In the four decades since their humble formation in East London in 1975, New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers Iron Maiden have achieved the exalted status of being one of the most iconic, influential and internationally successful metal bands of all time. Boasting a whopping sixteen studio albums — featuring genre-defining records including Killers, The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind and Powerslave — their discography is staggering in both quality and quantity. So naturally choosing the single best song by Maiden is a near-impossible task. Even at a basic level: how do you rank original singer Paul D'Anno's raw punkish approach on tracks like "Running Free" and "Killers" to current and longtime frontman Bruce Dickinson's operatic epics? So we asked for your help; and you delivered. See your picks in the ranked list below.
On every Iron Maiden record, you can put money on the last track being an epic, bombastic conclusion to an album of rippers. The title-track to 1992's Fear of the Dark starts off pretty understated and reflective, its intro riff just an overture. But once the stage is set, the band launches into a sweeping riff that follows Bruce Dickinson's gripping tale of paranoia. It's a simple enough concept for lyrics — the fear of being followed while walking alone at night — and yet it's elevated thanks to the song's epic structure.
Clocking in at nearly 14 minutes in its full form, 1984's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is no small entry in the Maiden catalog. Intricate, progressive power chords, chugging rhythm guitars and an epic tale quoting passages of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name are the hallmarks of what would stand for years as the group's longest song — until it was topped by "Empire of the Clouds" in 2015. More rock opera than rock radio, the track was perfectly at home on Powerslave, an album that would eventually lead to the band's longest and reportedly most arduous tour. The shifting moods and energy of the track add interest and movement, securing its place as a fan favorite.
You literally can't go wrong with putting "The Trooper" on for any occasion. The intro riff is equal parts pure shred and pure fun, and instantly recognizable to metalheads of any stripe. It embodies everything a metal single should do, guiding the riff to a perfectly timed sing-along from Bruce Dickinson — "You take my life but I'll take yours too" — which leads into an rousing story about fighting for what you believe in, no matter how futile it may seem.
Acting as lead single on 1986's Somewhere in Time, "Wasted Years" is a heart-wrenching ode to nostalgia, homesickness and the power of forging ahead in the face of sadness. The wrought vocal performance seared through by the tick-tock of the plucky riffs could pull tears from the most hardened eyes. Evoking a sense of longing and wistfulness, it's no wonder the song stands as a fan favorite some 32 years after its release; the universal themes and soaring delivery buckle down its relevance in Maiden canon.
Let's be real, everyone loves Iron Maiden for that gallop. Steve Harris going double-time on the bassline while accompanying dueling leads sail over top create a melodic — and ripping — formula that few bands can match. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is the best sort of song by Maiden — a sprawling track that lets the band build tension to a furious climax that concludes with that patented Iron Maiden gallop. The band shows their diversity in songwriting, their ability to emote and write an epic, and also their incredible chops in one fell swoop. A true classic and a fan favorite.