The first four albums are, of course, Iron Maiden,Killers, The Number Of The Beast and Peice Of Mind, released from 1980-'84.
Really, the results we get here can be applicable to the '91-'95 years. Why? Well, there were dramitic-ish changes in the sound and style of Iron Maiden with the change of singers in 1981, from Paul Di'Anno to Bruce Dickinson. In 1991 Maiden released Fear Of The Dark, their last studio album1 with Dickinson before they took on Blaze Bayley in 1993 and released The X Factor two years later.
But I digress...
Iron Maiden: A breif overview
The first album, yes indeed.
It's only really been until the last month or so that the unique sound of the record has been lost on me. Unique sound? Listen to the album, and then listen to any other Iron Maiden album. Do they sound a bit different? What I'm thinking of is the production of the record. Iron Maiden was produced by Will Malone (the only Maiden album he produced), and according to the band he wasn't very helpful and so they pretty much had to produce it themselves.
Seeing as every album from Killers to Fear Of the Dark was mainly produced by Martin Birch (bassist Steve Harris did a spot of producing here and there) that would account for Iron Maiden sounding slightly different to every other album.
It's a fairly aggressive album, going over the topics of freedom (from a teenage perspective), streaking and prostitutes, among others. That's just three songs out of nine, a third of the album. The other six songs seem to have no specific subject (apart from Phantom of The Opera, where the subject is in the title). Suffice to say it's not your standard fare of "I am the antichrist it's what I was meant to be".
"Wait, wait! Whaddya mean, nine tracks? there's only eight, dummy!"
Silence, you dummy. When Maiden re-issued Iron Maiden on enhanced CD format back in 1998, they added the single Sactuary, making nine tracks. Nah!
The bottom line: this is a class album.
Oh yeah, and don't forget to listen to Steve Harris's and Dennis Stratton's backing vocals near the end of Running Free. It's one of the high-points of the album.
Killers: even briefer
The Number Of The Beast: Bruce Bruce
This is where the lineup changes again (Dennis Stratton was replaced with Adrian Smith for Killers, though you can't really hear the difference). Like I said, Paul Di'Anno replaced with Bruce Dickinson, arguably the best singer Maiden have had2.
The singer changes, so the sound changes. If you've listened to these four albums back to back over two days (like I did) then you will notice the difference. Now Maiden are aggresive, but in a different way. More cultured aggressiveness, I guess. With the deeper voice of Pail D'A, the music sounds more aggressive. The mr Mair Raid Siren, it does not. Still don't get my drift? Then buy the bloody album, you cheapskate.
Now, the songs...The Number Of The Beast was my first HM album, and the third verse of Invaders was my first taster of morbid lyrics. Two months later, when I bought Slayer's Decade Of Aggression, morbid lyrics suddenly became irrelevent, and not quite so amusing any more. Even the song titles on that are enough to scare your granny...
Children Of The Damned, in my era when all I really listened to was Eric Clapton, sounded a bit out of place. It's the intro. Still, it's ok now. Great song.
Beavis and Butthead played a bit of air guitar while singing along to the verse of The Prisoner once, and The Number of The Beast, run To The Hills and Hallowed Be Thy Name are still played live by Maiden. strange how Hallowed made it to Best Of The Beast while Afraid To Shoot Strangers didn't.
What's left? 22 Acacia Avenue (the continueing saga of Charlotte The Harlot), Gangland (written by Clive Burr and Adrian Smith and a little disappointing to some) and Total Eclipse. Total Eclipse was originally on the B-side of the Run To The Hills single, but with the 1998 re-issue it got a place in the album. Which is good because it's a great song.
Many people start listening to Iron Maiden with The Number Of The Beast. If you lack imagination and need a bamdwagon to jump onto, then this would be the ideal candidate for your first Iron Maiden album. Because it is brilliant.
Peice Of Mind: wtf?!
This is where things start to go a bit odd. Of the four albums, this is the one you'd think sounds least like Iron Maiden. But Maiden have never been ones for complying with the same style. No, that's the path of your unimaginative sell-out talentless 1990s s****y pop band (Westlife, Spice Girls, Boyzonly, Backshaft Boys etc, you know the score).
What is it that sounds different? Is it the new drummer, Nicko McBrain? Of course not. The only person you'd notice if they'd replaced them would be the singer.
No, it has to be the style. It is very different. Now, I'm not very good at describing how music sounds, but if I had to choose a word then I suppose it would be 'melodic'. But really, instead of doing an all-out thrash thing (not that Maiden thrash), it's more smooth, not quite so heavy, but still heavy.
Ah, bloody hell! At least you know that if you buy this album then it won't sound like any other you've got.
To be honest, this is the worst of the three albums. Now, just because I said 'worst', doesn't mean I think it's rubbish. No, it's just not as good as the other three.
Saving grace for the album are the singles Flight Of Icarus and THE TROOOOOOOOOPPEEEERRRRR!!!. Flight Of Icarus has jamming guitars and great vocals. A memorable chorus, and Bruce D really putting effort into there.
The Trooper is the hardest, loudest, fastest song on the album, and easily the best. Four words to sum it up: hard, loud, fast, best. I saw it at a car-boot sale a few years back and I hate myself for not buying it.
Other good songs are Where Eagles Dare, which is spoiled by an overly long solo. Die With Your Boots On doesn't seem to know whether it's chorus is cominhg or going, Quest For Fire has imaginitive lyrics, sung by the indomtable Dickinson, and To Tame A Land is nice.
See if you can work out the backwards message at the start of Still Life, and while you're at it, try and find the other message in the song.
UP THE IRONS!!!