Although I appreciate their enormous contributions to the metal world, Iron Maiden has never been one of my favorite bands. But before I continue, please put your pitchforks down while I explain. Bruce’s style of singing just doesn’t do it for me. I recognize that he has an expansive vocal range and a tremendous talent for storytelling. He can really paint a picture of the text with his voice and that’s a gift that not many possess or even can learn. I actually had the privilege of seeing Iron Maiden live this past July, during the Book of Souls Tour. Admittedly, I was there to see Ghost, but I can see the appeal to Iron Maiden. Pushing 60, Bruce galloped around the stage with vivacious energy and his voice showed no sign of fatigue or age. He truly is a natural performer.
My fiancé, on the other hand, is a huge Iron Maiden fan. ( I believe he’s seen them seven or eight times). I asked for album recommendations to see if it was possible to change my mind. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Brave New World, Fear of the Dark – none of them did it for me. Then, after learning that Bruce was not the band’s original singer, I sought out their earlier album Killers.
The personnel lineup on Killers consisted of bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris, drummer Clive Burr, guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and Paul Di’Anno on vocals. They released their self titled album in 1980 and Killers the following year, so the 70s metal influence still crept through their sound. Although I have a strong bias in the favor of 70s music, Di’Anno’s vocals is what makes me adore this album. Bruce’s sound is very representative of British Heavy Metal, while Paul’s vocals are more so influenced by punk. His voice is guttural and raw. He doesn’t have the wide range of Bruce, or other prominent metal singers for that matter, but he made up for that with attitude and aggression. Wrathchild, one of their most popular songs off of Killers, is a great example of his unpolished style. From a stage presence perspective, he’s not one to run across the stage. He prefers to stay in one area of the stage with this “cooler than you” swagger. The lyrics tell the story of a bastard son looking for his absent father and he sings each line with such conviction and anger. At some parts, he’s almost yelling.
Little did he know at the time that Killers would be his last album with Iron Maiden. The details of his departure are unknown except for the fact that he was paid out by their manager and receives no royalties for his contributions. Di’Anno was never really able to find grand success afterwards, despite several projects. He even went to prison after being convicted of fraud. He’s still around singing Iron Maiden songs with a cover band here and there, but it appears he has issues with substance abuse. I have to say, it’s pretty sad to see how his career never played out in his favor. Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but there’s something tragic about watching the fired original lead singer of a band perform songs that he receives no royalties from. There’s a harrowing irony in it all.
A lot of Maiden fans like to compare Paul to Bruce, even pitting them against one another. At the end of the day, as fans, we don’t know what happened behind the scenes and the reasons for Di’Anno’s departure. From a speculation standpoint, we obviously saw that Iron Maiden’s sound progressed in a completely different direction, one that wasn’t really conducive to Paul’s style. Just as friendships grow apart, sometimes bands grow apart. In the long run, Bruce fits Maiden’s evolved style and changing vocal direction was a smart move for the band. However, we should remember that it was the Paul era that put Iron Maiden on the map. Today, I leave you with Remember Tomorrow, a surreal ballad from their self-titled album that shows a softer side of Paul’s vocal abilities. Whether you love Paul, or hate him, be sure to remember him and his contributions.
Listen to Killers on: