09 April 2017

Sonic Chronicle - Iron Maiden.

After having so much fun ranking the releases for Anthrax, I thought I'd take a moment to do the same for my favorite band of all time, the one and only Iron Maiden. Let's get to the records.

16. The X Factor (1995). I guess if we're going worst to best, it makes sense to start with Blaze Bayley's iteration of Maiden. I don't think Blaze replacing Bruce Dickinson was as much of a hindrance as still not having Adrian Smith was. I think Smith could have made the Blaze experiment work, or at least better. The hooks just aren't really present. Yes, this album is my least favorite Maiden record, but it's still really good for what it is. Killer tracks: Sign of the Cross, Lord of the Flies, Man on the Edge, The Aftermath.

15. Virtual XI (1998). This album is probably the consensus worst album by Iron Maiden, but I actually dig a lot of it. The production isn't too great, but the songwriting is actually loaded with pretty good hooks and some memorable parts. It does warrant mentioning, however, this album does house the single worst Maiden song ever recorded in "The Angel and the Gambler." Gross. Killer tracks: Futureal, The Clansman, The Educated Fool, Lightning Strikes Twice, Don't Look to the Eyes of a Stranger.

14. No Prayer for the Dying (1990). This album is not terrible by any stretch, but it is the sound of a band that is pretty disinterested in making a great album. The band wasn't into it or getting along, and it sounded like it. It has its moments, but nothing truly groundbreaking. Killer tracks: Bring Your Daughter... To the Slaughter, Tail Gunner, Hooks in You, Mother Russia, No Prayer for the Dying.

13. A Matter of Life and Death (2006). This album was fantastic on first listen, but kind of lost a little luster with each successive spin for whatever reason. It's a little darker than the normal Maiden album, and all the staples are there, but the tracks are a little too long and a little too repetitive at times. Still a great, great album. Killer tracks: The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg, Brighter than a Thousand Suns, The Longest Day, Different World, These Colours Don't Run.

12. The Final Frontier (2010). When I saw the title of this one, I was nervous the band was calling it quits afterword. Obviously, they didn't, and I'm relieved because this album rocked. I was a huge fan of the sci-fi atmosphere of this album, and more than a few tracks clicked with me right off the bat. I do recall Bruce Dickinson sounding like he had a bit of age on him for the first time on this one though. Killer Tracks: Starblind, Satellite 15... The Final Frontier, Coming Home, When the Wild Wind Blows.

11. The Book of Souls (2015). What's better than an Iron Maiden album? A double album, of course. The somewhat excessive length aside, this album is packed with great songs with a little more of a progressive edge. Killer tracks: Empire of the Clouds, The Red and the Black, Tears of a Clown.

10. Dance of Death (2003). This album was the quintessential grower for me. When I first heard it, I didn't really like it, but the more I let it play, the more I began to realize it was actually quite the masterpiece. Killer tracks: Paschendale, Journeyman, Dance of Death, Wildest Dreams, Rainmaker.

9. Piece of Mind (1983). I've never been as big of a fan of this album as most other metalheads, but that's not saying it's not a classic. It is. I think I just don't like the honky, midrange-y guitar sound. The riffs are all there, and the songwriting is masterful as usual. Killer tracks: The Trooper, Where Eagles Dare, Flight of Icarus, Die with Your Boots on.

8. Iron Maiden (1980). Before Maiden were running to the hills, they were running free. This debut is raw NWOBHM with a hint of punk attitude thanks to Paul Di'Anno's vocals, and I can't imagine a world without everything this album brought to the heavy metal scene. Killer tracks: Remember Tomorrow, Prowler, Running Free, Iron Maiden.

7. Brave New World (2000). This album will be best known as the returns of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith. This was also the first album the band recorded with all three guitarists. The results are a band that sounds revitalized with fresh hooks and a veritable wall of guitar sound. Many of the tunes on here are also featured with killer live versions on the Rock in Rio live album. Killer tracks: The Wicker Man, The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Blood Brothers, The Mercenary.

6. Killers (1981). I love this album, and I couldn't imagine anyone other than Paul Di'Anno singing on it. It's more frenetic and energetic than anything that would come after, and Paul's punk roots really blended beautifully with Maiden's streamlined, galloping heavy metal sound. Killer tracks: Killers, Wrathchild, Innocent Exile, Murders in the Rue Morgue.

5. The Number of the Beast (1982). I guess it would be more fitting if this was number 6, but we'll just go with it. It's just a classic record that changed the game for heavy metal in so many ways. It has its share of stinker tracks, but the good tunes are classics you just can't argue against. Killer tracks: 22 Acacia Avenue, The Prisoner, Children of the Damned, The Number of the Beast, Hallowed By Thy Name.

4. Fear of the Dark (1992). I know this album raises more than a few eyebrows when I mention it with the same reverent tone as Maiden's other classics, but that's just a testament to how much I love this album. It was the first Maiden album I ever heard, so it has nostalgia going for it. I have vivid memories of riding around town jamming to the CD in high school whenever I was bored. I even have a framed poster of the album art on my wall. One of my all time faves. Killer tracks: Fear of the Dark, Afraid to Shoot Strangers, Be Quick or Be Dead, Wasting Love, Fear is the Key, The Apparition.

3. Powerslave (1984). In the mid-'80s, Maiden was releasing masterpiece after masterpiece and somehow found a way to top themselves with each new record. Powerslave is jam-packed with classic heavy metal riffs and dueling guitar solos that you sing to yourself for a lifetime. Killer tracks: Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Flash of the Blade, 2 Minutes to Midnight, Powerslave, Aces High.

2. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988). It would be easy to find a metalhead who would call this album the best album of all time. In fact, I couldn't argue. It's that good. The guitar tone is a slightly more organic version of the Somewhere in Time tone, but the masterful songwriting is where this one really shines. It's second to no one else out there. Period. Killer tracks: Only the Good Die Young, Moonchild, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Can I Play with Madness.

1. Somewhere in Time (1986). There is not a single second of this album that I don't find amazing. In my opinion, it's one of only a handful of records for which I could even entertain the idea of perfection. That razor sharp Gallien-Krueger guitar tone fits the sci-fi theme of the album very well, and I have even been in love with that sound since the moment I heard it. A must-have album for any metal fan. Killer tracks: Alexander the Great, Stranger in a Strange Land, Wasted Years, Heaven Can Wait, Sea of Madness.