Top Iron Maiden Songs of the '80s

One of the most respected heavy metal bands in the history of the genre, England's Iron Maiden has built a solid career across three decades that has reached impressive heights both commercially and critically. Along the way, the group has stayed true to an ambitious, complex hard rock sound full of unique rhythms, changing time signatures, and aggressive, precise musicianship. The soaring vocals and stunning range of frontman Bruce Dickinson helped distinguish the band even further. Here's a chronological look at the best '80s songs from legendary metal band Iron Maiden.

Although the band, particularly bassist and longest-running member Steve Harris, has distanced itself from comparisons of its early sound to punk rock, this track from 1980's certainly takes a visceral, straightforward rock and roll approach. Heavy and punishing but without the complexity later Maiden tracks would feature, the song in its original incarnation plays to the primal growl of original lead singer Paul Di'Anno. Of course, skittering twin leads from Dave Murray and then-guitarist Dennis Stratton give a hint of the band's later, more intricate sound. But otherwise this is a no-nonsense throat-grabber that holds up because of rather than in spite of its general simplicity. A fine early and defining moment for the rise of the NWOBHM sound.

1981's would turn out to be Di'Anno's final album as Iron Maiden's frontman, but his distinct vocals still have plenty of admirers among metal's large fan base. This tune serves as an effective swan song for a pretty solid if rough-edged hard rock vocalist who has sadly remained underrated and obscure ever since Iron Maiden dismissed him to make room for Dickinson. In particular, the repeated melodic phrase toward the end of the song ("Please, take me away, take me away, so far away") sums up the bittersweet tenure of Di'Anno and at the same time showcases his ample powers as a singular metal frontman.
Perhaps Iron Maiden's first truly signature classic song, this rousing, historically minded rocker contains all the elements that brought the band glory, acclaim and major success. Built on the unmistakable, galloping rhythms of Harris on bass and Clive Burr on drums, the track spins a compelling, gory narrative about the chaos and brutality of hand-to-hand warfare. Dickinson's shrieks immediately served notice to competitors that he was on the short list of the music world's foremost glass-shattering metal vocalists. Meanwhile, the songwriting vision of Harris and dual-guitar precision of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray have hardly seen their match in the 30 years since the release of Maiden's 1982 landmark LP .

Despite what may appear to be Satanic connotations, this title track actually takes the path of another legendary British hard rock band fond of dark subject matter, Black Sabbath, in mining the content of its lyricist's genuine nightmares. Of course, that didn't stop some Christian fundamentalist detractors from believing that the mere mention of "666" signifies automatic damnation for both artist and listener, but a clear-eyed examination of the music reveals a band in fine form indeed. The rhythm guitars of this track's intro set the scene moodily for Dickinson's escalating vocal interpretation of a truly harrowing vision of fear and unknowable threat. Scorching, inventive lead guitars help complete a solid heavy metal tour de force.

One of the greatest things about Iron Maiden - in contrast to the band's well-established menacing and evil image - is its ability to edify and challenge its passionate audiences even if they didn't often realize it. This standout track from 1983's stellar spins a classic yarn from Greek mythology and wraps up the whole narrative package in a mass of molten metal. As a lyricist, Harris takes an old story and makes it new, while Dickinson delivers the tale through powerful vocals not only heavy on theatrics but also based in genuine passion. Iron Maiden fans may not have always been paying attention in English class, but a significant number of them probably understood the stirring story of Icarus and his father better than most observers may have imagined.
Another all-time hard rock classic that generates practically no arguments against its essential nature, this song perhaps captures the signature Iron Maiden sound more succinctly than any other. Once again, galloping rhythms transport the listener directly into the gory, merciless wasteland of warfare. Beyond that, the guitar teamwork of Smith and Murray creates a mesmerizing flurry of melodic moments that never veer into pointless showmanship. By mentioning the old-fashioned firearm called the musket in the song's opening lines, Harris also belies the band's reputation as a corrupter of youth. In fact, history teachers everywhere, metal fans or not, must appreciate Iron Maiden's intellectual inspirations.
This balanced track makes a strong case for the multiple, exemplary facets of Iron Maiden as a top-notch rock band, regardless of the trappings of genre and compartmentalization. Muscular guitar riffs lead off the proceedings, soon giving way to sparkling individual lead guitars and ultimately to a brilliantly precise twin guitar attack. Meanwhile, Dickinson scores early and often with effective staccato vocals that prove his ability to do far more than merely wail and shriek with compelling use of vibrato. Overall, this is an all-around epic that stands not only among the best heavy metal of the era but also the best pop/rock music of any kind released during the '80s.
Following the stiff, amusingly prudish responses to its musical offerings during Iron Maiden's early-'80s rise, main songwriter Harris probably loved to agitate as often as possible with so-called "blasphemous" song titles. Well, here's another one to put on that pile if you wish, but really it's just an intricate musical examination of the power and mystery of the unknown. Even more importantly, Harris's compositions tend to create a varied and solid framework to allow for his bandmates to demonstrate their many strengths as players. Another powerhouse track from arguably the band's most consistent record from start to finish, this is heavy rock that quite simply does it all for listeners into driving guitar rock with a touch of dark intrigue.
Iron Maiden hardly missed a beat after two immediately classic heavy metal LPs of the early Dickinson era, releasing 1984's to what had become by now calmly anticipated critical and commercial acclaim. The band's music has always danced along the shadowy boundaries of menace and the the beauty of the thumping heartbeat of fear, but this standout hits its marks particularly well. Key lines from the chorus certainly paint a foreboding picture ("Two minutes to midnight, the hands that threaten doom. Two minutes to midnight, to kill the unborn in the womb"), but there's certainly more to this tune's appeal than its ability to cause uptight observers to gasp and hold their mouths agape. This is just great music that both pummels and stimulates the emotions and the imagination.
For most bands, finishing out a decade with albums as strong as 1986's and 1988's would be nothing short of triumphant. For Iron Maiden, through no fault of its own, those records may have seemed to some observers to indicate a slight dip in the group's acknowledged brilliance. Even so, this excellent track from the former LP could only be criticized perhaps for being catchier and more pop-flavored than Maiden's prior efforts. But that's an exceedingly minor complaint, as this tune's undeniably melodic thrust certainly doesn't diminish the quintet's ability to rock out with unflinching aggression. All members are in exceptional form, even if the hooks in the chorus could be too gentle for some traditionalists.