Holy Smoke: 6 Iron Maiden Songs for the Catholic Conclave

If the conclave of Catholic Cardinals is leaving you a little bit cold, you’re not alone. Here are six Iron Maiden tunes to lighten the atmosphere.


1.      “The Number of the Beast” from The Number of the Beast (1982)

Here’s the song that started it all. Even though “The Number of the Beast” wasn’t actually promoting evil, the religious right didn’t care and launched a campaign against it anyway, which really just amounted in lots of free press for Iron Maiden. While “The Number of the Beast” isn’t Iron Maiden’s first song or biggest hit, it’s the song that made Maiden a household name.


2.      “Heaven Can Wait” from Somewhere in Time (1986)

“Heaven can wait for another day”: That’s a sentiment apparently not only expressed by Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, but also a handful of corrupted and greedy Vatican insiders. Hopefully, the conclave and new Pope won’t allow reforming the Church to wait much longer!


3.      “Only the Good Die Young” from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988)

The title of Billy Joel’s “not anti-Catholic, but pro-lust” song gets turned on its head here, in Iron Maiden’s indeed anti-Catholic (but also anti-lust) album closer. The song follows The Clairvoyant, a character from the Seventh Son pseudo-concept album, as he expresses frustrations with a hyprocritical religious hierarchy consumed by lust and other deadly sins.


4.      “Holy Smoke” from No Prayer for the Dying (1990)

Like “Only the Good Die Young”, “Holy Smoke” is another song poking fun at Church hypocrisy, though this time from the tongue-in-cheek viewpoint of Jesus: “Lot of my friends making me a joke/ mixed up my words like I never spoke!”, or something like that. Hey! Bruce is singing in a flowerbed!


5.      “From Here to Eternity” from Fear of the Dark (1992)

A pretty straightforward song about giving into sinful temptations, kinda like “Heaven Can Wait”, but much more shallow. This time, there’s gang vocals, too—had Maiden gone glam? “Hell! Ain’t a bad place. Hell is from here to eternity!”


6.      “Judas Be My Guide” from Fear of the Dark (1992)

Maybe one of Maiden’s most underrated songs ever, and definitely one of their most misanthropic. How does one live in a world full of darkness, where everything is for sale and nothing is sacred? Who can one turn to in this Ayn Randian dystopia? Judas, my guide!


Bonus Tracks

If there’s no “holy smoke” by the end of the day, you might need a few more songs to get you through. Here’s a couple more from beyond Maiden’s “classic” era:

 1.      “The Sign of the Cross” from The X Factor (1995)

Most Iron Maiden fans consider the Blaze Bayley era to be a bit plodding and dull, but “The Sign of the Cross” still gets a little love now and then for its haunting, gothic atmosphere. I’m not sure what this song is about. Is it a genuine call for absolution, or another dark and twisted parody of the Vatican’s shadowy inner machinations? Or is it about “The Name of the Rose”? (The movie version, not the book, obviously).

2.      “Montsegur” from Dance of Death (2003)

Only Iron Maiden can make medieval persecution of Gnosticism rock this hard. “As we kill them all so that God knows his own/ the innocents died for the Pope on his throne”, etc, etc. Anyway, great song. Definitely still gets the blood boiling over crimes against humanity committed eons ago.

That’s all for now! I’m sure there are even more Maiden songs that’d be great for the conclave, so feel free to post them in the comments.

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