In 1980, British band Iron Maiden released their debut album Iron Maiden. The album was very successful for a debut album, hitting 4 on the UK charts. After a world tour supporting the likes of Kiss and Judas Priest, the band returned to the studio to record their second full length release, Killers
With Killers, Iron Maiden continued their rise in popularity. Though it wasn’t as successful in the charts, Killers sold four times as much as the self titled album. With Killers, the band retained their NWOBHM sound, except this time combined it with the production of legendary produced Martin Birch. The result is a clearer, much more enjoyable album. Also worth mentioning is Iron Maiden’s new guitarist. Due to musical differences, the band and Dennis Stratton parted ways and Maiden was left without a second guitarist. However, not long later, they contacted Dave Murray’s childhood friend, Adrian Smith, who joined the band right away.
The albums opening track is The Ides of March
. At 1:44, it is the shortest song the band has ever recorded. However, it is a brilliant track in its own right, with two great solos from newcomer Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. An extra two or three minutes onto this track would have done it wonders.
Up next is the album’s recognizable track and concert staple, Wrathchild
. Starting off with a memorable bass intro, Wrathchild features some cool lead parts from Dave and Adrian, Di Anno's trademark vocal style, as well as angsty lyrics. Clive Burr’s drumming is top notch and Dave’s solo is satisfactory. Unfortunately, the song is too repetitive and at 2:54, too short to be considered a classic. The song is great live, however.
A clean riff starts off the next song, Murders in the Rue Morgue
. Nearly 30 seconds in, distorted guitars take their place a little later, the song bursts into overdrive. Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the albums best songs off the album and another forgotten classic from the Di Anno era. The song has some great harmonies, as well as catchy choruses. Paul is at his best here, and his memorable vocals make the song stick out in your mind long after you’ve been listening to it. Clive’s drumming is also fantastic throughout the song and adds to the song’s fugitive themes. Murders in the Rue Morgue is one of the album’s best song and goes neck to neck with the title track for the album’s best song.
The album’s fourth track, Another Life
, starts off with a cool intro from Clive, before the other instruments start up. Notable about the song is its lyrics, which consists of 3 of the same verses. Songwriter, Steve Harris must have hit a metal block while writing the lyrics of this song. Despite the rather poor lyrics, the song still has excellent harmonies from Dave and Adrian. Steve Harris’ frantic bass attack is also very audible, which is always great to hear. Another Life is an average song, but a listen every once and awhile will do you no harm.
Following up Another Life is the album’s second instrumental, Genghis Khan
. Originally written as a filler track, Genghis Khan is one of the album’s finest moments. Adrian Smith proves that he can replace Dennis Stratton without messing with the band’s chemistry. Among the highlights of this song is the time change two minutes in. Each musician effortlessly changes his pace on a dime and it adds to the overall excitement of the song. The harmonized riffs are superb, and very well pulled off. A great all around song, and the third best, after Killers and Murders in the Rue Morgue.
The next song, Innocent Exile
, starts off with a catchy bass intro, followed by distorted guitars from Adrian and Dave. Clive’s drumming stands out here, especially during the pre-verses. Paul’s vocal lines are satisfactory, but they could have used some more work. The later part of the song speeds up the pass, and makes for an exciting finish to the song. Not a classic, but keeps the expectations high, and the experience enjoyable.
Next up is Killers
, the album’s title track. Starting off with an eerie bass line from Steve, the title track implies a frightening atmosphere that makes one feel as if they were actually being tailed by a serial killer as the first verse of the song describes. Killers is up there with Phantom of the Opera, Strange World, and Murders of the Rue Morgue as some of the best songs from the Di Anno era. Paul delivers some of his best vocals on this song, and his vocal lines combined with the lyrics are very catchy. Clive Burr’s drumming is very well done and helps Steve provide a solid rhythm for the song. It’s hard to point out a weak moment in the song, as Killers is about as close to perfect as the album is going to get. Killers is among Iron Maiden’s best songs of all time and easily top 15.
You can count the number of acoustic Iron Maiden songs on one hand. The seventh song of the album, Prodigal Son
, is one of these songs, though it is not fully acoustic. This song has lighter mood than many of the other songs on this album, but it still retains the Killers sound that the band has displayed thus far. Prodigal Son features a beautiful instrumental half way through the song with mellower, yet amazing solos from the guitarists. The lyrics are somewhat strange and finding a deeper meaning is difficult, but Paul delivers them very well. Quite the relaxing song, Prodigal Son is a refreshing change from some of the heavier songs.
After a break from the usual Maiden formula, we have Purgatory
, one of the fastest songs on the album. The song explodes seconds after it begins with all the musicians racing along. Di Anno joins in, singing as fast as he can, yet still maintaining some sort of vocal melody. Every second of the song is played in overdrive, and the result is a catchy, top notch song that is very memorable.
Up until the Piece of Mind album, the European release of Iron Maiden albums was always lacking one track that was found on the North American version. On Killers, that song was Twilight Zone
. A fun little rocker, but this song is definitely not the highest point of the album. Nothing in Twilight Zone really sticks out, and the song seems like a filler track. At 2:31 it is one of the shortest songs on the album, which is slightly disappointing, but at the same time is acceptable, because the song doesn’t really take off. Twilight Zone is the album’s skip-able track.
The last song on the album is Drifter
, a fitting end to the album. Drifter was the last song that vocalist Paul Di Anno sang for Maiden, as he was fired after the Killers World Tour. Paul does a good job with the vocals, which is the highlight of the song along with Adrian Smith’s guitar solo. The lyrics aren’t that special, and judging by later releases, you wouldn’t think Steve Harris wrote them. The song has a nice groove to it and is another ‘rocker’ type song ala Twilight Zone. The song ends with Paul shouting "Yeah, I'm a drifter, drifting on and on and on" Can you say foreshadowing? Drifter isn’t the best Iron Maiden offering, but is pretty good if you listen to it every once and awhile.
Killers was the end of the first era of Iron Maiden’s storied career. As mentioned before, the band parted ways with Paul Di Anno and hired Bruce Dickinson as their new vocalist, changing the band forever. However, Killers is still an enjoyable album to listen to, and is home to excellent material such as the title track, Murders in the Rue Morgue, Genghis Khan, and Purgatory. A definite recommendation to any fan of NWOBHM or traditional metal.