30) The Clairvoyant (Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, 1988)
Reaching #6 in the UK singles chart, The Clairvoyant was the third single to be taken from the Iron Maiden’s 1988 album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.
Practically bursting at the seams with outlandish mischief, the song glides along a gleaming, multilayered verse before melting into a thunderous, 4/4 chorus that was tailor-made for pogoing festival crowds. Also featuring Bruce Dickinson at his prophetic best.
“This one’s got a real nice, different mood to it,” says Nikki McBurrain, drummer in the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens. “We try to balance it out, but there’s just so many great songs to choose from! It changes the direction of the set, and we do want to include more eras than just the early days up to Live After Death. Whenever we finish a song and Wanda starts that amazing bass line, everybody knows what it is and a lot of times you hear a gasp from the audience. And it sounds OK without a keyboard!”
29) Where Eagles Dare (Piece Of Mind, 1983)
The bombastic opener to 1983’s Piece Of Mind, Bruce Dickinson regales the listener with a war story of bullets and blizzards, amidst a triumphant soundtrack that is as acrobatic rhythmically as it is imagistic, based on the 1968 movie of the same name.
“I remember that quite vividly, because first of all, I was a huge fan of the movie – we all were,” said Bruce Dickinson. “And secondly, there’s a drum part on it which is great. Nicko wanted to use a double bass drum and we wouldn’t let him and he did the whole thing with a single bass drum, and he still does and still refuses to use double bass drums. Because after playing that bit with a single bass drum pedal, he’s like, ‘No, that’s it. I’m going to use a single bass drum pedal. Everybody else is going to have to catch up.’”
Speaking to Hammer about the song, Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor said Where Eagles Dare was the first Iron Maiden song he ever heard. “I bought Piece Of Mind, and when Where Eagles Dare came in, it just hooked me. That drum fill alone was more than enough. What an album opener!”
28) The Wicker Man (Brave New World, 2000)
How do you inform the world that Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith’s returns to the Maiden fold are a success? By launching your new album with a fucking grenade of a track.
As much as the Blaze Bayley era remains lazily underrated, no one could deny how insanely exciting it was when The Wicker Man emerged, instantly proclaiming the return of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith to be the best thing to happen to Maiden in a long time. It’s a modern metal classic, an irresistible sing-along and one of Maiden’s greatest ever singles.
“The Wicker Man pulls me to a small Scottish island and makes me play the fool before I am burned alive,” Blaze Bayley tells Classic Rock. “It is the curse of this love: that even if I knew what was waiting for me, I would still go gladly to my doom because of this music.”
27) Paschendale (Dance Of Death, 2003)
War has always been a major thematic inspiration in metal, both as a metaphor for life’s struggles and to acknowledge the heroism of those who fought to preserve our freedoms. Maiden’s knack for vivid storytelling has never seemed more potent than when wrapped around a genuine historical event, and with that in mind, no Iron Maiden songs exerts more emotional clout or unnerving intensity than Paschendale.
The Battle Of Passchendaele (its correct Belgian spelling) took place in Belgium during WWI between July and November 1917. Allied forces were seeking to wrestle control of the city of Ypres from the German Empire and to block the German army’s supply lines. More than 400,000 British and German soldiers were slaughtered in one of the war’s most senseless and gruesome campaigns. Once again, Maiden have long exhibited a knack for summing up the brutality of conflict and Adrian Smith’s initial idea, to write a song about this most hideous of war stories, could hardly have been more fitting. What is truly extraordinary about the resulting song is how elegantly the guitarist’s monumental musical ideas meshed seamlessly with the bitter, bruised poetry of the lyrics, meticulously evoking the horror and futility of what took place on that battlefield: ‘In the smoke, in the mud and lead/Smell the fear and the feeling of dread/Soon be time to go over the wall/Rapid fire and the end of us all…’ Iron Maiden’s musical progress in the 21st century has very much been about the expanding and harnessing of more overtly progressive ideals, resulting in longer songs, more elaborate arrangements and ever more absorbing lyrical conceits.
When Dance Of Death hit the shops in September 2003, Paschendale seemed to represent the zenith of that approach. Structurally inspired, it’s a masterclass in goosebump-inducing dynamics, as it lurches from restrained, unsettling quiet to eruptions of power and volume, all driven along by Nicko McBrain’s thrillingly expressive drumming. An instant show-stopper when Maiden hit the road to promote that new album, Paschendale also gave Bruce an opportunity to throw himself bodily into conveying the true drama inherent in the song’s meaning and delivery. As Bruce sang, the band’s stage set seemed to morph into a hazy, bloodsoaked battlefield and, by no means for the first time, Iron Maiden’s legendarily spectacular live show seemed to transform into something beyond simple entertainment. Nostalgia may dictate that earlier Maiden songs are more regularly celebrated, but Paschendale stands as one of the band’s greatest ever creations.
“Adrian came up with the idea for that one," says Steve Harris. "I helped arrange and write and take it where I felt it needed to go. But yeah, it’s just a big, epic song. It was a very enjoyable song to play, but you had to concentrate! I was really happy with the way it came out. I’d like to play it again, for sure.
26) 22 Acacia Avenue (The Number Of The Beast, 1982)
Essentially a sequel to the equally fiery Charlotte The Harlot from Maiden’s eponymous debut, 22 Acacia Avenue is a great example of the band’s gift for telling stories and writing music that drags an audience along for the narrative ride. Originally a song by Adrian Smith’s earlier band Urchin, it was reshaped by Steve Harris for Maiden’s third album and duly showcased Maiden’s mastery of tempo changes and elaborate arrangements. It also kicks arse.
25) The Clansman (Virtual XI, 1998)
There may be Maiden fans for whom 1998’s Virtual XI was a convenient entry point into the band’s world, but few would claim that it is one of the band’s strongest records. But then, of course, there is The Clansman. Steve Harris has often expressed his love for epic movies and cited film soundtracks as an enduring source of inspiration, so there was a certain inevitability to the news that the Blaze Bayley- fronted Maiden had recorded a song inspired by Mel Gibson’s box-office triumph, Braveheart, the story of William Wallace, 13th-century Scottish warrior and kilt- sporting badass. The movie itself was undoubtedly overblown and historically suspect, but the essence of its message – the victory of the oppressed over their oppressors – was perfect for a heavy metal anthem.
While much of the rest of Virtual XI struggled to hold the attention (not least the overlong The Angel And The Gambler), The Clansman stood out as a Maiden classic, one of Blaze’s finest ever vocal performances and, more importantly, firm evidence that Steve Harris was still more than capable of writing songs that could compel an entire arena full of fans to bellow along with maximum enthusiasm. When Maiden hit the road in support of Virtual XI, the song was greeted like an old friend, as thousands roared “Freeeedoooooom!” and Blaze revelled in the moment. After the singer’s departure and the return of Bruce and Adrian Smith in 1999, Maiden were somewhat excused from having to perform Blaze-era songs, but The Clansman remained in the setlist for a good while and seemed to grow in power and allure when sung by everyone’s favourite airline pilot. The definitive version of the song can be found on 2002’s Rock In Rio live album, wherein Bruce injected fresh impetus into a song that sums up the band’s never-say-die spirit. The Clansman also seems oddly pertinent in today’s Trump-bothered world: ‘It’s a time wrought with fear/It’s a land wrought with change/If ancestors could hear what is happening now/They would turn in their graves/They would all be ashamed/That the land of the free has been written in chains.’
24) Children Of The Damned (The Number Of The Beast, 1982)
Sure, there are more famous tracks on 1982’s The Number Of The Beast album, but Children Of The Damned is a stone cold Iron Maiden standard. With a title and narrative lifted from the 1960s cult horror movie, the song is as richly melodic as it is crushingly heavy.
“To me the era that got me interested in Iron Maiden was the first three albums, and this just reminds me of that era,” says Nikki McBurrain from tribute band The Iron Maidens. “It’s such an early classic, very powerful, people get very emotional when the start of that song kicks in, they’ve got their fists in the air! It just goes over really well live.”
23) Afraid To Shoot Strangers (Fear Of The Dark, 1992)
Taken from Iron Maiden’s 1992 album Fear Of The Dark, it’s by no means as famous as that song, but Afraid To Shoot Strangers is an impassioned track detailing the plight of soldiers fed into relentless government war machines.
Written from the point of view of a solider in the Gulf War, it’s very much an anti-war song in terms of narrative. The song made a welcome return to Iron Maiden’s setlist in recent years, perhaps owing to the heightened political times we live in.
22) Caught Somewhere In Time (Somewhere In Time, 1986)
The most underrated of Maiden’s ‘80s albums by a mile, Somewhere In Time came between two major milestones and, as a result, seldom gets the props it deserves. In fact, it’s fucking stunning and still sounds fresh and vital over 30 years later. Caught Somewhere In Time is one of Maiden’s greatest album openers, and another of Maiden's classics based around popular culture. In fact, the film it's named after – 1979 sci-fi movie Time After Time – is the very same movie which inspired the Cyndi Lauper track of the same name.
21) Empire Of The Clouds (The Book Of Souls, 2015)
Clocking in at just over 18 minutes, Empire Of The Clouds is officially Iron Maiden’s longest song – surpassing previous record holder Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Written entirely by frontman Bruce Dickinson, the concept track tells the tale of the doomed R101 airship that crashed in 1930, killing 48 people.
“I think it’s a masterpiece, actually – I think I can say that because I didn’t write it!” said Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris in 2015. “It sounds like Maiden but it’s totally different from what we’ve done before.
“Eighteen minutes sounds like a long time, but it’s actually such a journey that… well, it’s best just to leave people to listen to it and see what they think. But it’s very interesting. It’s certainly not boring.”
Empire Of The Clouds was released as a single for Record Store Day in 2016, although it is yet to be performed live by the band.