Iron Maiden are a little like the AC/DC of NWOBHM. At least they are to my ears. Once they dispatched their original lead singer, their sound really settled into place. And the listener is left with a lot of animals that, on the surface, sound very similar to each other. The distinguishing feature from album to album is the quality of the material. (I say that being completely unaware of lineup changes and the like, so maybe there are more changes from album to album.) This one sounds a lot like the other early ’80s Maiden albums I’ve heard with a notable exception.
That exception is their longest song to date, an adaptation of the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, which is perhaps a little less proggy than you would imagine from that description. The important thing, for me, is that it is distinctive in a way in which much of the other material on the record isn’t. It’s the song I’m going to remember from this one, so I’m glad it’s here.
Otherwise this is Maiden being Maiden. Though this is apparently the first record of their career which they made with the same lineup, I couldn’t tell you that based solely on my listening experiences to date. (Keep in mind, I have only heard their first five albums three times each, and a few of their late ’80s and early ’90s albums only once.) They are very much a band that does one thing really well. And if you love that one thing, they’re great. If you don’t love it, they’re less great. As someone who attempts to look at music in its historical context, it’s a lot harder to get excited about a fifth album that sounds a lot like their hugely important second album.
So, basically, I’m thankful for that final track. Without this, I’d be knocking down my rating a level.