Iron Maiden - Killers

Iron Maiden – Killers

86 / 100

To this day there’s still a legion of fans who claim ‘Killers’ to be Iron Maiden’s definitive heavy metal statement. It certainly was a different band than the later Dickinson years, with more destructive intent but not quite as polished.

Written by: Dangerzone

ARTIST: Iron Maiden
ALBUM: Killers
YEAR: 1981
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List

LINEUP: Paul Dianno – vocals * Dave Murray – guitar * Adrian Smith – vocals * Steve Harris – bass * Clive Burr – drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 The Ides Of March * 02 Wrathchild * 03 Murders In The Rue Morgue * 04 Another Life * 05 Genghis Khan * 06 Innocent Exile * 07 Killers * 08 Prodigal Son * 09 Purgatory * 10 Drifter



Despite the disdain I continue to feel for Iron Maiden’s current bloated direction, there was a time when they truly were the greatest heavy metal band in the world. This was of course decades ago now, but their success in the 80’s was built off relentless gigs, lineup changes and a unique sound featured on their first two albums with Paul Dianno.

The 1980 debut was an instant success, although to me it didn’t really display the power the band were capable of. When they followed it up a year later Dennis Stratton was gone, replaced by Adrian Smith and the band’s sound was changed for the better.

Even though the bulk of ‘Killers’ was full of previously recorded material, it sounded heavier thanks to vastly better production from Martin Birch. To this day there’s still a legion of fans who claim ‘Killers’ to be Iron Maiden’s definitive heavy metal statement. It certainly was a different band than the later Dickinson years, with more destructive intent but not quite as polished.

The Songs

Brief instrumental ‘The Ides of March’ gives way to ‘Wrathchild’ easily the most remembered track off the album. The storming riff always reminds me of Deep Purple‘s ‘Stormbringer’ and for a track under three minutes this gets the job done in vintage NWOBHM style. It was pretty obvious how far ahead Iron Maiden were of the pack when listening to the sophistication of their guitar work and vocal melodies.

One of the only new tracks written for the album was the fast paced ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’ where everyone is in fine form, with Harris stamping his influential bass lines all over the place. The energy continues with ‘Another Life’ and some classic riffs interspersed with a brief thrash like section that sets this version of Iron Maiden aside from any other.

Taking this notion a step further is instrumental ‘Genghis Khan’, which must qualify as an early example of speed metal. It’s as fast as Iron Maiden ever got, displaying what a great drummer Burr was as he annihilates the kit in a way Nicko McBrain never quite got to. This track truly makes you wonder what Maiden would have gone on to if Dianno had never left. ‘Innocent Exile’ boasts more impressive riffs and attitude, the sound of a band hitting their stride.

Nothing can top the title track ‘Killers’ for sheer menace and heaviness, just listen to the buildup before it all kicks in. There’s an excitement present you don’t hear in metal anymore, including Iron Maiden themselves. The chief reason is Dianno’s vocals with his raw delivery. Listening to Dickinson’s live renditions of this over the years was never as satisfying, it simply doesn’t suit him.

‘Prodigal Son’ offers a slower, acoustic setting, showing how versatile the band already was. It has shades of the progressive direction Harris loves so much and seems rooted in the 70’s with its atmosphere. ‘Purgatory’ is nothing of the sort, a wall of noise which would influence a generation of aspiring metalheads. Iron Maiden would never sound this reckless ever again. Dianno caps off his tenure in the band with ‘Drifter’, a great rocker with a tried and tested theme played with youthful abandon by a bunch of geezers already in their mid twenties.

In Summary

I recall having a cassette of this album many years ago with the bands cover of Skyhooks ‘Women In Uniform’ that wasn’t on the original release. That was a good thing as what is presented here is essentially what made Iron Maiden superstars. When Dianno quit (or was fired), the first era of Maiden ended unceremoniously. Even though they would become the biggest metal band in the world during the 80’s they never sounded like this again. They were still heavy, but in a more streamlined way, one that favored precision rather than the near chaos displayed here.

It’s all subjective, but it’s fascinating to see how many people still refer to this as the definitive lineup. I wouldn’t go that far myself, but I always wonder what a 1986 album with Dianno would have sounded like. It might have been AOR given Dianno’s tendencies. Regardless this is a classic that resonates some 30 years later as much as it probably did in 1981. Somehow I don’t think in 2040 people will be saying the same thing about ‘The Final Frontier.’


Entire Album (Select Tracks)

Playlist: Iron Maiden - Killers (full album)
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