It’s time for another edition of S-Tier Songs. For a rundown of what this is all about and also who has made it in thus far, head here.
Today the honor goes to my favorite band and what is often considered their best song. Let’s go straight for it.
Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name
Iron Maiden hit the scene in 1980 after several years in England’s club circuit but found themselves scratching for a new direction after two albums. They canned singer Paul Di’Anno and replaced him with Samson’s eclectic frontman Bruce Dickinson. The ensuing decade would see them make an indelible stamp on heavy metal, one of the genre’s most defining and influential acts.
Dickinson’s debut with Maiden would come in the form of 1982’s The Number Of The Beast. Songs like the title track and Run To The Hills would be released as singles, but in the end Hallowed Be Thy Name would become a legacy-defining song and a staple of the band’s epic live sets.
Our song today would mark a shift in Iron Maiden’s sound from a punk/metal hybrid to a more epic direction. Dickinson’s trademark “air raid siren” vocals soared above the band’s now signature gallop. The epic would be a direction Maiden would pursue to greater degree, including many much-debated longer treks included in their longest-enduring “reunion” era of the 2000’s.
But back to the point – Hallowed Be Thy Name is a bombastic tale of a condemned man facing his final moments before he’s taken to the gallow’s pole. The narrator reflects on the meaning of life and his final fate, a trope in song found with Queen’s signature Bohemian Rhapsody, among many others. It’s a haunting and tragic tale, told in fine form through the song’s lyrics and Dickinson’s unparalleled delivery.
The song builds quietly with bells to accent the opening verse but then quickly moves into its signature galloping riff. Bruce’s vocal power is on full display as he pleads for his life in the second verse, interchanging with the riff rather than using a conventional chorus. A bridge takes us to the final verse, where the condemned man accepts his fate.
What happens when one accepts the end of their existence? Guitar solos, usually. At least that’s what I’m led to believe, I did grow up in the ’80’s after all. The solos play out then the song builds to its climax, with Bruce delivering the title before an epic finale.
Hallowed Be Thy Name has been played on nearly every Iron Maiden tour since Number‘s release. It was removed from the second leg of the Book Of Souls tour in 2017 after a lawsuit alleging that Steve Harris ripped parts of the song off from a ’70’s work. I’m not a scholar or a journalist so I’m not going to recount the specifics of that lawsuit, I’ll simply mention that the case was settled out of court on more than one occasion between different members of that band.
Did Maiden rip off someone else for this song? I don’t know and I don’t care. Moving on.
Why is this an S-Tier song?
Hallowed Be Thy Name is an epic masterwork that highlights the strengths of what would become Iron Maiden’s most prolific creative era. The song is often considered the very best of the band’s output. It is a stunning, moving tale that is executed in spectacular fashion and showcases the various signature factors that would make Iron Maiden one of metal’s most celebrated acts.