The Top 10 Iron Maiden Songs: 1978—1986

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Iron Maiden helped define the genre of heavy metal.

The band, which formed in East London in 1975, has gone on to release countless songs that shake the rust from your roof.

Started by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris, the band is comprised of lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers.

To date, the group has released a whopping 41 albums—17 studio records, 13 live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.

Here, we wanted to sift through their staggering catalog and present what we believe to be the group’s Top 10 songs. For a band that was born at a bar—The Cart and Horses Pub, where they played some of their first shows in 1976—they sure have come a long way in the past 50-plus years.

1. “Prowler”

One of the band’s earliest releases, “Prowler” is a riffy rock song that portends the band’s future heft. Originally released on a demo recorded on New Year’s Eve 1978, the song hit No. 1 in the Soundhouse charts in the U.K., which were published weekly in Sounds magazine. Later the song appeared on the band’s 1980 self-titled debut. It’s a bit tamer than fans may recognize but that’s what happens after dozens of records and a great of time to perfect your muscular sound. Check out the fast-paced “Prowler” below.

2. “Wrathchild”

The band’s first appearance on an album was on the Metal for Muthas compilation, which dropped in early 1980, and included two early versions of “Wrathchild” and “Sanctuary.” Later the band played at the Rainbow Theatre in London where their first live video was filmed. Live at the Rainbow was released in 1981 and included “Wrathchild,” the live video for which earned heavy rotation on MTV. The song was formally released on the group’s 1981 sophomore release, Killers.

The song has both bounce and strength. More aggression, and more stirring electric guitar solos. It’s like the skeleton (their mascot Eddie) is waking up from the grave it was sleeping in and just begging to prepare for its decades-long journey.

3. “Purgatory”

Also from Killers, this song smashes, crashes, and gets the energy going. Featuring sustained, belting vocals from Paul Di’Anno, this song marks the last single with the frontman. The guitar work is like a blow torch. The drumming is like two semi-trucks racing down the highway. It’s a song that never lets you catch your breath—and that’s the beauty of it.

4. “22 Acacia Avenue”

From the band’s third album, the 1982 offering, The Number of the Beast, this track is percussive. Overtop the strumming is a heavy metal spell summoning the shadows and the stars from the bleak dark sky. It’s another that’s like a race, a muscle car down a stretch of a dark road with no headlights. This track also marks the inclusion of new lead singer Bruce Dickinson.

5. “Hallowed Be Thy Name”

Another from the 1982 record The Number of the Beast, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” has a bit more space to it than the track above. It begins slowly, reflective. A big bell chimes. Even when the song focuses on its intricate guitar work, there remains room to breathe and to consider the end. This song is considered one of the greatest heavy metal songs ever and one of the band’s signature tracks.

6. “The Trooper”

From the 1983 album, Piece of Mind, this song is as much rollick and roll as it is rock and roll. It’s a tumbling downward laced with guitar riffs and solos and a vocal performance that blows your hair back. Battles, certain death, wailing, and wondering. These are the ingredients of this booming song. It peaked at No. 28 on the U.S. mainstream rock charts and hit No. 12 on the U.K. singles charts.

7. “2 Minutes to Midnight”

From Iron Maiden’s 1984 album, Powerslave, the song is a war cry. Killers, demons, the unborn, blind men—these are the characters that engage in fighting for salvation. Will your prayers be heard? Will you find peace in this cacophony of music? Maybe only Iron Maiden knows the truth, the answers. This was the band’s first single to exceed five minutes in length. It hit No. 11 on the U.K. singles chart and No. 25 on the Billboard top album tracks.

8. “Aces High”

Also from Powerslave, this song features elastic, repetitive guitar riffs that hypnotize. It’s the music for the final battle in a video game. It makes your soul want to escape and run toward the light.

9. “Wasted Years”

From Iron Maiden’s 1986 album, Somewhere In Time, this song marks another evolution for the group. It is the only song on the album that features no synths. It’s not so consumed with spastic, frantic, frenetic sounds, showing a type of chaos and madness. Rather, “Wasted Years” is more composed. It’s not soft or tame by any stretch—Iron Maiden isn’t capable of something like that. But it has more room to think, to consider the world. It also hit No. 18 on the U.K. singles charts.

10. “Stranger in a Strange Land”

Also from Somewhere In Time, “Stranger in a Strange Land” boasts multiple rooms, so to speak. Not a tunnel of sound, but a whole station. You can maneuver within the track, and hear echoes in one corner, and drum smashes in another. It’s “a brave new world,” as the song’s lyrics foretell. Truly.

Photo by Annamaria DiSanto/WireImage

Leave a Reply

Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Coldplay & More React to Grammy Nominations

Bruce Springsteen Settles 47-Year Debate Over “Thunder Road” Lyric