Maiden. The greatest heavy metal band of all time. That isn’t my opinion, that’s just a fact which can be proven if you multiply the length of their career decades by the amount of die-hard, foaming-at-the-mouth fans this band has rounded up through the 40+ years of their ‘stint’, and then multiply that by the bold nature of their ballsy, ageless lyrics. They are the only Rock or Metal band to truly pull off having 3 full-time lead guitar players, and give it all reason and purpose. As someone who knows way too much about this ‘band’ and their 16-studio album-long catalog, I think the following list not only embodies the core messages of their lyrics and what they’re ‘all about’, but also highlights why this band is so unique. What makes it more interesting is that they can all be put under the umbrella of ‘underrated songs’. I base that not only on the bands lack of inclusion in their live set lists, but also on the opinions I’ve observed while talking to other fans.
The track opens with what could be described as a primordial ‘Fear of the Dark’. When the main melody kicks in it is made clear that this is Maiden trying to be at their heaviest. The chorus contains some of the longest and most dramatic whales by Dickinson that he has ever sang. This album clearly marked a pivotal point in Maidens career where they decided to push their limits even further, departing from the safe feel of ‘Powerslave Power-Metal’ and reaching for not only a more mainstream sound, but a more progressive and experimental one as well. LINK
This song is about as underrated as it goes with most Maiden fans even forgetting it exists, as goes with most of this album. The intro very much mirrors the core melody of the albums title track, and ‘Face’ could be considered a ‘Dance of Death’ medley.
“Everyone’s nightmare is going to happen, everyone’s ripping the mask from their eyes.
Everyone’s praying but no one’s believing, everyone’s heroes tell everyone’s lies”
By the time the chorus hits, the drama in the lyrics discussing humanity’s mass ignorance and laziness is so intense you will no doubt stop and pay attention, as Maiden deems necessary. LINK
In my personal opinion this song is simply a better version of ‘Bring your Daughter…To the Slaughter’ (which oddly enough is the next track on the album). ‘Hooks’ is catchy, silly and violent to the point of satire. This album showed a clear attempt by Dickinson to do something more scratchy and demonic-sounding with his voice, like some sort of bat/human hybrid demon creature that was just released from the depths of hell onto the earth. For a song about committing an act of murder, it sure is fun to blast while driving down an open road. But maybe that’s just every Maiden song. And yes, there is heavy use of cowbell on this one (even though that was a totally different guy named Bruce Dickinson). LINK
Dance of Death worried some long time fans that Maiden were over-experimenting, and losing track of their ‘power-metal’ inspiring roots. Monstsegur shows that this is the same old Maiden, better produced than ever before. The crunchiness of the guitars as they hit you in the very opening of the song and the boldness and assurance of the chugging harmonies being dished out by Murray, Smith and Gers is a thing to behold.
“The eye in the triangle smiling with sin, no passover feast for the cursed within,
Facing the sun as they went to their grave, burn like a dog or you live like a slave.”
Bruce does an insane job on this chorus, with some spectacular guitar harmonies underneath. If this song doesn’t make you want to pick up a sword and charge into battle, ready to decapitate anyone who stands in your way, then you should probably turn it up a little. LINK
Killers is an album that most heavy metal fans revere as Maiden’s best. On a disc where it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite cut, ‘Purgatory’ seems to take the cake when it comes to catchiness, speed and memorability.
“Thinking of an age old dream, places I have never seen, fantasies lived times before, split my brain, melt through the floor.”
Ironically, for a song whose lyrics seem to be entirely centered on deep meditation and astral travel, the song is loud, heavy and fast. The harmonies of the main guitar lead never get old and they transition perfectly into the slick harmonies of the chorus. However, the drums and the guitar harmonies are endless, never ceasing to pound away, like the focus you must maintain in order to stay locked into an astral projection or out of body experience. Lyrics aside, the music of this song perfectly embodies the albums tough yet smooth fusion of punk, pop and metal. LINK
On what fans call Maiden’s proggiest album (and my personal favorite), ‘Only the Good Die Young’ is the shortest song on ‘Seventh Son’ and the perfect way to end it such an album.
“Is death another birthday? A way to kiss your dreams goodbye? Do the undead live within us? And look through our eyes?”
This track seems to include all of the unique elements of the songs that precede it; A typically catchy Maiden-esque verse and chorus, but also a very experimental mid-section featuring a great show-off moment on bass by Steve Harris. Some might even call this song a medley of the whole album, finishing off exactly where we started with an acoustic outro that mirrors Moonchild’s intro. I don’t think there was a better way to end this monumental album. LINK
Underrated album, and an even more underrated song. Again, one that many fans have curiously brushed under the rug. Here we see elements that don’t sound like anything Maiden has ever done before or since, with an upbeat sounding verse that almost echoes Pearl Jam. But the lyrics eventually contrast that upbeat feeling:
“Now we live in a world of uncertainty, fear is the key to what you want to be,
You don’t get a say, the majority get’s its way, You’re outnumbered by the bastards till the day you die”
Halfway through things start to get weird, in a very good way. All of the sudden we’re given a drastic tempo change that almost reminisces of Jethro Tull’s longer numbers, and before we know it we’re on some kind of ancient Egyptian-prog-nightmare ride (again, in a good way) with a semi-abrupt ending that almost comes out of nowhere. This is Maiden wanting to be full of surprises. LINK
The last 3 tracks of ‘Final Frontier’ are clearly the highlight of the album, if not the saving grace. This song is the only one of the 3 that was never played live to my knowledge and seems to embody all the elements of the modern Maiden sound. The light, ambient intro with reflective and emotional lyrics about a solitary warrior which later explodes into a bombastic yet catchy chorus that basically is the epitome of Iron Maiden itself. “Destiny, no room to hide away” This is a song about not running from what you must do no matter how harrowing the task. On an album that people thought would be Maiden’s last, this song gave us some hope that there was something they had to do, whether they liked it or not it was their destiny to continue on. This song took me by surprise on my first listen and it leads perfectly into the album’s closer, ‘When the Wild Wind Blows’. LINK
This song was made into a single yet was not played on the majority of their world tour. Only during a handful of encores in South America was this heard live. Why? My guess is that either the chorus is tough to do in one breath, or maybe the fact that it’s the only Maiden song in their entire catalog where Nicko McBrain uses double bass pedaling…but who knows? The upbeat, almost motivational sounding guitar leads in the chorus strangely contrast the hopelessness and despair in the lyrics.
“Withered hands, withered bodies begging for salvation. Deserted by the hand of gods of their own creation,
Nations cry underneath decaying skies above. You are guilty, the punishment is death for all who live.
The punishment is death for all who live.”
On an album which marked Bruce’s return to the band, this song was a good way to show off Maiden’s ‘back and better than ever’ attitude. LINK
Although it was a single and subsequently played at every stop throughout the tour, it seems that this song has already been forgotten about by a lot of Maiden fans. But then it seems there is a small sect who loves it and knows its worth.
“Let me tell you of my hope, of my need to reach the sky
Let me take you on an awkward journey, let me tell you why.”
That gloomy opening is still one of my favorite intros of all time and marks what I think is the darkest Maiden sound yet. Not before exploding into a slow tempo yet catchy Zeppelin-esque melody that did seem unique against the rest of their catalogue at the time of its release. One of their slower songs indeed, but not at all sacrificing crunch and heaviness. LINK
This is a song that seems to divide Maiden fans. Many reacted negatively to the opening riff and complained that it all to obviously mimics ‘Wasted Years’, and that even some of the lyrics sound too familiar. Other fans like myself heard this song and fell in love with it immediately because it was the epitome of ‘Maiden’, almost to the point of being a modern ‘Maiden anthem.’ While some criticize the song as being generic, I see it as Maiden doing the most Maideny things possible. You have the classic galloping triplets, the epic minor chords in the chorus, and truly brilliant lead guitar work. I have been addicted to this track ever since ‘Book of Souls’ was released, so they must have done something right. LINK