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The song's lyrics were based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge-penned poem of the same name, which tells the tale of a sea vessel's doomed journey. The composition remains one of Maiden's most musically complex, as there are numerous time changes and contrasting sections (even a middle section where a ghoulish voice recites lines from Coleridge's poem). Although the song seemed to be made for the concert stage, the band performed it only occasionally in a live setting, but it did make the cut on their 1985 in-concert album Live After Death and was also included on the "Somewhere Back In Time" Tour.

One of the most interesting aspects of this song, is its dramatic features. The music begins abruptly like the story of the Mariner, as in the original poem. Then, it follows the Mariner's moods and thoughts accordingly. Just as well, the music covers the atmosphere of the setting of the story.

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