On this page we select the five best Iron Maiden albums from the iconic British band’s impressive back catalogue.
Whether you’re a newcomer to the band’s music, or a veteran Maiden fan wishing to compare our choices with your own, read on to discover which albums we’ve chosen…
***2022 Update – where does Maiden’s latest album, Senjutsu, appear in our list?***
The Best Iron Maiden Albums: Top Three Picks
(Click the album covers below to listen to tracks and see prices at Amazon.)
Iron Maiden are one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, having sold over 100 million albums and being followed by legions of loyal fans from all around the world.
Formed in London in 1975, Iron Maiden are one of the pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWBHM). The band was originally influenced by British metal / rock outfits such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and the twin guitar harmonies of Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy.
Iron Maiden’s trademark sound combines galloping riffs, melodic guitar harmonies, and lead singer Bruce Dickinson’s operatic vocal delivery. The band’s unique rhythm sound grew around bassist (and band leader) Steve Harris’s fingerstyle bass technique, which is sometimes said to sound more like a rhythm guitar than a bass.
Each of Iron Maiden’s three current guitarists (Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers) have their own unique style but all incorporate blues-rock and neo-classical elements in their playing.
Murray’s solos are characterized by flowing, legato lines played with a smooth, neck pickup sound. Smith often uses a contrasting aggressive bridge pickup tone for his fast, melodic phrases.
The pursuit of solo careers and musical differences have forced a number of personnel changes over the decades, but to many fans the current line-up, which consists of Steve Harris on bass, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers on guitar, Nicko McBrain on drums and Bruce Dickinson on vocals, is the definitive Maiden line-up.
The Best Iron Maiden Albums: Our Top 5 Selection
If you want to get into Iron Maiden and don’t know where to start, the five albums listed below are our top picks from the band’s impressive discography.
We haven’t listed the albums in any particular order; if you want to sample some Iron Maiden then you won’t go far wrong with any of the choices below.
The Best Iron Maiden Album?
If we had to pick just one Iron Maiden album… it would be a (very) tough call but we’d probably opt for Powerslave. This, for us, is the definitive Maiden album, packed with classic tracks including the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.
It’s now been 4 months since Maiden released their latest album, Senjutsu. Since then, this album has been played many, many times on the office sound system, and we’re agreed that it replaces 2015’s Book Of Souls in our list of best Iron Maiden albums.
It’s testament to Iron Maiden’s endurance that they can still make music that invokes in us the same excitement today as “Seventh Son” did back in 1988.
Back then, we were teenagers whose indulgent parents were kind enough to drive us into central London to see Maiden on their Seventh Son tour – a concert that remains one of my all-time favourite musical memories.
(Around the same time a friend and I were also lucky enough to bump into Adrian Smith totally at random in London. He was kind enough to wait while those two awkward teenagers ran into a nearby bank to acquire a pen so that we could get his autograph–a small act of kindness that I still appreciate to this day. What a legend!)
We still love Book of Souls, but Senjutsu has everything – classic Maiden songs, riffs and melodies, plus the element of storytelling that puts Maiden above other metal bands. It’s both nostalgic and forward-looking, and a real treat for Maiden fans (of all ages).
If you are a Maiden fan, then you’ve probably already got it, but if you’re looking for a starting point to your Maiden journey, then grab yourself a copy of both Senjutsu and Powerslave and welcome to the club!
- Year: 1980
- Line-Up: Paul Di’Anno (Vocals), Steve Harris (Bass), Dave Murray (Gtr), Dennis Stratton (Gtr), Clive Burr (Drums)
- Producer: Wil Malone
- Studio: Kingsway Studios, London
Iron Maiden Album Track Listing:
- Remember Tomorrow
- Running Free
- Phantom of the Opera
- Strange World
- Charlotte the Harlot
- Iron Maiden
Released in 1980, Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut album was heavy metal for the 80’s, combining the energy of punk with the musicality of 70’s prog rock. The aggression and ferocity of Iron Maiden introduced the world to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.
Stand out tracks include “Running Free”, a traditional punk rocker with a heavy metal flavor, and “Phantom of the Opera”, a 7-minute, prog-influenced epic that showcased the band’s trademark guitar harmonies and time-changes.
“Charlotte the Harlot” is the first of what would eventually be four tracks to feature the exploits of a fictional “lady of the night” that Harris states ‘is based on a true story’.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
- Year: 1988
- Line-Up: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (gtr), Adrian Smith (gtr), Steve Harris (bass), Nicko McBrain (drums)
- Producer: Martin Birch
- Studio: Musicland Studios, Munich
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son Album Track Listing:
- Infinite Dreams
- Can I Play with Madness
- The Evil that Men Do
- Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
- The Prophecy
- The Clairvoyant
- Only the Good Die Young
Inspired by Orson Scott Card’s novel Seventh Son, Harris decided to base an album around the concept of mythical special powers being bequeathed to a ‘chosen one’. The result was Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, fittingly Iron Maiden’s seventh studio album.
The writing of the album was more collaborative than with previous releases, with the band even drawing up a storyline together to ensure the music followed the original concept.
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son features Iron Maiden’s first use of synth keyboards and upon its release was their most progressive record to date.
Look to “Can I Play with Madness” for 80s pop vibes with an infinitely catchy hook. For head-banging check out “Infinite Dreams”, with its truly blistering guitar solos.
- Year: 1984
- Line-up: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (gtr), Adrian Smith (gtr), Steve Harris (bass), Nicko McBrain (drums)
- Producer: Martin Birch
- Studio: Compass Point Studios, Bahamas
Powerslave Album Track Listing:
- Aces High
- 2 Minutes to Midnight
- Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)
- Flash of the Blade
- The Duellists
- Back in the Village
- Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Recorded following one of Iron Maiden’s most successful tours, Powerslave sets the progressive tone that would underlie much of the band’s future writing.
Drummer Nicko McBrain jokes that the record owes its existence to a step ladder, stating that after constant equipment failure in the studio everything began functioning again after a repairman left his step ladder in the studio. The band refused to remove the step ladder for days!
“Aces High” and “2 Minutes to Midnight” ensure plenty of head-banging with high tempi and punchy riffage, while “Powerslave” features Maiden’s classic multiple guitar solo format, with two of Murray’s best solos contrasting with Smith’s more biting, aggressive sound.
For many, the album’s standout track is the 14-minute epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. A complex and progressive tour de force, it pushed the band into a new direction of musicality.
Number of the Beast
- Year: 1982
- Line Up: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (gtr), Adrian Smith (gtr), Steve Harris (bass), Clive Burr (drums)
- Producer: Martin Birch
- Studio: Battery Studios
Number of the Beast Album Track Listing:
- Children if the damned
- The Prisoner
- 22 Acacia Avenue
- The Number of the Beast
- Run to the Hills
- Hallowed Be Thy Name
Making almost every Greatest Metal album list and appearing at No. 17 on Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time’, The Number of the Beast marks the beginning of Maiden’s classic era. The album is the first to feature the vocals of Bruce Dickinson, whose distinctive ‘operatic’ vocal delivery completes Iron Maiden’s now trademark sound.
The album’s controversial title led to the members of the band being accused of being Satanists. Some campaigners went so far as to publicly burn the band’s records (others chose to smash the records instead, for fear of inhaling fumes from the burning vinyl!)
The record certainly earned its place in Heavy Metal folklore when it was reported that its recording was beset by strange phenomena. This culminated in producer Martin Birch’s being involved in a car accident with a minibus full of nuns, for which he received a repair bill for £666!
Look to “Run to the Hills”, “Children of the Damned” and “Number of the Beast” to hear the classic Maiden energy, lyrical storytelling and blistering riffs. Dickinson firmly earns his moniker as the ‘Air Raid Siren’ after the ferocious screams on the intro of the album’s title track.
The album’s final track, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, is a live favorite that rarely leaves the band’s set lists. It has become one of the most loved and celebrated of the band’s extended ‘epic’ songs.
Telling the tale of a prisoner facing death at the gallows, the track is driven by Harris’s galloping bass lines, the crushing dual guitar harmonies of Smith and Murray, and Dickinson’s soaring, operatic vocals.
The Book of Souls
- Year: 2015
- Line Up: Bruce Dickinson (vocals), Dave Murray (gtr), Adrian Smith (gtr), Janick Gers (gtr), Steve Harris (bass), Nicko McBrain (drums)
- Producer: Kevin Shirley & Steve Harris
- Studio: Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris
The Book of Souls Album Track Listing:
- If Eternity Should Fail
- Speed of Light
- The Great Unknown
- The Red and the Black
- When the River Runs Deep
- The Book of Souls
- Death or Glory
- Shadows of the Valley
- Tears of a Clown
- The Man of Sorrows
- Empire of the Clouds
Clocking in at a whopping 92 minutes, The Book of Souls is the longest maiden record to date, with the band agreeing that every track was so integral to the album that nothing would be left on the cutting room floor.
The record takes a dark lyrical tone with a focus on mortality and is backed by the vast spectrum of musical ideas from a band now three decades deep into its career.
The band wrote and recorded the album with little rehearsal time in order to capture a ‘live’ feel. Amazingly, Dickinson recorded the entire record with an undiagnosed throat cancer, still managing to deliver his trademark screams with his usual energy!
Souls offers a little something for every Maiden fan, encompassing every aspect of the bands unique style.
Short, explosive tracks such as “Speed of Light” and “Death or Glory” will have any metal fan screaming by the second chorus, while the intricate instrumental “Blank and Black” encapsulates the band’s musicality. “Tears of Sorrows” explores depression and mortality, and is heavily inspired by the passing of comedian Robin Williams.
The album’s stand out track is the near 20-minute masterpiece “Empire of the Clouds”. The track has been described variously as a “Heavy Metal Suite”, and the “Cinematic encapsulation of the bands career”. Featuring Dickinson on piano, every band member is also given a chance to shine as the song track builds to a spellbinding crescendo.
Best Iron Maiden Album: Over To You
We hope that you have enjoyed our selection of the best Iron Maiden albums. Do you agree with our choices? What’s your favorite Iron Maiden album? Let us know in the comments below!