Review Summary: Defines "Classic Iron Miaden", and is undoubtedly one of their best albums.
1- Aces High-
What a track to open an album with, and what a track to open a concert with, especially when preceeded by Churchill's Speech. This tale of an RAF pilot in the Battle of Britain fires along at an explosive pace all the way through, instantly injecting some serious energy both into the listener and the album. The chorus provides a fantastic example of Bruce Dickinson at his high-pitched best, while the interval after it and before the solo adds a little groove to the song.
2- 2Minutes to Midnight-
The opening riff on this song is the definition of Classic Metal, building up to the entry of the drums and bass. Dickinson's snarling lyrics perfectly grasp the sinister subject matter, (the song is about potential nuclear war, and the militairy industrial complex), bordering on the downright sinister in places, "The reasons for the carnage cut their meat and lick the gravy." A softer, reflective midsection and killer chorus
make this both a classic, and perfect to follow the frenzied Aces High with.
3- Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)-
The last instrumental song to be released by Iron Maiden gallops merrily along, and clealry signposts that this album isn't all keen to please. Whilst some of the lead parts sound a bit like the soundtrack to a Sonic the Hedgehog game, this is defintely a solid track, and far from an indulgent instrumental.
4- Flash of the Blade-
Traditional Maiden fayre of swords, beasts and galloping riffs, but with an interesting intro and breakdown that make this more than just last minute filler, and very much replayable. Still very much in keeping with the rest of the album, with high-pitched choruses and a bit of aggression in Bruce's vocals on the chorus.
5- The Duellists-
For me, this is the low-point of the album. Bruce's tale of a fenicng competition, no doubt inspired by his own exploits, pales next to the other tracks on the album. The lyrics are almost incomprehensible, the chorus is slightly irritating, and all in all, for me, the song is forgettable. Not terrible, just forgettable.
6- Back in the Village-
A blazing, twisting intro introduces a song that brings back the breakneck pace and frantic speed of Aces High, with trade-offs between lead guitars and more fantastic (albeit still war based) lyrics. The whirlwind of a riff behind this song is a truly welcome return to form on the album.
Bruce Dickinson's sinister, Egyptian themed title track, presumably about a pharoah's quest for immortality, is perhaps one of the deepest songs on the album (second only to the one which follows it).
Unsurpisingly, it inspired much of the artwork for the album, with its jarring verse riff, and chiling pre-chorus. A mellow breakdown for the solos adds some variety to a song which undoubtedly stands apart from the rest of the album in terms of style.
8- Rime of the Ancient Mariner-
WOW. Not many bands would have the guts to slap a 14 minute long epic with 3 minutes of eery creaking in the middle on an album, but this band does, and nails it. Inspired by- and indeed lifting lyrics directly from- S.T. Coleridge's poem about a sailor's misfortunes after shooting an albatross, this song is considered by some to be Maiden's best, and is Dickinson's favourite to perform live. Unike most epics, the song flicks a finger at the idea of a quiet opening and build up, and instead thros the listener in at the deep end with a galloping expolsion. McBrain's stamina and skill alone make this song worth listening to, while its complexity and "guitar shantys" make it worth treasuring.