Iron Maiden have no shortage of great songwriters in their ranks, but Bruce Dickinson has long stood out as the most distinctive among them. His current status as heavy metal’s indefatigable renaissance man may occasionally overshadow his achievements as a musician, but the Maiden catalogue is rich with songs written either by Bruce alone or in collaboration with other members of the band. To celebrate the Air Raid Siren’s compositional chops, here are the ten finest Bruce-penned Maiden tunes to date…
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10. Flash Of The Blade (1984)
Although overshadowed by the great epics around it on Powerslave, Flash Of The Blade is a jolting dose of pure Maiden swashbuckling. With a chorus huge enough to flatten planets and lyrics that spark and froth with blade-wielding fearlessness, it might as well be Bruce Dickinson in song form.
9. Flight Of Icarus (1983)
One of the first collaborations between Bruce and guitarist Adrian Smith, Piece Of Mind single Flight Of Icarus pulls of the neat trick of being thunderous and epic and a snappy, four-minute anthem. Again, the song always sounded custom-built to showcase the vocalist’s extraordinary range, while its cautionary lyrical tale is as timeless as Eddie’s horrified face.
8. If Eternity Should Fail (2015)
One of Bruce’s greatest solo feats of songwriting, the brooding opening track from The Book Of Souls is arguably the heaviest thing that Iron Maiden have ever recorded. It certainly sets up the ominous, epic tone of the rest of the band’s most extravagant album. And just think: Bruce was carrying a cancerous tumour in his throat when he sang this. Fucking legend.
7. Empire Of The Cloud (2015)
Never a man to do things by halves, Bruce single-handedly conjured The Book Of Souls’ mind-bending 18-minute epic and created Maiden’s most thrillingly preposterous moment in the process. The tragic tale of the British R101 airship, which crashed in France in October 1930, it begins with Bruce playing the piano and ends with what sounds quite a lot like the apocalypse. In between, Maiden’s fearless explorer flexes creative muscles he didn’t know he had, and The Book Of Souls had a closing track that truly took the breath away.
6. The Wicker Man (2000)
When Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the Maiden fold at the arse-end of the ‘90s, fans went justifiably berserk. The album that emerged from that partial reunion, Brave New World, turned out to be a classic, and some of its finest moments came from the Dickinson biro. The Wicker Man was instantly recognisable as a monstrous, undeniable anthem, with its co-author front and centre, singing his actual backside off.
5. Ghost Of The Navigator (2000)
As if The Wicker Man wasn’t exciting enough, the second track on Brave New World confirmed beyond doubt that Maiden were back and on blistering form. A co-write with Steve Harris and Janick Gers, Ghost Of The Navigator was wildly melodic but also noticeably prog-tinged and epic in a way that Maiden hadn’t touched upon for well over a decade.
4. These Colours Don’t Run (2006)
Still the finest of Maiden’s post-millennial albums, A Matter Of Life And Death was full of dark, dramatic moments, but it was Bruce’s bittersweet tale of dogged defiance on the battlefield that seemed to have the greatest impact. Maiden have written many songs about war, but seldom with this much fury or intensity. As Bruce notes, “You had it all, you fucking pigs!”
3. Powerslave (1984)
A song that so brilliantly evokes the atmosphere and majesty of Ancient Egypt that it’s like having a pyramid dropped on your head, Powerslave is simply a perfect heavy metal moment. Bruce’s literate but gleefully overwrought lyrics are a master class in storytelling, while the riffs and melodies plunge the listener directly into Tutankhamun’s tomb. Also, the song has given Bruce endless opportunities to dress up onstage. He loves it.
2. Revelations (1983)
Having proved himself to be an extraordinary singer on 1982’s The Number Of The Beast, Bruce cemented his reputation as a great songwriter on follow-up Piece Of Mind. Revelations was grandiose, extremely heavy and yet tinged with subtle melodic touches: it fit perfectly into Maiden’s musical world, and still stands out as one of their finest songs of the ‘80s. The live version on the recently released Nights Of The Dead: Legacy of The Beast – Live In Mexico City is particularly great, incidentally.
1. Moonchild (1988)
Maiden fans will argue long into the night about which is the greatest of the band’s album openers. But the correct answer is Seventh Son Of A Seventh’s Moonchild, so no arguing necessary. From its eerie, acoustic intro to the slow-build of those spiralling guitar synths and on to that exhilarating explosion of riffs and wails (“Hear the mandrake screeeeeeeam!”), it fulfilled Bruce’s desire to weave some proggy indulgence into Maiden’s trademark sound, while also providing the band with a show-opener that was absolutely guaranteed to scalp the first 200 rows. An object lesson in refined bombast, it’s also the unbeatable sound of Dickinson at fiery, full pelt.