Our Top 10 Favorite Bands list has brought us to number 6. If you missed any of the previous bands, be sure to check out the links to the rankings at the bottom of the page. Today’s band didn’t invent the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but they damn sure perfected it…
6. Iron Maiden
Here’s a fun exercise: close your eyes and think of the words “heavy metal.” Now open them. Chances are you thought of Metallica, maybe Priest or Sabbath, but certainly Iron Maiden. There are a handful of bands that have now become synonymous with the term “heavy metal” and Maiden is definitely one of them.
When the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was being formed by young and hungry bands in England in the late 70’s, many of them fizzled out after the trend started to die down only a few short years later. There were two key bands with markedly different sounds that would end up surviving the trend’s chopping block. One of those was Def Leppard (more on them in a later entry) and the other was Maiden.
Maiden’s sound can best be summed up by Anthrax guitar player Scott Ian as “[Judas] Priest but eviler.” Their first two albums with original singer Paul Di’anno are as sinister sounding as it gets with a touch of prog rock; it was as if Yes started wearing leather jackets and practicing Satanism. After Di’anno was booted, the band went from evil prog rock outfit to arena ready giants with former Samson frontman Bruce Dickinson at the helm. Maiden had a string of albums with Dickinson that rocketed the band to superstardom and are considered classics by any metal fan.
What separates Maiden from the rest of it’s metal brethren is their eagerness to be creative and different without alienating their core fanbase. You never hear Maiden fans complaining about the group selling out like you do from, say, Metallica or Def Leppard fans. Iron Maiden have been around for almost 40 years and their fans are still as loyal as ever, and part of that is owed to how genuine the band has remained. You would be hard pressed to find a metal fan who isn’t a huge Maiden fan, and for how expansive the genre of Heavy Metal is, that says a lot about these 5 lads from London
Best Album – Powerslave (1984)
In all honesty, this was a nearly three way tie between Maiden’s 1984 masterpiece, 1981’s Killers, and Number of the Beast. It is Powerslave, however, that delivers on every single track from dropping the needle on “Aces High” to the record rut after “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” There are very few albums that, in their entirety, capture a group at the height of their creative genius, but Powerslave gives listeners a chance to hear Iron Maiden firing on all cylinders. Dickinson had already been with the quintet for two albums, and the band’s “classic” lineup was in place for years prior. What you get as a finished product is, in my opinion , one of the greatest side-to-side metal albums in music history. Every song has purpose and there is absolutely zero filler here. If you consider yourself a fan of metal and haven’t checked this one out, do it!
Worst Album – The X Factor (1995)
What happens when one of the most iconic singers in rock history leaves the band that made him famous? Well you get this album, of course. The songs on The X Factor aren’t particularly terrible, but they sound too much like someone trying to be Iron Maiden. When comparing this one to the classics of the 80’s, it shrivels in their presence. It seems like an unfair comparison, but someone had to occupy this spot and it goes to this 1995 disappointment. Give it a listen if you feel I’m being unfair, but I’ll stand by this verdict until proven otherwise.
Strongest Member – Steve Harris (Bass/Vocals)
The captain of the S.S. Maiden, Steve Harris is one of the most revered members of the heavy metal family. You will routinely see him popping up on lists of best bass players of all time but what really distinguishes him from other purveyors of 4-stringed bad-assery is his deft songwriting ability. A quick check of any Iron Maiden LP will net you plenty of S. Harris writing credits as well as some producing to boot. Harris was also one of the founding members of Maiden and is the only member to appear on EVERY album (and boy have there been a lot)! Through longevity alone, Stevie boy easily claims this spot as his own.
Weakest Member – Blaze Bayley (Vocals)
I don’t really have too much to say about old Blaze here, other than that he was the weakest member on Maiden’s weakest album. That alone lands him on this not-so-coveted platform and it wasn’t a particularly hard choice either. Bayley is a fine vocalist but he’s to Maiden what Gary Cherone is to Van Halen: a talented singer who just wasn’t right for the job.