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During the late 70s to early 80s the NWOBHM was a fairly loosely defined term, applying primarily to bands that had some similarities with the punk rock movement of 1977, but with more musicianship, more energy, and much better singing. Ultimately 2 very different styles would emerge from this movement, the thrash style pioneered by bands like Motorhead, and the more traditional melodic heavy metal by that of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.
This album, along with "Screaming for Vengeance", represent the most standardized approach to the more melodic, yet still heavy side of the NWOBHM sound (barring that the latter came from a band with roots much earlier). It is a departure from the two previous albums not only in that Paul Di'Anno was replaced with Bruce Dickinson (which was a rather large change) but also that many of the more progressive elements on the past two albums vanished in favor of a much more standardized sound.
The song structure on this album, as a whole, is a lot more basic. Songs such as "Invaders", "Children of the Damned", "The Prisoner", "Run to the Hills", and the title track are all structured like your stereotypical radio friendly metal tune from the 80s. Although they do rock out a good deal harder and have more lyrical depth than most of the 80s mainstream stuff. "22 Acacia Avenue" and "Hallowed be thy name" have fairly complex changes, the former has a fairly sizable change in feel, while the latter has a ton of varying themes that come in and out.
If I were to rate this album in terms of individual songs, it would get a 100 easy, but one thing which this album suffers from is a lack of overall variety. Some of the songs have a sameness to them, that is further brought out by the fact that some songs that are next to each other have similar intros. One example is putting two songs with drum intros (Gangland and Run to the Hills) right next to each other.
Stand out tracks on this album, ironically, are the ones that are the most radio friendly. "The Prisoner" has some great lyrical storytelling and is a good classic hommage to the old TV series (which I saw many reruns of while I was at college). "Run to the Hills" highlights one of Bruce Dickinson's greatest vocal performances, along with an unforgettable chorus. The title track has it's fair share of intrigue, particularly a neat little bass riff that follows the climactic guitar solo section.
One other point of interest is the guitar soloing. Although I have a preference to Adrian Smith's lead playing on most other Maiden releases, on this one Dave Murray has the lion's share of the better solos. His solo on "Hallowed be thy name" is much more dramatic sounding than Smith's, and his work on "Run to the Hills" is quite excellent.
Without question, this is an essential part of any metal collection. I can't say it's my favorite album, because other Maiden releases after this one built on the format that this one started and were a bit more intricate. But some of Maiden's best and most well known music is on here. I can recommend this album to all whom appreciate good old fashioned traditional metal.