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IRON MAIDEN

Iron Maiden

 

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3.82 | 394 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Iron Maiden' - Iron Maiden (7/10)

I once spoke with another Iron Maiden fan who told me that he counted 1982's "Number of the Beast" as the band's 'true' debut. To him, Maiden couldn't be Maiden without Bruce Dickinson's trademark vocals. Of course, by the time Bruce had joined the gang, Iron Maiden were already running wild with potential. True enough, Dickinson's quasi-operatic tenor is now one of the band's most distinctive qualities, but this debut- and its sequel "Killers"- still hold up well. Even before they had truly made their mark on heavy metal, Maiden were already rocking.

I was first introduced to DiAnno-era Maiden through the mini-epic "Phantom of the Opera". Now a longtime favourite of mine, it's easily enough to foster some sort of interest in the band's early work. Especially regarding this track, it's not surprising that it took Steve Harris such a long time to find musicians willing to pursue this then-relatively progressive and technical brand of heavy metal. Fusing galloping rhythms with guitar harmonies and the atmosphere of progressive rock, "Phantom of the Opera" is a certain foreshadowing of what would later come for the band. Add in the trademark literature-based lyrics and you have a classic Maiden song, in spite of Smith and Dickinson's absence. Before even discussing the rest of the album, it's enough that one of the band's best songs is here.

"Phantom of the Opera" is above and beyond the most complex piece of music on "Iron Maiden", but the band gives a touch of sophistication to their aggression throughout the album. It's true that there is a sense of punk-ishness in large part thanks to the pummelling rhythm, but Steve Harris' progressive influences are in plain sight. Particularly on the eerie "Remember Tomorrow", Maiden divulge a sense of atmospherics that I've rarely heard in a NWOBHM act. On the other hand, there's raw carnage to be experienced in "Running Free" and the upbeat title track. One of the most common criticisms of this album is that Iron Maiden had not completely found their 'sound' yet, but in spite of the lineup differences, these guys seem ot have had a firm idea of where they wanted to go musically.

Naturally, Paul DiAnno's vocal performance will be the sorest part for Maiden fans, if only for the fact that he ain't Brucey. For one, he's certainly not as brilliant a vocalist as Bruce is, yet his carefree, almost brutish approach to singing works well for the rawer sound Iron Maiden were bringing at this point. I imagine the 'rawness' will turn off some of the band's softer, or more progressively inclined fans, but it brings a more organic sound to their music than most of their following studio work. The production is a real highlight on "Iron Maiden", in spite of the fuzzy distortion and busy performance, things come through feeling warm and 'in-your-face'. The best way I might describe the production is that this sounds most suited for the atmosphere of a small club show, whereas "Number of the Beast" onwards gives the impression of a bombastic arena affair.

It's obviously nowhere near as 'matured' or 'realized' as the Iron Maiden they would become with later albums, but this debut should not be discredited by fans or newcomers. Although the band we know nowadays as Iron Maiden only shares two members with this incarnation, the signature sound and style is here, not to mention that "Phantom of the Opera" still stands as one of their greatest compositions. Check it out!

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |

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