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To say that a heavy metal band is larger than life verges on redundancy, since the entire genre is about being bigger, stronger, faster, louder and more intense. But even within the metal microcosm, Iron Maiden are larger and more iconic than most of their peers. Unlike many metal bands, however, Maiden's music isn't primarily about rage or revenge — it's more an outlet for escape. And since the release of their debut EP in 1979, Maiden have provided millions of fans with a high-energy vacation from life via thunderous guitars, galloping beats and melodramatic vocals that transport the listener wherever the lyrics command.

In addition to traditional horror-story fare, Iron Maiden have explored Greek mythology ("Flight of Icarus"), ancient Egypt ("Powerslave") and the bowels of hell ("The Number of the Beast"). They also addressed more historically significant subjects such as the genocide of Native Americans ("Run to the Hills") and the war in Iraq ("Face in the Sand"). The horrors described in their lyrics found physical manifestation in the band's ghoulish mascot, "Eddie the 'ead," which routinely joins them onstage in some or other robotic form. And, whether tackling a tale in a conventional four-minute framework or stretching a yarn into a 15-minute mini-epic, Maiden perform with equal vigor, laying down technically proficient passages and mindbending solos that impress without being pretentious.

Although the band recorded classics like "Running Free" and "Wrathchild" with original singer Paul Di'Anno, they hit their stride with his successor, Bruce Dickinson. Between 1982 and 1992, the band released a formidable series of high-impact songs driven by Dickinson's multi-octave vocals and unforgettable guitar parts. Yet the band's anchor since its 1977 inception has been Steve Harris, whose songwriting strength and signature, 16th-note-laden bass runs propel the Maiden sound.

In 1992, Dickinson quit the band to focus on his solo career and Maiden continued with singer Blaze Bailey, but the shift didn't work for either, and in 1999 the powerhouse lineup reunited, even stronger than ever: When early guitarist Adrian Smith, who'd left in 1989, said he wanted to return, the band boosted its lineup to include three guitarists, making the epic vibe of its music even more so. Since then, Maiden have logged thousands of miles on the road, just wrapped their third post-reunion studio LP (slated for release later this year) and look set for another decade of dominance.




Killers (1981), The Number of the Beast (1982), Piece of Mind (1983), Powerslave (1984).





"When Maiden came along it was a thrill to see there was another band that was going to go out and dominate the world and keep the faith of metal. It really is a cause that we live for, outside of playing in a metal band. We love this music so dearly and anyone that comes along and is able to keep the blood pumping is important, and Maiden were and still are. I think competitiveness is more of the active emotion, rather than rivalry." — Rob Halford, Judas Priest

"The first time I heard Killers, I was like, 'This is what it's all about.' It had all that power — and hooks. It had everything. They were hugely inspiring last year on Ozzfest, because you can see, decades later, that they had just as much energy onstage, and watching 15-year-old kids and 50-year-old dudes rocking out together is just so inspiring. If you stick to your guns, and never lose sight of what it is you do well, it never has to die. You can just keep going. Anytime I've ever felt tired, I thought, 'Man, you can't be tired. Bruce is up there running around for an hour and a half, covering 30 miles a night on that stage — I have nothing to complain about.' " — Brian Fair, Shadows Fall

"That was the first time I can remember waiting for albums [to be released]. I had just gotten Powerslave and I was waiting for Somewhere in Time to come out. It was vicious. Musically, it was fairly simplistic, but the way they put it together, it never sounded the same. They went back to those old mainstay chord progressions, but they always made it sound different. Steve Harris does more with four fingers than I've ever seen anybody do. And Bruce Dickinson? Dude! To me, he was the quintessential old-school heavy metal singer. He could hit notes that were just sick, and he was a great showman. Everything made me a fan. And there wasn't a dude that I hung out with that wasn't trying to draw Eddie on their schoolbooks." — Corey Taylor, Slipknot




"Iron Maiden is the greatest metal band without question." Oh yeah? Tell us where you'd put them on your list in You Tell Us.




NEXT: Unearth's Trevor Phipps says of this band, '[They] helped saved metal from becoming completely contrived
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