Genesis in the 1980s

I made a Genesis playlist here if you want some soundtrack for the below.

I actually began a Genesis project over here at little ol' Dog Star Omnibus - the biggest little Omnibus in the Union, to paraphrase Rhode Island's old state slogan - last year or the year before. I sank a good amount of time into it but got sidetracked by something or other and never finished. But Political Beats recently wrapped up a fantastic seven hour overview of Genesis, and (as their overviews of bands I like usually do) it got me going through their discography again.

Here's a brief bio of me and Genesis:

- I don't know the first time I heard Phil Collins - in the 80s his hits were just part of the ether, even in West Deutschland, where I was for the first half of the decade, and where things popular in the States often took five or six months to make their way to us - but it was around 1985, I think, when I became aware of Miami Vice. That led to "In the Air Tonight" which led to No Jacket Required.

- My family moved back to the States in August '86, a couple of months after Invisible Touch came out Genesis released , one of the most popular (radio, sales, and video-wise) records of the decade. The title track was played everywhere, and constantly, as were all the other singles. "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," a harrowing song about a junkie in the throes of withdrawal, was even used for a Michelob commercial.

- Sometime over the next few years I started getting into prog rock, and everyone kept telling me to check out the band's 70s stuff. This led me to make several pilgrimages to Luke's Record Exchange in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, commemorated elsewhere in these pages. One time I walked out of there with Foxtrot, Nursery Crime, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. (For less than $10, probably). And I liked them so much that when I finally got a CD player one of the first CDs I ever purchased was Trick of the Tail. An album I love so much that I almost made this post a 1976 to 1986 deal, just so I could cover it.

None of these just-mentioned albums are on the docket for today, though. Genesis broke big at the end of the 70s thanks to the success of "Follow You, Follow Me". (Not a particular fave of mine.) What would the 80s hold? First up:


I often use the word “brackish” to describe the trends, musical or otherwise, of the first or last years of any decade. The styles and trends of the previous decade mingle briefly with the new and form some unique mixture of sound before one era gives way to the next. On And Then There Were Three (1979) you can clearly hear the 80s-to-come style of the band on “Follow You, Follow Me,” but it sticks out like the proverbial sorest of thumbs among the other tracks, which sound so solidly 70s-Genesis-sounding. Duke, the band’s tenth (!!) album, bridges the two eras more gracefully, managing to sound like new wave prog rock or something close to it. 

The singles: “Duchess” The keys rock on this one. Is Tony Banks the most underrated rock keyboardist of all time? Among rock keyboardists certainly not. But among the general public is there even a rated rock keyboardist? I don’t know what the conventional wisdom is on the subject. Without a doubt and with no caveats, though, Tony Banks rocks. There’s a quote that follows him around about how most of his songs have seven chords too many. Perhaps so, but he’s also the earworm guy in the band. Well, they each have an uncanny gift for earworm, I think, perhaps Phil, Mike, and Tony share this distinction equally.

“Misunderstanding” is the album’s big hit. It’s not a fave. Both the main riff and the general mood and lyrics seem repetitive of Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain.” I can't be the only one who thinks this? But I love “Turn It On Again.”  I love when you hear a song a million times and eventually discover it’s about something completely different than what you thought. Genesis has a unique skill set for hiding complex, askew ideas in 80s-radio-friendly packages. Even better, though, is the secondary discovery that “Oh wow, that song really does sound like (that idea.)” Take “Turn It On Again,” a song which achieves even more tragic relevance in the social media age, about a man whose only relationships are with the flickering images on his TV screen, whose life is experienced only vicariously through them. The middle section with the odd time signature precisely approximates that disorientation of cable-flipping, searching for that “hit” of sublimated existence. 

Was “Man of Our Times” a single? (Answer: no.) I need to do a comprehensive overview of Mike’s solo stuff, I love everything he ever brought to the band. While we’re here, Phil’s “Please Don’t Ask” is his most personal song, written about the break-up of his first marriage, and it’s certainly memorable at that, but it’s Genesis (and Phil) at their Beach-Boys-iest. You can’t say that about too many of their tunes.

My favorite track is undoubtedly “Duke’s Travels.” That sucker is epic. The album is really called “The Story of Albert” (A quick summary is that Albert has a break up, and falls in love with a singing star on television while sitting at home alone.) It’s all there, emotionally and overture-wise, in that one instrumental. And “Duke’s End” is a great wrap-up/ roll-credits. 



I mentioned up there that at least part of the “80s sound” is co-authored by Genesis. I’d love to truly map out what I consider the 80s sound (how many parts the Fairlight CMI? How many parts Eddie Van Halen? How many the Human League?) but what I meant by that is the gated reverb effect on Collins’ drums. Mic-ing the drums that way forced Tony to alter the way he played keyboards. It all leads inevitably to "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" and everything else on Invisible Touch. That is the eventual waterfall we hang-glide over, Moonraker-style, and you can see it ever so small in the distance when you listen to this album.

The title track was a bold choice for a single (although the radio version lops off the best part, which is all the weird stuff at the end) but an even odder choice for album opener, if you ask me. Great tune, though; there really aren’t any bad ones on this record. The two that I like least are the album’s best-known tracks (“No Reply at All” and “Man on the Corner.”) And I like those just fine, just not as much as the title track of “Me and Sarah Jane” or my two favorites: “Dodo/Lurker” (the keys are fierce as hell in that one) and “Keep It Dark.”

Here's Simon Collins covering it.

The albums’ most infamous track is probably “Who Dunnit”. I like it and its audacity, but it drives me a little crazy. I only learned from the Political Beats episodes that it’s basically a fart joke. Good for Genesis wrapping a fart joke in what could otherwise be a shop demonstration of the Prophet-5 synthesizer.

Those Political Beats guys pointed out something else interesting, as well. Abacab is as true a blend of new wave, prog rock, post-punk as any of the other albums often nominated for such (Songs for the Big Chair from Tears for Fears, Synchronicity by the Police, or even Moving Pictures by Rush). I might nominate Genesis (1983) myself, but both it and Abacab, certainly.

The band released its third live album next with:


Very good live album. Their best? Probably. The later ones are hampered by We Can’t Dance-era stuff (spoiler alert: not a fan of We Can’t Dance; happily for me it came out in ’91 so I didn’t have to dive back into it for this here blog) and the earlier ones by poorer production. Maybe the Last Domino tour planned for 2021 will result in their definitive live album. It’d be a nice swan song for the band. 

All the songs here from the band’s most recent material is fine, but the real treats are the 70s-revisit stuff (“In the Cage” and “It/ Watcher of the Skies” especially) and the b-sides. Which are left off the CD but comprised the unmentioned fourth side of the title.

Paperlate,” though, I hadn’t heard that in thirty-odd years. It was a short-lived joy to rediscover. That style of call-and-response with the horns doesn’t really land with me. Sing “Chick-fil-A, chick-fil-A” to the melody, though, and wham, instant jingle. 



Let's do a song-by-song take on this one.

“Mama” A few years back I watched all seven seasons of Magnum, PI without even really meaning to. I was going to do a Top Ten post for it but never did (more here). One of the episodes that would’ve been on that list, though, was "Death and Taxes" which is basically a forty-odd minute music video for this song/ Miami Vice "homage". The lyrics apparently reference The Moon’s a Baboon, made into a film with David Niven. (Never saw it.)

Here’s an excerpt from an old Keyboard Magazine about the production of this song.

“The Linn LM-1 rhythm was programmed by Mike Rutherford, rather than drummer Collins. It was fed through a reverb unit and then into a Fender amplifier with a large amount of distortion. Tony Banks used a Synclavier, ARP Quadra, E-mu Emulator, and Sequential Circuits Prophet-10 in the recording. The Quadra's rhythmic pulses were triggered by the 16th note hi-hat pattern coming from the Linn drum machine. A low E drone was recorded on the Prophet-10 through most of the song. A koto, which happened to be in the studio one day, was sampled into the Emulator and used in the song because it was felt that no other sound worked in the section.”

I understand every third or fourth word of that. Sounds awesome, though.

“That’s All” What can you say? Craftmanship supreme. 

“Home By the Sea” Here’s another of those double-whammies I mention. I must’ve heard this a hundred times before I ever looked it up what it was about, and I only ever did so because I joked to a friend once that if I ever got a home by the sea it wouldn’t be the one from that Genesis song. I was only responding to the tortured mood of the song, not its lyrical content, which do happen to be about a haunted house. And that’s where the secondary realization kicks in, i.e. “wow, that song’s about a burglar who breaks into a haunted house and then the ghosts just sit him down (“Sit ow-owwwn-n-n!”) and tell him stories of who they used to be and how they came to be haunting there. And you know what? That’s exactly what it sounds like, now that I know that.” Remarkable.

“Second Home By the Sea” Because the first wasn’t enough! Absolutely not. An artsy sequel, like the sophisticated city cousin to the haunted country mouse of the previous. I’ll work on it.

“Illegal Alien” Okay, well, they can’t all be first round picks. This is a good-hearted silly song that is anachronistic and a little weird-sounding now. I’d say “offensive” but it’s practically banal these days to point out perfectly inoffensive things that are treated like Lord Haw Haw. It goes on way too long, mostly.

I never liked “Taking It All Too Hard” on previous listens but Old Man Bryan likes it just fine and kindly reminds you of the boundaries and border-hedge of his personal exteriors. 

Just A Job To Do” Is this Genesis’ most overlooked big hit? As in people forget both that it exists or that Genesis did it? In all fairness, it’s easy for the casual listener to get Phil’s 80s work mixed up with Genesis’. Mike and the Mechanics don’t have that problem. (Nor Tony, I guess, if anyone even recognized them. Poor guy released four or five non-Genesis projects in the 80s that sold a total of four copies. I’m told, unreliably. I’ve heard none of them. That’ll change one of these days. I love Tony, don't send me hate mail.) Anyway this is a fun tune. I wouldn’t say Phil is underrated as a vocalist, but one particular aspect of his fronting Genesis – that of “selling” all of these different POVs, here an assassin with (see title) – may be. That’s a whole different skill set than just hitting the notes. 

(“I’m coming hard on you!” might have been re-thought as the bridge, but it was a simpler time. )

“Silver Rainbow” Some great (and weird keys) on this one. Apparently the silver rainbow is the zipper to a girl’s jeans. A trivial little tune, perhaps, but a great example of just how effortlessly these guys can construct a song. Is there a note wasted here? I think not. Despite the subject matter, it reminds me of a Wiggles tune. 

“It’s Gonna Get Better” Criticized on release as “cosmic Elgar” (as in Sir Edward William Elgar, the dude whose “Elegy” graces many a montage in film and television) it actually lifts a cello part from a different composer, Aram Khachaturian. A lovely song that has only grown on me over the years and dozens of listens. The ending goes for broke and succeeds. It points squarely to where the band will land next.

Before we get there, the b-sides for the singles on this one include “Nanimani” and “Submarine.” Both are great. The latter could be the theme of an entire film, actually. Not necessarily a navy (or delicatessen) film, just a nice slice of atmosphere. 

And finally:


Here’s an album that was inescapable for a few pivotal years of my youth. (They’re all pivotal!) At the mall, on the radio, on MTV, in my bedroom, you name it. 

That song by song approach worked pretty well for Genesis; let’s do the same here.

“Invisible Touch” This and “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest were my favorite songs ever in seventh grade. My friend Kevin’s joke at the time was “She seems to have an invisible tool shed!” Man that cracked me up. I sang it practically every time I heard it for a number of years. Now I wonder what the hell was so funny about it, but hey. 

“Tonight Tonight Tonight” One last time hitting this note, I promise: when I first learned it was about a junkie looking for a fix and not the band just looking for Michelob in a typical 80s nightscape, I had to marvel at how obvious it was, once you realize that. What a great vocal from Phil. Hard to believe this guy became a singer more or less accidentally.

“Land of Confusion” Great track. I remember when everyone went nuts for the metal remake. Not bad, I guess, but for me the remake just underscores how perfect the original is. Ditto for the metal remakes of “Blue Monday” and “Smooth Criminal” come to think of it. Remember when there was a metal remake of everything? And then a techno remake, and then a punk/hardcore remake? Simpler times, my friends, simpler times.

“In Too Deep” A placeholder for a certain type of 80s something-something, but not a song I enjoy.

“Anything She Does” Side Two opens up with this number, which always gives off a strangulation vibe to me. It’s not a great track, perhaps, but it makes 100% of my Genesis mixes, so there’s that. Seems essential for an inessential Genesis track.

“Domino” Essential any way you cut it. More awesome vocals from Phil. That “Nothing you can do when you’re the next in line” section through the end is as good as it gets. 

“Throwing It All Away” Speaking of as good as it gets. This riff is dynamite. The whole song is dynamite. I used to really love the video back in the day then didn’t think of the song for like twenty years, then one day heard it on some 80s hour lunch break and now I’d say I listen to it at least once a week. (Same thing happened with Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face” while we’re here.)  

“The Brazilian” I had no real context for Genesis as a prog rock band when I first got this album. That came later. But from the first this song had a pull on my imagination. What was going on here? How did they get the synthesizer to make that wind whoosh out of the speakers sound? What is this, keys or drums? (It’s both.) Just fantastic. On a short list of cool rock keyboard songs. (Impromptu, incomplete version of such a list: “The Brazilian,” “Keep It Dark,” the live “Aquatarkus” by ELP from In Concert, “Joy” by Apollo 18, “Catherine of Aragon” and “Merlin the Magician” by Rick Wakeman, and “Love Theme from Boat Chips (total remix).” 

B-sides: "Do the Neurotic," now we're talking. What a cool solo. In the same way "Submarine" could be chopped up and redistributed to be the soundtrack of an entire film, this one could about cover a single episode of 80s TV. (I guess Tom Selleck had the same idea for "Mama" and that "Death and Taxes" episode of Magnum, eh?) I love the ending.

"Feeding the Fire" - great vocal, not the greatest song. Still, cool enough. And "I'd Rather Be You." I like this one. Did the Cure rip this off with "Why Can't I Be You?" Not really, I guess, but there's a similarity. To David Lee Roth's "Perfect Timing," as well. 


Genesis took the rest of the 80s off as a band while Phil and Tony put out more solo records, and Mike and the Mechanics hit it big (again) with The Living Years. That, then, brings us to the end of our overview. Thanks for joining me!


Iron Maiden: The Bruce Years, pt. 3

Bryan:  Bruce rejoined the band in 2000, which is when I rejoined Maiden fandom. I didn’t plan it that way. I was working at that frame shop I mentioned last time around, and my boss and I discovered that a) we had a lot of 80s metal fandom in common and that b) we both had spent the 90s listening to just about every other genre of music. As I did with Stephen King and comic books and other things I blog about nowadays, I mostly took the 90s off from everything I loved in the 80s and had the unanticipated pleasure of rediscovering later. With Maiden, that year was 2000 with the release of their reunion album
 Brave New World, arguably the greatest reunion album in heavy metal history. Seeing them on my birthday that year remains my all-time favorite (non-Shatner) concert experience. 

And now, please join my buddy Marshall and I as we revisit the last (so far) five albums of our first and forever favorite band. Lotsa Maiden comin’ atcha, starting now.


The Wicker Man

Marshall: 4/5  Real Maiden is back! Real Maiden is back! This is a great album opener. I love the energy. The only thing I don't like is the monotonous guitar riff during the chorus. I also don't like the ending, "whoa oh oh oh, whoa oh oh oh"

Bryan: 4.75/5  Not only do the lyrics only relate to the film in one couplet of the last verse, they don't make a whole lot of sense altogether, particularly in the bridge. ("Say goodbye to gravity, and say goodbye to death!" being a personal favorite example. Uhhh.... what?) But of course this matters very little. What a triumphant welcome back for Bruce/ all Maiden fans, especially the ones who caught this tour. The final "whoah-oh-oh-WHOAH!" chants, when the lights came up and the whole band came forward on stage, brought the crowd to a roar in a way I'll never forget. Which is exactly why they write those "whoah-oh-whoah-OH!" sections. A deluge of pure Maiden metal. Something special beyond the sum of its individual parts going on in this song. 

Ghost of the Navigator

Bryan: 5/5  Every time I hear this song I like it more. (Why is the title singular but delivery in-song plural? Shrugs.) 

Marshall: 4/5  I love the way this song starts. It slowly builds into that bad ass guitar strumming during the verse. This is one of the most Maiden-sounding songs since Seventh Son.

Brave New World

Bryan: 5/5  That is true of this one as well. It's tough to really capture my impressions of this and "Navigators" without sounding like Chris Farley. Such perfect utilization-of-Maiden going on in these songs. What a gift to the world BNW was and is!

Marshall: 3/5  A good song, but a slight step down from Ghost of the Navigator. The verses are so cool, but then the chorus feels like a let down. The guitar solo toward the end is masterful.

Bryan: I love the lead-in to the chorus, though, that “you are planned/ you are damned” part. I know I harp on this a lot, but this song is the exception to my rule of songs about books/ movies, i.e. you can actually tell what the source material is or is about from listening to the lyrics of this. 

Blood Brothers

Marshall: 3/5  After the disaster that was Virtual XI, I think Harris stepped back on the songwriting. But ever since then, I've been looking for signs of their return to the bad old days, and I always see hints of it on the one Harris-penned tune on each album. They're almost always mind-numbingly repetitive ("We're blood brothers" is repeated 20 times). That said, this was a serious step up from Virtual XI. I don't like the choppiness of the verses, but I do like the guitar melody at the beginning and runs through the song, and the new guitar melody that is introduced halfway.

Bryan: 3.5/5  He actually has a co-writing credit on every track on this album, doesn’t he? I think there’s more of Harris’ fingerprints on these songs than you think. I also have a much higher tolerance for the band’s repetitive qualities. That said, this isn’t a real favorite. 

MarshallWell, Harris is the leader of the band, so of course his influence is everywhere. He's the inventor and consultant of the Maiden Formula, so of course he has songwriting credits on most songs. But, unlike the bad old days of Virtual XI, he stepped back considerably and only gets one song where he is the primary or sole songwriter, and it is always the worst, most repetitive song on the album.

BryanI don't find this to be the case for me personally, but such is the nature of horse races, as they say. 

The Mercenary

Marshall: 3/5 Here we go again with the "The [person]" songs. This album has so many of them that I can't tell them apart. "The Ghost of the Navigator," "The Mercenary," "The Fallen Angel," "The Nomad". The latter three sort of blend together in my mind. But this is a good song, very upbeat.

Bryan: 3.25/5  I agree with that last sentence. Personally, it amuses me that Maiden had all these job description songs. I tend to group those ("The Assassin", "The Mercenary," etc. Jason Statham should star in a movie series based on all of them) together, not just the ones that start with “The.” The funny thing about this one is it’s the album’s get-in-and-get-the-job-done-and-get-out songs, yet it feels twice as long as it needs to be. Also, the "The (occupation)" songs are supposed to start side two, not end side one! Which if I was marking such things begins with:

Dream of Mirrors

Bryan: 5/5  I can totally see how this would have been batted around during the Virtual XI sessions, and I'm so happy they waited for Bruce. Had this appeared under Blaze's tenure it would simply not be the same song. The switch-to-fast-break part of this song is one of my favorite Maiden things ever, and it's totally all Bruce. "Lost! In a dream of mirrors - lost! In a paradox!" (Oh the drama! I love this crap so much. 

Marshall: 4/5  Here's another one that really feels like classic Maiden. My favorite thing about this song is the vocals during the first chorus. This song goes in a few different directions. I like how this song builds up to the point that it's going ape shit. It's a nine minute song, so they can really take their time getting there, unlike "The Educated Fool", which is 10 minutes of screaming the same thing over and over.

Fallen Angel

Marshall: 2/5  This one’s okay.

Bryan: 4.5/5  Here’s another one I’m glad they waited for Bruce for. In some ways this is my favorite track on the album. But I think that's because prior to hearing it my friend and I had been cracking up at all the "I am the chosen one" sentiments in Maiden. It was with this friend (aforementioned job at the frame shop) I rediscovered Maiden and with whom I saw them on my birthday. We both couldn't believe it when we heard it, especially the one at the end; it was so conspicuous, almost like they heard us.

The Nomad

Bryan: 5/5  Here’s another job description for you! Although this one is, I suppose, more of a lifestyle. What great riffs and design throughout this one. The switch in chorus delivery, too, always thrills me. This makes a fine counterpoint to Sting's "Desert Rose." It would have made a hell of an extended music video.

Marshall: 3/5  I like the instrumental intro. After that, the first half is very plodding and choppy, but then halfway it has a quiet break and builds slowly from there, which is very cool.

Bryan:  I love that part! The summer I moved to Chicago I recorded this dirge-y sounding thing on my friend’s 4-track and totally ripped off some of this metal section for it – it just fit so well, my apologies, lads, couldn’t help myself. They played everything up to "Fallen Angel" when I saw them but stopped short of this and the next two, damn it. 

Out of the Silent Planet

Bryan: 4.5/5  Never read this book. I love the chorus. This one's grown on me over the years. I have a fellow Maiden friend who thinks this is one of their career top five tracks. I don't like the intro, but everything from there is pretty much stand and applaud for me. 

Marshall: 4/5  I like the energy of this song, and I love the chorus so much. My favorite part is when he sings "The killing fields, the grinding wheels, crushed by equilibrium." 

Bryan: Mine, too! I am high-fiving you over the internet.

The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Bryan:  I gave this 4/5 originally but damn it all, (and I alluded to this in my original notes to you) I just cannot. It’s a 5 star song.

Marshall: 5/5  I love everything about this song, the instrumentation is incredible, but I especially love the vocals. When I first heard this song, it really struck me just how much I missed Dickinson singing for Maiden. I knew I missed it, but this song really showed me how Iron Maiden vocals are supposed to sound. Then, five minutes in, it gets even better, everything drops down and we just get that sweet, sweet guitar melody and Bruce wailing the chorus. It's so good that they kept the part at the end where Nicko says, "ah, fucking pisser!" Such a good way to end the reunion album.

Bryan:  What a kickass Side B. That "My soul will fly… FOR-EVE-RRR!!" section is every bit as shameless as the "FREEDOM!" bit from "The Clansman" and every bit as appreciated. (And even cooler, you ask me.) Some awkward lyrics ("we're right to put the blame on society, these things" which sounds like how the old French-Canadians in the northern Rhode Island of my childhood would talk, "throw me down the stairs my shoes" etc.) but they're pretty good, overall. 

Final Thoughts

Bryan: Total 45.5 Avg. 4.55 This album is such a gift. In the same way I can take it as a personal insult when a franchise is ruined, I take it as a personal favor when one is not just resurrected but enshrined in the stars for eternity the way this one is. I needed to hear this in 2000 and on every listen since. I remain in Maiden's debt!

Marshall: Total 35 avg 3.5  I had given up on Iron Maiden after Virtual XI and treated Bruce Dickinson's solo work as the new de facto Maiden. It had two out of the five members of Maiden, so it was almost as much Maiden as Maiden was. So when I heard that those two members were joining Maiden again, I was ecstatic. It felt like this thing I loved had split in half, and I had to enjoy them separately, but I was about to get the whole thing back. And three guitarists! That just seemed so quintessential Maiden. Do everything BIGGER! Plus, they were bringing back Derek Riggs to draw Eddie, and the album art was gorgeous. I felt like the happiest music geek on the planet. I bought it the second it came out and listened to it over and over. I had Brave New World posters and computer wallpaper at work.

Bryan: I am high-fiving you again! Next up:


Holy moley that cover... So, so awful. (This is Bryan writing this part, but Marshall agrees with me via other correspondence.)

Wildest Dreams

Marshall: 4/5 Short and simple album opener. My favorite part is the last chorus, with the guitar playing in the background.

Bryan: 3/5 Not bad, not great. 


Bryan: 2.25/5 Ditto.

Marshall: 4/5  I really like the opening guitar riff. It is such a cool transition from Wildest Dreams!

No More Lies

Marshall: 1/5  Here we go, the Harris tune on the album, and as per usual the most repetitive song. They repeat “no more lies” 27 times. This really sounds like a Virtual XI song. I do love the guitar solo though.

Bryan: 3.25/5  I can handle the repetition of the chorus, but Harris is very repetitive with his music motifs and that gets more boring for me. I like the bridge and chorus here, very metal-emo. And then the neo-celtic guitar vaunting, for good measure. (He kind of disappears into this in the twenty-first century. I guess he and Ritchie Blackmore were swallowed by the mists of their isle’s musical past.)  It feels like a casserole of familiar Maiden-isms, just missing the “whoah oh oh!”s somewhere. Still, I like it.

Just throwing this pic in here. Maiden's still at it. Or will be again, post-Covid, God willing.


Bryan: 3.75/5  My favorite from the album, I think. 

Marshall:  3/5  Feels a little rushed, and I don't the guitar playing the same melody as the vocals during the verse, but otherwise a pretty good song.

Dance of Death

Bryan: 3.5/5  Another casserole, and another one I don't mind. "They had ascended from Hell!" and then the leprechaun-metal after that always makes me happy. 

Marshall: 2/5 Unimaginative/recycled intro riff and stupid lyrics. Especially "and I danced and I pranced and I sat with them!" It goes in a kind of cool direction at the three minute mark. Then they speed up more toward the end, and Bruce trying to sing through that feels awkward and rushed.

Gates of Tomorrow

Bryan: 2/5 Meh.

Marshall: 2/5  I really don't like when the guitar plays the same melody in unison behind the vocals during the verse. They do this on a few songs, and it's especially egregious on this song. Otherwise, this song feels generic and bland.

Bryan: Right? A little of that melody/guitar alignment goes a long way. Too much and it’s ruined.

New Frontier

Marshall: 3/5 I like this one.

Bryan: 2.25/5  I do like the "is it worth the risk of war of God and man?" bit. 


Marshall: 3/5  I love that guitar intro! And I love the change they do near the three minute mark.

Bryan: 2.75/5  I like the idea of this song more than the actual song I think. Some cool bits, needlessly long. Much like its subject matter.

Face in the Sand 

Bryan: 3.25/5  Not perfect but I like it. That double bass drum attack works okay here. I don't always like a double bass drum effect.

Marshall: 3/5 I like this song.

Age of Innocence

Marshall: 3/5  This one, too. 

Bryan: 2.25/5  Bruce can sing anything, but this one’s fairly forgettable for me.  


Marshall: 4/5  A ballad?? Wow, I've never seen them go this acoustic before. This is a beautiful song with an awesome chorus.

Bryan: 2.25/5  The boys channeling both Lesley Gore and Slade. An odd but admirable combo.

Final Thoughts

Bryan: Total 30.5 Avg 2.77  And so begins the casserole era of Maiden, for my money. And they earned it. All these songs are too long. 

Marshall: Total 33 Avg 3  What you call the casserole era, I call the generic era. It starts off good and has its moments, but it's all starting to feel a bit scripted at this point. A let down after Brave New World, though some of it has grown on me over the years. I was worried after I heard this album, that they might be slipping back into Virtual XI mediocrity. If the next album was a step down, then I knew that they were starting to reach the end. So was both excited and worried about the next album:


Different World

Marshall: 2/5  Quick, unremarkable song to start the album out. The vocals in the chorus seems too low for Bruce. It's like a reversal of what usually happens: verse is a lower register, then bring thing up for the chorus.

Bryan: 2/5  A different world indeed. That bridge is very un-Maiden like until Bruce wails out the chorus. The drums sound off.  IIRC this was recorded live in the studio for the most part, and I'm not sure that approach worked.

These Colors Don’t Run

Bryan: 2/5  Some of the music agrees with me, but it seems stitched together.

Marshall: 3/5  I like the drums and vocals on this song the most. I also like the intro guitar part.

Brighter than a Thousand Suns

Marshall: 4/5  Here we go! The album is really starting to get good at this point. This song is as good as any on Brave New World. When I first heard this song, I remember this was when I started deciding I really like this album more than Dance of Death.

Bryan: 3/5  I forgot about this tune. This sounds a lot better to me than it did on previous listens, but I can't quite agree it's as good as anything on Brave New World. It'd have made a good b-side to a BNW track, though.

The Pilgrim

Marshall: 3/5 I'm really starting to notice at this point how unusual this album is in its tendency for the singing for verses to be higher, and the chorus is really low, definitely lower than where Bruce usually sings. They did this on "Different World", and they do it again here. Anyway, pretty good song, despite its unusual vocals.

Bryan: 2/5  I’m surprised you didn’t bring up the title. That’s a good observation though about the vocals and where Bruce is on his register.

MarshallOh great, just as I finally forgot about their annoying song naming habit, you have to go and remind me of it! Seriously though, this didn't bother me as much for some reason.

The Longest Day

Bryan: 2.5/5  When it's building at the beginning, it sounds like it could've went somewhere, a different direction or something. Some of the solo/ arpeggio stuff is cool, and the chorus, but I'm not really enamored of the other sections.

Marshall: 4/5  I LOVE how this song builds. They return to that later too. Otherwise, it's a good song. Good chorus, excellent instrumental break in the middle.

Out of the Shadows

Bryan: 2/5  Meh.

Marshall: 3/5  I like it.

The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg

Marshall: 3/5  I love how this song starts.

Bryan: 2/5  It's kind of adorable that the band was so taken by the idea of the fake-media-tie-in that was all the rage back then. (In retrospect, sort of with Ed Hunter, as well; they hooked on to the CD-ROM format just as it was dying.) This one's okay, it's all a bit overwrought. 

For the Greater Good of God

Bryan: 1.5/5  Back to meh. And way too long, to boot.

Marshall: 2/5  Okay, here's the dreaded Harris song. I knew this was coming when I got this album, and I was braced for it. It delivered about what I expected. Better than "No More Lies", but not as good as "Blood Brothers". The lyrics are dumb. I don't like the choppiness. They repeat "Please tell me what life is" 24 times and "For the greater good of God" 16. Ugh. I like the instrumental break in the middle though.

The Legacy

Marshall: 4/5  This is a pretty cool song. I always like the songs that build. I like the guitar strums that first place gently, and then later the same guitar strums are done with heavy distortion. The vocals on this song are really cool. And of course, they end the song with that same bad ass strumming. Perfect way to end the album!

Bryan: 1/5 Not sure what to make of this one. I respect the attempt, I guess, but none of it lands with me and the main refrain is a direct lift from something I can’t put my finger on. Way too long. Boring. 

Final Thoughts

Marshall: Total 31 Avg 3.1  I'm shocked to see how my scores on this compared to Dance of Death! They're only a tad higher on average than Dance of Death, and yet I like this album a lot more. I see now that I actually quite like the songs on Dance of Death, but as an album, this one seems to hang together better. When I want to hear latter-era Maiden, I usually reach for either this or Brave New World, almost never Dance of Death. This album renewed my faith in Maiden, but they were starting to sound generic. My hope for the next album was that they would change their sound/formula a bit.

Bryan: Total 19.5 Avg 1.95  It’s possible it’ll grow on me. I never give up on Maiden albums, really – part of me will always be down to throw ‘em on and say okay, maybe this time it’ll click. But so far it hasn’t happened to me with this one. I like this one even less, scorewise, than Virtual XI, so my scores surprise me a little as well. 


Now that's a cover! (By Melvyn Grant, Maiden's other great cover artist; I should've mentioned him before now, sorry. I assume interested parties are clicking the hyperlinks provided to avail themselves of all that kind of info.)

Satelite 15… The Final Frontier 

Marshall: 2/5  After A Matter of Life and Death, I felt like Maiden had vindicated themselves that they wouldn't descend into Virtual XI mediocrity and were safe to start experimenting again. The intro to this sounds very different from anything they've done before, and I loved it. I was praying the whole album would be something new and fresh. But then the main part of this song comes in and it sounds exactly like A Matter of Life and Death, so my hopes were dashed. That's what this song really represents for me. It's a good song, just formulaic. The only formula they broke with this is that this is not the short, simple album-opener they've done ever since Virtual XI. I want to give this song three stars. It got demoted to 2 because they repeat the chorus 20 times, which has long ago become my biggest pet peeve of latter-day Maiden.

Bryan: 1.5/5  There's some interesting stuff in the intro, but it could have been edited down to a more sensible length. It doesn't fit too well with the song that follows, which is kinda blah. 

El Dorado

Marshall: 4/5  Here we go! This is a little different. Great riff, great vocals during the verse. Best song on the album.

Bryan: 2.5/5  I don't hate the riff. I don't hate the bridge. I don't hate the solo sections. But none of it ever really adds up to a kickass song for me. 

Mother of Mercy

Marshall: 2/5  This is a pretty good song, if not for the chorus. Screaming "mother of mercy, angel of pain" or whatever a bunch of times, in notes that are clearly out of Bruce's range these days, kind of ruins this song for me.

Bryan: 3/5  This one has grown on me. I actually forgot about it for awhile, but hearing it again a couple of times for this listenthrough, it gestures, at least, in the direction of Maiden greatness. Kind of strained on the vocals, though. 

Coming Home

Bryan: 1.5/5  Boring.

Marshall: 3/5  This song does not wow me, but it is a solid song, and I enjoy listening to it. It gets a little repetitive at the end. What comes to mind when I hear this song is a memory I have of returning to my new home in the middle night after a trying ordeal. I looked out the window as the sun was rising and we approached the airport, and I saw the landscape of home. I'll always remember that feeling of coming home I had at that moment, and think of it every time I hear this song.

Bryan: I’d definitely put it at 3 stars or higher if I had a similar association. 

The Alchemist

Bryan: 2.25/5  Another profession song! I hope Jason Statham is ready for this one, they threw him a curveball. (I love this damn joke!) Although it seems they wanted to name it "Strange Alchemy" but for some reason named it "The Alchemist." Not bad but nothing new here.

Marshall: 3/5  This is a good song, maybe a little better than Coming Home, but it feels generic. This is largely due to its name, the dreaded "The" song. They all blend into each other in my mind, and this song has two of them. This song would be so much more memorable if they went with Strange Alchemy.

Isle of Avalon

Bryan: 3.25/5  This one is a lot better than I remember but could've used a little something-something. Still, deserves to be remembered and I forgot it, so I apologize to the great 'Ed in the sky. 

Marshall: 3/5  Another good song that feels generic. I too forget a lot of the songs on this album. It's not because they're bad songs. They just don't blow our minds like they used to so long ago. These albums are perfectly decent, just missing any wow factor.


Marshall: 2/5  The music is perfectly fine, but this song is a little tiring to listen to, partly because I just heard several songs that sound basically the same. But this song is extra painful because most of it is out of Bruce's range. So instead of enjoying the song, I spend a lot of it cringing at Bruce constantly straining to hit notes.

Bryan: 3.5/5 Sheesh, here's another one that's got more going on than I recalled. None of this is any danger of becoming my favorite Maiden, but there's more life on this album than I remembered. 3.5 might even be too low. This one will make my post-project dishwashing mixes for sure.

The Talisman

Bryan: 2/5  Little too troubadour-y for me then it breaks into a JV version of "Ghost of the Navigator." 

Marshall: 2/5  Okay, here we go with another "The" song. For all my bitching about how generic this album feels, this song has a very unique, if a tad cutesy, intro. But then, as usual, right back into the formula after that. You're right, it does sound like "Ghost of the Navigator." I didn't notice that before, but not it's impossible to miss. Bruce strains his voice a lot on this song again too. Painful.

The Man Who Would be King

Marshall: 4/5  My second favorite song on the album. I love how it starts and ends the most. I really like the changes in this song. That's what really makes this song stand out. No vocal straining on this song, which is a relief after the past several songs.

Bryan: 3.5/5  One of my favorite Kipling stories, and I've got a lot of versions of it (several movie versions, an audiobook, the original prose, plenty of old-time-radio recording) so it amuses me to have an Iron Maiden entry in the collection. Of course, this being a Maiden song about an extant work, one might not pin down the source material from the lyrics alone. Some of the drumming aside (Nicko feels almost like Keith Moon on this one) the music's fairly tight on this. Better - wait for it - than remembered.  

It's probably based on the movie, now that I think about it. I always picture Steve Harris watching late-night reruns and bringing the song in to the studio the next day. Anyway, R.I.P. Sean Connery, while we're here.

When the Wind Blows

Marshall: 3/5  Here's the dreaded Harris song of the album, this time the album finisher. And 11 minutes, so it looks like he's going for the epic album finisher like he used to do until the late 90's. Already I'm rolling my eyes at the vocal melody in unison with the guitar melody. That's a formula Harris has loved for decades now, and I've always cringed at it. The story and lyrics are stupid. But, what is this, no repetitive chorus?? Well, that's refreshing. I haven't seen Harris pull that off for 15 years. Still, I'm all set to give this 2 stars until about halfway through the song, and it really starts getting good.

Bryan: 2.75/5  Is this the first Maiden song where there's a wind sound effect? Am I missing an obvious one? I think the vocal melody in the chorus is used on X Factor somewhere. But the whole thing follows the whole neo-celtic chord progression Harris et al. defaulted to in the 90s, so the melody grows from that one supposes. Not bad but kinda meh.  I like the second part of the song better than the first. 

Final Thoughts

Marshall: Total 28 Avg. 2.8  There are a few great tracks on this album, but by this point, the band needs some new tricks up their sleeve. This album is exhausting to listen to, and I never thought I'd say this, but they need a new singer. Nothing against Bruce, he's got an amazing voice, but he's just getting old and can't hit those notes like he used to.

Bryan: Total 25.75 Avg 2.58  It’d be cool if they did what Journey did and get some young guy who can sing all the songs perfectly. Bruce’s vocal ability is still better than most, but he’s only human after all. This album was a pleasant surprise to revisit. A few more listens, and I might come around on some of these even more. 


If Eternity Should Fail

Marshall: 4/5  The best song on the album. It's a pretty good song to begin with, but gets even better half way through. 

Bryan: 2.25/5  Not bad. I like the general gist of the lyrics. The chorus could be better. The stuff at the end - I mean, it's hard to criticize stuff like this; if you're into it, you're into it. It's not really for me.

Marshall: Yes, the ending is silly. The album is all downhill from here.

Speed of Light

Bryan: 3/5  I kind of love the chorus/ end. It's too bad they didn't do this one back on Somewhere in Time.

Marshall: 3/5  I like the instruments on this song. The driving guitar riff and the drums especially. It's a good song, but I don't like it as much as the first track.

The Great Unknown

Bryan: 2.5/5  I need to research this album a bit. The ending is cool, here. 

Marshall: 2/5  Trying to listen to Bruce strain to hit all these notes is exhausting. It would be a good song with a different singer.

The Red and the Black

Marshall: 2/5 Here's the dreaded Harris song of the album. Does the guitar have nothing to do but play the same exact melody as the vocals? Can't Harris come up with a better chorus than "whoa oh oh oh"? The only reason I bother giving this 2 stars is because I like the instrumental sections in the middle.

Bryan: 3.25/5  Guitar-vaunting! Bass galloping! "Whoah-oh-oh-oh!"ing! It's like a song written by a Maiden consultant service. I remember hearing this on someone's satellite metal show in 2015 but can't think of how that would have happened; satellite radio is incongruent with anything I was doing in 2015. (Fake memory or cross-timeline echo? The Maiden-della effect.) I went up to the score I did only on account of the ending section which is textbook headbanging, but I wish they hadn't broke back into the whoah-oh-oh-ohs. I say this as someone who rolls his eyes at any criticism of "whoah-oh-oh"s. The soccer chants are an unextractable part of Maiden. But they're used a little blandly here.

When the River Runs Deep

Bryan: 2.25/5  Not bad.

Marshall: 2/5  I'm usually tuned out by the time this song comes on.

The Book of Souls

Bryan: 3.5/5  Nice little Grieg-y riff on this one. This is one of those raw meat for Maiden songs whose egalitarianism I admire. It reminds me a little of "Dance of Death" in that regard. 

Marshall: 2/5  Nice intro and ending. But then it sounds like every other mediocre song on this album. I'm so sick of the guitar melody tracking the vocals, and of Bruce straining to hit high notes.

Death or Glory

Bryan: 1.5/5 Meh. (Is he singing "God like a monkey?") 

Marshall: 2/5 No, it's "climb like a monkey." I saw them live after this album, and Bruce put on a monkey mask and motioned like he was climbing. It was silly. Speaking of which, at the live show, I really saw how far downhill Bruce's voice had gone. Sometimes it was painful to watch.

Bryan: Yeah it is. I feel kind of bad harping on it, but it’s unfortunately impossible not to notice. I’m glad that the last time I saw them (Worcester, MA, 2003) his voice was still in good shape. (He berated someone in the front row for blowing marijuana smoke up at him. “I’m trying to have a high energy heavy metal show here....” Kind of funny in retrospect. Imagine being that fan! Front row and called out by Bruce.)

Shadows of the Valley

Marshall: 2/5  It’s okay.

Bryan: 2.25/5  The "Into the valley of death" part and directly before it are pleasant enough. The "oh-oh-oh"s are gratuitous. Normally I'll about the "oh-oh-oh"s but this makes two songs on this one where I'd have cut them. 

Tears of a Clown

Bryan: 1.5/5  It was too much to hope for a Pagliacci-inspired tale, but Bruce would've killed the famous bit. Steve wrote this ode to Robin Williams instead, which is a nice sentiment, I guess, and I feel kind of bad marking it so low. But I don't like it very much. 

Marshall: 2/5 Steve didn't write this one. Like most latter day Maiden, this is a Smith tune, collaborating with Harris. But yes, it is an ode to Robin Williams. It's a little sad. And repetitive.

Bryan:  You and Bruce can argue about this one. Harris is credited as songwriter at the wiki as well. I’m not saying Bruce and Wikipedia aren’t mistaken, only that your work is cut out for you with internet citations.

Marshall: I'll defer to Bruce. From the construction, it just does not strike me as a song in which Harris is the main songwriter, so I doubt I'll ever think of it that way. 

The Man of Sorrows

Marshall: 3/5  This song is noticeably better than most of the album. All the things that annoy me are absent in this song. I like the ending a lot. Otherwise, this song doesn't wow me.

Bryan: 1.5/5  I don't know if the lyrics are Steve or Dave but it sounds like Steve, which is kind of sad. He sounds like he's writing X-Factor-era lyrics. Moreover, though, why name this song that when Bruce has a solo song named the same thing? Doesn’t that create needless confusion? Or is Harris that committed to repetition? (That one was for you!)

Empire of the Clouds

Bryan: 3.75/5 Well here we are, Maiden's longest song. If it ends up being the album closer on Maiden's last studio album, how cool is it that it's this offbeat (for them) epic, so sincerely put together by Bruce? I'll be 100% honest and say I admire this more than love it, personally, but I love that it exists and that Maiden chose this note to (possibly) go out on. 

Marshall: 3/5  Is this another epic album finisher? They hadn't done that since the 90's. But I don't really think of this that way, because all the songs on this album are too long too, so this doesn't stand out like they did in the past. And this song just feels so disparate and stitched together. This used to be my favorite song on the album, but it got old fast. All the annoying things about this album--the instruments playing in unison with the vocals, and Bruce straining to hit notes--are present in this song. But I gotta say, I really love that piano intro, as well as several other parts of this song. So, three stars it is.

Final Thoughts

Bryan: Total 27.25 avg. 2.48  I'm surprised at the highs of this album. Listening to it for this project was the only the 2nd (and 3rd) time I ever listened to this one. There will be more, and that makes me happy. 

Marshall: Total 27 avg 2.45  This was their worst album since Virtual XI. After A Matter of Life and Death, I hoped they'd tweak their formula a bit and was disappointed. Surely by this album they would change things up a bit, but they doubled down, and just did their formula even bigger. I don't hate this album though, like I kind of do Virtual XI. It's just exhausting, long, and usually pretty boring, so I rarely listen to it.


Bryan: And that’s it. We might circle back and do the live albums and/or the solo and peripheral discography one of these days. Thanks for doing these with me, Marshall, you brought some cogent fury to this project as I suspected and hoped you would. Care to send us all on our way with some wrap-up thoughts?

Marshall: I lump together most of their albums by twos, as that was their general pattern. Two albums, then a change. So, Iron Maiden & Killers, Piece of Mind & Number of the Beast, Powerslave & Live After Death (Powerslave kind of stands on its own, but Live After Death is its appropriate companion), Somewhere in Time & Seventh Son, No Prayer For the Dying & Fear of the Dark, The X Factor & Virtual XI. After that, the pattern seems to break, and all the following albums sort of blend together for me. The band is really aging now, recycling their formula a lot, and soon there will be a final Iron Maiden album, which makes me sad. On the other hand, part of me thinks they should have stopped at A Matter of Life and Death. That was sufficient to recover from Virtual XI, but not so far that they started sounding tired. I hope they go out with a bang!

Bryan: Amen to that. And here's the final rankings - thanks for reading, folks!


Virtual XI  2.13
Book of Souls  2.45
The Final Frontier  2.8
No Prayer for the Dying  2.9
(tie) Iron Maiden  / Dance of Death  3
A Matter of Life and Death  3.1
Somewhere in Time  3.12
Killers  3.18
Number of the Beast  3.22
The X Factor  3.36
(tie) Fear of the Dark / Brave New World  3.5
Piece of Mind  3.56
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son  3.6
Powerslave  4.62


A Matter of Life and Death  1.95
No Prayer for the Dying   2.15
Virtual XI  2.19
Fear of the Dark  2.31
Book of Souls  2.48
The Final Frontier  2.58
The X-Factor  2.68
Dance of Death  2.77
Killers  3.8
Iron Maiden  4.03
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son  4.15
Number of the Beast  4.39
Somewhere in Time   4.4
Brave New World   4.55
Piece of Mind  4.61
Powerslave   4.75

Rod Smallwood, manager
Derek Riggs, premier cover artist.

Martin Birch, producer (of their best stuff)

Steve with friend in IMFC kit.