On February 2, 1981, Iron Maiden's second studio album, "Killers", was released, and it's definitely an album we're willing to "kill" for.
There are rare musical moments that manage to burn deep into the visual memory as well. When this happens, every time you listen to the same song you will not be able to do so without the same images running in your memory, flashing before your eyes. For us, the opening sequence of "Killers" and more precisely the instrumental track "Ides Of March" and the song "Wrathchild", are just one of those music-visual moments.
In the early '80s, a videotape of Maiden's mythical performance "Live At The Rainbow" was released in Israel. This historic and rare item (at the time), was recorded before the release of "Killers", during a performance held on December 21, 1980. This live show was one of Adrian Smith's first appearances with the band.
We got lucky and a pirated copy of that show on a VHS tape fell into our hands. It became the focus of a pilgrimage of organized screenings held for members of our friends, all "Heavy Rock" fans. For hours on end, we sat in the small living room and watched the tape to the displeasure of our parents and neighbors.
This show opens with "Ides Of March" in the background as Paul Di'Anno and the band are in their final moments before the show. Paul straps on the thick pin belt and the band march towards the stage to the final notes of "Ides Of March" and then... an explosion! with the pulsating bass of Steve Harris, we are witnessing one of the band's greatest songs from the Di'Anno era - "Wrathchild".
The mentioned video tape and album were our entrance ticket to the wonderful world of "Iron Maiden" and since then, for almost forty years, these images will be burned in our memory as the founding moment in which we knew the faces behind the sounds.
(Photo: Robert Ellis/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
What complemented the visual experience that accompanied the amazing music heard from the speakers in that little house in Ramat Gan, was the gloomy and frightening album cover, painted by Derek Riggs. A cover that simply spoke for itself and shouted out the sounds of music hidden inside. "Maiden" came to prove that they are simply a "killer" band that threatens to devour the world. A band that is going to easily skip the second album syndrome and is here to stay, lead and make an impact on the music world for many years to come.
The musical style on this album is not much different from Iron Maiden's debut album "Iron Maiden". The reason for this is probably because most of the album's songs were written in the band's early days.
All the songs on the album except "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "Prodigal Son", were written before the release of the band's debut album - "Iron Maiden". Moreover, a version of the "killer" song "Wrathchild" was recorded by the band for the compilation album "Metal for Muthas" back in 1979. The amazing instrumental track opening the album - "The Ides of March", was written in 1977 By Steve Harris and "Samson" drummer known as "Thunderstick", who was a member of "Iron Maiden" at the time. This track was recorded and released about a year earlier by "Samson" on their second album "Head On", there it was called "Thunderburst". "Samson" (including Bruce Dickinson), gave credit to Steve Harris on their album, but Harris did not return them a favor on "Maiden's" album and took all the credit for himself.
Although the album's musical style was not much different from the band's debut album - "Iron Maiden", this album still has a positive development in terms of sound compared to the previous album. This development is mainly attributed to two factors. First, the addition of guitarist Adrian Smith - Dave Murray's childhood friend. Second, the recruitment of super producer Martin Birch, who by then managed to work with "Deep Purple", "Rainbow", "Sabbath" and more, that from this album on will populate the console position at "Maiden" albums For long and good years. Both of these factors greatly influenced the sound on this album, which became tighter, rougher, and thicker than the previous one. Another factor that influenced the sound and style is undoubtedly Paul Di'Anno. He just reflected on what happened in those years in the UK in the style and music. He introduced the band to punk and thus influenced the musical style, especially his more aggressive singing and also the band's look and appearance.
Just before the huge success, that will come a year later with the addition of Bruce Dickinson, some memorable moments on this album put it at the top of the list for some of the band's fans.
The third track - "Murders In The Rue Morgue" is one of the best songs on the album. A quiet and melodic opening with the arpeggio chords and Harris bass line that connects to the short solo... All this just prepares us for an explosion that comes later. Paul is at his best and proves how great a singer he is. Clive Burr's drumming is wonderful throughout the song and fits well with the "chase" atmosphere of the poor Englishman suspected of a murder he did not commit and escaped from the police on the streets of Paris, just as in the story of Edgar Allan Poe.
It is interesting to note that this song connects to another song on the album "Innocent Exile", which opens up with Steve Harris' bass intro and continues the chase story of that escaped Englishman.
This chase atmosphere also exists in the theme song "Killers", but this time the killer is chasing the victim. Harris' pounding bass overture, Di'Anno's screams, and Dave and Adrian's mysterious guitars, have a sense of frightening atmosphere, that makes us feel like we're running away from the serial killer mentioned in the song's opening words. And what an amazing playing of all the band members, starting at the 1:00 minute entry. Dave and Adrian's whistling guitars, Clive's precise drumming that helps Steve deliver a steady, fast rhythm, and Paul's excellent and versatile vocals all make this song perfect!
A live version of this song exists in the same "Live At The Rainbow" video, which we mentioned above. As stated, the live version was taped before the song was recorded for the album. The melody was there, but the lyrics were not yet completed by Paul. Despite this, Harris insisted on performing the song and Di'Anno had to improvise a bit. Those with a keen ear will probably notice that the words are slightly different from those on the album.
The amazing "Purgatory" - is the second and final single released from the album. This is a version of an old song by the band called "Floating", which become more rhythmic, probably the fastest song on the album. The song explodes seconds after it starts as all the band members rush forward. Di'Anno tries to keep up the fast pace and still manages to produce a nice melody and interesting dynamics.
It is impossible not to refer to "Prodigal Son" which is without a doubt one of the unique songs in the vast repertoire of "Maiden". We can count on one hand the beautiful melodies, amazing and interesting singing by Paul, and a crazy instrumental piece in the middle, with delightful solos by Dave and Adrian.
There are no filler tracks on this album. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith's frequent rhythm changes and guitar work in the song "Another Life" blow our minds, the blues break starting at 1:27 in "Drifter" destroys our health and even the instrumental piece "Genghis Khan" meant to add time to the album to change the definition of the album to an LP, is an excellent and interesting piece, which manages to sweep us and put us in the right atmosphere of the Mongolian Genghis Khan story, even though there is not a single word there. By the way, this track makes "Killers" as the only "Maiden" album to include two instrumental tracks.
It's Interesting to note that the original version of the album also does not include the song "Twilight Zone". This song was released as a single about a month after the album was released and was later included in the American version. Adrian Smith noted he wrote the harmonies of the song, but did not get credit for it and that the rhythm was so fast that it was difficult for the band to play it.
"Killers" is an excellent album, but it marked the end of the Di'Anno era. His drug and alcohol problems will lead him out of the band, with Bruce Dickinson taking his place and marching the band into its golden age.
Although the band's big break will only begin on the next album, "Killers" is still an excellent, unique, and different album, which undoubtedly has a place of honor somewhere at the top of the "Maiden" catalog.