Iron Maiden – Killers (1981)
Paul Di’Anno era Iron Maiden is leaner, faster, and nastier than what followed, although much of the fast bouncy shuffle of this album managed to make its way onto The Number of the Beast. Maybe we should be looking not at Di’Anno and instead Clive Burr, who also unifies these aforementioned parts of Iron Maiden’s history? Regardless, Killers is still pretty well polished, although mostly free of the progressive rock influence that bleeds through to many of Iron Maiden’s other albums.
Things aren’t THAT different, since this lineup of Iron Maiden still contains half of of the modern lineup. As such, major elements like Steve Harris’s prominent bass and Dave Murray’s rhythm guitar are still about and recognizable in overall form. The oldcomers, though, seem to play a major role in painting the irons in more blood than later on. Clive Burr, for instance, has a rather busier, denser drumstyle than Nicko McBrain even if he’s generally playing songs with less room for less drums… …the less you try to parse that, the better. Paul Di’Anno has a harsher ‘normal’ voice than Bruce Dickinson, even if he rarely uses the high pitched screams Bruce is known for. I’d say things are executed about as well as on later albums, so your opinion the instrumentation really comes down to personal preference.
Killers‘ real point of interest in the modern era is that it explores a bunch of musical ideas that Iron Maiden generally shied away from. Key to this, perhaps, is the ephemeral NWOBHM “bounce” – like the self-titled debut, it makes use of lots of syncopation, triplet rhythms, and rock-like (vaguely bluesy?) rhythm riffs. “Wrathchild” and “Innocent Exile” come to mind; but the overall effect is an album that sounds rather more confrontational and, in fact, intense, than most this band’s output. There’s also a lot more proto-speed-metal type concepts and velocities floating around. While these ideas had already appeared in metal by 1981, “Purgatory” in particular is one of the fastest metal songs from this era, although supposedly the band tossed around a slower prototype earlier in their life.
In the end, this album sold quite well,although not as much as its successors, and it probably introduced plenty of fresh blood into the genre. Iron Maiden rapidly ceased to be on the leading edge of metal’s push towards brutality (assuming, of course, that they ever were), but you probably don’t care much about that if you can find a place for them in your collection or Spotify playlists or whatever. I would certainly recommend it – it’s a take on Iron Maiden you don’t necessarily see much of given disowned Di’Anno and the mountain of sales that followed him.
Highlights: “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “Another Life”, “Genghis Khan”, “Purgatory”