Why Iron Maiden's The Trooper is one of the best riffs of all time

Iron Maiden performing live in 1983
Iron Maiden circa 1983 (Image credit: Getty Images)

If you don’t love The Trooper by Iron Maiden then there’s a strong chance you’re looking at the wrong website, buddy. It’s one of heavy metal’s quintessential guitar anthems and still makes us gallop around the room like a hobby horse fetishist.

Taken from 1983’s Piece Of Mind album, it reached number 12 in the UK singles chart and has been a staple part of Iron Maiden’s live set ever since – seriously, how many times have we seen Bruce waving the Union flag around his head?

Yeah, Maiden have written heaps of killer riffs over the years, but really it’s The Trooper that stands out above all others. And if you agree, you can vote for The Trooper as the Greatest Riff Of All Time. The winner will be revealed on World Guitar Day (October 6).

But why The Trooper, you cry? Well here’s why…

Now, what happens when you are the great white hopes of metal, have just scored a UK number one album packed to the brim with absolute gold-plated classics, and your rabid fanbase are hungry for more? The pressure on Iron Maiden to deliver was intense after 1982’s all-conquering Number Of The Beast album, as the band found themselves in the midst of a potential golden age. Would they be able to keep their imperiously good form on track for album number four? It was a tough thing to achieve, but one listen to the opening riff on the second single from Piece Of Mind tells you everything you need to know about why doubting this most iconic of bands is a foolish game to play.

The Trooper quickly established itself as one of the heaviest pieces of artillery in Maiden’s already anthem-stacked catalogue and sits snugly in the box marked ‘iconic’ to this very day. Yes, it may well be associated with its gung-ho lyricism and Bruce Dickinson’s famed, flag-waving live delivery, but above all else, it’s a track that hangs on that immense, rumbling monster of an opening riff.

Maiden were already proving to be masters of melodic yet technically dazzling guitar work, but this was something else completely. There’s no build-up or warning to what is about to happen; just a smash of a snare and we’re in, swept forth by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s syncopated soaring, carrying the listener into the heat of battle before a word has even been spoken. It’s a riff to throw all your bets on. A riff to live and die by. A riff to win wars with, dammit. By the time Bruce kicks into gear, verbally threatening the track’s unnamed antagonist’s very mortality, there is no doubt to be had whatsoever that we have a classic on our hands. Frankly, the only excuse to not bang your head like a madman to this song’s most iconic of riffs is if you’re Anne Boleyn.

Perfectly executed musical dynamism? Oh yes. Responsible for hundreds of millions of spilt pints the world over? No doubt. Metal as a motherfucker? Don’t you ever forget it. The Trooper is Iron Maiden in a nutshell; bold, brash, pompous and utterly, utterly glorious.

Vote for The Trooper as the greatest riff of all time in the official World Guitar Day poll.

This Michael Jackson/Iron Maiden mashup will change The Trooper for you forever

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