40) When The Wild Wind Blows (The Final Frontier, 2010)
The epic album closer from 2010 album The Final Frontier, it’s almost 11 minutes long and as complex as Iron Maiden can get. Written by Steve Harris (who contributed to each of the ten tracks on the ambitious album), When The Wild Wind Blows is based on author Raymond Briggs’ post-nuclear fallout graphic novel of the same name.
The result? It's a gorgeous, meandering denouement to an album absolutely stacked with great ideas.
“This song is just wacky,” says Maiden producer Kevin Shirley. “It’s written about a cartoon that Steve had seen about a couple that mistake a distant boom for a nuclear attack. Steve was still working on the song when he brought it into the studio. As it was unfinished, everyone was learning it as we went – and it was not easy for anyone! It’s another epic track.”
39) For The Greater Good Of God (A Matter Of Life And Death, 2006)
Maiden’s back catalogue contains several anti-war songs, though few outstrip Steve Harris’ For The Greater Good Of God. Its nine-minutes-plus offer a mix of pointed lyrics (‘Somewhere there’s someone dying in a foreign land/Meanwhile the world is crying stupidity of war’) with some of the band’s all-time finest musicianship, notably from the five-minute mark onwards. A slowburner, it showcases Harris' craft and lyrical spite at its best. Even the eagle soundbite is warranted.
Its nine-and-a-half-minute runtime might explain why it's one of Maiden's lesser-played songs live, having had fewer than 100 outings in the last 13 years.
38) Moonchild (Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, 1988)
Iron Maiden’s triumphant 1988 concept album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son opens with the Adrian Smith/Bruce Dickinson classic Moonchild – guaranteeing an onslaught of goosebumps.
Loosely based on the Aleister Crowley novel of the same name, this occult epic bristles with primal screams and massively creepy lyrics about ritual infant murder. It also dives deep into the mind-bending topics of reality, life after death and the meaning of life.
It’s the perfect balance of Maiden’s metal thunder and pure mysticism.
37) The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner (Somewhere In Time, 1986)
Many griped that when Steve Harris started penning songs about jogging, the well had dried. Still, this goes deeper than that, especially in light of the excellent 1962 British movie of the same name and its themes of youthful rebellion and alienation/ It is a stone cold Iron Maiden classic.
It's also the Iron Maiden song which has had the fewest live outings – by which we mean they played it once. Once. Imagine having a song this perfect and only playing it once in over 30 years. A crowd at Hala Pionir, Belgrade witnessed history on September 10, 1986. Those lucky so-and-sos. Run on and on and back into the setlist. Please.
36) The Prisoner (Number Of The Beast, 1982)
Steve and Adrian’s bruising straight-up heavy metal rocker is a paean to the addictive UK TV series that ran briefly in the late 60s and it is magnificent, from the opening drama of dialogue from the titular TV show, featuring the late, great Patrick McGoohan, through to that monstrous opening riff and on to one of the biggest choruses Maiden have ever produced. McGoohan gave his personal approval for the band to use his voice, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Who wouldn’t want to be associated with the most exciting young band on the planet?
"The Prisoner was a favourite of mine, obviously being a huge fan of the TV series," said Bruce Dickinson. "I always remember the moment when we got Patrick McGoohan, who was star of The Prisoner and who also wrote the series, and we got his permission to use the opening lines of the series. We phoned him up. He’s in Malibu; he’s a recluse and you can’t normally get in touch with him at all. And we got through to him on the phone at home! And we said, ‘Hello, we’re a rock band from England and we’d like to use your bit.’ And he said, ‘What did you say you were called?’ And we went ‘Um, Iron Maiden,’ and he said, ‘Do it,’ and just put the phone down.”
35) Killers (Killers, 1981)
The only song on the Killers album to feature a Paul Di’Anno writing credit, for what would ultimately be his Iron Maiden swan song. His voice is a thing of raucous wonder not just on this track, but throughout the whole record.
“On the first album we were playing fast, almost like punk rock, but with more melody. Martin’s production on Killers gave us a little more polish, without losing our edge,” says Dave Murray of the band’s evolution into glossier realms.
Speaking about the influence of the song on his own bass playing, former Metal Hammer Art Editor Lewis Somerscales says, “I first heard this around the time I was getting into bass. There’s something so great about how it all locks in together, the bass and drums driving it all and the guitars smashing the melodies over the top. Classic Maiden!”
34) Wrathchild (Killers, 1981)
Iron Maiden chose the producer of their second album Killers with extreme care. Martin Birch had worked with the likes of Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult and, especially Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash.
Containing several tracks that they had performed live since before the release of their debut, including the punchy, athletic and Steve Harris-derived Wrathchild. Birch’s introduction made Iron Maiden, now featuring Adrian Smith in Stratton’s place, sound like a million dollars, tempering their aggression with professionalism but without sanding down the rough edges.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the ‘Headmaster’ (as the band nicknamed him) stayed at the console until his retirement in 1992.
“The lyrics, the riffs, the drums… everything about that song! I think it speaks to all metal fans,” former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison tells Metal Hammer. “If you don’t like Wrathchild, you’re not an Iron Maiden fan! The first record I ever bought was Killers. When I got that record, that song just spoke to me and it still does.”
33) Iron Maiden (Iron Maiden, 1980)
While there have been a couple of better songs produced in Iron Maiden’s time together, this is surely still the anthem that defines them. Perfectly melding the sparky punk attack that is spread across their first album with a heavy metal weight and sense of melody that would hint at things to come, there’s a reason Iron Maiden remains the one track to never get dropped from their sets. After all, what would Eddie do without it?
The band famously spent £200 recording four songs at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge on New Year’s Eve 1978 – including a version of Iron Maiden. The Soundhouse Tapes was limited to a mere 500 copies which now fetch as much as £800. Incredibly, two weeks later, upon returning to Spaceward to remix and overdub some extra parts, the band found the master tapes had already been wiped. Consequently, the Soundhouse version of their signature anthem – a track that has closed the set proper of just about every Maiden show performed until the present day – is rough and ready, yet incredibly spirited.
32) Brave New World (Brave New World, 2000)
The title track to 2000's "comeback" album – where, as we wrote in 2000, "Not since the days of The Number Of The Beast, when Bruce Dickinson first rid himself of that ludicrous, posturing Bruce Bruce stage name and threw in his lot with Harris’ Marauders, have the band have such much to prove" – the purpose of Brave New World was to get the band's sound back to their glory days. As this title track proves, they succeeded.
Based around the Aldous Huxley novel of the same name, the song focuses on a dystopian future controlled by a totalitarian government. "The Huxley thing was simply because I thought 'Brave New World' was a cool title for the record, because it sets up this kind of enigma in your head," said Dickinson at the time. "Like, 'What's it about?' But having hit on a title, I then went, 'Well, we'll write the song about the book,' and so I reread the book and I was pretty scared about how bang-on he was."
31) Stranger In A Strange Land (Somewhere In Time 1986)
Stranger In A Strange Land was very different to the Iron Maiden sound we were accustomed to, incorporating synthesisers into their balls-out heavy metal style. “We went for a new kind of sound on Somewhere In Time, using guitar synths, and two of my songs for that album came out really well, Stranger In A Strange Land and Wasted Years,” Adrian Smith told Classic Rock.
Both of Adrian’s songs aforementioned songs were released as singles from Somewhere In Time, with Stranger In A Strange Land reaching number 22 in the UK. The lyrics tell the story of an Arctic explorer, who died on a journey and was frozen in the ice for one hundred years before being discovered.
The song’s opening, Judas Priest-like bassline will echo around your skull for a lifetime. And while Stranger In A Strange Land isn’t Iron Maiden at their most immediate, its lush progressive wash and bubbling groove make for an immersive, sci-fi travelogue.