Up the Irons for Martin Popoff’s ‘Iron Maiden: Album by Album’ Book | Book Review

Iron Maiden is considered one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. As part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they shook everyone’s core with their self-titled debut album in 1980. While that album and the following release had some decent tracks, it was the band’s third album The Number of the Beast (1982), where they really made a name for themselves. With a few lineup changes here and there throughout the years, Iron Maiden is still going strong today. The current lineup includes Bruce Dickinson on lead vocals, Steve Harris on bass guitar, Dave Murray on guitars, Adrian Smith on guitars, Janick Gers on guitars, and Nicko McBrain on drums. 

If you’re looking for more information on the band and their studio albums, I highly recommend you check out Martin Popoff’s Iron Maiden: Album by Album (2018) book! Like the AC/DC: Album by Album (2017) book, this one was written in a question and answer-like format, where Popoff conducted a panel discussion about the history of every Iron Maiden studio album (except for 2021’s Senjutsu album). The panelists consist of music journalists, musicians, and a familiar face named Blaze Bayley. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth is also featured in this book, which I was excited about because I just got into Overkill during the last few months of my Disney College Program.

In my review for AC/DC’s Album by Album book, I said Martin Popoff’s sentences were “very long and in-depth,” which was a lot to take in, at first. By the time I started reading the Iron Maiden: Album by Album book, I already got used to his writing style. The “in-depth” part came in handy for this particular book because my knowledge on Iron Maiden wasn’t the greatest, so I learned something new on almost every single page of this book. I brought it to Epcot at Walt Disney World once, and I was reading about what Bayley was like in the band, while waiting in line for “Soarin’ Around the World.” Let’s just say, Bayley had a hard time in Iron Maiden.

Popoff asked insightful questions regarding the recording process for each album, how McBrain’s drumming differed from Clive Burr’s drumming, the band’s shift to a more progressive style of heavy metal, and going from a two guitar-playing band to a three guitar-playing band. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Janick Gers. Some people think his dancing is annoying, some think that listening to three guitar players on stage is a bit jarring, and some think that keeping Gers in the band was a great idea. I never hated the guy, but I always found it strange for a heavy metal band to have three guitar players because there are only so many guitar parts to play. It’s been a couple of years now and I’ve finally come to peace with Iron Maiden’s decision to not get rid of Gers, following Dickinson and Smith’s return to the band.

As for Blaze Bayley, I’m not a fan of his, but I do feel bad for the guy. There were Maiden fans that couldn’t accept him because he was no Bruce Dickinson. Bayley had a baritone vocal range that was very deep, while Dickinson had a tenor vocal range and he could hit some pretty high notes. During his time in the band, Bayley struggled to sing Dickinson’s songs live because they weren’t suited for his voice. According to Jimmy Kay, Bayley’s only regret about the whole Iron Maiden experience was that he never stood up for himself. If he had asked to tune down the songs a half step or even a full step, he probably could’ve saved his voice from the physical strain he had to endure night after night, Kay continued.

Replacing Dickinson was almost impossible because everyone loves him….well, at least now they do. According to Brian Slagel, when The Number of the Beast first came out, some people hated Dickinson and wouldn’t give him a chance because they were huge Paul Di’Anno fans. Little things like that surprised me. Did you know that Nicko McBrain plays drums barefoot? Or that some of the songs on Brave New World (2000) were originally written for Virtual XI (1998)? I didn’t know any of these things before reading the Iron Maiden: Album by Album book.

One story that really stood out to me was how Dickinson came up with “Empire of the Clouds,” which was the closing track to The Book of Souls (2015). According to Popoff, lyrically the song is about the British airship R.101, which crashed in France, killing 48 of the 54 on-board. The storyline was inspired by a book called To Ride the Storm (1982), which details everything about the airship leading up to the crash, Popoff continued. At the time, Dickinson found out that the tumor on the back of his tongue was cancerous, but he didn’t say a word about it to the band; he just carried on making the record. “Empire of the Clouds” was essentially Dickinson’s swan song, had the surgery not been successful.

I really respect Martin Popoff, not only as a writer, but as a music critic. When I first saw him on the music YouTube channel Sea of Tranquility almost three years ago, I could tell that he was very intelligent, and had a lot of knowledge on hard rock and heavy metal music. There was never a dull moment in the Iron Maiden: Album by Album book and for that, I’ll give it 5.0 out of 5.0 stars!

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12 thoughts on “Up the Irons for Martin Popoff’s ‘Iron Maiden: Album by Album’ Book | Book Review

Add yours

  1. Bruce Bruce actually looks better with short hair. Those bangs didn’t do him any favors. I love how Dave Murray always looks like he’s smiling.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Will start soon on it. I’ve started to read three books at the same time. Depending on my mood I go to one or the other.

        White Line Fever
        David and Goliath

        So once I’m done with them, Maiden will get my attention.

        Liked by 1 person

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