Review Summary: The sky is not the limit for Iron Maiden’s masterpiece.
In 1984, Iron Maiden released what I consider to be their magnum opus, “Powerslave”. Being professional in a review is paramount, but unfortunately, my drooling fanboyism will be splattered all over this write-up. If you are a fan of metal, Iron Maiden, or hell, even music at all, you should own this album in some way, shape or form. Yes. It’s that good.
When somebody asks me about the positives associated with “Powerslave”, my mind is immediately inundated with hundreds of possible answers. I could go on and on about the overlooked gems like “Back in the Village”, the beautifully executed harmonies and vocal melodies, the tremendous impact on the power metal genre, the engaging song structures, or even the cover art. Though all these are great choices for an argument, the best aspect of this record is that it contains no weak tracks. “Aces High”? Not weak. “The Duellists”? Definitely not weak. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”?
Well, Come on…
Not only is every track strong, but this album actually contains Iron Maiden’s best song ever, the overwhelming, the heroic, the dazzling, the virtually flawless “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Clocking in at 13 minutes, it is Iron Maiden’s longest song, and it also reflects the influence from 70’s progressive rock that Iron Maiden has from bands like YES. But what to say about this phenomenal tune? The most notable point of interest is the mid-section, which is a clean and instrumentally atmospheric segment that contains the dark reciting of a famous poem. It’s a bone chilling moment, one the most unique things that Iron Maiden has ever done. Not only will you find a poem, yes a damn poem in this epic, but you will also find riffs galore. From 10:12 and on, the riffs and harmonies are all there, complementing each other effortlessly, as they perfectly close the song. And the intro? Why take the time to explain every subtle stroke of brilliance? This is the kind of thing you need to listen to if you want to understand, it’s hard to explain in words just how unreal this track is.
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” seems to be a perfect song right? Sure, it’s perfect, but that’s not the only reason for my 5/5 rating. I’ll never quite understand why “The Duellists” isn’t appreciated as much as some others; it’s my second or third favorite song on this album and undoubtedly in my Top 20 Iron Maiden songs. Why? In my opinion, the second half of “The Duellists” contains one of the most magnificent dual harmonies ever executed in an Iron Maiden song; the riffs are pure ear sex. It begins at 4:18, and where it goes from there is in the direction of harmonious bliss. Not only does this song have the most lucious harmonies on the album, but the first half of the song, including the verses and choruses, are all incredibly well sung by Dickinson and are well written. Maybe not the catchiest of tunes however, which is maybe why some people discredit it. “Back in the Village” could easily be another contender. Though not filled with the abundant harmonies in “The Duellists” or “Flash of the Blade”, this song has the most remarkable ‘lead’ riff in the whole album; it’s a subtle tapping frenzy that never gets old. I love the lyrics, the solo, I just love it all. But you know what I love slightly more? The title track, “Powerslave”.
“Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave”.
A simple line, yes, but it sticks. It’s like glue that you can’t shake off; it’s a lyric that I find myself singing around the house almost every day. A mini-epic in its own right, “Powerslave” is yet another favorite from the album. It features a progressive-esque mellow section, possibly similar to the one in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” but without the poem. Look for the riffs at 2:18, the most malevolently epic moment on the entire record. The title track is definitely a stand out. Another overlooked Iron Maiden track from this album is called “Flash of the Blade”. The opening riff is an infectious tapping lead, whenever I hear it I know I’m in for about four minutes of heaven. The rest of the song is stellar as well, harmonies, harmonies, and yes, more harmonies. Don’t worry though, the excessive harmonies and dual guitar attacks are never pushed to strongly on this album, but fit perfectly in place like puzzle pieces. You won’t find a weak spot on here like you would on “Piece of Mind” or “Killers”, but what you will find is a brilliant record with dozens of lovely moments.
“2 Minutes to Midnight” and “Aces High” are the two singles and the most famous tracks from the album, and though "2 Minutes to Midnight" is in the weaker cluster of songs from the album, it is still a great song, a perfect single as well. “2 Minutes to Midnight” is, in my opinion, the weakest song on the album (don’t kill me), just because of the slight blemish that superfluous repetition. But fear not, it’s still a catchy, highly enjoyable rocker, perfect for a car trip. “Aces High” has the most contagious lyrics on the album, it’s clear as to why they chose it as a single. "Aces High" also had that famous lead riff that we all love. “Losfer Words” is an instrumental, one of Maiden’s best. Though one of the weaker tracks overall, it contains a few riffs and bass lines that are unforgettable, like the one at 1:14. Don’t believe in the perfection of “Powerslave”? Listen for yourself. To be quite honest, there are no major weak spots on this record, and the album is definitely void of a weak track.
In the end, “Powerslave” is a colossal success, and my favorite album from the Beast. From the world famous opener “Aces High” to the marvelous closer “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, this album is a wonderful triumph and a true classic.
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner”
“Back in the Village”
Those are my personal favorites, but every track is great, including the singles.