In April, 1980, Heavy Metal changed. Iron Maiden can be seen as low-brow but let’s not detract from music causing excitement, after all, that is what it really should be about. In the early 80’s Iron Maiden ignored record company execs pointing them in the direction of punk and went with their own thing – it worked on levels rarely as succesful.
My first exposure to the bands first album was in at a friend’s house, invited for tea, (remember that?) after Junior School. Flicking through his older brother record collection the sleeve just drew you in straight away. Iron Maiden, no matter what you think of them have some of the best album artwork ever, well, on their first 5 or 6 albums anyway.
Whilst I had already heard Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, etc as a kid this was different. For a start, it was current and when we put the vinyl on the turntable it had the energy of punk and made you want to jump around. Music that conveyed the artwork oh so accurately.
Iron Maiden had the street urchin effect on metal. They would go on to be labeled ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’, which I guess is fairly accurate and fitting. Kicking open a new chapter on Heavy Metal that really hasn’t been much further expanded on except the notable pre-cursor sound to thrash metal. No Maiden – No Thrash? Quite possibly – yes.
Prowler is a mission statement. Those howling guitars. Metal didn’t sound like this pre-1980. Urgent. Clean. Direct. The song is moody and charged with dirty urban power. The album gets minor criticism for its production but I see almost no faults in this opener at all.
Remember Tomorrow and already the album looms into a deeper place and sound. The slow atmospheric intro waves away like a heavy metal sea. Gradually it builds to a charge that thrash would ape some 6 years later. Guitar solos that, even as a ten-year old, get you playing air guitar.
Running Free and Iron Maiden already have a classic song. The song IS Heavy Metal Adam & The Ants and as daft as that sounds, it’s a brilliant concept perfectly executed. Listen to that chug.
Phantom Of The Opera and Iron Maiden only go and top the preceding song immediately. It’s hard for me to listen to the song now and not think of that Daley Thompson Lucozade advert but before advert the song was atmospheric and charged like few songs I had heard as a 10-year-old. It takes the best parts of their sound and adds elements of classical music all wrapped in that post punk metal formula that really – they started. Phantom Of The Opera, not only has a great title, but it rattles through so many gears which again would be stable for following thrash bands who clearly took their direction from Harris et al.
Transylvania and the album dips very slightly. Elements of Hocus Pocus and Maiden show their roots before those chugs emerge and they make it all their very own. Speed is what made Iron Maiden different circa 1980. Bass stabs take the song into new territory and despite being weaker than the preceding two tracks it is certainly a great song.
Strange World sees Iron Maiden broaden that classical approach. Paul Di’Anno sounds so much bettr here than his forthcoming replacements here that I can only imagine how much better the band would have been had he stayed.
Charlotte The Harlot and Iron Maiden offer pre-Oasis Metal. Laddy yet still quite surrounded with a classical approach. The song lifts to direct solos yet their is no jostling for the centre stage. Maiden work well as a unit and I have always loved that in music.
Iron Maiden is like Prowler is reverse. Again a mission stament but this time to close the debut album. Whilst I have never been a ‘fully fledged’ fan of the band, or even seen them live, I cannot ignore their impact and artwork. A great band that it’s not that cool to like – but hey-ho, this is a great album…