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Opinion: 20 Essential Iron Maiden Deep Cuts

Iron Maiden have a long and storied history. They will release their latest in a long line of live albums in November 2020, entitled Night Of The Dead, The Legacy Of The Beast Tour: Live In Mexico City.

The songs that Iron Maiden have played over the years have gone down in the annals of history as classics. The Trooper, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Run To The Hills, The Number Of The Beast, Fear Of The Dark, Wasted Years…the list goes on.

Here, At The Barrier co-owner Dominic Walsh and Winterfylleth’s Nick Wallwork, get their heads together to come up with 20 deep cuts from the Iron Maiden’s catalogue that make up their incredible legacy. Songs that maybe don’t get the credit they deserve and songs we’d love to hear the band play live.

So…here goes…in no particular order…

iron maiden
Iron Maiden Live In Helsinki, 2018
Picture: JOHN McMURTRIE
Copyright Iron Maiden

Sea Of Madness – Somewhere In Time (1986)

Dom: A blistering songs that carries all the bombast that Iron Maiden possess. Last seen live on the tour in support of the album it’s taken from; Somewhere In Time. It’s certainly one i’d love to see the band dust off for consumption in the future. Maybe Bruce can bring back the flashing jacket!

Strange World – Iron Maiden (1980)

Dom: Probably Iron Maiden’s slowest song. They’ve had songs that start slowly but erupt (e.g. Infinite Dreams). Paul Di’Anno’s vocals are great on this track. It’s a brilliantly psychedelic song.

Nick: It’s only in more recent years this one has become a bit more of an understated favourite. “The ballad” track was never something I went for in my younger days but in retrospect this one shows great versatility even at this early stage. A solo Harris penned tune – it’s a great  “foot off the gas” moment from the debut, dripping with soul and class. A beautiful song. My appreciation for it has grown even more after hearing the great cover version by Evoken a few years – which was the perfect Maiden song for them.

Face In The Sand – Dance Of Death (2003)

Dom: One of Iron Maiden’s heaviest tracks in my opinion. I believe that this is the only time that Iron Maiden employed a double kick drum on a song. It adds to the heaviness. The subject matter references the Iraqi war and thematically it feels like a partner piece to Afraid To Shoot Strangers from 1992’s Fear Of The Dark.

Mother Russia – No Prayer For The Dying (1990)

Dom: The closing track to Iron Maiden’s ‘back to basics’ No Prayer For The Dying after the enhanced use of synths in the late 80’s. The Russian inspired melody is one of Maiden’s best and carries on the ethereal vibe from the title track from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.

Edge Of Darkness – The X Factor (1995)

Dom: The Blaze Bayley era of Iron Maiden is looked upon with some chagrin. The albums were nowhere near the standard that had been set in the 1980’s. Blaze Bayley is a brilliant vocalist in his own right but maybe wasn’t the best fit for Iron Maiden. That being said, there are some great songs on those albums. The Edge Of Darkness is one of several highlights from The X Factor. Again, the war theme shines through with a nod to Apocalypse Now in it’s lyrics.

Alexander The Great – Somewhere In Time (1987)

Dom The apparent holy grail for Iron Maiden fans. Never played live. Always requested to be played live. Somewhere In Time’s album closer is an absolute epic from Maiden. If this was ever played live, I imagine many Maiden fans would be cock-a-hoop! The historical subject matter is typical Maiden and the expansive and intricate nature of the music is spellbinding.

Back In The Village – Powerslave (1984)

Dom: A brilliant song from Powerslave that opens with some brilliant guitar riffs and classic Maiden crashing interludes to build up the song. Bruce Dickinson sounds great on vocals and the galloping nature of the song is something that Maiden were, and are known for in amongst the proggier detours of recent years.

Genghis Khan – Killers (1981)

Nick: One of two Harris instrumentals I’ve included in this list, this is quintessential Di’anno era Maiden. Bursting out with the high energy intro, for me it’s the second half of this track that really does it. This is the sound of a band truly finding their sound and groove. When those high harmonised leads come in – the repeated melodies underneath are almost a prelude to the classic “Hallowed Be Thy Name” which would come on the next LP. A brief track at just over 3 minutes – but a moment of sheer brilliance and a true highlight of the “Killers” album. And they got there before Bad News……

Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner – Somewhere In Time (1987)

Dom: Played once on the tour to support Somewhere In Time and immediately dropped. Another sleeper from Somewhere In Time that has all the hallmarks of classic Iron Maiden. Lyrics inspired by film, heavy guitars and time changes a plenty. It’s a real shame that this one didn’t find it’s way into the repertoire of the band more. The video below is a recording of it’s one and only outing.

The Educated Fool – Virtual XI (1998)

Dom: The Clansman takes all the plaudits from Virtual XI, and rightly so. It’s massive. Whilst not the band’s best effort as an album, The Educated Fool is a little sneak preview into the sound that the band carved out for themselves in the 2000’s and beyond. The guitar melody at the start of the song is very catchy and the chorus that the song builds to is emphatically Iron Maiden. It’s another song I’d really like to see Bruce Dickinson have a crack at in the same way he has reinvented Sign Of The Cross and The Clansman in his own style.

Still Life – Piece Of Mind (1983)

Nick: Of course side 2 of “Piece of Mind” is always going to be dominated by “The Trooper,” but following that we have this great track from Murray and Harris. A live mainstay for a while, it remains in the set up until the Seventh Son tour – being included in the legendary Maiden England live set. It also acts as a sort of pseudo title track for the “Piece of Mind” album. With a great evocative clean guitar intro, sultry vocals from Bruce, Am to F to G progression, this is absolutely classic, vintage Maiden. A strong track.

Dom: A massive tune – huge chorus, full of drama, and one that rocks hard. The first time I heard this was on Maiden England as I was getting into Iron Maiden as a young lad in the early 90’s.

To Tame a Land – Piece Of Mind (1983)

Nick: Another track from side 2 of “Piece of Mind” and the closer for the album. Taking the same tactic as the previous “Number of the Beast” album and opting for the solo Harris epic to close proceedings, this track never received the same accolades as its better known, live staple counterpart. Lyrically based on the Frank Herbert science fiction novel “Dune”, Herbert refused to allow the band to name the track simply “Dune” as originally intended, due, apparently, to his distaste for hard rock bands – specifically hard rock bands “like Iron Maiden.” No great matter – a stronger title emerged in the end. Musically, this is perhaps one of the more progressive earlier Maiden tracks, with its bass led mid section and heavy resolve (“to make it all end!”). The whole thing carries a bit of a Middle Eastern, exotic vibe – something that would be drawn upon more successfully on the proceeding “Powerslave” title track.

Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra) – Powerslave (1984)

Nick: AKA what do cockneys call an instrumental? More absolute galloping gold from Harris. This one really embedded itself into my brain after many drunken nights of playing the “Visions of the Beast” DVD (an essential item for anyone reading this), being as it is, the menu screen music on those discs. Sadly, the tradition of the Maiden instrumental was lost after this track – but all 3 of them are priceless. High energy, inimitable – pure Maiden. That main riff has a real forward thrust to it. Great, driving stuff.

No Prayer for the Dying – No Prayer For The Dying (1990)

Nick: Perhaps the biggest travesty is that this track only made it to the live set for this album and was never revisited. Give me this over the title track to the following album any day. Starting off misleadingly as “the ballad” – this one builds and builds until the great “God give me the answer to my life…” moment when they are at full tilt. 90s Maiden gets a bad rep, but this one is a true gem. That lead melody that hits at the “you’ve got nothing to lose” moment at the end of the first verse – pure goosebumps. One of Harris’s best tracks of the 90’s along with “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Sign of the Cross”. Top tier.

Dom: One of my favourites from No Prayer For The Dying. Carries the Infinite Dreams style in the ballad to gallop style. The solo is fiery on this one. In fact, lots of the solo work on No Prayer feels fierce; Holysmoke carries one of my favourite Iron Maiden solos.

Fates Warning – No Prayer For The Dying (1990)

Nick: Another entry from the “No Prayer…” album and another Murray / Harris joint venture. This one didn’t even make the grade for the live set for that tour – so we are in deep cut territory here. To my ears this wouldn’t have been out of place on “Seventh Son…”  – such is the more lush, layered nature of it – slightly at odds with the more out and out Hard Rock approach of others tracks such as Holy Smoke, Bring Your Daughter and Hooks In You from the same album. Really nice key change midway on the final verse which I always enjoyed also.

Childhood’s End – Fear Of The Dark (1992)

Nick: Another “never played live” deep album cut – this one is not your typical Harris solo track, being a lot more concise at under 5 minutes. It makes it’s point via a great repetitive lead melody, underlined by a staccato tom beat from McBrain – still with a moment to break into the traditional Harris gallop midway. Catchy track!

Montsegur – Dance Of Death (2003)

Nick: Perhaps the biggest WTF head scratcher in this list. The fact that this was NOT considered lead single, mainstay stuff is utterly beyond me. Not only is this hands down the highlight of the “Dance of Death” album full stop, this is one of the greatest tracks of the reformed Maiden post 2000. A joint collaboration between Gers / Harris / Dickinson – unlike a lot of more modern era Maiden tracks- this one doesn’t outstay its welcome at 5.50. It has a real “Where Eagles Dare” type swagger to it and carries this throughout. And WHAT a lift on that chorus – a spectacular vocal moment for Dickinson. Great dual guitar break around the 4 minute mark to be topped off with the harmonised version of the chorus for the climax. Absolute smash hit. Solid Gold. 10/10. Yeah – I like this one…..

The Longest Day – A Matter Of Life & Death (2006)

Nick: Goosebump time again and a track that really epitomises the “Matter of Life and Death” record. A brave move for Maiden to decide to tour the whole album but testament how strongly they felt about the material at the time. And with good reason. They always have a theme and aesthetic for each record, but in choosing the subject matter they did here, it added an extra gravitas to these songs. And this is the one that hits hardest lyrically, dealing as it does with the D-Day landings of 1944 (the title being taken from the 1962 film of course).

This is far from your up tempo live set banger – a very solemn sounding track with lyrics to match. This is some of Dickinson’s finest and most evocative right here – “overlord, your master not your god, the enemy coast dawning grey with scud, these wretched souls puking, shaking fear, to take a bullet for those who sent them here…” It’s strong, visceral stuff. After the brooding intro verses, the true pay off comes with the “sliding we go, only fear at our side…” chorus where Bruce truly excels himself. It’s a hugely emotional, impassioned moment – I get a lump in my throat every time. Superb track. But you know, some people just want to hear “Run to the Hills”…..

Dom: A real highlight amongst many from an album littered with them. The guitar work at the start of the song is haunting and the ominous drums set the mood spectacularly. The chorus is made massive due to Bruce Dickinson’s impassioned vocals.

Isle of Avalon – The Final Frontier (2010)

Nick: Modern epic time from the “Final Frontier” album. I see a lot of criticism of modern Maiden being too far down the prog road but I’ve always viewed it as a band aging gracefully and spreading their musical wings – I’m happy to allow them their musical indulgences. And no more so than this deep album track – again – one that didn’t make it into the live set for this record. But when you’ve got heavy hitters like “Where the Wild Wind Blows” and “The Talisman” warring for the spotlight, you can see that something had to give.

This one is all about the mid track offbeat instrumental section that kicks in at 4.12. A great bass refrain from Harris and a wonderfully tasteful guitar lead to match. This is absolute full blown prog territory carried off beautifully. As ever with Maiden, it all resolves with the up tempo glorious chorus with catchy guitar hooks all over the place. A strong unsung gem of the latter era. Yes, it’s overblown and indulgent but go with it – there is lots to bathe in here. Plus, we still have Judas Priest for 3 minute smash bangers so – it’s all bases covered.

Starblind – The Final Frontier (2010)

Nick: Another entry from “The Final Frontier” – this one is very much “an album track” and was never getting near a setlist in a month of Sundays. It’s a slightly odd sounding, off kilter song musically, mainly due to the offbeat time signature of McBrain during the verses. Add to this a very loose sounding, jammy feel to the guitar solos which drift over the verses almost as background texture and you have something very far from your typical Maiden fodder. Definitely a grower, not a shower, this one has wormed its way into my affections gradually over the years. A deep cut if ever there was one.

Many thanks to Nick Wallwork for his contribution to this article. Winterfylleth recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary of their album, The Mercian Sphere. You can check out the band at their Bandcamp page here.

Nick has previously written for At The Barrier in our Why I Love column where he professed his love for the music of Type O Negative; you can read that article here.

What do you think of the selections? What would you add? What would you take away? Let us know in the comments below.

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