A Devil’s Dozen – Iron Maiden – Volume 1

Inarguably one of the greatest heavy metal bands the world has ever known, Iron Maiden needs no introduction. Thirteen songs being woefully insufficient to capture the breadth of the band’s greatness, Last Rites has chosen to honor Iron Maiden with a double Devil’s Dozen, presented in two volumes, of which this is the first.

Up the Irons!

 • • • • •

IRON MAIDEN

[Iron Maiden, 1980]

One of the great joys of listening to Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden in light of the band’s subsequent career is imagining telling the reckless souls behind these performances that in a few short years (some of them) would be the biggest heavy metal band on the planet. The eponymous song on the eponymous album is often a neat shorthand for a band’s mission statement. Here, the mission is clear: Clive Burr’s fills crack loud, Steve Harris’s bass is a thin, grizzled pogo, Murray and Stratton trade micro-licks squealing off the end of measures, and Di’Anno struts crudely, all brilliant roughness and near-David Lee Roth eagle shrieks. They want you for dead; they want you for life.

[DANHAMMER OBSTKRIEG]

 • • • • •

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

[Somewhere in Time, 1986]

Doing a bit of research in preparation for this edition of Devil’s Dozen revealed the following overlooked gem with regard to sole responsibility for individual song writing: Bruce has penned four all on his lonesome; Steve a staggering fifty-four; one for Dave (“Charlotte the Harlot”); zip for the collective of Di’Anno, Burr, Bayley, Gers & McBrain; and three for Adrian. In the case of Mr. Smith, all three land on Somewhere In Time, including the beautifully tragic “Stranger in a Strange Land” – a tune that gloomily weaves a tale about an intrepid explorer who literally ends up freezing his balls off and croaking. It’s another of those classic slow ’n’ stormy Maiden tunes that also happens to flash one of the prettiest mid-points of the band’s brilliant career, thanks to the delicate lead guitar fretwork of the song’s architect.

[MICHAEL WUENSCH]

 • • • • •

FEAR OF THE DARK

[Fear of the Dark, 1992]

Despite (and perhaps because of) being oddly scared/intrigued at the VHS cover of Live After Death while exploring the video rental store as a child, I didn’t reattempt the band until a decade later during my brief hooligan years, when I swiped the 2CD edition of a then-just-released Best of the Beast—on it is the tightest version of “Fear of the Dark” ever recorded. A standing army of thousands of Finns reciting Harris’s nyctophobic nightmare lyrics word-for-word, including the melodic whoa-oh-OH-OH-Oh-oh-oh-ohs, is what made me explore Iron Maiden more deeply. But pack extra batteries for your headlamp when bushwhacking through this 58-minute monster of an album—at the time, their longest to date… before shooting well past the hour mark became their new style. It takes a certain kind of magic to master both brooding and blasting (never mind in the same song), and “Fear of the Dark” dials it down.

[MATT LONGO]

 • • • • •

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO

[Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988]

On an album filled with fantastical prophecies and magic, “The Evil That Men Do” is the linchpin of intensity. It is not the centerpiece – the massive title track that follows fills that role – but without this track bridging the gap between the old school rawk of “Can I Play with Madness” and that epic title track, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son would not carry nearly the weight. This level of edge-of-your-seat (or razor) suspense is something that the band rarely attempted, but they weren’t necessarily doing anything new here. The tools were largely the same: lead guitars carrying the intro, a driving verse, a tense pre-chorus and huge payoff in the chorus. That Maiden was able to go back to their same well of skills and still come up with something so fresh was not only a testament to their enduring talents, but key in helping Seventh Son become far more than the sum of its parts.

[ZACH DUVALL]

 • • • • •

KILLERS

[Killers, 1981]

The centerpiece of the album that bears its name, “Killers” is an early-Maiden masterpiece, containing all the signature elements of the band’s sound at the time. The intro contrasts brute force and subtlety with ‘Arry’s bold bass and Dianno’s shrieks playing against Smith’s clean melody and Murray’s legato embellishments. The track then busts into a patented Maiden gallop with an unforgettable riff crafted from an ingenious use of harmonics and, of course, a harmonized melody. The entire mid-section of the song is pure gold: from the duel-guitar diddle interlude and the hard-hitting riff that leads into the masterfully built tension of the bridge, to the positively blazing, off-the-fucking-rails solos that rank among Murray and Smith’s finest work. Of all the killers on Killers, “Killers” kills the most.

[JEREMY MORSE]

 • • • • •

THE WICKER MAN

[Brave New World, 2000]

While climbing out of the nu metal hell where I hung out during the late 90s, I caught wind of a reformed and reinvigorated “21st Century Maiden.” The occasional Blaze-fronted Maiden tunes I’d heard didn’t quite boil my potato, and the time felt ripe for change. Brave New World ably delivered on that promise, and helped herald a new dawn with one of the finest songs of the re-Bruce era.

Now you may have noticed that when discovering classic metal bands these days, it can sometimes be challenging to find the one album that truly speaks to you, especially if it dropped several years ago and looks indistinguishable amidst everything else in a downloaded discog torrent. But to these ears, “The Wicker Man” still positively explodes out of the gates, and still maintains its strength 15 years later as a live staple. Rather than coldcocking a woman in the face while wearing a bear costume, take those fists to the air!

[MATT LONGO]

 • • • • •

THE CLAIRVOYANT

[Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988]

What makes “The Clairvoyant” so interesting is the unexpected twists and turns it takes before turning into a song that sounds like it fits in with the rest of the more-predictable yet still adventurously progressive tracks of the Seventh Son album. More importantly, “The Clairvoyant” serves as one of the final classic tracks to what would become the greatest seven album stretch in the history of heavy metal.

[KONRAD KANTOR]

 • • • • •

FLIGHT OF ICARUS

[Piece of Mind, 1983]

Of Iron Maiden’s many allegorical adaptations , the Icarus myth may be the most perfectly suited to the band’s ethos. From the opening mid-pace gallop, the stage is set for a story that conveys all the tension and release of the protagonist’s unfurling wings. It’d be easy to call it just an old story set to some kick ass riffs and solos, but the song’s crafted so expertly to raise one’s spirits to the sky that it just can’t be an accident; Adrian and Bruce wrote this song for the unsure in all of us, to lift and inspire us. Yes, the kid’s wings melted and he tumbled to his death, but, as with all good allegories, this one’s open to interpretation. And the point here becomes crystal clear when, even after Icarus’ inevitable demise, Bruce doesn’t shout “So avoid scary thiiiiiiiings!” but instead implores us all one last time to “Fly as high as the suuuuuuuuun!”

[LONE WATIE]

 • • • • •

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

[Iron Maiden, 1980]

When you listen to this song, close your eyes and picture Steve Harris plugging away at the bass as he whistled the song’s melodies as if he was some musical conduit to beings of a higher understanding, and the rest of the guys rushing downstairs and quickly trying to record him before the inspiration passed and it was you late. “Phantom of the Opera” is, far and away, the greatest song from the Di’Anno albums. From the catchy, early 80’s sing-a-long lyric structures, to complex yet highly accessible drum patterns, to epic interludes that will cause the listener to just get lost in the music, “Phantom of the Opera” is just a perfect song.

[KONRAD KANTOR]

 • • • • •

POWERSLAVE

[Powerslave, 1984]

“OOOOOOOOOOHHHhhhhheh-heh-heh-heh-HEHHH!”

Yeah, you know that old call arms. The one that leads into one of Iron Maiden’s darkest, most ominous tunes ever. Side B, cut #2 from album number five flaunts everything fans of the band covet, but it does so with a slow ’n’ deadly design that’s contrary to the mostly upbeat fare that precedes it. And just what the hell is it about Iron Maiden and their uncanny ability to hit the jackpot with literally EVERY title-track they’ve offered? A slow, bruising punch, beautifully melancholy midpoint, and three brilliant leads: “Powerslave” would be an absolutely epic closer for any album that doesn’t also include a little thing called “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

[MICHAEL WUENSCH]

 • • • • •

WASTED YEARS

[Somewhere in Time, 1986]

There’s no question that Iron Maiden took a few risks on their 1986 masterpiece, Somewhere in Time. However, there’s probably some irony in the fact that the album’s most polished and radio-friendly track, “Wasted Years”, is the only song not to feature the troublesome synth that brought a few grumbles about the rest of the album. Written by guitarist Adrian Smith,“Wasted Years” begins with his immediately recognisable (and nimble-fingered) intro, before powering into… well, it’s a pop tune — isn’t it? Sure it is. And a damn fine one too. Smith was no stranger to adding in commercially baited licks here and there, and “Wasted Years” is my favourite catchy Maiden song. Is it the band’s best? Nope. But it’s certainly their most upbeat (and always reliable) cure-all for the world-weariness that haunts us all. Also, kudos to Maiden for allowing Smith to sing more lines from “Wasted Years” live in recent years. The version found on Flight 666 being a particular good ‘un.

[CRAIG HAYES]

 • • • • •

ACES HIGH

[Powerslave, 1984]

Churchill’s rallying cry to NEVER. SURRENDER. The breakneck barrage of barrel-roll riffs. Bruce showing you what his air-raid siren can do. Nicko’s Speed King punching through it all like flak explosions. “Aces High” has its legacy cemented, not least as opener to arguably the finest Maiden album, and certainly the best Maiden tour. This humble scribe would argue it is the quintessential Iron Maiden song, the song you would play your churchy distant cousin who’s been living under a rock all these years, to get them started down metal’s left hand path. I was ten years old when a hesher a grade ahead played it for me, and my life was never the same after.

The single art also featured one of Eddie’s finest incarnations as a battle-hardened Spitfire pilot downing Messerschmitts with malevolent aplomb.

[KYLE HARCÖTT]

 • • • • •

RUN TO THE HILLS

[The Number of the Beast, 1982]

Forget about the iconic drums-and-dual-lead intro. Forget the charging tempo change in the first verse. Forget the famous and insanely sing-along-able chorus. Forget Dave Murray’s legato-drenched solo and Bruce Dickinson’s dominating performance. Forget all of the things that you already had memorized about a classic song that you’ve heard countless times and think of one simple truth:

Everyone loves “Run to the Hills.” Everyone.

The ingredients detailed above are obviously a huge reason why, but Maiden combines it all with such deftness that each is often ignored in the context of the whole. This kind of magic means that my casual Iron Maiden fan of a friend went berserk when they played this in concert, or that a sports bar full of bros forget their Sublime favorites when this one blares out of the Touchtunes juke. No other classic metal hit has such an effect. Not “Living After Midnight.” Not “Iron Man.” Not “Ace of Spades.” Only “Run to the Hills.” The reason? This is much more than just the biggest hit by The Greatest Heavy Metal Band in History. This is rock and roll perfection.

[ZACH DUVALL]

 • • • • •

Didn’t see your favorite? Come back next week for volume two.

Posted by Last Rites

GENERALLY IMPRESSED WITH RIFFS

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