Must Own Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Albums :
Artist : Iron Maiden
Album : Killers
Released : February 2, 1981
M.M. Album Rating : 4.5/5 (The First Maiden Album With Guitar Player Adrian Smith. The Last With Singer Paul Di’anno.)
It may be hard to believe now when you listen to this record from start to finish, but at the time it was being recorded many close to the Iron Maiden camp felt they could become victims of the dreaded “Sophomore Album Jinx” that has ended up destroying many artists and bands. Putting so much into the first album, most of the songs that would end up on what would become “Killers” would be rejected songs from their debut. That being said, as history has proven both critics, and fans have seemed to embrace these songs more. Dominated by the songwriting of leader, and bass player Steve Harris it showed a band that was in transition. Granted, much of that had to do with new guitar player Adrian Smith, who was a much better guitar player (his excellent songwriting would come later) than the man he replaced Dennis Stratton. It also showed the music was becoming much more complex.
It’s no secret that Steve Harris never liked the “Punk” label the band was given with their first two records with Paul Di’Anno, but in reality it’s more than obvious that the British Punk scene from a few years earlier was a huge influence on the early Maiden sound. During the recording of their second album “Killers” it would also become obvious that from Steve’s love of early 1970s British Progressive Rock, he wanted to take the music in a more complex direction. The song “Prodigal Son” (that easily could’ve been a song recorded by the Trio Rush) along with the two instrumentals “The Ides of March”, and “Genghis Khan” are perfect examples. Another example of the direction Harris was taking the band was with the production. He knew that they couldn’t just throw it together like they did on the debut record, but needed someone who would bring the full power of their sound. It would be Martin Birch (who would end up Producing the rest of their classic albums of the 1980s) who had just finished producing the now classic “Heaven And Hell” Black Sabbath record that would be hired to produce Killers.
Coming in right after working with a singer like Ronnie James Dio, Martin would push Di’Anno to the limit in the studio. As a result, his singing had become much stronger, but also began to show his limitations. It would be at this point Steve Harris would start having thoughts of replacing him. Songs like “Wrathchild” along with “Twilight Zone” (released on the American version of the album not the U.K.) and the excellent “Purgatory” are examples of Di’Anno at his very best. Birch would do an amazing job of bringing out both the dual guitar playing of Dave Murray, and Adrian Smith, but also the power of the rhythm section with Steve Harris, and to this day maybe the greatest drummer Maiden ever had Clive Burr.
Once Killers was released it proved with it’s success that Maiden wouldn’t be a victim of the “Sophomore Slump”. They would almost immediately begin a grueling stretch of shows all through Europe, and eventually would finally bring them to America opening for Judas Priest on their “British Steel” tour. It would be at this point where Di’Anno would give Steve Harris the excuse he had already been looking for to get rid of him. Having issues with both drinking, and drugs would cause Di’Anno to have problems with his voice, intolerable attention seeking behavior, and even becoming unreliable not showing up to multiple gigs that had to be canceled. That all would seal Paul’s fate, and he was fired. Bruce Dickinson would be hired to take his place, and the rest is history as they say.
As of 2017 though Paul still has a very strong legacy with the band. There are a number of fans who feel the first two Maiden records (especially Killers) are the best example of the greatness of who Iron Maiden was. Especially with the raw sound of Paul’s voice. As history proves Maiden did make the right decision replacing Paul with Bruce, but “Killers” has aged just as well as the classic Bruce records like “Number Of The Beast”, or “Powerslave”. You really can’t go wrong either way.
All songs written and composed by Steve Harris, except where noted.
Original UK release
1 The Ides of March [instrumental] – 1:46
2 Wrathchild – 2:54
3 Murders in the Rue Morgue – 4:18
4 Another Life – 3:22
5 Genghis Khan [instrumental] – 3:06
6 Innocent Exile – 3:53
1 Killers (Paul Di’Anno, Harris) – 5:01
2 Prodigal Son – 6:11
3 Purgatory – 3:20
4 Drifter – 4:48
1981 US version
Side 2, track 2
Twilight Zone (Harris,Murray) 2:33