Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part One

I’m doing another two-parter post and also writing a bunch about Iron Maiden yet again. But this is a pretty mandatory ranking to do, along with the actual album ranking that I haven’t got to yet. (sometime this spring, most likely)

It’s a simple thing starting today – I’m going to rank the album covers. Maiden have (almost) always had iconic cover art and I figured I’d throw my hat in the ranking ring on that. I’ll do the first part today, then tomorrow I will keep my normal schedule and press on with the singles series. On Friday I’ll offer up the final portion of this ranking. I don’t know about breaking a multi-part post up like this but I think it’ll be fine.

There are 17 Iron Maiden studio albums. I’ll handle the first 9 on my list today and the final 8 on Friday, the latter portion of the list will have more to talk about. I am only including the full-length studio albums – no live stuff, no EP’s or singles, no other “not album” stuff. Some of that has pretty awesome artwork, much of it I’ll cover over the run of my ongoing singles series. At some future point in time I’ll get to the live albums.

I probably shouldn’t have to say this but I will anyway – this is only about the album art, not the quality of the album itself. If I’ve talked about the album before I’ll provide a link to anyone curious what I think about the actual music, but the tunes have zero bearing on my thoughts regarding the artwork.

The list format works best when working from bottom to top, worst to best, least to first. And with that, I probably don’t even need to tell you how my Maiden album art ranking kicks off.

17 – Dance Of Death

Ugh. What a crime of a cover. So bad the artist didn’t want credit for it. I’ve complained about this cover in a “bad cover art” post I did a long time ago and also when I covered this record in my Album of the Week series recently. I won’t go over it again – just behold this hideous abomination. I mean, it bears repeating – the artist didn’t want credit for working on an Iron Maiden album cover. That tells you how hosed this is.

16 – Book Of Souls

A very nice album that I like quite a bit, but they totally punted on any kind of art here. I wonder if criticism over past covers made them take a more minimalist approach here. They did all sorts of other art with Eddie as a Mayan kind of thing, I don’t know why they didn’t lean into that and make it a more rounded out cover. Too colorful, maybe? I think this art isn’t bad but it’s almost nothing and doesn’t communicate a damn thing about the album.

15 – The X Factor

Here we have claymation Eddie being “executed” or shoved together like a toddler playing with Play-doh or something. I give them props for trying something different but it still kind of comes up short. I will say that the bleak cover does fit the mood of the album pretty well, that they do get points on.

14 – Virtual XI

So the idea here was to combine an upcoming video game featuring Eddie with the 1998 World Cup. The lesson here is not to mix two disparate ideas unless you are really damn good. This cover isn’t horrible but it makes zero sense. I’ve read how this came about but I still don’t understand why.

13 – The Final Frontier

There is a lot going on with this cover. That I’ll give points for, there is stuff there and it’s not totally obscure like with Virtual XI. Some alien kind of thing is killing Eddie, I guess, that seems to be the premise. Or Eddie is the alien thing killing an Eddie-like being in a spacesuit, I don’t know. (I think it’s actually that one) The cover artist didn’t want to do Eddie, but the band insisted that Eddie be on the cover since he’s on, like, every single one in some form. The art is fine but the attempt to stray from the band’s iconic cover character is a bit stupid.

12 – Iron Maiden

I might be courting a bit of stiff resistance here but this is where I rank the debut album’s cover. It has its place in history, both as the wide-market debut of Eddie and as artist Derek Riggs’ first album contribution to the art. Riggs would draw several memorable Maiden covers over the years, and it should tell you something if I’m just now getting to one he did.

I do think the art is a total piece of history and is good. But let’s admit it – Eddie looks kinda out of it here. He had more precision to his other looks, and that includes some single art that Riggs did before the debut album came out. Dude looks a bit stone here and it would take a bit more art to flesh out Eddie’s persona. Good stuff but still down a few rungs from the others.

11 – Senjutsu

Massive points here for samurai Eddie, something that’s been dreamed of since the Maiden Japan EP many moons ago. (also coming up on this very site tomorrow) The art of Eddie is great and nicely detailed. The cover overall has more going on than Book Of Souls but still feels a bit lacking. I can accept this one much more since Eddie looks pretty damn good on it and it checks off a wantlist item in a nice way.

I covered the music of Senjutsu very early on in the “history” of my blog.

10 – Fear Of The Dark

A very nicely done cover that reshapes Eddie as a nasty creature out stalking in the trees. This was the first cover Derek Riggs did not do for the band. The change is apparent but it suits the album title and also the title track very well and this was a nice way to let someone else have a go at handling Eddie.

9 – No Prayer For The Dying

This was the closet call of the bunch for me, choosing between this and what became my number 8 pick. This was the final cover art Derek Riggs would do on Maiden studio albums, though he continued some other art work with the band in years since.

There are two versions of this cover – the original with Eddie holding a presumed graverobber in the likeness of band manager Ron Smallwood, and a remastered cover with Eddie not holding anyone and simply busting out of the grave. I’ve posted the remaster above and will post the original below for reference. I do tend to prefer the remastered art with just Eddie.

This is a very nice album cover, it’s one I like a lot and I’d say, in general, the art gets more love than the album. It does mark the end of an iconic run of Riggs covers and is a special part of history.

That does it for part one. Tomorrow I’ll return to the Maiden singles series with Maiden Japan and then on Friday I’ll wrap this up with the top 8.

Part Two is now up for your viewing pleasure, head here to see the rest.

6 thoughts on “Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part One

  1. Pingback: Ranking The Iron Maiden Album Covers – Part Two – The Crooked Wanderer

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