Since 1982, Nicko McBrain has been the drumming juggernaut driving English heavy metal band Iron Maiden. Beloved worldwide by fans and greatly respected by his peers, as much for his ever-friendly demeanor and wicked sense of humor as for his magnificent chops, feel, versatility and durability.
That’s why it’s high time we compiled a list of the Top 5 Nicko McBrain Iron Maiden Songs, to celebrate one of heavy metal’s all-time greats and true originals!
5) ‘New Frontier’ – ‘Dance of Death’ (2003) – Dickinson, Smith, McBrain
With so many of Michael Henry “Nicko” McBrain’s inventive, awe-inspiring percussive performances to choose from, we figured we might as well start our little list with his sole songwriting co-credit for Iron Maiden over these past 35 years.
Nicko McBrain wrote the lyrics and the bassline to ‘New Frontier’. It is a re-telling of the story of Frankenstein, but from the scientist’s point of view. He feels that Frankenstein is “playing God without mercy, without fear,” and wants to kill himself before getting killed by the monster he has created.
4) ‘Dune (To Tame a Land)’ – ‘Piece of Mind’ (1983) – Harris
The seemingly telepathic musical interaction between Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain earned the latter his spot with Iron Maiden after he briefly replaced Clive Burr on tour in 1982. Their first work with McBrain on board, 1983’s iconic album Piece of Mind, solidified the group’s classic lineup. That album’s closing masterpiece, “Dune (To Tame a Land),”gave Nicko plenty of room to show off his dynamic versatility.
3) ‘Brighter Than a Thousand Suns’ – ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ (2006) – Harris, Dickinson, Smith
Steve Harris has never been shy about professing his passion for ‘70s progressive rock, but while his music has frequently indulged in epic ambitions, never did it dominate an entire album quite like 2006’s ‘A Matter of Life and Death’. And of course, Nicko was up to the task, bringing every percussive trick in his vast arsenal to multi-faceted tracks like “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns.”
2) ‘Alexander the Great’ – ‘Somewhere in Time’ (1986) – Harris
After digging for heavy metal treasure in the sands of the Valley of the Kings and touring the world between ’84 and ’85, Iron Maiden blasted off back to the future with ’86’s Somewhere in Time. But they still found room for one of their trademark historical “spinning a yarn” LP “Alexander the Great,” which, on top of affording Nicko the usual plethora of dynamics, inspired him to employ all kinds of martial rhythms to better convey Alexander’s military conquests. In doing so, he arguably made himself the saving grace of a song that would otherwise rarely pop up on many best of Iron Maiden lists.
1) ‘Where Eagles Dare’ – ‘Piece of Mind’ (1983) – Harris
We didn’t expect the eventual No. 1 on our list of Top 5 Nicko McBrain Iron Maiden Songs to be the first track we thought of, no less the first Nicko contribution most fans ever heard. But as the opening track of 1983’s Piece of Mind, “Where Eagles Dare” introduced his all-around formidable technique, pristine attack, and, perhaps most of all, his legendary right foot!