Iron Maiden - S/T - New LP
Recorded January 1980, originally released April 1980.
reached #4 in the UK (didn't even reach the top 200 in the US)
Along with punk (which most everyone in America had also unfortunately ignored--much more than history would lead us to believe) this album by Maiden helped prove that rock wasn't ready to die (as the disco crowd had been suggesting throughout the late 70s). The excess elements of this debut, with the electric-guitar based instrumental "Transylvania" and such, might have been cliche at another time, but this was when punk had just declared war on excess and had caused most rockers to reexamine their delivery. Meanwhile, Maiden was right in the thick of it, and didn't seem to give a rat's ass. Unlike much of their output, this also seems to understand that all great rock has a raw delivery and at least a bit of the sloppy. The pounding rhythms and imperfect vocals of Di'Anno helped give this set some grit and a connection with the roots of rock. These elements also helped ground the set, both resonating with and contrasting the excesses of the axe-grinding. Obviously inspired by the cream of the UK hard-rock outfits of the 70s (Rainbow, Scorpions, Priest, Hawkwind, Motorhead, UFO, a bit of Sweet's Desolation Boulevard on "Running Free" and perhaps Curved Air's Air Conditioning, Queen and Wishbone Ash on "Phantom of the Opera"), as well perhaps some American influences (Montrose, Nugent, and even Chuck Berry) and showing early heavy metal influences on some cuts, this band might have been dismissed as derivative, but with Harris's booming bass and song-writing, they not only matched the power of their 70s forefathers but delivered their own blistering hard-rock sound. The opening cut "Prowler" grabs you by the throat, sounding like a nod to all of Priest's -er suffix songs; the set then slows down for "Remember Tomorrow," which shows a Uriah Heep and Deep Purple influence. If it sounds like it's going to be a bit overblown and derivative, they get into the basic and give everyone a run for the money with "Running Free." That song alone should get their name in the books. If the beginning of the flip side sounds like a bit much too much with the instrumental "Transylvania," and another moody number called "Strange World," they bring it back to earth and return to the juvenile outlaw theme, launching into "Sanctuary" before offering the hip-shaking classic "Charlotte the Harlot." To conclude the set, they return to the horror rock established with the sleeve art/mascot and at the beginning of the set with "Prowler." This horror rock hints back to Alice Cooper (who also had a mascot and focused on horror rock). The delivery, outlaw and violent crime themes, and the fact that the bass player is obviously the leader of this group, perhaps reveals a Thin Lizzy influence. In fact, how could a hard rock UK outfit that formed in the late 70s not be influenced by Thin Lizzy, UFO, and Alice Cooper. While they sport their influences on their tattered sleeves, they deliver the goods. They made some noteworthy music in the years that followed, but they never matched this debut. In fact, in my opinion, they never came close. - winch