Christer Reviews: Killers (1981)

killers cover

The second Iron Maiden album is the first to feature guitarist Adrian Smith and producer Martin Birch. They would both make one hell of a difference, as this retro review argues.

Killers
Produced by Martin Birch
Released 2 February 1981

After having a bit of a surprise hit with their debut album in 1980, as well as securing high profile support slots on tours with Judas Priest and KISS, Iron Maiden was the young band to watch in 1981.

Click here for our review of the debut album, Iron Maiden (1980)!

Very much a companion piece to the first album, Killers features several songs that were already in the band’s live set much earlier. The big difference between the two records is the quality of the production. Killers sees the arrival of producer Martin Birch, and thus the dawn of the muscular and heavy sound that characterizes early Iron Maiden. The following year’s groundbreaking The Number Of The Beast album might be the first record of Maiden’s classic era, but it’s actually on Killers that the quintessential Maiden sound is born.

Another arrival here is long-time guitarist Adrian Smith, replacing Dennis Stratton and adding his melodic and rhythmic leads to Dave Murray’s virtouso fretwork. Smith’s presence is heard, and even felt, on numbers like the beautiful and semi-accoustic Prodigal Son, and so one of the greatest guitar partnerships in music history finally takes flight. In fact, the album opens with a short instrumental, The Ides Of March, that showcases the Murray/Smith lead work impressively.

(Continues below pic!)

The Heavy Metal Band, Iron Maiden

The Killers line-up of Iron Maiden, posing with Eddie. Left to right: Paul Di’Anno, Eddie, Clive Burr, Steve Harris, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.

There are wonderful metal tunes here too, like Wrathchild, Murders In The Rue Morgue, Purgatory, another instrumental in Genghis Khan, and the galloping title track. On the other hand, there are also some that don’t qualify: Another Life, Innocent Exile and Drifter pale in comparison to the rest. The addition of the competent but unexciting Twilight Zone to the 1998 CD remaster was welcome, as the song was never released on European editions of the original album (nor is it on the recent vinyl reissues), but it doesn’t match the record’s best moments.

To accompany the music, illustrator Derek Riggs creates a new Eddie in a murderous mood. The picture disc and black vinyl reissues remind us how striking an album cover could be back in the day, and the picture disc gatefold opens to reveal a live shot of the band in the Killers era. The disc itself boasts the Twilight Zone single artwork on one side and the Purgatory artwork on the other:

(Continues below pic!)

purgatoryartwork

Derek Riggs’ artwork for the Purgatory single was his second effort. His first was kept for the next album cover, The Number Of The Beast.

At this point the Maiden catalog was spent, and for the next record the band would have to come up with all new material for the first time in their career. Killers sees the band emerging out of adolescence and standing on the threshold of adulthood. With the aid of producer Birch, they have found the sound to build this transition on.

Read more about the creation of the Iron Maiden sound here!

The heights that Maiden would climb throughout the decade would have been impossible without a kick-ass metal sound to build on. Birch would be retained as producer for the following year’s breakthrough album, and Maiden never looked back.

Click here for our review of The Number Of The Beast (1982)!

One Bruce Dickinson is on record saying that he thought Killers was a much more interesting album at the time than the debut. It could probably be argued that the ratio of great songs is better on Iron Maiden, but the second album is undoubtedly the birth of the vintage Iron Maiden sound.

Christer’s verdict: 4/6

6/6 Masterpiece
5/6 Great
4/6 Good
3/6 OK
2/6 Disappointing
1/6 Crap

Advertisements

One thought on “Christer Reviews: Killers (1981)

  1. Pingback: BEST & WORST: Top 10 Deep Iron Maiden Cuts | maidenrevelations

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s