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“Run to the Hills” is undoubtedly Iron Maiden’s most recognizable song. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the enormous praise its legions of fans bestow upon it. Off The Number of the Beast, the song is probably one of the weakest, though it is by no means bad. A victim of radio overdose, it has overshadowed much of Maiden’s storied career in the eyes of narrow-minded “fans” that somehow comprise a large portion of Maiden’s more mainstream fan base.
The main problem with the song is its unrelenting cheesiness. It’s not as much the lyrics as it is the delivery. The plight of the Native Americans makes an excellent lyrical topic, as proven by Judas Priest’s “Savage.” However, Dickinson’s insipid chorus melody may be one of the most grating performances he’s ever done. Meanwhile, the second and third verses are delivered very well (though this can’t be said about the first verse). Dickinson’s chieftain-like howl before the final chorus fits in perfectly in an Indian-themed song. The guitar lines are also quite cheesy, though the drums work excellently with the overall theme. “Run to the Hills” contains its greatest moment in the guitar solo, which is incredibly classic and probably one of the most famous metal solos short of “The Trooper.” Steve Harris closes the song well via one of his trademark bass jams.
What really dominates the show, though, is “Total Eclipse.” The dark atmosphere in this song is up to par with some of the bleakest songs Sabbath has done. Dickinson really carries the song with his malevolent delivery of the apocalyptic lyrics. The chorus is particularly demonic and memorable. The opening riff exemplifies what the song is about: depressing yet entertaining and unrelenting heavy metal. Additions such as the little scale in the middle of the second verse keep things fresh, and the solo ranks among Maiden’s very best – it’s insane and mania-inspiring, while the following vocals show just what Dickinson’s operatic training makes him capable of. It’s strange Maiden decided to make this a B-side, as it makes The Number of the Beast that much greater. “Gangland” would have made a much better choice. Luckily “Total Eclipse” is now readily available on the remastered edition of the album.
Thus concludes one of Maiden’s better singles. Though it doesn’t technically contain any rarities or even covers, the semi-rarity it does possess makes it more valuable in a Maiden collection because of its absolutely godly status. There’s not really a necessity to obtain this now that “Total Eclipse” is available on the album, but that’s not really the point of this kind of single. If you see this, don’t hesitate to pick it up – it’s worth every penny.