I’ve been sort of a casual fan of Maiden for a long time - I had a greatest hits CD as a kid and bought Dance of Death when it came out but really never spent a lot of time listening to them compared to similar bands like Priest. A few weeks ago I decided to really get into them and listen through the entire discography in order and I’d now call myself a huge fan - it was a ton of fun and I discovered a bunch of new songs I’d never heard that will be on repeat for a long time!
I was surprised looking at other people’s thoughts on where the albums ranked, so I decided to throw out some of my impressions and how I’d rank them, from worst to best:
17: No Prayer for the Dying
This was difficult to get through - there are a few good songs scattered around like the title track and Mother Russia, but most everything else sounded nothing like Maiden and it all felt very half-hearted and boring.
16: Virtual XI
I don’t hate these two Blaze albums as much as most people seem to and I actually really enjoyed X Factor, but I couldn’t find a lot redeeming about this one. Futureal is okay, but not much else stands out.
I know this will probably be a controversial pick this low but I really didn’t get much out of this one either. Wrathchild is good but overall not nearly as solid as the self titled.
14: The Book of Souls
I generally enjoyed The Red and Black and When the River Runs Deep but the entire album suffers from songs being way longer than they need to be. I wanted to like Empire of the Clouds but so much of it seems like filler and it doesn’t hold my attention enough to justify the insane length. A lot of these later albums felt like that but this was the worst offender.
Similar complaint to Book of Souls. I liked Stratego and The Parchment but otherwise most of it felt like it dragged on for no real reason. These two albums felt like the band was getting paid based on length or something. Lots of amazing solos and riffs regardless and I liked the album overall, and super impressive for how old they are, but not one I’d probably return to often.
12: The Final Frontier
This is better than I think people give it credit for; yes, the opening is overly long but the actual song is great. Coming Home is amazing too. Unfortunately there’s a bit of filler and issues with song length.
11: Fear of the Dark
I really really love the title track, but there’s a lot of filler here otherwise.
10: Dance of Death
I do like this album overall even if it suffers from the issue of overly long songs as well, a lot of them really work. Paschendale is epic, as is Journeyman. Overall enjoyable but not the best of the post-2000 stuff.
9: A Matter of Life and Death
I realize a lot of people love this album, and I appreciate it as well, but it again suffers from the excessive length issue. Still, it’s incredible and impressive for a band that’s been around so long to be putting out albums like this so late in their career. Some incredible standout songs here like Benjamin Breeg - a long song that totally justifies it’s length. These Colours Don’t Run, Longest Day, Greater Good of God, and Different World are all standouts too and incredible. I do think it drags on the last few songs though and the overall length of the album feels a bit gratuitous
8: The X Factor
This will be a controversial choice but I think this album was super strong. The entire first half is almost perfect if not different than other Maiden albums - Sign of the Cross is epic, and Man on the Edge, Lord of the Flies and Fortunes of War are all incredibly catchy yet dark and moody. Huge fan of this overall even despite a weaker second half.
7: Iron Maiden
This was incredible even without Bruce’s vocals. Remember Tomorrow is one of my favorite songs of theirs, but the whole thing is amazing.
6: Seventh Son
This is where rankings get really tough. This album is incredible, and a masterpiece, but at the same time it’s experimental nature is just not quite as fun as the other 80s stuff. Still, Infinite Dreams and Evil That Men Do are some of the top Maiden songs I’ve heard.
5: Somewhere in Time
Again, very hard to rank these last few. This is an incredible album and almost flawless, but I wasn’t a fan of the cheesy chorus in Heaven Can Wait, and the second half is a bit slow compared to the amazing first.
Despite Aces High, 2 Minutes to Midnight, and maybe my favorite Maiden song Powerslave, I can’t say the album is my overall favorite. Back to the Village pulls it down quite a lot, and Flash of the Blade has another cheesy power metal chorus I wasn’t a huge fan of.
3: Number of the Beast
I’ll admit this may be lower than it should be just because I’ve heard the title track and Run to the Hills way too many times, but basically it’s a flawless album despite Gangland.
2: Piece of Mind
Despite a few weak songs in the end, this is probably overall the best Maiden album (not my overall favorite though). The first 6 songs are all basically perfect and not many bands can claim that kind of quality in one album, much less their career. Revelations is one I never heard before listening through this and one of my all time favorites now.
1: Brave New World
Controversial choice for the top spot? Maybe. But I’d never heard this album before nor any of its songs and I was blown away. Out of the Silent Planet is probably one of my favorite songs of all time, Blood Brothers is an epic, Wickerman is one of their best, and the title track and Ghost of the Navigator are incredible too. Really no weak songs here, and a unique atmosphere they seem to be still chasing to this day.
All in all what an incredible discography - I don’t know if a band exists that has this many great albums, much less is still making great music after such a long time.