition. Some instrumental parts partially mitigate its sucking, but frankly it displays pretty much none of the elements that make the previous songs so good. It's listenable, but barely. Guess it figures it was a single. And I know it wasn't on the original album, but it has appeared as track 2 on Iron Maiden for over ten years now, so I think it might as well be considered an official part of it (if you're really anal about it not counting, pretend I scored the album higher). "Running Free" is rockish and banal too, though better than "Sanctuary". Yeah, it's the other single. It has some cool dual-guitar leads, and a nice middle section, but that main riff is pretty fucking annoying (not as bad as the one in "Sanctuary", though). These two tracks definitely drag the album down, not because they're incredibly awful, but because they're common, mundane, mortal. On an album like this, they simply don't belong.
"Remember Tomorrow" is amazing; a slow, haunting ballad that occasionally bursts into heaviness during the chorus, and eventually explodes into a fast, upbeat section which totally clashes with the previous mood. However, that dissidence is calculated, and the upbeat mood descends by degrees back towards a final collapse into the morose, resigned, almost doomy atmosphere of the initial sections. It's a little crude, but definitely effective. "The all-seeing eye flickers above us," that bit is fucking chilling. This song also illustrates one aspect in which the Di'Anno era is far superior to the Dickinson era; read the lyrics, you won't have much of a fucking idea about what's going on. Vague and dreamlike events are described and statements are made in an almost impressionistic manner, but it leaves their interpretation more or less up to the imagination; Dickinsonian lyrics however too often read like book reports, with as many factoids as possible crammed into the allotted time. If only they'd written more songs like "Children of the Damned" than "Alexander the Great" with Brucey Bruce! "Strange World" is also somewhat in this vein, except instead of a power ballad it's just a plain ol' ballad. Still, it crafts a strong atmosphere not unlike the soft parts in "Remember Tomorrow", except less dark and more languid and floating. Di'Anno here shows us a rare glimpse of his softer side, singing serenely of what seems to be a dreamworld or perhaps a calm drug trip. The undertones however are rather darker, with the implication in the lyrics being that the protagonist is escaping the shit of his real life within his mind, reminding me somewhat of "Beyond the Realms of Death", but from a different perspective.
"Transylvania" is the first of the signature Iron Maiden instrumentals, and it's quite good. Harris hops around on his bass quite a bit, and the dual-guitar parts are excellent, the solos too. The problem with this one, though, is that I really think it would've sounded better as a song. While I'm certainly no songwriter, I can easily imagine Di'Anno singing over top of certain parts, and why not? He's a great singer, seems a rather odd choice to not include him where he could easily fit. On "The Ides of March" from their next album it wouldn't make sense to include him as it's under two minutes long, just a quick sketch, but "Transylvania" is over four. Oh well, it's still good. "Charlotte the Harlot" is rather upbeat, but much more complex than "Sanctuary" or "Running Free". It's fun, though a little weak at first; still, the dark interlude and subsequent high-octane buildup back to the main theme are fantastic. I'd rate "Transylvania" and "Charlotte the Harlot" in the middle of the pack for this album; quite good, but not quite great.
"Phantom of the Opera" is a fucking classic and deserving of said status. No two ways about it, and anyone who tells you different is a liar or a fool. The aggressive, unsettling mood of the verses and chorus serves to build up to the sweeping, epic bridge which is, simply put, one of the finest moments in all of metal.
Heavy metal has never been about trying to express great truths through precise logic or methodical argumentation; rather, it attacks these truths head-on, on a visceral emotional level. Blunt force trauma, rather than surgical strikes. The genre doesn't seek through years of education or meditation to lay these truths bare for our inspection by translating them into a language everyone can understand; rather, the musicians just transmute their deep emotional responses directly into music, without often letting pesky left-brain interference seep in. This is why most of the great metal singers are far from talented in a classical sense; could you imagine Dio, Halford, Dickinson, or Di'Anno singing opera? Certainly not, as they go for a raw, emotional approach, as had been common in rock & roll for decades. Compare that to highly regimented, disciplined composers of the past, like JS Bach; his fugues are practically mathematical equations, where you plug in a melody or two and extrapolate them and their permutations to their logical conclusions. The beauty is in the symmetry, like a balanced checkbook or a perfect sphere; a left-brained, Apollonian ideal, with a result that can be analyzed and dissected without losing its essential character. My dad for example loved taking out the sheet music for The Well-Tempered Clavier and going through the fugues, following all the different voices with multicolored markers, cataloging the variations on the melodies, not to mention a whole host of other studies. If you tried something like that with metal, it would end laughably; compared on paper to Bach's counterpoint, the counterpoint of "Phantom of the Opera" or even some ultra-techwank metal band seems child's play. Of course it bears remembering that the harpsichord is an instrument almost wholly lacking dynamics and finesse which perhaps forced Bach to take counterpoint further than he would have otherwise (the organ suffers from similar problems, though not as pronounced), but that's not all there is to it. And just look at the sheer volume of Bach's compositions; it's staggering under any light, and when compared to how much quality material even the best of metal bands create over the course of their careers, the disparity becomes almost farcical. Clearly metal is of the Dionysian sort, and though the bands may assail Truth with hot passion, the light that burns bright burns fast. Such passion is unsustainable in the long run, for the vast majority.
Thus one of the great downfalls of metal is that many are unsatisfied with this, and seek to become something more Apollonian; to "intellectualize" metal, with the aim perhaps of being respected by their professors, admired in aristocratic society, becoming something logical and clean and objectively defensible and devoid of that nasty honest human sentiment that the irony-obsessed modern culture so loves to mock. In a sense, these misguided metalheads just want to have their cake and eat it too; metal cannot change so drastically without giving up its essential character. It is, at its core, modern folk music; music by metalheads for metalheads, most often composed by musicians without formal training and appreciated on a deep emotional level by those who are not completely at home in mainstream modern society. For some, metal is cathartic; for others, it is a call to action; and it's probably many more things to many more metalheads as well. Regardless, a unique subculture of sorts has sprung up around it. Can you imagine well-groomed ladies and gentlemen wearing evening gowns and tuxedos sitting politely in a concert hall listening to "Theme and Variations on Iron Maiden's 'Hallowed Be Thy Name'" as performed by the New York Philharmonic? Of course not; the mere thought is ludicrous. Jazz has already partially made that transition, but I cannot see metal going from hot to cool and surviving. That passion and violent energy are a part of its essential character; symbol-laden though the genre may be, it is basically a gut-level negative response to modern existence, and the morose realization that there are few alternatives, if any. That's where I believe Iron Maiden and their NWOBHM brethren were important; Black Sabbath perceived this darkness, this bleak but unalterable truth of reality, Judas Priest developed it a step further: what is "Beyond the Realms of Death", if not the epitome of what I've been talking about? If they are the mother and father, the first of the family to settle in a new country, then the NWOBHM bands are their children, the first raised with metal as their first language. These children possessed a youthful energy, something naive yet cynical, jaded yet hopeful, that I just don't detect in the bands that came before (at least not to the same degree); and this was a new component that is now essential to the overall character of metal. While certainly not the final step in the coalescing of the genre's defining traits, it was certainly a crucial step. Perhaps the most crucial of all.
That is one reason I am incredibly annoyed whenever I see people pointing out any kind of Iron Maiden influence in a later band as something significant and negative, as if every album that fails to reinvent the genre is somehow inferior. This is, of course, ridiculous; am I any less of a reviewer, because I write in English and not a language of my own invention? Though pioneering bands are obviously extremely important to the development of any genre, at the risk of over-generalization I will say that they rarely, if ever, exhibit the best their respective genres have to offer. After all, as pioneers they don't have the benefit of hindsight, and must explore by groping in the dark; Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Manowar, and many other such bands write great songs, but have far from perfect track records even on their best albums. Still, these bands are not mere historical curiosities on the path to progression either, as if they were steam trains or Model T Fords that have served their purposes and now belong in a museum; this attitude is just as odious as the reverse. Great art does not age poorly, and that is exactly what songs like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Remember Tomorrow" are. Of course the music of Iron Maiden is also more developed than that of their predecessors, but these advancements are incidental (as are all truly great advancements in technique). They simply sought to express themselves as best they could, and as they found the tools at their disposal lacking, they had to invent some new ones or new ways to use old ones. It is not the tools themselves or their invention that ultimately deserve the praise, but rather the creations that made the best use of them.
The self titled debut of 'Iron Maiden' marks the birth of a classic band and the first chapter in one of the most quality and consistent heavy metal discographies. The songwriting here is way more unique and varied than most of the NWOBHM bands of that time, it has these catchy and uncomplicated NWOBHM hymns among complex and long epics which gives this album a more interesting shade than everything else out there, this is a standout debut for real.
Something unusual in this album is the very simple constructed riffing, which sounds quite powerful, even for today. The last thing I'd say about the riffing is that it's ambitious, because it isn't, and that's makes wonder. The rhythm guitars mostly built of power chords without too much complexity and yet they sounds incredible. 'Prowler' for instance contains only three riffs or so, which has the same patterns and beats and contains only sole power chords, but the way it executed makes it sounds so intense and impressive. It has a second guitar which just repeats the vocals and make the song flow better, but the perfect timing of the dual guitar work it's what makes this song sounds one of a kind. If it's about the short and adventitious fills, the precise strumming, the catchy rhythm or the middle section which takes the song to another voyage and return it to the basic point, the structure of this song is amazing at the same level of it's simplicity. What I'm trying to say is that this album sounds outstanding without making any effort, it's just pure in it's cure and it doesn't need to strain itself to amaze you, it has something unexplained in it's simplicity which makes it sound unique.
'Sanctuary' is a very catchy song with very flowing rhythm and quite noticeable bass playing. The lead guitar is also great and varied, it's fast and harmonized and has a quite melodic vibe. 'Remember Tomorrow' is a semi ballad. It's verses are slow and melancholic and the chorus has the distorted guitars and heavier mood. The vocals are amazing, 'Paul Di'Anno' masters his voice easily and singing very emotional theme here. The middle section is awesome as well, pretty chaotic riffage and exploding solo which increases the atmosphere of this song way up. 'Phantom Of The Opera' is the epic of this album. Longer than the average length of the songs here and doesn't sounds boring for a moment. It has one of the catchiest riffs I've ever heard and it has a powerful, complex structure which progress excellently. The soloing however, is the jewel in the crown. Excellent orgasmic leading job and quite much dual guitar work here, this is a song that really impress you for the long range, one of the most memoreable classics of 'Maiden' and one of my favorites heavy metal songs ever.
The rest of the album is quality as well, not even one filler or dragging moment in this classic album. Iron Maiden's debut is absolutely one of a kind, their second album was impressive as well but it didn't had the same spirit, and of course that by 1982 this band sounded much different. Overall, 'Iron Maiden' is a classic album that really defines what classic heavy metal is with it's wide spectrum of colors and inventive mind. A must have for each metalhead!
Throughout my years of listening to metal, I have listened to many NWOBHM releases from both bands who released a single and split up and ones which would later become famous. The movement as a whole was one of the better ones which have happened in the Metal world, with a large percentage of the bands being worth listening to at least once, from the unknown basement bands to the bands at the forefront of it. Sure, a lot of it wasn't very original in a lot of cases and quite a few offered nothing new but the releases during that period were a great excuse to simply crank the stereo up and rock out.
Iron Maiden's debut, however, stands head and shoulders above the rest of the NWOBHM pack. There is something about this album which sets it apart from all other releases of the movement, and after listening to this album it is easy to see just how they became the metal staple they are today. There are few records from the NWOBHM movement which stand up to this, few that offer the same raw intensity, that contain soloing as impeccable as is seen on here, and have songwriting as effective and captivating.
If I were to sum up this album in one word, it would be 'energy'. The music on display here is chock full of it, coming from a young, energetic band which have finally, after existing for five years, established a solid lineup and recorded a debut. The music on here is very different to Dickinson -era Maiden. While the later records would be more polished with every note sounding like it was carefully put in place, this screams out from the underground with raw energy, not caring about the consequences. There is a much more prominent NWOBHM influence on here which they would later shed in favour of a more traditional Heavy Metal sound, and so it is unlike anything else they would later release with the exception of Killers.
The individual performances on here are great and each member of the band sound as if they are giving their all. Paul Di'Anno's voice is gruff and low, sounding quite similar to a punk rock vocalist. While he doesn't do any of the screams he would later employ on the follow up, his voice fits the songs perfectly and he performs them better than Dickinson ever has or will. The riffing on here is savage and unrestrained yet still containing a strong sense of melody and is mostly midpaced. The solos are excellent and put a large majority of ones seen on other Metal releases to shame. The bass mostly follows the guitar lines and while it is not as prominent as it would be on later releases it is still clearly audible, while the drums provide an effective rhythm.
As for the individual songs on here, there aren't really any bad ones. They range from straightforward metal tunes such as 'Prowler' and 'Running Free' to the ballads of the album, 'Remember Tomorrow' and 'Strange World', and an excellent instrumental is thrown in for good measure. But there is one song on here the puts nearly everything from the NWOBHM movement to shame, and that song is 'Phantom of the Opera'. Being the longest song on the album, it is an impeccable song and one of the best Maiden has ever written. Starting off with a short lived intro it then moves into a perfect fast paced galloping riff that the band is renowned for with catchy vocal lines over the top. Around the two minute mark it slows down into a simple yet effective bass line which leads into an amazing slow paced emotional solo. At 3:20, it speeds up a little with a twin guitar harmony which leads into a midpaced riff over which some more twin guitar soloing comes in. Finally, at 6:20 it returns to it's original pace and riff to finish off the song.
Steve Harris had to endure almost five years of constant lineup changes, playing in small clubs and generally not getting anywhere before a stable lineup was formed, and it is damn good that he did it. I can say with all honesty that this is one of the highlights not only of the whole NWOBHM movement, but also an album that stands up to the Heavy Metal genre as an early classic. As said before, one listen to this album confirms why Iron Maiden got where they are now, and this album is not only recommended, but highly essential to any respectable metal collection.
Of all the bands to emerge during the NWOBHM invasion, none have been more celebrated than the legendary Iron Maiden. Taking the frantic speed metal pace and dueling harmony leads even further than Judas Priest would, Maiden is consistently mentioned as a key influence by up and coming metal bands even to date. Though their debut is rawer and far less epic than the albums that would make them icons of the decade, it’s an essential chunk of NWOBHM history and a solid listen from start to finish.
Though the Di’anno led albums are essentially proto-incarnations of the band’s true sound, most of their signature elements were already established from the very beginning. Steve Harris’ mighty basswork already kept the band ahead of the pack, while his songwriting on here is pretty much flawless. The Dave Murray/Adrian Smith [edit: Dennis Straton actually filled the second guitar spot on this album. Adrian would not join on until after this album's release. Please excuse my ignorance] guitar duo was already ringing out brilliant solos and some of the finest harmony work seen at the turn of the decade. The epic bridge section in “Phantom of the Opera” is arguably the greatest display of their skill, not just on this album, but in comparison to even their most recent work. The band would become most notable for their faster songs (the speedy instrumental “Transylvania,” as well as the rock worthy “Running Free”), but their ability to perform well in a mellower situation is also established here. “Remember Tomorrow” is among their best ballads (with some of their most emotive playing and a dramatically energetic mid-section) and “Strange World” helps to showcase Paul Di’annos’s lighter side, a side rarely seen as he howls his way through most of the songs on here. Special mention goes to opener “Prowler” for a mighty fine utilization of the wah pedal.
There isn’t a bad song on here, but admittedly, I still can’t get into “Running Free.” Yeah, I know it’s one of the first songs they ever wrote and it’s historically important and so on but it feels out of place nonetheless. “Charlotte the Harlot” has grown on me, however, and I now consider that another one of this album’s classic tunes (of which there are many).
But those are just my afterthoughts of the album. Most fans will have no trouble elevating this to god-like status after a few mere listens. Inferior perhaps, when compared to some of the Dickinson-era classics, but undoubtedly one of the band’s finest releases.
Many bands tend to slip up on their debut and turn out a rather uninspired affair that stands inferior to the band’s live shows or even their early demos. Others put up a show of mediocrity which is hardly up to potential shown earlier. Iron Maiden fall under that narrow category of bands whose debuts totally stomped over the metal scene at the time of its release and amazingly, the debut still sounds vibrant and fresh today. A variety of reasons play to the underperformance of bands on their debuts – bad production (Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good), nauseating vocals (Black Sabbath – s/t), immature songwriting (Dark Angel – We Have Arrived), inconsistency (Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla) and many other comparatively sparse incidents of underperformance. Iron Maiden on the other hand, have rolled out a release here that features a simple but rather effective production with Di Annio providing rough, fitting and at times spectacularly emotive vocals. Maiden’s songwriting has already evolved and matured (for a fine example of this maturity, see ‘Phantom Of The Opera’). The entire album is very consistent, a rarity indeed for debut albums.
Maiden at this period differed quite a lot from the Maiden that would be seen later on ‘Piece Of Mind’ (I do not mention ‘The Number Of The Beast’ as I regard it as the bridge between the two styles). This Maiden has a rockish swagger to it and some influences of punk can also be traced here. Overall, the material on here with the exception of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (which blends well with later Maiden) is shorter, faster and overall much more energetic than the Maiden seen later. The loosely connected structure and heavy, reckless riffing here and on successor ‘Killers’ would act as a base for none other than thrash which would emerge a year and a half later. As such, Maiden can be seen as being the band that laid down the blueprint for thrash with their debut and sophomore releases.
Dennis Stratton acts as a competent predecessor to superior Adrian Smith who would arrive on sophomore release ‘Killers’. The absence of guitarist Adrian Smith here is not quite as instantly revealing as on releases after Adrian’s departure from Maiden after ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’. Dave Murray is as usual solid. Paul Di Annio as has been said earlier provides rougher vocals which give the band a somewhat biting nihilistic edge. Clive Burr is in my opinion the best drummer ever and he turns in a performance for the ages here – it deserves the reverence of drummers worldwide. Steve is excellent on bass; he probably is metal’s first bass guitar hero.
The tracks to be noted here, are opener ‘Prowler’ with its punkish riffing and reckless attitude. ‘Remember Tomorrow’ also deserves a mention (a half-ballad) for its ultra-emotive vocal performance by Paul. ‘Transylvania’ is ahead of its time in terms of speed and aggression. ‘Phantom of the Opera’ is a career highlight of Maiden; it merges the general style to be found on this album with the epic sound that was to follow later. It throws in tons of varied riffs and solos (Dave Murray and Stratton blaze through the track with supreme efficiency and all at breakneck speed while Clive backs them up superbly on drums) all through its length and still stays catchy-as-heck despite the odd-turns taken at many points. ‘Iron Maiden’ deserves a mention for its relentless ferocity (“Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya!”) and unbelievable catchiness, it truly deserves the title it bears.
The rest of the stuff isn’t quite as awesome as the first and is more streamlined with the rest of the NWOBHM movement but they still manage to be very good rockers. ‘Running Free’ was Maiden’s first single and met with a fair amount of success – undoubtedly due to its more commercial leanings. Still it is very catchy and also manages to throw a rather heavy (for its time) break mid-length. ‘Strange World’ is a complete ballad unlike ‘Remember Tomorrow’. It is a rather serene track although it tends to drag a bit as it maintains a constant tempo throughout the song length. ‘Charlotte The Harlot’ is a standard rockish NWOBHM number with a memorable chorus. The bonus track, ‘Sanctuary’ has one awesome ultra-catchy riff before it descends into mediocrity.
On the whole, the album is an evolutionary milestone for metal and undoubtedly one of the best all-time debuts. This is early heavy metal even a punk fan can enjoy and it definitely deserves more recognition than is being accorded to it at the moment.
Iron Maiden was at the forefront of the NOWBHM, pumping out some rather intriguing and unusually progressive music considering the subject matter of their album covers. Some thought them a punk rock band because of the image of their original vocalist Paul Di'Anno, despite the fact that he probably has 10 times the vocal range of Johnny Rotten or Joey Ramone. But what made maiden unique was their radically different approach to songwriting and lyrical subject matter that gave them their identity.
This album is extremely varied both stylistically and technically, which fits with the very fluid nature of the NWOBHM, where there was basically no rules for how to write a song. We have some rather complex songs such as the first chapter of "Charlotte the Harlot" and the grandeous epic "Phantom of the Opera", which Harris regards as one of his finest works. Where the former has some rather dramatic changes in feel from the main section to the interlude section, the latter sees enough contrast in melody and feel that it sort of qualifies as it's own seven minute opera. Dave Murray gives amazing lead guitar performances on both of these songs.
We also have some straight forward rockers that will never leave your memory. "Running Free" kicks off with an old big band style swing beat and goes off into a hard edged electric guitar riff. "Prowler" is extremely catchy, and has some excellent lead riffs that accompany the vocals through out the whole song. "Iron Maiden" is another catchy classic with an unforgettable intro riff, underscoring why it still enjoys frequent play at Maiden's live shows after more than 25 years.
More experimental tracks include the quasi-jazz ballad "Strange World", which showcases both Clive Burr's ability to use his set in an atmospheric fashion, as well as Di'Anno's ability to clean up the rough edges of his voice when it's demanded. "Remember Tomorrow" is an early example of varying sections of music and creating tension by getting louder during the chorus and quieter during the verse. Steve Harris' lyrics on this one delve into his personal life, and his bass work here is quite active.
Some additional treats on here include the instrumental "Transylvania", which lives up to it's name with it's spooky sounding atmosphere and it's catchy main theme. This song is heavily influencial amongst power metal bands who write instrumental works to complement their albums. The re-release of this album includes the bonus track "Sanctuary", which sheds some light on why Maiden was sometimes associated with the punk rock scene. This song is a straight forward rocker that is uncharacteristically simple for the band, and does at times sound quasi-punkish.
In conclusion, although the production of this album is a bit primitive by today's standards, this album is a must have for fans of traditional metal. Power and Progressive metal fans are also encouraged to take a look at this album as it contains elements of both and undoubtedly influenced both genres.
I will write my first review for the first album from Iron Maiden, that is the homonymous Iron Maiden (1980). I don't usually like very much the starting albums because in general they feature a very rough sound (both voice and instruments) and a poor production; however, this is not the case: what a great start! It kicks off with the astounding Prowler, which will make you headbang after a few moments even if it is your first listening: it is at the same time powerful and melodic and immediately put you on the right way for the remaining of the album; we have a great mix here, with good vocals, riffs and a nice production which let you distinguish every single instrument. By the way, the voice here is from Paul I don't like self-commemorative tracks for the latter.Di'Anno, like in the following Killers: I think that he fits perfectly the sound of these early releases, in particular in this one; I wouldn't say that he is better than Bruce Dickinson, nor that he's worse, he is simply different and both are really skilled in what they do.
Back to the album, we now have Sanctuary, which is a typical rock track: I think this is pretty interesting, because it shows you a band making its first steps and trying to emerge from the panorama of that time; this is audible, but not one of my favorites; the same can be said about the following Remember Tomorrow, a quite slow track with some good riff, and the short Running Free, in which the rock influence is remarkable too.
Then we come to what is, in my opinion, the most robust, innovating and headbanging section of the album, composed of the wonderful pair Phantom of the Opera and Transylvania: generally fast pace with some slowdown in the first and astonishing riffs in the second are something many metalheads will surely appreciate. Here we also start to see one of the main features of Iron Maiden, that is their unbelievable skill in the instrumental parts, which I think is one of the main reasons of their success; despite very long riffs and solos without voice you will almost never be bored and you will get right into the sound. Suffice to say that, though I like instrumental pieces, I don't usually rate them very high, except for Iron Maiden's ones: Transylvania is in my selection since a long time and I do not have any intent to remove it from there right now.
The last three tracks - Strange World, Charlotte the Harlot and Iron Maiden - are not among my favorites, even if the last two became all-time classics; too slow pace in the first, good lyrics but not very involving overall sound in the second and a self-commemorative lyric in the latter make them not memorable.
Conclusion: one of the best starting albums I ever heard and an essential classic, not only for the music itself, but for the sound of the period that it represents.
Highlights: Prowler, Phantom of the Opera, Transylvania.
In early April, 1980, a heavy metal gargantuan was launched from its humble beginnings in the East End of London. That band is, of course, the now eponymous Iron Maiden, and the album that started it all is this one, their self titled LP. It’s doubtful that bassist and main-man Steve Harris could have envisioned where his journey would lead him, and although this is the starting point of one of the most long-running and influential bands in metal, it is often overlooked by all but the most die-hard fans…which is a shame, because there are some true gems on this disc!
Enough of the history lesson, I hear you cry, is the music good, or what?! Well, while many will no doubt lose interest as soon as the words ‘no’ and ‘Bruce’ leave my lips, this is a must for all Maiden fans, or even anybody interested in the NWOBHM genre as a whole. Everything you would come to expect from a Maiden album is here; the galloping bass to the dual guitar harmonies so many love-hell, there’s even an early epic number, in the form of Phantom of the Opera! However, and I must stress this at this point in the review, this is early Maiden. The production has a rough quality to it, with punchy (almost punky) guitars to match Paul Di’Anno’s grating vocals. All the foundation is there, it just lacks the polish that would come on later albums such as ‘Seventh Son…’ or ‘Piece of Mind’.
The disc kicks off with Prowler, which is easily one of the best tracks on this disk. The main intro riff grabs you by forcefully, and when Dave Murray kicks in on lead guitar with his wah-wah pedal…it’s heaven. The whole song has a vibrant, jumpy feel to it, with plenty of nice fills by Dave and the short-lived Dennis Stratton (understandably, he didn’t last long when held up against the far superior Adrian Smith). This is one of those ‘play it until the neighbours complain’ songs, the kind which demand to be played loud and with accompaniment, whether by headbanging, dancing, or just beating the crap out of any object or surface you can find in your efforts to match the beat.
The rock feel continues onto the next track (if you have the 1998 remastered edition), Sanctuary, which, though short, has some ridiculous lyrics and catchy solos. But its still not ‘The Trooper’ or ‘Where Eagles Dare’. It lacks the padding that those songs have, which demonstrates again the age of this songwriting. Remember Tomorrow slows things right down for a pleasant, soft ballad that picks up at the choruses and halfway through the song, with some excellent trade-offs of screams between Di’anno and guitar. A mellow interlude before the single, Running Free. Really, this one song exemplifies the attitude of this young Maiden, with its simple (yet catchy) bass intro to the sing-a-long chorus.
But if at this point you feel that you’re not as impressed as you should be, the next track may catch your attention. Phantom of the Opera is the longest track on this album (at 7 minutes long), and it hints at the glories of the Harris-written epics to come. An obscenely melodic and catchy (I seem to be using that word a lot in this review!) intro leads into a rapid ascending scale before bursting into one of the fastest riffs Maiden have ever written. This is head-banging material right here, and for roughly 3 minutes the song continues at this pace, before abruptly slowing right down for a loooooong instrumental section, which is frankly just brilliant. From a loud, galloping bass part to some excellent solos, this song just takes you to another world, until the main riff comes in again near the end. Every time I listen to this song I remember that Steve Harris cannot have been much older than I am now when he wrote this-this is powerful stuff, my friends. Okay, so it may not be ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ in your book, but you can take your overplayed epics and cram them right up your ass for all I care :p
So where can this album go from this dizzying height? Not much higher, it seems. The rest of the album is really much of the same, and what you’ve come to expect from Maiden. Transylvania is an extended instrumental that sounds like Phantom Pt. II, and Strange World is yet another ballad, although softer than Remember Tomorrow. Charlotte the Harlot is, simply put, comic relief of the highest order, with yet another catchy Prowler-esque lead and a brilliant breakdown section in the middle. To end, we have the title track of this album, and the band’s namesake. Played at every concert since the band’s beginning, this is their anthem and their dedication to the crowd. Unfortunately, it’s lost its appeal over the years, as it is simply a verse/chorus construction repeated twice with a short drum/bass section in the middle. That this song is still a mainstay alongside ‘The Trooper’ and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ is strange, especially since there are far better tracks on this disk-Prowler for one.
Overall, Iron Maiden is one of the best examples of the early NWOBHM movement from one of its key bands, and is an enjoyable listen, despite its shortcomings. Approached with an open mind (hopefully ignorant of the band’s other releases!), it can quickly become your favourite album. The only let downs are the short length, the somewhat shallow lyrics and musical depth which pop up from time to time, and if you don’t like raw, the production can be a problem as well.
Best tracks: Prowler, Phantom of the Opera, Transylvania, Charlotte the Harlot
The 1980 self-titled debut of the great Iron Maiden was the start of a very long and successful career and it’s one of their stronger releases in my opinion. Sure, this release doesn’t have Bruce Dickinson but that’s ok! We all know Paul Di’anno isn’t as skilled or as gifted as Dickinson but his voice is still strong and a lot rawer. It fitted with the bands sound at the time, too, because, in fact, the bands sound was not as polished or as clean and definitely had some raw qualities to it in both the song writing and production style. In this sense it makes for an interesting listen to hear how Iron Maiden started out having known what they’ve become.
There are some definite classic tracks on here, my favorite being Phantom Of The Opera, which is Iron Maiden’s first stab at their commonplace epic track. It’s very multi-faceted with excellent guitar melodies interwoven with Steven Harris’s trademark bass style. Phantom Of The Opera also demonstrates something that shows up throughout the CD and that’s interesting drum rhythms. Only the title track features standard snare/bass runs, as every other song has some kind of unique rhythm which works very well with the guitars and bass, and that’s a large part of the appeal on this release because it makes every song sound different. Some other key points of this release include "Remember Tomorrow", mostly because the first riff played after the quiet verse sounds very Sabbath and "Strange World", which sounds like something Rainbow would have done in the 70’s. So in a sense this release features some styles of Iron Maiden that wouldn’t appear again.
All Iron Maiden fans should own this release because some of Maiden’s best early work is found on here and even though the guitar playing and bass work, and even the vocals aren’t as refined as they would be later on, flashes of brilliance show up often. It also has a classic early NWOBHM sound that was somewhat lost with most releases in the style during the mid-80’s and thus has a strong historical importance as well and deserves a place in all Heavy Metal fan collections.
Song Highlights: Prowler, Remember Tomorrow, Phantom Of The Opera, Transylvania, Charlot The Harlot, Iron Maiden