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They changed a lot after this, but still an awesome album
on 30 December 2012
This was the first album I ever bought (technically I bought Number of the Beast at the same time but I'll split the difference as this was released first). It strange listening to this album now after hearing Iron Maidens whole repertoire of albums, Killers is a very edgy and raw album that feels almost like it could fall apart in places but it never misses a beat. All of the later albums have heaps more polish thrown onto them whereas this you could almost imagine being recorded as a series of full band live takes in the studio. Although Number of the Beast trumps it with sound production I think Killers is the better album as everything seems to fit on it. Despite the fact vocalist Paul Di'anno was sacked for his unpredictable behaviour post-release he performs admirably on this album, his rough and ready howling and screeching and at ease with all the other instruments. This album also lays the foundation for Maidens galloping lines more so that the self titled debut (which is also a great album).
The albums opener is the instrumental The Ides Of March which is presumably a reference to the assassination of Julius Caesar (although being an instrumental it could have had any old title). The track has some nice guitar work and the drumming has a pretty nifty crash beat followed by rapid tom-roll fills to start things off. It moves smoothly into the next track Wrathchild which gives us a great sounding Harris bass line that serves as a launch pad for some nice guitar licks from Smith and Murray. Even this early in their career these two guitarists are already top of their game and it's no wonder the pair of them regularly make just about every guitar magazines top 100 guitarists polls. Weather their soloing alone or playing in harmony they always deliver the goods be it on stage or in the studio. Speaking of guitar harmonies, they are not as apparent on this album as the later stuff where they really lock it down and they could probably have done a fair chunk of this album with one guitarist. But when they do double up it really punches through the mix.
Next up we're given a slow and soft introduction that picks up the pace into another fast and heavy track titled Murders in the Rue Morgue. This is based very loosely on the story of the same name by Edgar Allan Poe. This time the story is told from the perspective of someone who finds the grisly scene, calls for help and then runs away when the people who answer his call think he did it. Whilst not the easiest of titles to sing they actually make it sound like a catchy chorus line. The next track, Another Life, has quite possibly the worst lyric Iron Maiden have ever written: "As I lay here lying in my bed"; aside from that, this is another great rocky Maiden number.
The title track kicks of with a thumping bass line and bass drum beat intercut with loud guitar stabs and Di'anno wails. Killers is one of Maidens darkest tracks lyrically, told from the point of view of the actual murderers thoughts. Special mention has to be made for Clive Burr. Not only on this track but also on the album as a whole his drumming is superb. Whilst Nicko McBrain is one of the best drummers on the planet; Clive Burr is almost as good, both of them have the kind of drumming skills that that fit perfectly in with the other guitarists and Harriss' galloping bass lines.
Prodigal Son is the albums slowest number and shows a softer side to Di'anno's voice (although he does ramp it up a couple of times) and the band also tone it down a bit, even switching the rhythm to an acoustic guitar.
When I had this originally on vinyl it was a track shorter than my current digital version. That track is called Twilight Zone and it's fantastic. I don't know why it was left off (it was released as a single only) but it was definitely part of the Killers recording session. It is perhaps Iron Maiden's only proper love song (with the twist of someone trying to contact their lover from beyond the grave).
There are a few other tracks I haven't mentioned, but they are all great with no `fillers'. The rough and ready sound on this album actually adds to these songs rather than taking anything away. You could almost believe it was recorded in the 70's rather than the early eighties. It's almost in complete contrast to Maiden's later pristine produced cuts; but at the same time the Maiden trademark sound is stamped deep inside it. For newer Maiden fans this is a very worthy addition to the collection and contains the earliest drafts of the blueprint they would later follow. An excellent album with quite a lot of ideas thrown into the smelting pot and yet it still holds together fairly well. This is closer to your more traditional mix of rock and heavy metal than the style they develop after this album which I think leans towards a more progressive metal sound. There isn't really a bad track on the album and although I'd neglected it for a few years for the later stuff it's grown on me once again and it stands up shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the Maiden catalogue.