Not only one of the most popular heavy metal bands of all time, Iron Maiden is also one of the greatest. As of now they are recording their 14th album, due to be released sometime this coming fall. The way the producer Kevin Shirley is hyping it, it might as well be the greatest album the British heavy metal band has ever recorded.
But in my opinion, it is unlikely that they will ever record such a master piece that is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Powerslave or Somewhere in Time. Don't get me wrong, their last two efforts (Brave New World and Dance of Death) were exceptional albums, but Powerslave has something that those two albums just don't possess.
Powerslave is Iron Maiden's fifth album, released in 1984. Released right around their highest point of popularity, it captures the power, fantasy, and emotion and combines it resulting in about 50 minutes of amazing heavy metal. Its powerful, eye catching cover which features Eddie as an Egyptian pharaoh, sets the mood for what is yet to come.
Starting off the album is one of Iron Maiden's greatest openers, Aces High
. The song is another of Iron Maiden's combat songs, akin to Invaders from Number of the Beast, and The Trooper from Piece of Mind. Aces High vividly describes the British defense against German bombers during World War II. The song is pretty simple, but effective. Catchy riffs and sing along choruses, a solo each from both Dave Murray and then Adrian Smith make up this excellent track.
The next song is 2 Minutes to Midnight.
This was the second single off of the album (the first being Aces High). 2 Minutes to Midnight is another song with a catchy chorus and interesting, well written lyrics that have references to the doomsday clock and the horrors of the nuclear age. The song also comments on corrupt politicians who would rather wage war than help their country. The song closes out at about 6 minutes with the chilling line "Midniiiiiiiiiight, All night!"
Following 2 Minutes to Midnight is Lostfer Words (Big 'Orra)
, the last instrumental track thus far in Maiden"s career. The song is fairly repetitive, but is constant enough to keep you interested. The song's title hints that Steve Harris may have attempted to write lyrics for to the song, yet ran into a little writer's block. A big horror indeed. Stacking up against Iron Maiden's other instrumentals; Lostfer Words is not Harris' best, behind both Transylvania and Genghis Kahn and ahead of The Ides of March. All in all Lostfer Words is a powerful track.
As Lostfer Words ends, Bruce Dickinson's second piece of the album starts up. A heavily underrated song and one that was never played live. A pity, as Flash of the Blade
is an excellent song based on Bruce"s passion for fencing. It starts with a simple, but effective riff repeated several times through the song. Unfortunately, the song does not contain a solo from either Adrian or Dave, but the brilliant harmony section about halfway through makes up for it.
is another song about sword fighting. Again, it is much underrated by critics. The Duelists has also not been played in a concert either. Though it is very well written, musically and lyrically, The Duelists is lacking something that the all-time great Iron Maiden songs have. At first I did not like this song at all, but eventually it grew on me. Why I didn't like it is surprising as the instrumental section of the song is well played. The track might have been better had it been a little shorter.
The following track, Back in the Village
, is yet another song based on The Prisoner, a British TV show from the 60"s. Back in the Village seems to be a continuation of The Prisoner, which appeared on The Number of the Beast. At the end of the predecessor, the protagonist escapes the village and seems to have found his way back. The introduction is similar to that of Flash of the Blade, but faster. The chorus is also repeated quite a bit, which may irk some listeners.
Back in the Village ends with some spooky noises and a haunting laugh which lead directly into the title track, Powerslave
. Starting off with a powerful, heavy, Egyptian-like riff, Bruce Dickinson aptly describes an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh his realization that he is someday going to die and his unwillingness to let go of his power (thus, Powerslave). While the lyrics are great, they cannot stand up to the instrumental section of the song. This is without a doubt, the highlight of the album. At around 2:34, the chorus fades out, the music gets softer. Following a short bass piece by Mr. Harris are amazing solos by Dave, Adrian, and then Dave again. Dave's first solo is slower and quite relaxing. H picks up the pace with a heavier, faster solo that leads into an instrumental section which is later succeeded by Dave' second solo. A lot like Adrian's; this solo is quick and is the climax of the song. After the solo"s end, the song reverts back to the main riff and closes out with lyrics about the mummy's curse, a popular myth of the 20th century.
The final song on the album is none other than Rime of the Ancient Mariner
, which is the longest Iron Maiden song ever written (As of now). Based on an old poem by the same name, Iron Maiden takes you on a wild adventure through a story which Bruce describes as "what not to do if a bird ***s on you!" Rime of the Ancient Mariner goes neck to neck with Powerslave for best song on the album and I would rate it in the top 5 of Maiden's career. The music is consistent throughout the song and the poem's lines are recreated by Steve quite well. My only complaint about the song is the part that quotes the poem. A very simple bass line is played over and over for nearly a minute before the speaker (Dickinson?) begins reciting the lines of the poem, which only lasts for 30 seconds. Though the music is fitting, the piece is long enough (two and a half minutes) where the listener may begin to grow disinterested. Fortunatly the song picks up after that with some fantastic vocals by Bruce, and 2 solos. A crowning achievement for Maiden.
Not only was the album very successful (2nd on the UK Charts), the band also embarked on their longest tour, the World Slavery Tour. With this release and this tour, Iron Maiden stood atop the heavy metal world, a place, to an extent, which they would never reach again