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Iron Maiden Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best

Anthony Socarras

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked Worst to Best

Ranking Iron Maiden’s 17 Studio Albums

Hailing from London, England, Iron Maiden has captivated audiences worldwide since they hit the stage in 1975. For the past four decades, heavy metal aficionados and casual fans have sung the praises of these intrepid British rockers.

Iron Maiden formed the core of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal music during the mid to late 1970s, leading the genre into the 80s and beyond. Their sound, characterized by operatic vocals, shredding guitars, galloping bass, and thundering drums, has remained constant throughout the years, albeit with minor adjustments and experimentation. Although their lineup has changed over the years, some band members — vocalist Bruce Dickinson, guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, and drummer Nicko McBrain — have formed a solid core for the band. Of course, there’s also the iconic band mascot: Eddie.

Iron Maiden has topped the charts repeatedly and wowed critics with their talents. But the band shows no signs of stopping soon, with a new tour scheduled for 2024. Fans around the world are eager to see the band but, in the meantime, are content to listen to their albums. However, knowing which Iron Maiden albums to listen to first can be a bit of a challenge.

Here are all seventeen Iron Maiden studio albums, ranked from worst to best.

17) Virtual XI (1998)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 17 Virtual XI

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 17th Best Album

It’s sad to say, but if there’s any Iron Maiden album worth passing over, it’s Virtual XI.

Can you imagine Iron Maiden without Bruce Dickinson? On Virtual XI, you don’t have to, as he’s nowhere to be found. The band’s instrumentals and Blaze Bailey’s vocals are technically impressive but lacking in charm and substance. “The Clansmen” captures some of the band’s trademark sound, if only for a moment.

Virtual XI won’t pop your eardrums. Yet only the most dedicated fans will find something worth remembering about the record.

16) The X Factor (1995)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 16 The X Factor

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 16th Best Album

Marginally better than its followup, The X Factor is still mediocre.

The X Factor has some things going for it. It’s gritty and dark, reflecting popular demand for a more industrial sound during the mid-90s. “Sign of the Cross,” the album opener, is worth eleven minutes of your time, although it’s far better when performed live with Dickinson on vocals.

Coping with the absence of a beloved vocalist and unfamiliar headwinds in the music industry is tough for any band, and Iron Maiden is no exception. Even still, The X Factor pales in comparison to most any of the band’s other albums.

Iron Maiden: The X Factor (180g) Vinyl 2LP
  • 180 gram double vinyl pressing
  • gatefold sleeve
  • fold out insert
  • music label: Sanctuary Records 2017

15) No Prayer for the Dying (1990)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 15 No Prayer For the Dying

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 15th Best Album

No Prayer for the Dying might have a few standout tracks, but it lacks what makes Iron Maiden great: soaring guitar licks, thudding bass lines, and a grand vision.

1990 caught Iron Maiden at a weird time. Guitarist Adrian Smith was absent from the lineup, Dickinson was focusing on a solo effort, and the music world was just beginning to move away from metal. Even still, the band achieved chart success with the cheesily-titled “Bring Your Daughter… to the Slaughter,” which, along with album opener “Tailgunner,” are two bright spots in a sea of lukewarm mediocrity.

No Prayer for the Dying should’ve been incredible, but instead, it’s just all right.

14) Fear of the Dark (1992)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 14 Fear of the Dark

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 14th Best Album

Fear of the Dark is an improvement on its predecessor and a respectable album in its own right.

Are there any Iron Maiden fans who haven’t heard “Fear of the Dark?” This title track belongs on a top ten Iron Maiden songs list, and for good reason. It perfects the band’s iconic formula: intricate, atmospheric guitar, paired with thoughtful, introspective lyrics, capped off with an explosive finish. A recipe for success, if there ever was one.

Be Quick or Be Dead” and “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” are two other standout tracks worth your time. Unfortunately, much of the album suffers from a distinct lack of focus, as you’ll find a lot of filler on Fear of the Dark. Moreover, the album’s sound frequently shifts from epic metal to more stripped-back rock, giving the impression that the band isn’t quite sure of who they want to be.

Fear of the Dark: by no means a bad album, but it could’ve been better.

13) A Matter of Life and Death (2006)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 13 A Matter of Life and Death

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 13th Best Album

A Matter of Life and Death saw the band conquer new territory on the charts, earning them their first appearance on Billboard’s Top 10. Quality-wise, it’s a great effort that holds up nearly twenty years on.

This album has a raw, guttural quality, partly due to the decision to record it live in the studio and partly due to the bleak subject matter. War and its effect on the human spirit aren’t unfamiliar territory for the band, but in A Matter of Life and Death, they dive into the subject with a new depth and sincerity.

The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” is a highlight. It lures the listener into a slow-burning intro, only to gradually escalate in tempo and instrumentation. “Different World,” on the other hand, jumps right into an energetic frenzy, soaring with power and vitality.

A Matter of Life and Death might not be perfect. If anything, the band’s newfound love for progressive metal excess sometimes goes a bit too far. Still, A Matter of Life and Death is worth your time.

12) Senjutsu (2021)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 12 Senjutsu

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 12th Best Album

Senjutsu proves that nearly forty years on, Iron Maiden still has what it takes. The album roared into third place on the Billboard 200 list, showing that fans around the world are still hungry for metal.

Thematically, Senjutsu takes Iron Maiden’s trademark love of history and culture and shifts its focus to Japan. Don’t be fooled; you still get that classic Maiden sound. The title track, “Senjutsu,” brings to mind the band’s glory days with its dueling guitars and tempo shifts.

Fans keen on some sprawling epics will be happy with “The Time Machine” and “The Parchment,” two long songs with a progressive bent. “The Writing on the Wall” is another standout song with a Southern twist.

Do yourself a favor and get yourself some Senjutsu.

11) Dance of Death (2003)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 11 Dance of Death

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 11th Best Album

See past the garish album cover — computer-generated art that Dickinson himself said was bad — and enjoy Dance of Death, a solid effort from the band that sees them explore new sonic territory without compromising their identity and focus.

Fans often lose sight of how hard it is for bands to experiment with their sound while remaining true to themselves and their audience. To that end, Dance of Death deserves praise, as tracks such as “Journeyman” and “Dance of Death” deftly incorporate disparate musical influences such as folk and prog, packaging them quite nicely with thoughtful storytelling.

Rainmaker” is more of what you might expect from an older cut: speedy, searing metal. However, the album’s opus is “Paschendale,” a stirring, haunting exploration of the nightmarish Battle of Passchendaele from the latter part of the First World War.

It’s hard to find anything negative about Dance of Death besides that dreadful album cover.

Dance Of Death
  • double vinyl album/LP (12" size)
  • released 2017 in Europe by Parlophone (0190295851965)
  • Genre: Heavy Metal

10) The Final Frontier (2010)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 10 The Final Frontier

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 10th Best Album

At the time, many fans believed that The Final Frontier would be the band’s final studio album. Bruce Dickinson once mentioned that he saw the band releasing fifteen studio albums. The Final Frontier was the band’s fifteenth release, but thankfully, they’ve continued ever since.

However, The Final Frontier wouldn’t have been a bad way to cap off a career. It’s a splendid album that both musically and thematically pushes the envelope. “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier” rings in the album with an atmospheric epic, singing of space and the cosmos. The album’s single “El Dorado” blends a memorable vocal performance by Dickinson and excellent guitars by Smith and Murray to great effect.

There are some hidden gems on The Final Frontier, as well. “Isle of Avalon” is a soft, instrumental number, while “Coming Home” focuses solely on Bruce Dickinson and his singing.

Every band member does their part on The Final Frontier, and you can hear it. What a great way to start a new decade and chapter for the band.

9) The Book of Souls (2015)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 9 The Book of Souls

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 9th Best Album

While fans were scared that The Final Frontier was to be the band’s last album, The Book of Souls was almost the final chapter for the band, or at least for Bruce Dickinson. Not long after the album’s debut, Dickinson battled tongue cancer, cancer which very well would have made singing an impossibility for him. He overcame the diagnosis, however, and is now cancer-free.

The Book of Souls is, simply put, a brilliant record. It’s a double album that lasts longer than many movies but doesn’t feel overwrought or full of filler. It uses different thematic and musical tones throughout its runtime, yet it doesn’t feel unfocused.

Tears of a Clown” handles the tragic death of Robin Williams with grace and sincerity, while “Empire of the Clouds” tells the story of a tragic airship disaster. “Empire of the Clouds,” in particular, best embodies the band’s ability to deliver sprawling epics — 18 minutes long — that retain a sense of purpose and engage the audience the whole way through. Fans keen on a more raucous and traditional sound will love “Speed of Light.”

The Book of Souls would be a career-defining triumph for any band besides Iron Maiden. Even still, it’s the band’s best effort from the 2010s and one that fans, new and old, can appreciate.

8) Somewhere in Time (1986)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 8 Somewhere In Time

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 8th Best Album

After the multiyear World Slavery Tour in 1984 and 1985, Iron Maiden needed time to rest. They took four months off between touring and recording, four months which saw bassist Steve Harris and guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray trade in their stringed instruments for synthesizers. Messing around with these then-dominant instruments — this was the mid-80s, after all—certainly inspired much of the synth-infused sound you can hear on Somewhere in Time.

This blend of guitar synths and metal makes Somewhere in Time brilliant. “Stranger in a Strange Land” illustrates this mix of sounds, and at no point does it feel like synths and guitars compete with one another. “Deja-Vu,” an instrumental track, gives the band more space to explore this new sonic territory to great effect.

Wasted Years” might not feature any synths, but its iconic opening riff and lyrics urging the listener to “realize that they’re living in the golden years” continue to captivate the hearts and minds of fans all across the globe.

Somewhere in Time, at its core, is an album about exploring new, unfamiliar territory. As much as some fans derided the band’s use of guitar synthesizers at the time, it holds up and doesn’t sound cheesy or dated today.

7) Brave New World (2000)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 7 Brave New World

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 7th Best Album

The new millennia didn’t brick everyone’s computers the way people feared it would. Instead, the world got a much better and more welcome surprise: the reunion of Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith with the rest of Iron Maiden on Brave New World.

Brave New World is a triumphant return to form. “The Wicker Man” wastes no time in giving fans Smith’s hard-hitting riffs and Dickinson’s powerful vocals, supported nicely by the rest of the band’s efforts. “Blood Brothers” is a more progressive track, written after Dickinson lost his father.

Other standout tracks include “Ghost of the Navigator” and “Out of the Silent Planet.” Both are ferocious and dynamic songs that give fans more time to relish in the band’s new, reunited lineup, complete with the retention of legendary guitarist Janick Gers.

Thematically, the band sounds confident yet self-aware of who they are and where they stand in the new millennia. The album addresses serious topics, such as the impact of technology on social change, yet it never sounds preachy or self-important.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 25 years since Brave New World reignited the hopes and dreams of Iron Maiden fans across the globe. It still sounds as fresh as ever.

Brave New World
  • double vinyl album/LP (12" size)
  • released 2017 in Europe by Parlophone (0190295851989)
  • Genre: Heavy Metal

6) Iron Maiden (1980)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 6 Iron Maiden

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 6th Best Album

Iron Maiden was born out of chaos. In the years preceding, the band had already experienced several lineup changes, and when it came time to record, they just couldn’t get along with their producers. At some point, they threw up their hands, fired their last producer, and got to work recording and mixing the album themselves.

For a debut album, Iron Maiden soars with purpose and focus. Put simply, the band is not messing around. Vocalist Paul Di’Anno brings a unique sound to the band, a gritty quality especially present on “Prowler.” “Running Free” is a defiant, free-spirited track that calls to mind the band’s later work.

One can hear punk influences on songs like “Charlotte the Harlot,” but the band makes it abundantly clear that they are not a punk group with “Phantom of the Opera,” the first true Iron Maiden epic. “Phantom of the Opera” is a dynamic, searing retelling of the classic story and a trailblazing track within the band’s discography. The album’s high point, however, is the title track. “Iron Maiden” best sums up the band’s nascent, developing sound, with an aggressive pace that fuses the best of punk with metal.

Iron Maiden might not be the most polished Iron Maiden album, but you cannot stress its legacy enough. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal might’ve faltered without it. Nearly 45 years on, it’s a testament to the band’s innate musical talent and songwriting ability.

Sale
Iron Maiden
  • 180 Gram

5) Killers (1981)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 5 Killers

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 5th Best Album

Killers expands on the band’s debut release, further developing and focusing their sound. If anything, it’s even more aggressive and almost sneering in tone. Killers also saw the band achieve some chart success in their native United Kingdom, giving them the clout they needed to tour with Judas Priest during their first ever U.S. circuit.

Wrathchild” is among the best songs the band’s ever recorded. Bassist Steve Harris delivers galloping bass lines that pair perfectly with Clive Burr’s drumming, although Paul Di’Anno’s punk-inspired vocals steal the show. “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” based on an Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name, delivers another epic in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s “Phantom of the Opera.”

Purgatory” and “Killers” are further examples of the band’s trademark heavy sound, although the often-overlooked “Prodigal Son” features some excellent acoustic guitar work from Smith and Murray. Beyond this track, however, the band doesn’t venture far from their core formula, making Killers a tight, cohesive album. There’s no filler, and each track has a purpose.

Although Paul Di’Anno parted ways with the band following the album’s release, making room for Bruce Dickinson to join the band, his unique touch makes this album shine just a little bit brighter. Killers might not be the best Iron Maiden album, but it’s certainly up there.

4) Piece of Mind (1983)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 4 Piece of Mind

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 4th Best Album

Piece of Mind came on the heels of yet another major lineup change for the band. Drummer Clive Burr had left, only to be replaced by Nicko McBrain. For recording, the band made the bold choice of venturing to the sunny Bahamas during the early months of 1983.

Following up the chart-topping success of The Number of the Beast is no small task, but Piece of Mind lives up to the challenge. It’s a captivating, complex album that builds upon the band’s signature sound while pushing boundaries left and right. Thematically, it’s a very literary album, with virtually every track owing its subject matter and inspiration to a poem, book, mythological tale, or film.

Flight of Icarus” handles the classic tale of Icarus from Greek mythology with appropriate gravity and scale. “To Tame a Land” draws upon legendary sci-fi writer Frank Herbert and his magnum opus, Dune.

The album’s crown jewel — and fan favorite — has to be “The Trooper.” Harris’ basslines gallop alongside one of the best guitar riffs of all time, all set to haunting lyrics painting a vivid picture of “acrid smoke…[and] certain death.”

Piece of Mind stands tall among the best metal albums of all time, and it isn’t even Iron Maiden’s greatest release: a truly astounding achievement.

3) Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 3 Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 3rd Best Album

Iron Maiden explores questions of mythology, fate, and the paranormal on Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, a massive concept album that seems right at home in the late ’80s. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son sees the band lean into progressive rock influences and develop their use of synthesizers, first used in 1986’s Somewhere in Time.

The album’s fixation on the paranormal makes more sense in light of the concept of a “seventh son of a seventh son.” According to traditional folklore, fate blesses — or curses — such a person with strange psychic and paranormal powers beyond ordinary humans. While most other bands would drown in a sea of pretension and snobbishness attempting to handle such a lofty topic, Iron Maiden weaves a loosely-knit yet coherent and engaging thematic narrative.

Can I Play With Madness” pairs tight, pulsating instrumentals with Dickinson’s operatic vocals in a catchy fashion. This standout single earned the band a number three spot on the UK Singles Chart. Other album highlights include “The Evil That Men Do,” “Infinite Dreams,” and “Moonchild.”

Perhaps the most beautiful song on the album is “The Clairvoyant.” Opening with a bass line from Harris, the song builds momentum before cascading into a gripping tale of a psychic who “for all his power couldn’t foresee his own demise.”

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is a timeless record and one of the band’s finest.

2) Powerslave (1984)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 2 Powerslave

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s 2nd Best Album

Powerslave came at a time of relative stability for the band. Riding the coattails of two massively successful releases, they had settled into a stable lineup for the first time. While many bands would’ve faltered under the pressure of living up to their now-towering reputation, Iron Maiden lived up to the hype and delivered a masterpiece in Powerslave.

Powerslave’s genius comes from a simple idea: if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Iron Maiden’s quintessential blend of epic heavy metal instrumentation and vocals with literary and historical subject matter did them much good on 1983’s Piece of Mind. Powerslave simply builds on this success. Yet the band also turns their attention to more contemporary issues.

2 Minutes to Midnight” is an anti-war tour de force that gained special meaning in light of Cold War tensions. “Aces High” pays tribute to the indomitable spirits and ferocious resistance of the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” coming in at a lofty 13 minutes and 45 seconds, tackles the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name without feeling pretentious.

Powerslave is a titanic achievement. It’s well-paced and devoid of any fluff, and it feels fresh nearly forty years later.

1) The Number of the Beast (1982)

Iron Maiden Albums Ranked - 1 The Number of The Beast

Why It’s Iron Maiden’s Best Album

It’s hard to imagine now, but at the time, The Number of the Beast made some people extremely angry. The album dropped at the height of the Satanic Panic, and the band couldn’t dodge accusations from concerned parents and preachers that they were Satanists. Activist groups organized album-burning parties and picketed the band’s concerts.

Yet such hostile reception was a tiny fraction of the attention the band earned with The Number of the Beast. Critics and fans alike lauded the album. It topped the British charts and reached the Billboard Top 40 charts in the United States.

Run to the Hills” tells the colonization of the Americas, trading perspectives between an American soldier and a Native defending his home territory. It’s a blistering track that represents the band at their best. “The Number of the Beast” opens more subtly, gradually building into a raucous display of energy and dynamism.

However, the album’s best song and defining achievement is “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” a haunting, bone-chilling song from start to finish. It’s hard to think of another song, even in Iron Maiden’s extensive back catalog, that tells a story with conviction and passion.

The Number of the Beast is Iron Maiden’s best album, period.

Anthony Socarras

Anthony Socarras

Anthony Socarras is a Virginia-based contributor for VinylMapper.com. Listening to his brother’s records growing up led to a lifelong love of classic rock and metal. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and watching documentaries.

2 replies on “Iron Maiden Albums, Ranked From Worst to Best”

Who ever did this list, doesn’t know iron maiden. You don’t place 7th son of 7th son 3th place over piece of mind album. That’s idiotic

This list is 100% garbage. The people who made this list should be drawn and quartered. The sheer audacity of putting Seventh Son… at #3 tells us that, not only should you not be allowed to write about Iron Maiden and you probably should be denied oxygen, from here on out.

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