Few bands know how to kick off an album like Iron Maiden. Granted, there’s been the odd stinker (we're looking at you, The Number Of The Beast’s Invaders), but mostly the British metal icons start their records as they mean to go on, in full glorious flight. We've whittled the openers to their 16 studio albums to date down to the best 10, and put them in order of greatness. Chocks at the ready, and away we go…
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10. Wildest Dreams (Dance Of Death, 2005)
The 21st century has seen Maiden make a distinct shift towards longer songs and proggier structures. But they can serve up a classic old school opening track when they wanted, as Dance Of Death’s exhilarating first single Wildest Dreams proves.
9. If Eternity Should Fail (The Book Of Souls, 2015)
Maiden kicked off their most ambitious album, The Book Of Souls, with one of their most memorable curtain-raisers. An eerie, psychedelic intro gives way to one of the heaviest, most joyously epic and anthemic album openers that Maiden have ever written. Bruce Dickinson’s voice is massive, the riffs likewise.
8. Prowler (Iron Maiden, 1980)
As the opening track on Maiden’s debut album, Prowler was the song that announced they were serious contenders. While the sexually threatening tone hasn’t aged well, and Will Malone’s production is quite rightly maligned, Maiden’s musical treatment packs an aggression that lays out exactly what would follow for the next 40 years.
7. Be Quick Or Be Dead (Fear Of The Dark, 1992)
Fear Of The Dark’s opening track comes screaming straight out of the gate with a neck-snapping riff. Released in 1992, the song is based on several political scandals happening around that time, including the European stock market crash, and the artwork depicts Eddie staring menacingly into the face of a man resembling Robert Maxwell, the widely loathed British media mogul who died in mysterious circumstances in 1991.
6. Sign Of The Cross (The X Factor, 1995)
How would Maiden kick off their first album following Bruce’s departure? With this immense 11-minute monster, that’s how! The X Factor’s opening track Sign Of The Cross – inspired by the labyrinthine Umberto Eco novel (and movie) of the same name – rolls along on a sinister, rumbling bassline, gaining bonus metal points for those sinister monk chants.
5. 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, diving deep into the mind-bending topics of reality, life after death and the meaning of life. The perfect balance of Maiden’s metal thunder and pure mysticism.
4. Where Eagles Dare (Piece Of Mind, 1983)
The bombastic opener to 1983’s Piece Of Mind kicked off with an immense drum roll, the perfect introduction to new sticksman Nicko McBrain. 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.
3. The Wicker Man (Brave New World, 2000)
As much as the Blaze Bayley era remains lazily underrated, no one could deny how insanely exciting it was when The Wicker Man emerged as the first single, 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 opening songs.
2. Caught Somewhere In Time (Somewhere In Time, 1986)
The most underrated of Maiden’s 1980s albums by a mile, Somewhere In Time came between two major milestones and, as a result, seldom gets the props it deserves. Caught Somewhere In Time is one of Maiden’s greatest album openers.
1. Aces High (Powerslave, 1984)
The killer opening track on not one but two classic Maiden albums: 1984’s Powerslave and the following year’s magnificent Live After Death, where it is preceded by Winston Churchill’s iconic “‘We shall fight them the beaches” speech. But even without Churchill’s stirring intonations, Aces High’s tales of dog-fighting derring do remains prime Maiden - huge, anthemic and utterly brilliant.