This article was inspired by a live conversation with Davide Miotto, founder of MAIDEN ITALIA and author of the book “Iron Maiden, My Travel Companions”. During our broadcast The Darkest Hour, we discussed the reunion and how Bruce Dickinson’s significant and sensational return overshadowed the equally crucial return of Adrian Smith.

This sparked my desire to discuss this immense guitarist and his fundamental role in the band, often celebrated for his significant contribution to one of the most influential heavy metal bands in history. Despite the charismatic presence of singer Bruce Dickinson often drawing the main attention, Smith’s importance in shaping the distinctive sound and enduring success of Iron Maiden cannot be underestimated. It is undeniable that he has played a role that is sometimes equal to, if not greater than, that of Dickinson in defining the band’s musical identity. Adrian Smith joined Iron Maiden in 1980, replacing guitarist Dennis Stratton. He arrived at a crucial moment, just before the recording of the band’s second album, “Killers”. With a solid foundation in ’70s hard rock and influences ranging from Thin Lizzy to Wishbone Ash, Smith not only brought his technical skill as a guitarist but also a melodic sense that would have a lasting impact on the band’s sound. And we all remember the impact “Killers” had in the history of metal! His influence was already felt. Indeed, one of the most significant aspects of Smith’s contribution to Iron Maiden has been his role as a composer. He has enriched the band’s repertoire with some of their most memorable melodies and demonstrated his ability to write lyrics that reflect complex themes and introspection. His skill in combining catchy melodies with the power of metal has allowed Iron Maiden to expand their appeal well beyond the usual genre audience. Technically, Adrian, known as “H”, is noted for his fluid and expressive lead guitar style, which often contrasts with the more aggressive and rhythmic approach of his fellow guitarist Dave Murray. This complementarity between the two has created a dualistic guitar sound that has become one of the hallmarks of Iron Maiden’s sound. The innovative contribution was significantly extended to his pioneering role in introducing synthesizers into the band’s music, a move that marked a decisive turning point in their albums “Somewhere in Time” (1986) and “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (1988). This transformation not only enriched Iron Maiden’s sonic texture but also opened up new creative avenues that defined an emblematic phase of their career.

I will discuss this in my third novel, “The Three Eddies’ Enigma”. Before 1986, Iron Maiden was primarily known for their straightforward, no-frills approach to metal, based on powerful guitars and incisive melodies. However, the introduction of synthesizers in “Somewhere in Time” represented a bold departure from this style. It was Adrian Smith who pushed for this evolution, convinced that the addition of electronic textures could enrich the band’s sound without compromising their intensity. And they are used not just as ornamentation, but as an integral element of the musical architecture of the songs. Smith’s guitar, paired with the synths, creates soundscapes that take the listener on journeys through time and space, a recurring theme in the album. His track “Wasted Years”, in particular, becomes an anthem of reflection and nostalgia, enriched by the new electronic textures. The experimentation with synthesizers reached its peak with “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. In this album, synthesizers are used to create an almost orchestral atmosphere, supporting the narration of a complex concept album that explores themes of prophecies, moral duality, and fate. Smith played a crucial role in defining this sound, contributing significantly to tracks like “The Evil That Men Do” and “Infinite Dreams”, which perfectly integrate synthesizers with guitar and singing. The initiative to adopt synthesizers not only renewed the band’s sound but also influenced other metal groups of the ’80s and ’90s, demonstrating that the genre could expand beyond its traditional boundaries without losing its emotional heart and power. This evolution helped keep Iron Maiden relevant and innovative in an era of rapid musical change. Ultimately, the introduction promoted by Adrian not only enriched the musicality of Iron Maiden but further cemented his importance within the band. This period of experimentation under his guidance demonstrates how his influence extended far beyond his contributions as a guitarist and composer, establishing Smith as a decisive visionary in the band’s and the genre’s history.

While Bruce Dickinson is often seen as the definitive “frontman”, the synergy between him and Smith has been a fundamental element in Iron Maiden’s success. Dickinson and Smith have collaborated closely on many songs, with Smith often contributing musical ideas that complemented Dickinson’s lyrics. This collaboration led to some of the band’s most iconic moments, highlighting how their creative relationship has mutually benefited their careers. One above all, “Two Minutes to Midnight”. Adrian’s impact on Iron Maiden is palpable not only in the songs he has written but also in how he has influenced the musical direction of the band. His temporary exit in 1990 was deeply felt, and his return in 1999 was greeted with great enthusiasm by both fans and critics, marking a creative rebirth for the band.

In conclusion, while Bruce Dickinson may be the most recognizable face of Iron Maiden, Adrian Smith’s contribution to the band is immense. His compositional skills, unique guitar style, and chemistry with Dickinson have been essential in defining and maintaining the band’s success over the years. Smith has not only enriched Maiden’s music with his talent but has also ensured that the band remained relevant in an ever-evolving musical landscape, cementing his place as a key figure in the history of rock and metal.