There' a penchant for bands following up their commercial or critical breakthroughs with poor albums. Naturally, this is a perfectly true pension. The intense scrutiny from the outside and the long shadow cast from the previous record often lead to internal squabbling, which force the bands next work to be a fall from grace. Band's combat this in many ways: Some begin to change their sound completely to move away from the mainstream (Pearl Jam after Ten
), others take a lengthy stay away from the spotlight, working on their next release in seclusion (Peter Gabriel after So
) and yet others change their squabbling lineups (King Crimson after In the Court of the Crimson King
.) For Iron Maiden, non of these was an option after the massive success of The Number of the Beast
, and the result is arguably the greatest album in their prestigious career.
Piece of Mind
marks the first recording with Maiden's classic lineup. Right before the release of Beast
, drummer Clive Burr departed the band on good terms, as he didn't want to take the pressure of a full time touring band. Steve Harris and co. brought in quite the find, with Nicko McBrain. With a huge sense of rhythm, wonderfully executed fills, and one of the fastest single pedal beats since the days of Ian Paice, McBrain would prove to fit the band like a glove. As for the rest of the band, they're better than ever. The tight harmonies of ground breaking guitarist's Dave Murry and Adrian Smith sound new and fresh over twenty years later. Their catchy harmonized riffs, and virtuoso soloing would take previous guitar duos to new heights. Harris' galloping bass lines plant the listener in the center of the fiery battle's the band is depicting. And of course, you can't talk about Maiden without talking about fabled Frontman Bruce Dickinson. On his second recording with the band, Bruce sounds more comfortable in his unforgettable role, delivering his massive, operatic vocal takes. It was because of all these reasons that I chose to write another (not very necessary) review of this album.
Another notable fact about the album is that the rest of the band now share significant writing credits. While Harris is still the leader (he pens four out of nine of the tracks, and shares credits on two more,) Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith really came into their own here. Dave Murry also shares a righting credit on here.
McBrain opens the album with a hectic drum intro, and the rest of the band soon follows suit with some fantastic riffing. Dickinson is at his best, and, despite a rather dragged out instrumental bridge, Where Eagle Dare
, is a great way to open the album. Hell, Bruce's scream at the end is one of his best.
But the album really hits its stride with Revelations
. Easily my favorite song on this disk, and one of Maiden's all time best. It combines melodic, clean guitar interplay, with pounding heavy sections, augmented by Bruce's mystical lyrics, and dramatic vocals (he even adapts an English hymn at the beginning.) If I were to recommend a song that wraps up everything I like about Maiden into one, this would be it.
Flight of Icarus
was the bands first single from this album, and it performed reasonably well. With hard hitting guitar riffs, pounding basslines, venom spitting vocals, a hugely catchy chorus and the standard trade off Maiden solos, this is another great track.
The next track, one of the more forgotten ones Die With Your Boots On
easily could have become a concert staple with its shout along rapid fire choruses. Its intro riff is one of the better one's the band has done. Bruce's vocals sound every bit as the battle they're writing about.
But its The Trooper
that the album is really known for. One of the bands biggest hits, it really shows off every thing that they're good at, with lyrics about the charge of the light brigade during the Crimean War, riffs that are catchy beyond belief, galloping drums and bass, and by far one of Adrian and Dave's best performances Bruce's unforgettable delivery of "You'll take my life but I'll take you're too/You'll fire your musket but I'll run you through/So When you're waiting for the next attack/You'd better stand there's no turning back" is pretty much definitive of Maiden's sound.
Up next is a personal favorite, Still Life
, which has sadly been forgotten over time. The melodic intro is one of Maiden's very best, ad the heavy verses and chorus are simply great. But unfortunately is followed by two tracks reeking of filler. Quest For Fire
is about dinosours
, and really sounds very little like Maiden and Sun and Steel
just strikes me as average.
The album follows Maiden's tradition of ending with an epic, with To Tame a Land
, a song based on Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune. Opening with middle eastern flavored guitar riffs and basslines, before moving into a catchy heavy riff. There's a nice change of pace, before a lengthy instrumental outro. Harris bass is at its best on here, and the guitar solos scream Maiden.
I'm well aware that this is an incredibly over praising review, I hardly said a single bad thing about the album. But I can't stress enough how great this album really is. Easily the best album for a new listener to experience Maiden with, and a timeless classic for the biggest fans. To me, this is their best work.