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“Killers” is the second studio album by Iron Maiden, and their first concept album, as most of the songs are about murder of some sort. The album was the first to feature Adrian Smith as one of the lead guitarists, and was the last studio album to feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals.
I would describe this album as being plain crazy. Much psychotic darkness can be found on the album, which makes this a very interesting listen. I found that this release, “Somewhere in Time” and “Brave New World” had the best solos of Iron Maiden. The solos on this album range from sheer speed to powerful echoing solos. The echoing solos are more common on this release, being on Wrathchild, Another Life, Genghis, beginning of Innocent Exile, and Purgatory. Sadly, the only time I recall hearing the echo effect on later albums was Where Eagles Dare, off of “Piece of Mind”.
The band probably has one of their best performances on this album. Steve Harris is very prominent here, having three bass intros, plus his normal impressive bass playing. It is also worthy to note that Harris wrote almost all of the songs on this album on his own. Murray and Smith provide exceptional guitar work on this release, particularly on Innocent Exile, Prodigal Son, Genghis, and Killers. Di’Anno sounds a good deal better on this album than on the previous release, and sounds great on everything except Twilight Zone. The highlights of Di’Anno on this album are Killers, Purgatory, Wrathchild, and Innocent Exile. Lastly, Clive Burr, yet again, proves his impressive drumming skills.
The album has a good, but short instrumental opening called the Ides of March. The song is like a catchy marching beat with some soloing to keep it interesting. The first actual song on here is Wrathchild which is easily the most popular track on here, and for a good reason. The song starts off with one of Maiden’s best bass lines before the rest of the band joins in. A very raw highlight. Di’Anno provides some really catchy singing, with some very dirty guitar work. Next up is Murders in the Rue Morgue. The gloomy opening of this song is very misleading, as the whole thing is very upbeat and catchy. Nothing particular to mention, just a very good song.
Another Life is a rather overlooked track, featuring some great solos and a great vocal performance by Di’Anno. Both the instrumentals and the lyrics of the song remind of a crazy murderer’s thinking process, making it a wild ride. Genghis Khan, another overlooked track, is an amazing instrumental with a really dark solo and some drastic tempo changes. The first half of Genghis features an appropriate Middle Eastern sound which is rather “groovy”. Genghis is tied with Transylvania when it comes to the best Maiden instrumental. Next up is my personal favorite on here, Innocent Exile; yet another overlooked track. This song is heavy at first with some mid tempo riffs and singing, but the second half is absolutely amazing. The second half is when the song speeds up and some phenomenal soloing begins. These solos are simply the epitome of shredding goodness. Murray and Smith deserve a medal for the lead/rhythm collaboration here.
The title track is pretty incredible. The dark bass intro, Di’Anno’s screams, the dirty guitar, the solo, all of it is spectacular. The pure aggression present during this whole song makes it one of Maiden’s toughest works. This title track is also what I consider Di’Anno’s best performance with the band, due to his evil sounding voice here, and his wild screaming and laughter. Prodigal Son is a ballad that sounds rather out place on here. As another user stated below, most of the song sounds like Iron Maiden trying to do some Beatles cover, which doesn’t turn out so well. Aside from a beautiful solo, the song is extremely average.
Purgatory is another particularly good performance of Di’Anno, and is one of the faster songs on this release. The song is dark, like much of the album, but in an upbeat way. All in all, a fantastic vocally oriented song. Drifter starts out very dark, but quickly becomes way too happy. I found it a little repetitive as well, but the soloing is top-notch as always. There are problems, but good parts as well. In the end, Drifter is pretty solid, so give it a listen as you may like it. If your copy of the album contains Twilight Zone, give it a go. I personally think it doesn’t go anywhere, but some seem to really like it. The song is very fast paced, but I hated Di’Anno’s uninspiring vocals here.
Overall I would say that the highlights of this release are Wrathchild, Innocent Exile, Killers, Purgatory, and Genghis Khan. Prodigal Son, (Due to solo of course) Another Life, Ides of March, and Murders in the Rue Morgue are the average songs. (Average meaning the songs would be scored 75-85% if they were standalone, due to this album’s high standards.) I would consider Drifter and Twilight Zone the weaker tracks, though I much prefer Drifter over Twilight Zone.
In the end “Killers” is one of Iron Maiden’s greatest releases. Sadly, like “Somewhere in Time”, many of the best songs on the release are generally ignored by the band nowadays. This would be the last of the classic style of Iron Maiden, before they developed their definitive sound in the following releases. The departure of Di’Anno after this album brought an immense change to the band, as this allowed the more operatic Bruce Dickinson to become the vocalist. It seems the addition of Dickinson is what made Maiden’s signature sound so much different from the earliest releases like this one. Ultimately this album is like a different, more aggressive Iron Maiden, and proves that even without Dickinson, this band is nothing less than amazing.