True legends of the metal scene, the mighty Iron Maiden have a mammoth collection of songs to wade through. Helmed by talismanic bassist and key songwriter Steve Harris, the Englishmen have created some of the finest heavy music anthems across their 40+ year career.
But, they can’t all be zingers. With somewhere in the vicinity of 200 original tracks, there is so much Maiden material that has slipped through the cracks over time. Whether it’s songs that have never been played live, wound up as B-sides or simply buried at the back-end of less popular records, there are plenty of under appreciated gems to dig for.
With the band currently conquering Europe on the back of their epic Legacy Of The Beast tour, now’s the perfect time to pick 10 tracks that won’t be cropping up on the Iron Maiden setlist at time soon…
"Blood on the World's Hands"
Ah yes, the Blaze Bayley-era of Iron Maiden. Most of his two-album run with the group could be considered deep cuts, but we've decided to go with the criminally underrated "Blood on the World's Hands". After the first minute or so – which is essentially an acoustic bass solo spot (!) – the mid-pace track picks up in a big way. It's got plenty of great parts and lots of complex, knotty riffing and drum work. While the opening trio from The X Factor survived life after Blaze, "Blood on the World's Hands" has been relegated to the sidelines for well over two decades now.
Sure, every Iron Maiden fan knows that "Alexander The Great" is the never-played-live classic from 1986's Somewhere In Time – but what about the track that precedes it; "Déjà Vu"? The excellent piece marks guitarist Dave Murray's only songwriting contribution for the record, and really has everything you'd want from an Iron Maiden tune. Boasting that classic pace driven attack, a great, ultra catchy chorus and lots of anthemic melodies, it's a perfect example of the mid/late 80s Maiden sound – yet never gets talked about.
"Fear Is The Key"
Aside from the classic title track, a lot of material from the Fear Of The Dark album gets forgotten about. The ninth Iron Maiden full length really isn’t their finest moment – or worse, to be fair – but there is some hidden gold, including the vastly underrated “Fear Is The Key”. A mid-paced cut penned by frontman Bruce Dickinson and then-kinda-new guitarist Janick Gers, it’s anchored with an excellent brooding riff and uncharacteristic slide guitars, while the almost prog-rock bridge section comes completely out of the blue. Special mention must go towards Dickinson’s AIDS related lyrics, which make for a nice change to the band’s usual history/fantasy fare.
"Lord Of Light"
Taken from 2006’s A Matter Of Life And Death, one of Iron Maiden’s most ambitious efforts, the tremendous “Lord Of Light” seems to have been all but forgotten about. The tune, tucked away as the second last number on the record, takes a while to get going after it’s moody intro – the chorus doesn’t hit until after the three minute mark – but it’s worth the ride, with some powerful riffing and an immense hooks. Plus the bridge and Adrian Smith’s incredible guitar solo is something to behold. While it got played on A Matter of Life and Death Tour – along with the rest of it’s album-mates – it’s not been in the Maiden set since.
One of the band’s biggest influences, Thin Lizzy’s twin guitar, uptempo style translates into Iron Maiden’s wheelhouse very easily. Maiden’s cover of the excellent “Massare” is much more akin to the live version Thin Lizzy featured on the Live and Dangerous record, rather than the more restrained original studio take. Released as the B-side to “Can I Play With Madness”, the track definitely has the production hallmarks of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, with a lush sound and keyboards lurking in the background. Rather interestingly, despite the group releasing the Best of the 'B' Sides collection in 2002, “Massacre” was strangely omitted.
Taken from 1990’s oft-maligned No Prayer For The Dying, the epic closer “Mother Russia” is much more akin to Iron Maiden’s more progressive style found on prior records, in sharp contrast to the straight ahead material found on the rest of the album. As the LPs longest track, it packs multiple movements and key-changing, tricky riffs – all classic Steve Harris-style songwriting traits. Now, lyrically speaking, it is rooted in the fall of the USSR, and sadly in 2022 just isn’t as uplifting as it once was – look past that though, and you’ve got an excellent, forgotten Maiden deep cut.
A ballad style track that sounds worlds away from the style that Maiden would build a legacy upon, “Strange World” is a killer song that hasn’t been performed in over forty years. It’s life began in the mid-70s, before making it onto the band’s legendary Soundhouse Tapes demo, and then finally the act’s iconic self-titled debut. “Strange World” has a Jimi Hendrix meets 70s rock ballad-vibe, with a slow tempo and gentle, yet prominent, guitars – plus some excellent soloing to boot. Plus kudos to then-frontman Paul Di’Anno, who’s voice is much smoother and melodic than basically other Iron Maiden material. A real dark horse in the Maiden catalogue, more fans should be aware of the excellent “Strange World”.
"The Educated Fool"
“The Educated Fool” sees us dip into Blaze Bayley’s tenure in Iron Maiden again, this time visiting his sophomore release Virtual XI. Much like the previous full length X Factor, Bayley’s second Maiden record is far from perfect, but it does have some strong, forgotten material on it. “The Educated Fool” is one of those songs that has fallen by the wayside over the last couple of decades. A tune that starts quite restrained with a simple guitar melody that builds over the course of the track, the intro reprise in the middle section when the pace doubles is pure Maiden brilliance. Lyrically touching on the passing of age and growing of wisdom, it’s another one of the few Iron Maiden efforts that focuses on real world experiences.
“The Nomad” is a nine minute epic from Maiden’s immense ‘comeback’ album, Brave New World. The LP was their first as a six-piece with both Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson returning to the fray, and it packs some of Iron Maiden’s finest ‘latter-day’ tracks. One that never gets talked about is “The Nomad”. The first half of the number is good, but it’s the lengthy instrumental bridge where the song really gets going. Nicko McBrain dials his drumming back leaving lots of room for some great melodies and slow burning atmosphere, before it roars back into the final chorus.
The excellent, fist-pumping “Total Eclipse” has had an interesting and oft-forgotten life. It was the B-side for “Run To The Hills” and on the original Japanese pressing of The Number Of The Beast, before it made it’s way onto some of the CD reissues – however, for whatever reason, it’s not on the most recent one from 2015, and thusly not available on streaming services. A very strong Iron Maiden song, the chorus in particular is superb, “Total Eclipse” is definitely better than some of the material that made the record’s final cut – “Invaders” and “Gangland” we’re looking at you.
How did we go? Like a lot of the classic, ‘legacy’ metal bands, we could easily do a second selection of underrated Iron Maiden tracks. So what did we miss on our list? Let us know below!