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This album is definitely, as Ultraboris pointed out - a lost classic. It is one of the more obscure Maiden albums today and is hardly spoken of in league with the rest of their catalogue. The songs on here are catchier and at the same time more energetic and aggressive than the debut. The more rock-ish elements have been shelved and the punk influence has seemingly increased. The vibrancy and speed shown here at times was a well-needed catalyst to the thrash revolution. The songwriting is stronger and more varied than the debut – this can be attributed to the entry of Adrian Smith and exit of Stratton, his contributions can be clearly seen here.
This album marks the exit of Dennis Stratton from Iron Maiden and Murray brought on the incredible Adrian Smith. This is of course, rather unfortunate – because some of the bands strongest material showed up here. The production on this album is clearer and heavier than the self titled. This album also marks the beginning of the bass-heavy production Maiden are known for. Paul Di’Annio’s vocals this time become even better. Murray and Adrian together make a very tight pair here, the riffing clearly betrays punk influences and the soloing is tight and tasteful. The guitar section with Adrian’s entry became all the more excellent, which is instantly recognized by the listener. Clive Burr manages to drum along to any rhythm given by the guitars no matter how strange or sudden, Clive truly is a master at the art of drumming. The bass-heavy production also brings Steve’s bass to the fore. This isn’t quite the bane people would attest it to be as Steve is quite adept at handling the instrument. In my opinion, the bass-heavy sound actually gives Maiden part of their distinctive sheen which sets them apart from the rest.
Everything on here is a classic. This is the only Maiden album to feature two instrumental tracks – The Ides Of March and Genghis Khan. The Ides Of March is an excellent intro to the album with amazing soloing throught it. The riff of course, is taken from Samson’s ‘Thunderburst’. Genghis Khan is more like a continuation of ‘Transylvania’ in that its heavy and moves along at breakneck speed, also the distinct melody that would later pop up in ‘Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter’ and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ shows up here in 1:46. ‘Wrathchild’ is a relentlessly catchy with an irresistible chorus. This song is MADE to be played live. ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’, ‘Another Life’ and ‘Innocent Exile’ are all faster memorable numbers. ‘Killers’ is another career highlight from early Maiden, this song changes riffs and tempo fast and manages to sound both maniacal and catchy at the same time. The soloing section here absolutely stomps over everything in sight. Paul Di’Annio especially lets it rip, sounding truly like a homicide-obsessed youth.
Then, there is a marked departure from the norms the album has set. ‘Twilight Zone’ is a more relaxed, incredibly memorable track with an excellent vocal performance by Paul and a superb albeit slightly cheesy chorus. It’d fit very well into an 80’s glam bands catalogue. Maiden have never again attempted to write a track of this kind, which makes this track all the more distinctive. ‘Prodigal Son’ also follows in the relaxed vein, this is one of Maiden’s best ballads and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with ‘Remember Tomorrow’ from the self titled. This song is what ‘Strange World’ from the s/t could have been. ‘Purgatory’ returns to heavier pastures and its twisted, reckless riffing scream punk. The speed at which the band changes tempo, shifting from a softer segment to a heavier part becomes quite frightening at times. ‘Drifter’ sums up the entire album during the five minutes it lasts and tops it all off with an insatiable chorus and riff, it truly deserved its place as a setlist staple.
In conclusion, this album deserves much more recognition (much like its predecessor) than a passing reference during an IM discussion. The influence of the first two IM albums on the metal scene then was immeasurable. The speed and energy shown in these two releases proved to be the most influential in the formation of thrash. Sadly, this was Maiden’s last album with Paul. Although successor Bruce is a talent of far greater propotions, one wonders what would have happened if Maiden had continued with Paul and stuck to this very style. What could be the next genre Maiden would land up in as a result of continued evolution of this style? Thrash? Possibly.