By 1982, Iron Maiden was one of the up and coming heavy metal bands to look out for. They had already released two fairly successful albums, Iron Maiden and Killers, and were about to release their third album, Number of the Beast, which would feature their new vocalist Bruce Dickinson. Not even the band expected the album to be successful as it was. The album hit #1 in the UK, and various other countries.
It is often impossible to duplicate such great successes. However, Steve Harris and the boys were prepared to take the challenge, as they entered the studio to record their fourth album, Piece of Mind
. Along the way, they dropped drummer Clive Burr, for reasons that I am not quite sure of. Replacing Clive was the amazing Nicko McBrain, who remains with the band to this day.
Piece of Mind was even more successful, hitting #2 in the UK charts, though the only reason it was unable to hit #1 was because its inability to bump off the ridiculously popular Michael Jackson album, Thriller. It featured two hits, Flight of Icarus
and The Trooper
, the latter being played on stage every tour except for two, and considered one of their best songs of all time. Here, Iron Maiden began to break away from their NWOBHM companions, to form their own unique sound.
Opening the album is Where Eagles Dare
. New Drummer Nicko McBrain leaves good impressions with his brilliant drum intro, which continues throughout the track. His fantastic drumming is definitely the highlight of the song. Bruceís vocals are also great here. The guitars are melodic, and the music played perfectly but unfortunately, the song is over 6 minutes in length and at times seems to drag on, especially during the instrumental part. Where Eagles Dare is a satisfactory opening, but it Maiden has done better.
The next song, Revelations
, is Bruce Dickinsonís first contribution to Iron Maiden. Revelations is a slower song, with Bruceís vocals taking much of the spotlight. The music maintains a constant pace, slow while Bruce sings, faster during the various bridges, again, slower for the verses, and chorus. 4 minutes into the song, Bruce yells out, and then the song begins again, with a brilliant instrumental section featuring solos from Dave and Adrian, and later a great harmony section. The lyrics are also very well written, something fans will come to expect from Bruce. Overall, Revelations is a classic Maiden song in its own right.
Of course, this being the bands most successful album at the time, it obviously had a few hit singles. The first of two was Flight of Icarus
. Another slower paced song, Flight of Icarus retains a (by Iron Maiden standards) heavier sound. In Flight of Icarus, the guitars take a bit of a back seat to both Steve Harrisí bass, and Bruceís vocals. Indeed, the guitar work is very simple, and at times even stops during the verses. Dickinsonís vocals, however, are more than good enough to keep the listener interested. Flight of Icarus is a decent song, and an excellent choice for the first single.
Iron Maiden has written quite a few fast songs over the years, but through the first three tracks, they have very seldom played very quickly. Die With Your Boots On
takes the atmosphere of the album and turns it upside down. The song isnít the fastest in Maidenís catalogue, but it helps set the pace for what is to come. Die With Your Boots On has an upbeat feel to it, and sounds like it could be motivational. The chorus has a message that could be interpreted as saying ďno matter what happens, always try your best" or something to that jazz. Both Adrian and Daveís solos are neither bad, nor anything remarkable. The song ends with an energetic chorus which wraps things up well.
Following up Die With Your Boots On is one of Maidenís most famous songs, The Trooper
. The galloping riffs fit the cavalry charge that the lyrics describe. The Trooper features cool harmonized riffs from Adrian and Dave, emotional singing from Bruce. Nickoís drumming is fantastic, as he keeps a good pace through out the song, never letting up. Steveís bass lines can be heard clearly during the gallop, and help add a new dimension. Both Adrian and Dave trade off memorable solos, which are the best of the album thus far. The Trooper is a fun song, and one of the best songs of the album.
The next song opens with a brief backwards message from Nicko. Sounds like he was drunk. Regardless, after that Still Life
starts up for real. The beginning of the song starts off with mellow guitars, and soft singing from Bruce. The song explodes with Bruce singing ďIíve no doubt that you think Iím off of my head" and the rest of the instruments pick up the pace. The rest of the song is heavier from here on. The solos are great, with Dave Murrayís second solo being the most impressive. A seemingly forgotten song, it is a gem of the era, and one of Iron Maidenís best songs.
Even in its glory days, nearly every band has a song that is really unpopular among its fan base. Iron Maiden is no different. The next song on Piece of Mind seems to generate a lot of criticism and hate. Some people describe Quest For Fire
as Maidenís worst, or one of the worst songs. While it isnít a masterpiece, Quest for Fire isnít actually so terrible. Its lyrics have some blatantly obvious inaccuracies with lines such as ďIn a time when dinosaurs walked the earth", and some lines some ridiculously odd ďAs they fought a vicious angry battle". The lyrics flow well together however, and that is always good. The music is simple, but catchy. I find the intro riff to be especially cool, as it builds up the song well. The best moments of the song are definitely the two melodic solos from Adrian and Dave. Quest For Fire is quite an underrated song.
Following Quest for Fire is another song that is not quite up to the standards. Sun and Steel
is about a Japanese Samurai. It is a bit lighter and happier than the rest of the album but the band still pulls through. The chorus is memorable, and just begs one to sing along to it. However, there is little variety in the lyrics. Bruce must have hit a mental block here, as there is only 2 verses in the song. The riffs gallop along, but other than that the music isnít incredible. Sun and Steel is the sub-par song of the album.
Finally we reach the epic of the album. To Tame A Land
was based on Frank Herbertís sci-fi novel Dune. Its lyrics refer directly to the story, and if youíre like me, and have never read it, they wonít make any sense to you at all. However, the music is easily the best part of the song. Spanish sounding riffs dominate the song, and build up to the final verse which has this epic feeling around it. After Bruceís vocals fade out, the band rips into a long melodic instrumental section highlighted by both Adrian and Dave solos. There isnít a better way to end a superb album such as this than to end it with Piece of Mind.
At the time of its release, Piece of Mind was Iron Maidenís best album. Over the years, the likes of Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, and Brave New World would over take it, but the album generally stays fresh, no matter how much you listen to it. Iron Maiden blazes little/no new ground with this release, but they continue to master their style and play the music they want to play. Piece of Mind is easily an album that belongs in your collection.