Review Summary: To the tune of starving millions, to make a better kind of gun.Q: What is the defining album for the band Iron Maiden, an album that every fan of the band should own and enjoy?
There are three possible answers for the question usually, sometimes more. The answer for me however, is their 1984 release, Powerslave
. It contains Iron Maiden's single longest song, and it was the band's longest effort ever until The X Factor
was released eleven years afterwards. The overall theme of the album is that of old Ancient Egypt. It is one of my favorite albums ever, and to this day still makes me happy whenever I pop it into my CD player.
Iron Maiden formed in the late 1970's, and acquired vocalist Paul Di'anno. This era of Iron Maiden is referred to as simply "The Early Years". They released two albums, but then Di'anno left the band. He was soon replaced with a fencing duelist known as Bruce Dickinson, and the classic era of Maiden was born. They released the three quintessential Maiden albums in this period, one of those being Powerslave. 1984 was already a good year for metal, mainly due to Metallica's Ride The Lightning
, but the year was perfected with the release of Maiden's fifth effort: Powerslave.
From the moment I popped it in, I knew that I was in for a treat. It was the day before Christmas Eve, and as a gift from my grandparents, I received this album and the band's newest album. I enjoyed them both, but this was the better of the two. The album began with a song that had already been very familiar with me for a while then, as my dad had downloaded a few Maiden classics on to a disc and let me listen. This song was Aces High
, a fast and powerful song about battling in the skies in World War II. Bruce's vocals dominated the whole song, proving to me that there was
a reason he was called the Air Raid Siren. His shout on the chorus of this song left me excited and thrilled. And not only were the vocals powerful and loud, the musicianship was spectacular. The guitar was melodic and fast, and Steve Harris's bass was great as usual. Two Minutes To Midnight
, a song dealing with a device known as The Doomsday Clock, was next, and once again, I was already familiar with this song anyway, but I still listened. The lyrics were doomish and well-written, but most of all menacing
. "We oil the jaws of the war machine and feed it with our babies"
is just one of the lyrics in this song. The musicianship, of course, was extemely well-done. The instrumental interlude in the middle of the song had the best instrumentation of the whole song. It slowly built up, slowed down, built up, and then finally exploded like a volcano and went back into the main riff. These first two songs were mind-blowing metal classic, and what was to come was impressive as well.
You see, I had read quite a few reviews on Amazon.com about how the middle section of Powerslave was boring, dull, and flat-out stupid. I had read that these four middle tracks were Iron Maiden at the worst they could have gotten in the 80's. So, you see, I had a reason to be scared. However, I soon found out that I had no reason to be scared to begin with. The middle section provides some of my favorite moments on Powerslave. The instrumental track, Losfer Words(Big Orra
, is a fast and upbeat track with a very catchy formula. It basically followed the same formula of a song that contained lyrics. I had read that this was a terribly boring instrumental, but they couldn't have been more wrong. It isn't as exciting and as epic as that of some Metallica songs, like The Call Of Ktulu
, the epic Orion
, or even To Live Is To Die
, but this song still delivered with catchy melodies and riffs. The next two tracks were songs about a hobby of vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The songs dealt with, you guessed it, fencing. And for those of you who actually don't know what fencing is, it's sword-fighting.
Flash Of The Blade
is really nothing more than a fast and cheesy song that deals with fencing. It is, however, delightfully catchy, and the the high-pitched chorus is mildly ridiculous, but good fun. The musicianship is spectacular, and the bass is very distinct. The Duellist
is sort of like a sequel to Flash Of The Blade. The former deals with a swordsman who is skilled and doing well in the sport, and the latter deals with the death and final battle of the swordsman. The song isn't as catchy as the former, yet it's still very good. The chorus surpasses that in FOTB. It has the typical "OH" chant, and then the words that are in the chorus. The lyrics to the chorus change pretty much each time, and at the end of the song, when the swordsman is cut down and defeated, the chorus says "Fought for the honor", which I think is neat.
The final track of this middle section is Back In The Village
, a song that has pretty much the same subject matter as an earlier Maiden track from Number Of The Beast
called The Prisoner
. It is often criticized for having a bland chorus, yet the chorus is actually very catchy. The verse is bland at some points, but the chorus really is
very energetic and fun. This ends the middle section of the album, and then we get the climax of the album, and the closing epic of the album.
The title track, Powerslave
is a fast and melodic seven-minute track about a pharaoh who is facing death and about to die. Like I said before, the theme of the album is Ancient Egypt, and this enforces that statement. The melodies of the guitar are Egyptian like sounding, but the true highlight of the song is the long and melodic solo. The way Adrian Smith and Dave Murray play their guitars is simply excellent, and of course, the bass-playing of Steve Harris is also very well-done. The guitars and bass blend together, creating a superb melody. The solo is slow at first, but then it works its way up and explodes like a volcano, and yes, I do know that I used the same description for Two Minutes To Midnight. This is the climax of the album, but the true end comes next, and it is a thirteen-minute epic track. The name of this track is The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
. It is based off of a poem. It is a long and epic beast of a song, with many tempo changes along the way, assuring me that I would not be bored at all during the song. The lyrics, of course, are well-written because it's sort of like a summary of the epic poem, and there are even a few lines that came directly from the poem. Not once while listening to this track was I bored. Like I said before, there are many different tempo changes, and this is exactly what an epic metal song needs. Take German power metal band Helloween's epic thirteen minute track, Halloween
. It is full of many powerful and fast moments, but it is also full of slow and easy moments, and this is exactly how Rime Of The Ancient Mariner is. The song marches on and on and on, until the final second ends, and Iron Maiden's fifth album, Powerslave
, has came to an end.
This album is a superb album, and one that every fan of the band and of metal in general should enjoy. There are certain albums that critics feel that every music veteran or beginner should own in their collection. If you are talking about metal, then some of the albums you might read in a list like this would be Master Of Puppets
, Reign In Blood
, and probably Number Of The Beast
. If you do not see Powerslave on a list like this, since it isn't the most mainstream Maiden album, then take it from me that you should go out to Best Buy, half.com, or wherever you shop for CDs, and spend your hard earned cash on this album. This is the magnum opus of Iron Maiden.