With a career spanning three decades and tens of millions of records sold, the U.K.’s Iron Maiden are one of the most successful and influential Heavy Metal bands in history. Emerging in the early 1980s, the band spearheaded the so-called “New Wave of British Heavy Metal,” built around a sound that eschewed the Blues influence of progenitors like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in favor of faster tempos and a harder sound
Iron Maiden was formed in east London in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band spent the next few years swapping players and developing their sound, eventually working their way from the back rooms of pubs to larger venues. The success of a self-released EP and the rabid devotion of their early fans impressed EMI Records executives, who signed the band in 1979.
Featuring thudding, riff based songs, occult themes, and shrieking vocals, Iron Maiden’s first two albums sold respectably, but it was their third release, 1982’s The Number of the Beast, that brought the group widespread success, reaching No. 1 in the UK and selling well around the world. Many fans and critics consider it the band’s best work. For the rest of the decade they toured constantly and released six more studio albums (all gold or platinum sellers), establishing themselves as one of the foremost Heavy Metal bands — and accomplishing all of this without the benefit of significant radio play or major coverage by the press, who largely ignored them.
With their dark themes, song titles like “The Number of the Beast” and their use of a blood spurting mascot (a rotting corpse name Eddie), one area where the band did get the press’ attention was with the recurring accusations that the band are Satanists, which has led to protests and calls for the destroying of their recordings. For their part, the band laughed off these allegations, claiming to enjoy the free publicity they generated.
With the arrival of Grunge in the 1990’s, Heavy Metal suffered a decline, but Iron Maiden barely slowed down and in 1999 the ever-shifting membership solidified into a six-piece that many fans consider the ultimate Iron Maiden line-up: Bruce Dickinson on vocals, Steve Harris on bass, Nicko McBrain on drums and Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith on guitars. This line-up recorded the group’s 15th studio album, 2010’s The Final Frontier, which became the biggest chart success of their careers, reaching No. 1 in 28 countries around the world.