The 10 best Bruce Dickinson solo songs

Bruce Dickinson in 2023
(Image credit: John McMurtrie)

Scream for me, Metal Hammer! Bruce Dickinson is the cover star on our newest issue, ahead of the release of his long-anticipated seventh solo album, The Mandrake Project, next month. With there being so much buzz around Iron Maiden’s beloved Air-Raid Siren right now, it’s a perfect time to pause and remind ourselves of the past glories that got him to this point. These are the 10 best songs from Bruce’s career outside of The Beast.

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Abduction (Tyranny Of Souls, 2005)

By 2005, metalheads were long accustomed to hearing Bruce back in Maiden mode, the singer having not released a note of solo stuff since reuniting with Steve Harris et al in 1999. Then – on Abduction, the first full song of comeback Tyranny Of Souls – everyone got a striking reminder of just how heavy the frontman could be on his own terms. There’s no NWOBHM twiddling here, replaced by some thunderous thrash riffing from longtime collaborator Roy Z.

Accident Of Birth (Accident Of Birth, 1997)

When the alt-rock detour of 1996’s Skunkworks struck a commercial and critical dead end, Bruce made a fast but welcome return to metal. Accident Of Birth was no mere retread of old Maiden-era glories, though, even with then-ex-guitarist Adrian Smith jumping in to join his old bandmate. The clanging industrial beats of the album’s title track proved it, kickstarting an anthem that contrasts Bruce’s majestic voice against crunching chords and gritty, hellish themes.

Afterglow Of Ragnarok (The Mandrake Project, 2024)

And we thought the seven-year wait for Tyranny Of Souls was long! Afterglow Of Ragnarok, the lead single of The Mandrake Project, represented Bruce’s first new solo music in almost two decades. However, this song was just so damn elegant that no one could reasonably be annoyed about it. From the twirling guitars to that invigorating chorus, everything felt so finely tuned – as it should have, given how long we waited.

Chemical Wedding (The Chemical Wedding, 1998)

The title track of Bruce’s 1998 opus truly lets his voice fly. The frontman’s singing cruises through moody lows during the verses, then flies upwards into triumphant, near-operatic crescendos. Instrumentally, Chemical Wedding is a meat-and-potatoes power ballad, with few unexpected theatrics and a brief four-minute run-time, but that powerhouse vocal performance still makes it feel like a grand odyssey. A standout entry on what many deem to be Bruce’s greatest solo album.

Kill Devil Hill (Tyranny Of Souls, 2005)

Kill Devil Hill is the closest Bruce has ever got to Maiden-level pageantry in his solo band. With its dense keyboards and heroic hook, it’s a bombastic gambit to jam as much adrenaline as possible into five minutes. The track is still characteristically the frontman’s own, though: it taps into his famed passion for aviation by taking its name from the site where the Wright brothers tested their prototype aeroplanes. 

Machine Men (The Chemical Wedding, 1998)

Bruce and Adrian Smith co-wrote four songs during their reunion in the singer’s solo band and, although Machine Men is probably the least listened-to, it’s by far the best. This Chemical Wedding deep cut is a barrage of hellfire guitars, commencing with finger-breaking technicality from Adrian before giving way to one of the album’s slickest choruses. “Machine men! Cannibals of rust! Iron bites the dust!” Bruce wails with his signature and ever-impressive blare.

Man Of Sorrows (Accident Of Birth, 1997)

Aleister Crowley is one of Bruce’s greatest muses. In the early ’90s, the singer wrote a screenplay about the renowned occultist and sex magic aficionado, and he intended Man Of Sorrows to soundtrack the eventual film. The ballad has gone on to remain a heart-tugging highlight more than 25 years since release. Over pianos and swelling strings, the polymath wonders how a young, innocent child could become such a dark and transgressive thinker.

Space Race (Skunkworks, 1996)

Like many metal musicians, Bruce struggled to find his place in the musical landscape following grunge. His alt-rock adventure, Skunkworks, ended up too far removed from the heavy extravagance he’s known for to truly be successful, but there are still some slithers of excellence. Opener Space Race is the most essential listen on the thing, commencing with an upfront bang akin to then-cutting-edge up-and-comers like Failure. A diamond in the rough.

Tattooed Millionaire (Tattooed Millionaire, 1990)

Bruce’s music softened on Tattooed Millionaire, trading metal for AOR, but the singer’s outspoken ways didn’t. The title track of his debut solo album was a scathing attack on glam metal, the womanising and hedonism of the L.A. scene eviscerated with lyrics like, “Out on the strip, out on the tiles, same old greed behind the PR smiles.” Mötley Crüe responded by calling their 2000 album New Tattoo, indicating this potshot hit its target head-on.

Tears Of The Dragon (Balls To Picasso, 1994)

During his first stint in Maiden, the band relished getting Bruce’s voice wrapped up in layers of electric guitars and keyboards. On Tears Of The Dragon, by comparison, the singer layered his voice atop dulcet acoustic notes, and the result remains magical. Bruce had done ballads on Tattooed Millionaire but, with the Maiden split in ’93 being soon followed by this as a single, it was a bold declaration of separation and individuality.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.