The 10 best Iron Maiden music videos
It goes without saying, at this point in time Iron Maiden’s contribution to heavy metal is so ingrained, essential and absolute as to be inextricable. Full disclosure: in this particular writer’s opinion, they are The Greatest Heavy Metal Band Of All Time. And perhaps because their musical canon is such a supercharged magnet for deserved superlatives and accolades like that, it’s arguable that their video output has often been overshadowed when it comes to drunken pub debates and press columns.
And that, folks, is an injustice.
No, not all of Maiden’s best songs received music videos (seriously, how good would Alexander The Great’s videos have been?), but over the years they have given us clips that have ranged from personally revealing, to groundbreaking to surprisingly funny. Here, then, we look at the best visual feasts of The Beast…
10. Women In Uniform
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Maiden’s cover of Skyhook’s Women In Uniform provided us with their first official video and some killer performance footage, particularly of an amped up Paul Di’Anno in full flow. But that’s not why it’s on this list, nor is it just here for context to show just how far they came. It’s here because it shows that right from the beginning, they were a band intent on building a striking world for fans to inhabit. They had vision. And by vision we mean Eddie. Historically speaking, has any incarnation of Eddie been more overlooked than NHS Eddie? Absolutely not.
9. Holy Smoke
REMEMBER: THIS IS THE BEST VIDEOS LIST, NOT BEST SONGS. That Iron Maiden have weathered decades of changes in musical taste only to wind up bigger than ever in 2020 is attributable to many things, but perhaps most importantly it’s because of the seriousness with which they have always conducted themselves when it comes to being in this band. Except on Holy Smoke. That’s what makes this video so special. In a decidedly anti-MTV moment, Maiden revealed a side of themselves no-one had seen before. Bruce Dickinson singing in a field? Yes. Steve Harris playing on a tractor? Naturally. Dave Murray soloing in a river? There wouldn’t be a video without it. Janick Gers playing a mini guitar in a pool? You’re goddamn right Janick Gers is playing a mini guitar in a pool!
8. 2 Minutes To Midnight
Here’s the thing, when you have a song as evidently perfect as 2 Minutes To Midnight you could watch static for six minutes and it would still be one of the best things you’ve ever seen. As it so happens though, its official video actually saw Maiden experiment with a fully-developed story for the first time, bringing the song’s theme of nuclear brinkmanship to life via the saga of a paramilitary street gang stealing a missile – while also finding time for some kinky frolics – in East London. It also contains the utterly unforgettable moment at 58 seconds of a hand grenade being removed from some chap’s zipper.
7. From Here To Eternity
Few would consider 1992’s From Here To Eternity an essential Maiden track, despite the fact that as far as songs about fatal motorbike crashes go, it’s extremely hard to beat. That’s doubly true when you factor in its big budget video. It’s a riot, taking in touches of Mad Max and a literal express elevator to a purgatorial underworld, not to mention a chubby Satan dispensing eternal slavery like Tic Tacs. And, true to its ‘Hell ain’t a bad place’ chorus, best of all there’s Iron Maiden playing on a huge, volcanic soundstage that still looks impressive to this day.
6. Can I Play With Madness?
When it comes to Maiden’s visual flirtation with the supernatural, it was a toss up between the transdimensional spectre inhabiting the Flight Of Icarus video and this. Both are brilliant in their own way, but Can I Play With Madness? edges it in sheer number of talking points. First, even after all these years, its video remains a potent reminder that your standard school art class is only ever really one flick of an HB pencil away from summoning a sinister cult. But this iconic video, indebted heavily to Hammer Horror and shot at Tintern Abbey and Chislehurst Caves, is also notable because it features legendary Monty Python member Graham Chapman. And, like Hammer Horror, Monty Python and Iron Maiden… it’s timeless.
5. The Wicker Man
When Bruce Dickinson left Maiden in 1993, following the previous departure of Adrian Smith in 1990, it started a chapter in Maiden history that remains fundamentally misunderstood. Their work with Bruce’s replacement Blaze Bayley may not have soared to the same heights of old, but nor are The X‑Factor and Virtual XI albums without their stunning moments. Still, what is incontestable is that the return of Bruce and Adrian in 1999, and the subsequent Brave New World album in 2000, was a key turning point for the band. Wicker Man is the song that signalled to the world – in video form — that Maiden were not only back, they were intent on transcending their illustrious past. As such, this video should still give goosebumps to any Maiden fan with a pulse/skin. There’s a lot going on here – certainly a lot of inflatable balloons – but it is the sight of Bruce and Adrian back where they belong that makes this so powerful.
4. Aces High
If you had to create a recipe for a lot of Iron Maiden’s videography it would consist of the following: take one killer live performance and sprinkle with appropriate historical/film footage. Leave to boil for three to seven minutes and voila: classic Maiden video. Because of this, in a moment of rigorous self-discipline, we’re only allowing ourselves one choice from this type of video, lest the Top 10 be comprised almost entirely of essential Maiden songs with compelling archival footage. You could take your pick from them, be it the smorgasbord of B‑Movie monsters in Number Of The Beast, the depiction of the charge of the light brigade in The Trooper or the unnerving footage of the gulf war in Afraid To Shoot Strangers. But none of them bring a song to life as vividly as Aces High’s stark black and white footage of WW2 planes pirouetting through the sky. So that’s how you improve on perfection.
3. Fear Of The Dark (Live At Donington Park)
As Live After Death, Rock In Rio, Maiden England and, well, every other Maiden VHS/DVD/Blu-ray prove, Iron Maiden are one the greatest live bands of all time. Fear Of The Dark’s video, showing them bringing the song to life in front of thousands of people at Monsters Of Rock in Donington, is all the proof you would ever need to convince a non-believer. Yes, it was so very, very, very tempting to put in Hallowed Be Thy Name here, but there is an intensity to this FOTD footage – often captured so beautifully in black and white – that shows Maiden at their most imperious, grandstanding and breath-taking. Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeam for me audio-visual fans!
2. Speed Of Light
Maiden have long-since dabbled in computer animation for videos – some of them great (Final Frontier), some now showing the constraints of the technology at the time (The Angel And The Gambler) – but never have they done it more successfully than in 2015’s thrilling clip for Speed Of Light. Genius in the simplicity of its premise, and utterly spectacular in its execution, it features Eddie constantly re-spawning in different ages of video game history, from Donkey Kong to Mortal Kombat and first person shooters. Rarely is a nostalgia blow-out this forward thinking and innovative. Salute to Eddie, too, for scoring the improbably demonic high score of 666,666.
1. Wasted Years
Adrian Smith’s stunning meditation on the inner-life of a touring band is given a video that remains a powerful time capsule of the globe-conquering World Slavery Tour. Here you can see Maiden reach the peak of their powers for the first time. But that’s nothing that Live After Death doesn’t do, so what makes Wasted Years’ video our No.1? Well, even more than Holy Smoke, it lifts the Iron curtain and shows the human side of this particular Beast. Yes, that is Nicko McBrain at a waterpark. There’s no high concept here, just a love letter to Iron Maiden, Eddie, their crew, their fans and their history. The ace 2006 video for The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg revisited the idea – albeit with a David Fincher-esque colour palette – in 2006, and is well worth watching, but Wasted Years did it first. This is the absorbing world of Iron Maiden distilled in its entirety into five minutes, six seconds flat.
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