Formed in 1974, Iron Maiden is a household name among metalheads and casual music listeners alike: the band’s mix of speed, energy, complexity, well written lyrics, and epic feel keeps fans counting the days to the next Maiden release and devouring concert tickets. Maiden is also known for staying true to their sound no matter what the current rock or metal trends might be.
Even bad Iron Maiden albums, for the most part, will have at least one good song. To celebrate the band’s soon to be released 16th album, The Book of Souls (due September 4), we decided to base the next installment of Ranked Up! on none other than Iron Maiden.
TIE: The X Factor and Virtual XI (1995, 1998)
Both of these albums are tied for the same slot as they are both the worst for the same reason: Bruce Dickinson was replaced by Blaze Bayley, whose voice was not very good at all, and the songwriting ranged from subpar to godawful. During this time, Bruce released two solo albums, Accident of Birth and The Chemical Wedding. Both of these albums feature Adrian Smith on guitar and are much better then these two Maiden albums.
No Prayer for the Dying (1990)
No Prayer for the Dying is the most infamous Maiden album to not have Blaze. Around this time, longtime guitarist Adrian Smith left the band and was replaced by Janick Gers. The single “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” is the band’s only number one hit to date, but the track itself isn’t very good. Credit is due, however, for the solid tune “Tailgunner“.
Dance of Death (2003)
Released two years after the amazing Brave New World, this release was a bit of a step backwards, and the album failed to deliver the level of quality Maiden is known for. The track “Rainmaker” is one of the bands post 80’s songs, however.
Fear of the Dark (1992)
Fear of the Dark is one of the band’s most overlooked albums. While the title track is one of the most popular Iron Maiden songs, the rest of this album is normally panned by your average listener. A dedicated fan will dive in and realize the album has many underrated tracks, including “Be Quick or be Dead“,“Judas My Guide” and “Afraid to Shoot Strangers“.
A Matter of Life and Death (2006)
In 2006, several classic metal bands, including Terrorizer, Sepultura, and Slayer showed the world that putting out albums is something… that they should probably stop doing. Iron Maiden, on the other hand, showed us that still got it. The album was Maiden’s heaviest release at the time as well as their longest and most progressive. Many great tracks are to be heard here including “The Pilgrim“,”The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg“, “Different World” and “Brighter then a Thousand Suns“.
The Final Frontier (2010)
This 15th entry in the Iron Maiden saga was originally supposed to be the band’s last release. Bassist Steve Harris would later reveal this to be untrue. It would have been a sweet final effort, as The Final Frontier is the band’s best work since Brave New World. The album is even longer then the last one, but doesn’t drag on at all. The best tracks from this album are “El Dorado“,”The Alchemist“, “Mother of Mercy“, and “The Talisman“.
Brave New World (2000)
Thanks to Blaze, the mid to late 90’s were the worst time for Iron Maiden. This was until 1999, when Blaze left and Bruce came back and brought with him Adrian Smith. To this day, the band still has three guitarists. At the dawn of the new millennium, the band released this monster of a comeback. Brave New World is an hour and seven minutes of pure awesome. With tracks like “Blood Brothers“, “Brave New World” and “Wickerman“, this is easily the best non-80’s Maiden release.
Somewhere in Time (1986)
Trying to figure out what Maiden’s weakest 80’s release is is a bit redundant, as they are all metal perfection. Somewhere in Time is still an amazing record, despite being ranked the lowest on this list in reference to that era. Best songs from here are “Wasted Years“, “Alexander the Great“, and “Stranger in a Strange Land“.
Killers is the last album to feature Paul Dianno on vocals and first to feature Adrian Smith on guitar. This is the only Maiden album to date to have two instrumental tracks: “Gengus Khan” and “Ides of March“. Killers is largely composed of unreleased songs from the band’s self titled debut. “Wrathchild” is the most popular song from this album and was even featured in game that everyone probably forgot existed, Guitar Hero Rock the 80’s. The album includes other fan favorites such as “Twilight Zone” and “Purgatory“.
Iron Maiden (1980)
Iron Maiden is some record that a bunch of no names put together in their spare time: Paul Dianno, Steve Harris, Clive Burr, and Dennis Stratton. It would launch the career of one of metal’s most legendary outfits. Running Free“,”Iron Maiden” and “Phantom of the Opera” are still stables of Maiden’s sets in a post-Paul Dianno world.
Piece of Mind (1983)
Piece of Mind is the first Iron Maiden album to feature the band’s most well known drummer, Nikko McBrain. This album’s line up of him, vocalist Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, guitarist Adrian Smith, and guitarist Dave Murray would go on to be known as the classic Maiden lineup. The band would keep this line up throughout the 80’s then bring in it back, with the addition of third guitarist Jannick Gers, in 1999. This album has “The Trooper“, which is one of the band’s most well known songs. “Flight of Icarus“, “Where Eagles Dare” and ” Die With Your Boots” and pretty much the rest of this album is just as good. Along with Powerslave and Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind is the best Maiden albums to start out with.
Powerslave is the most underrated of the classic era Maiden albums. The song writing on this album is top notch. The album is most known for the singles “2 Minuites to Midnight” and “Aces High” as well as the 14 minute epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“. While those songs are awesome, the best song from this album is “Flash of the Blade“, a song that was used as the theme to the Dario Argento horror classic Phenomena.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1987)
When a man is born the seventh son from a man that was the seventh son of his parents, this child would be born with supernatural powers. This man’s power would be strong enough to make a difference in the everlasting battle between good and evil. This is the story behind this epic concept album, the band’s only true concept album to date. Panned by fans during its original release due to the addition of synths, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son has now gone on to be one of the band’s most beloved works.
This album is also the first time Maiden would expand upon their prog rock influence, something that has stuck with the band in later releases. In 1988 the band would tour for the album and play the whole thing in its entirety. In 2012, they would tour again for this album this time was Alice Copper as support. Even when not celebrating the album, the songs “Can I Play With Madness“,”The Evil That Men Do” and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” are likely to appear in the band’s set lists. Due to being pretty different from what the band is known for, it might not be the best album to start out with, but once you become a fan of the band it is a must hear!
Number of the Beast (1983)
Number of the Beast was the fuse the sparked Maiden’s explosion out of clubs and into international success. Out was a majority of the punk influence from the first two albums and in were Bruce’s epic opera vocals, cementing the band’s signature sound. The album contains the band’s two most well known songs, “Run to the Hills” and “Number of the Beast” as well as what this humble writer considers the band’s greatest song to date, “Hallowed Be Thy Name“. Let’s just say if it wasn’t for a cheap copy in a local mall in middle of nowhere upstate New York, you might not be reading this list. The entire album is a masterpiece from front to back without a single skip-able track. Number of the Beast is one of the greatest metal albums ever released.