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Saying that this is Iron Maiden's weakest effort from the 80's isn't exactly saying too much, as this is still a decent quality record, but it seriously pales in comparison to the masterpieces surrounding it. I mean come on, you have Killers and Number of the Beast before this, and those are legendary. Fast forward one year, you've got Powerslave!! One of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time came out right after this. Piece of Mind compared to Powerslave isn't even a contest, this sucks balls compared to that one. To make matters worse for poor Piece of Mind, you have Somewhere in Time AND Seventh Son coming after Powerslave. Sorry Piece of Mind, but you are severely outclassed. All of that is irrelevant when judging an album's quality, however. How good is Piece of Mind? It's decent, it has one of Iron Maiden's best songs, and another one that I'm a huge fan of. The rest of it though? Just a tad above mediocre. This was my very first Iron Maiden album, and it helped me become the huge fan that I now am of this band, but this album is a pretty big cut below their other work in the 80's.
This album is a continuation of what the band was doing on Number of the Beast. The song structures are getting a tad bit more complex, they have pretty much completely shed any NWOBHM or punk elements in their music. The one thing that is a big hindrance to the overall strength of this release is how forced a lot of it sounds. Some people use the word "filler", which is a word that I despise, but it is actually pretty prevalent here (even though I hate to say it). The album as a whole possesses a rather straightforward song structuring approach, with no long lead breaks, no big tempo changes, or any of the things present on the album to precede this, and the albums to succeed it. A few songs on the album try too hard to be progressive, but they just don't have the substance or direction to pull this off. This would be mastered just a year later, but here it sounds like they wanted to put together some monster tracks, only they lacked the inspiration to succeed. The result is that a little under half of the record sounds forced. A great example is the overlong and awkward "To Tame A Land". This song starts off pretty neat, and then it plods on with some rather strange riffs and vocal deliveries, all in all pretty cool so far. But it doesn't fucking do anything, this song tries to escalate into something great, but nope, we get this weird ass little riff and solo (the bass work in this song is very good though). Some of the songs are brilliant, "The Trooper" remains a classic heavy metal song, and arguably this band's most well known track (next to maybe "Run to the Hills" or "The Number of the Beast"). This song is pure, galloping fury with one of my favorite guitar solos and some awesome vocals from Bruce. Another noteworthy track is "Revelations", a favorite of mine. This song features a rather simplistic but very effective main riff and some awesome vocals again from Bruce, then it explodes in the middle with some awesome backing riffs and solos. I also enjoy "Still Life" and "Sun and Steel", but even those songs are a little lacking, and "Where Eagles Dare" has to be the most boring Iron Maiden song ever; horrible track to open an album with. When the album is good, it's good; but when it sucks, it really sucks. For those who beg to differ, I present to you: "Quest for Fire". Point proven.
The musicianship on Piece of Mind is fantastic, the playing isn't the problem, it's the writing. Dave and Adrian's playing is top notch, each with great solos and more great riffs. Steve probably steals the show again, with his outstanding musicianship. To be as good of a bass player as he was is one thing, but to be as great of a composer and songwriter? Bravo Steve. Some of these basslines are fantastic, such as "Revelations", "Die With Your Boots On", and the poorly written "To Tame A Land". The lyrics to "The Trooper" are also noteworthy, as he takes one of my favorite poems of all time, "Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and turns it into a metal song. Can you say badass? Nicko makes his first appearance on Piece of Mind and he is a splendid addition to the band. Replacing Clive Burr was no easy task, and he has filled those shoes to their maximum. Nicko remains one of my all time favorite drummers, and while this album is not as legendary for drums as was Powerslave, they are still fantastic here. Bruce is great too, not as great as on the albums that precede and succeed this one, but still fantastic. My one problem with the skills that went into the album is the production. It's not very good, Martin Birch is probably the best producer out there, but this is just sub-par for him. The instrumentation is still great, and it's the strongest point of the album by far, the writing is it's stumbling block.
Overall, Piece of Mind is a good album that has some pretty big shortcomings in songs like "Where Eagles Dare", "Quest for Fire", and "To Tame a Land". The problems with this record do not outweigh the faults it has, but they are definitely there, and this stands as Maiden's weakest 80's effort by far. The drop off from Number of the Beast is pretty drastic, and the climb to excellence on Powerslave would be just as extreme. In my opinion, Steve and co. hit a wall here, they would more than recover, as they released three of heavy metal's greatest records of all time, in a row. One could view this album as a stepping stone in their career, but as is the case with most rock albums, there are people out there who adore this. To some people, this is the best of the 80's albums (boy are they missing out), but to me, this is just not as good. It is definitely a solid release, just not great. I would not recommend this as a newcomer's first Maiden listen. When I was a young metal head, I was curious to check out the beast that is Iron Maiden, and this CD was my first purchase. I enjoyed it, and still do, but it still stands as my least favorite. If you want to check out Iron Maiden, don't let the fact that this album has "The Trooper" be the selling point, buy Number of the Beast, Powerslave, or Somewhere in Time, trust me. On the flip side, don't ignore this album, it's not bad and worth checking out, it's just not fantastic.
"You’ll take my life but I’ll take yours 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"
The line-up that recorded the first homonym album was long gone with the exception of ‘Arry & Murray – Stratton wanted the band to sound as Queen and The Eagles so he was asked to leave, Di Anno lost the fire and motivation of the early years as success arrived, properly replaced by Bruce Bruce and Burr started to show certain fragility on live performances. On the fourth album Piece Of Mind, Nick handled drum duties and Dickinson & Smith got involved in the song-writing process considerably, adding own ideas and character to the evolving essence of the group, which would push away definitely the simplicity and aggression of the past to become the enormous heavy rock monster that changed the history of this kind of music forever. Contrary to the growing decadence the few NWOBHM survivors by that time couldn’t elude, Eddie & the boys reached their culmination on this record and its successor.
The album starts with a totally epic tune: “Where Eagles Dare”, the most complex attempt of the band to that day, including the most intricate progression of riffs & licks and dexterous rhythms they ever designed, incorporating lots of instrumental shifts, alterations on the tempo and stunning details that demonstrated the incredible potential of this formation. The perfection and quality of those extended pickin’ parts also expose a significant display of musicianship and creativity; no other guitar combo could match Murray & Smith’s excellence and abilities. “To Tame A Land” is another technical cut, quieter and mid-paced – yet revealing an admirable diversity of sections and a difficult instrumental level, lengthier and arranged with immaculate rigor and precision, featuring great cadence and power. On other hand, “Flight Of Icarus” and “Quest For Fire” present a completely opposite configuration – simplistic, occasionally unfocused and repetitive, lacking the grace and talent of the rest of titles, somehow interfering with the continuity of the pack and putting excessive attention on vocals and tenderness. Actually, there’s plenty of melody and sweetness here, particularly “Revelations”, which is predominantly sentimental and mellow, adding some of the most lyrical harmonies in the history of Maiden – though getting too insistent, uninventive and overlong in contrast with the raging fire and energy of “Die With Your Boots On” and the galloping riffing of “The Trooper”, so you see this is one varied album with truly distinct songs. There is difficulty, there’s some ballady stuff like “Still Life” especially and very refreshing sing-along compositions of minimalist composition like the criminally underrated “Sun And Steel”, presenting more galloping lines and vigor. Certainly, this ain’t the kind of group that would make the same record or song twice, they’re always decided to add something singular to differentiate themselves from other NWOBHM and rock bands – each cut here includes something peculiar.
Eddie & co. seemed to reach peaks on The Number Of The Beast but they went to next level here – the incorporation of Nicko discovered more possibilities for the group technically, unlike the more straight limited drumming of Clive, the assorted drum fills & rolls, unpredictable details and precision of the new drummer refined the Maiden sound substantially, making a terrific combination with Harris’ lines, which most of the time are the driving force and basis of the music. McBrain didn’t get involved in the composition of the tunes but as I said, Dickinson & Smith did, conceiving many fresh ideas and entire songs, in particular giving the music class and melody with those polished vocals, accented harmonies and some acoustic arrangements. The technical vulnerability of the previous album and its roughness are now replaced by complexity and tenderness, inevitably making certain numbers kinda cheesy and polite, of course –Steve himself admitted they were more accessible than most NWOBHM groups but in such uncertain period for heavy metal, it was a right choice to reinvent themselves, something most of their peers failed to understand. Thrash soon exploded, inspired by the violence and speed of Raven, Venom and Exciter, though Harris & co. preferred to focus on elements all those groups generally ignored, making their music certainly commercial in contrast with them – yet peculiar and distinctive, neither copying the mainstream formulas of Def Leppard. Piece Of Mind is one of those transitory albums as they say, a combination of remaining traces of the band’s earliest incarnation of fury and simplicity with the majestic, let’s say symphonic sound of upcoming releases as Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. Some cuts are lengthy and pretentious, other are easier and basic so the band seems to be defining their own sound yet, the sound that would make them become the biggest rock band in the planet.
Piece Of Mind is one of the greatest Iron Maiden records – legendary, inspired and featuring some essential classics of the band, no discussion about it, though there are some other songs that lack originality and direction. “Quest For Fire” sounds very much as a filler, “Flight Of Icarus” is iconic but maybe excessively vocal-based and simplistic in contrast with the increasing level of technique the band would develop later. The classics sound timeless, the few mediocre tunes kinda generic and ordinary almost 32 years later. Soon heavy metal would decay and become cheesy, all the eye-liner, hairspray and glam clothing stuff would replace the rage and punkish philosophy of the NWOBHM original concept, due to the success of their pals from Leppard that same year…fortunately, Eddie wouldn’t use make-up.
The only complaints that ever come from reviews of Piece Of Mind are that the record contains a couple of fillers in the form of Sun And Steel (which I wholeheartedly disagree with; it’s full of great riffs and is a terrific yarn about Samurai soldiers) and Still Life (which people may have a point about). Regardless, the only problem I have with this record is the production.
Imagine if you will an elastic band which has been pulled and stretched until it’s just about to snap. That is how thin and tight this production is. It’s too distracting for me and why the album isn’t in my top three records for 1983. People including Steve Harris himself have often cited the debut self-titled record of having the weakest production in the Iron Maiden catalogue, but I think the buzzsaw guitar sound worked really well on that. Three years later Martin Birch simply produced the hell out of their new record, being far too clinical and precise. Luckily, fans only had to wait a couple of years to hear the majority of songs as they should have been recorded when Maiden released the incredible live album Live After Death. The sound quality was vastly improved, being richer and fuller and giving the instruments the amount of scope they really needed for that epic metal sound.
So with that major gripe out of the way, I can tell you that Piece Of Mind kicks off in the usual triumphant Maiden style. First track up is Where Eagles Dare. A rolling drum segment from new drummer Nicko McBrain kicks off proceedings before the galloping bass and dual guitars begin their attack. Every song contains at least one classic (I know classic is a term I throw around, but in every sense of the word these songs are truly classic.) lick, bridge, solo or vocal that has been with me as long as I can remember. It’s ridiculous that when I listen to the record I know each and every word before Bruce sings it and I know each and every guitar line (with air guitar at least) before it arrives as well. These songs have grown with me throughout my teenage and adult years. Maiden fans will all say the same about the band. How the hell can any unit come up with so many great ideas? Just from Nicko’s opening snare hit I know that Quest For Fire is about to begin and I still laugh at the teenage me trying to come to grips with playing the record backwards to decipher the oddness of the message that precedes Still Life. It’s that iconic to me.
Steve Harris said at the time that his favourite track was To Tame A Land, which was to originally meant to be called Dune after Frank Herbert’s novel. Unfortunately for the band, Herbert was disgusted about a band such as Iron Maiden using his title and Harris promptly altered the song’s moniker. The worst thing about the song is its title. Everything else is perfectly crafted. This is what the band do best, seven and a half minutes of intricate and yet totally accessible heavy metal. To Tame A Land is up there equally with Iron Maiden's other lengthy tour de forces in Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Harris had every right to be proud of it.
As well as this, the album contains two of the band's greatest singles in The Trooper and Flight Of Icarus. It contains one of the true great live songs in Revelations (its recorded counterpart is just a fraction too slow). Nicko’s addition to the band completed what most fans call their definitive line up and the band's upcoming two tours made them huge all over the world. If the production was better, then this really would be in with a chance of being labelled one of the greatest records of all time.
Piece of mind is an album that has been basically forgotten by both Iron Maiden and its fans. Except for The Trooper, which is easily one of the most popular songs by Iron Maiden, the band plays basically no songs from this album live. Some say it is a masterpiece that has been defeated by time; some say that it is simply underrated. I, however, say that Iron Maiden has done stuff much better than this album.
Piece of Mind is Iron Maiden's second album featuring Bruce Dickinson, and in this one, Steve Harris clearly tried to push Bruce's vocals to the limit. It works well in the first half of the album (mainly in Where Eagles Dare, The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On), but fails spectacularly on Quest For Fire. The bass is completely audible and plays a very important role in every song, but hey, this is Iron Maiden, it is always like this. The guitars... Oh well, the guitars aren't as complex as they are in albums like Brave New World and Somewhere in Time. Harris tried to focus on the bass and the vocals, while leaving McBrain and Murray with interesting but predictable stuff.
Let me start with the song that is probably the worst one Iron Maiden has ever recorded: Quest For Fire. The lyrics are dumb, the drumming and riffing are predictable and even the bass sucks in its own way: it is way too quiet and sometimes non-existent. Actually, Steve Harris probably had an idea for making Dickinson hit the highest possible note, and structured the whole song in order to fit this note, which leaves us with a song that looks like a Dickinson's solo project.
The album starts out nicely: Where Eagles Dare is not an Iron's masterpiece, but it has every quality that made Iron Maiden so respected and known. The song starts out with a pulse-like, emotional beat, and is followed by a heavy and catchy (although predictable) riff. Even if the middle sounds way too repetitive, this mistake is easily covered by the quality of the guitars, which were very well produced and had all the attributes of true heavy metal.
Alright, the last part was a lie. The guitar's timbre is terrible in a lot of ways, and ends up turning Piece of Mind into a mix between hard rock and heavy metal. Whether it was intentional or not, I am not sure, but it would surely ruin the riffing and most-likely the whole album if it was not for Steve Harris' consistent bass and Dickinson's amazing vocals.
The Trooper is one of Iron Maiden's best songs live, and I beg the reader to not hate me when I say that it is not that good in the album. Don't get me wrong: the vocals are nice, the galloping drums are cool and the lyrics are emotional enough. However, the guitar attack, which is supposed to be the best part of this song (well, it really is live) suffers from the poor production. Anyway, it is worth noting that "amazing" is "not that good" in Iron Maiden's standards, so the song is far from bad.
"Flight of Icarus" shows that even The Trooper's lyrics are not epic enough, and is probably the most emotional song of the album. It is also helped by Dickinson's amazing chorus, a part that was so good that people that are not into metal at all tend to like it very much. Maybe that is due to the nature of the song: excluding "Quest For Fire", "Flight of Icarus" is the song that resembles metal the least. Suffering from the weak-toned guitars, it is easily mistaken as an old hard rock song.
"Revelations" is an atmospheric song, that manages to be both dark and beautiful. Bruce's performance here is the best he would deliver until the album "Brave New World", varying from soft to aggressive (not actually agressive, more like... Forceful) easily. The guitars do have great moments here, which is surprising since Dickinson wrote it (if you are his fan, remember his "contribution" to Powerslave before bashing me).
"Die With Your Boots On" is awesome. The lyrics kill, the drums kill, the vocals kill (Harris and Smith do some nice backup, by the way), and even the guitar is unique in this amazing song. This song is probably the one that suffers the least from the hard-rock guitars. Although it does feel like hard rock sometimes, "Die With Your Boots On" is very metal-oriented, having nice riffing and epic (and kind of dark) lyrics.
"Still Life" is one of the songs that most benefits from double guitars, and is at least partially into power metal. The melody here is good, but there are no memorable parts, which makes the song become ultimately boring once it reaches four minutes. Also, the spoken introduction tries to create a heavy atmosphere to the song, which fails miserably. Another song that exemplifies the epic tendency of this album is "Sun and Steel", but the melody here is much better and the song is actually epic, while "Still Life" simply tries very hard in order to be epic.
"To Tame a Land" is a decent way to close the album. However, even if it has some nice melodies and lyrics, and very good vocals, it falls in the category of "regular", partially because it definitely shouldn't be almost 8 minutes long, partially because it has simply no memorable parts.
"Piece of Mind" is a nice album, but definitely doesn't live up to its "epic masterpiece" status, mainly due to the crappy production on the guitars. This release has a terrible filler (Quest for Fire is barely tolerable), and when compared to releases like "Brave New World" and "Somewhere in Time", it is kind of weak. Although these musicians have proven us that they are incapable of recording something terrible, they could have done much better in this recording.
Piece of Mind is the 2nd Iron Maiden album to feature Bruce Dickinson on vocals, the first with Nicko McBrain replacing Clive Burr on the drums, and the source of one of the band's biggest hits, "The Trooper". Strangely enough, these days, most of the tracks feel like forgotten gems, due to the fact that so many have been seemingly ignored in the band's live sets for a great many years now. But the bad tastes of band and audience aside, this is easily one of the best of Maiden's entire career, and certainly one of my personal favorites after Somewhere in Time or Powerslave. Each of the 9 tracks are splendid, powerful, melodic metal, and the album as a whole has a more reined in appeal than The Number of the Beast, giving it the slight edge in my opinion.
Just about anything I've ever loved in Iron Maiden's music is here in spades. Wonderful lyrics that reflect upon religion, war, history, science fiction and mythology, drawing on a number of classic sources. More guitar hooks than a bait & tackle shop, and an excellent, crisp tone to boot. An excellent performance out of Dickinson, who had really meshed into the band's landscape by this point. And a production which does not sound to me as if it has aged a single day in 27 years. Add to that the dark atmosphere of emergent NWOBHM gone 'eavy as all hell, and a great if simple cover image featuring the most recognizable mascot in metal music. We have a winner.
"Where Eagles Dare" is a sturdy track to open the album, with a lot of shuffle in its step. Twin guitars rambling out a passionate if somewhat predictable rhythm, and lyrics based on the 1967 novel of the same name, which was itself adapted to a film in '68 featuring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. The airy nature of the melodies in the bridge makes for a fine if elegaic tribute to the story and the war in which it was fought. "Revelations" features one of the most simple and unforgettable verse rhythms of the 80s, with the perfectly placed little bass steps and the beautiful, simmering melodies that transform the tempo into a fist flying rager, and then down into a thoughtful tranquility. The song feels compelling and timeless, as if it could have been written and recorded in the late 60s or 70s and wound up much the same. "Flight of Icarus" tells the tale of its titular, tragic Greek character, and was also used a single for this album. It's more of a narrative than the previous tracks, with the riffs structured about the story. And who would ever forget Dickinson's shining chorus vocal?
'Fly, on your way, like an eagle, fly as high as the sun
On your way, like an eagle, fly and touch the sun'
At this point, the hammer drops and the balls fly out of their zippers as Maiden crushes through two of their more pronounced exclamations, beginning with "Die With Your Boots On", a self-determination anthem, and a nice little deconstruction of omens and the prophetic bullshit that fuels so much religious nonsense throughout our history. Smith and Harris have some swanky little backup vocals here, and the chorus is just the type of manly expression that makes you want to leap onto a motorcycle, or a horse, or something. A jet ski if you've got it. But people might look at you strangely if you're wearing boots on a jet ski. Speaking of boots, "The Trooper" follows, ready to plant both of them, leather and steel, straight up your arse. Basically the ultimate war metal song before there was 'war metal', maybe not as good as "Disposable Heroes" but it came first. How many metal fans out there learned their first guitar or bass riff from this song? How many people who don't even like metal music remember this song? How many have covered it? It's an indispensable classic, and just as brilliant as the pageantry requires. Trotting, equestrian guitar rhythms and spiky vocal latitudes, excellent popping bass beneath the lead, and the lead itself...gorgeous.
The rest of the album is the half that I feel is sadly the more forgotten, but it's no less rapt or impressive. "Still Life" has a great melody that charges below the vocals, and Dickinson even has a robotic like tinge to the 'piece of mind' lyric. The dual guitars are brilliant here, especially as they quaff off into the slamming leads, and "Quest for Fire" follows suit with an epic hymn about early man and his travails against nature and beast, and the advent of the one thing that would raise them from beasts themselves into a more potent force. Many have pointed out to me that this is a bit of a silly track, but fuck, I'll take Iron Maiden singing about cannibals and dinosaurs any day over Dethklok or 3 Inches of Blood inhaling and exhaling their stale irony. Once again, there are some killer leads here, and a very pulp adventure feeling that is simply too rare in metal.
"Sun and Steel" is a hooky melodic samurai tribute with various literary references to the famous swordsman Musashi, and it's another of the tracks here which could easily have fit the decade prior, due to the soaring vocal harmony which could have just as well been Freddy Mercury of Queen. It's an amazing track, one of my favorites even among this lofty crew, and it's a goddamn shame that this didn't take off like "The Trooper". I'd kill to hear this one live, and if you've seen them do it...well, don't tell me about it. I've got enough in the world already to envy. "To Tame a Land" caps off the album, a morose, wandering epic based on the classic science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert. The tiny arabesque rhythms and edgy, warlike atmosphere of the track really fit the contested desert world of Arakkis, and certainly it has to be one of the best tributes (and one of the ONLY tributes) done to this literary masterpiece in all of rock or metal music. The bass and leads are unsurprisingly exquisite here, and though its the longest track here at over 7 minutes, I hardly noticed. Though I consider it my least favorite track on this album, it's still pretty close to perfect.
Piece of Mind is both a hallmark album and a wave of beautiful nostalgia. Old, indeed, but far from irrelevant, as its another essential fragment of the band's Golden Age (1982-1988) which catapulted them to the very top the pack. 1983 was the year of two of the greatest debut albums in all of metal history (Metallica's Kill 'Em All and Slayer's Show No Mercy), but even against those monstrosities, this album still holds its own, and I have a feeling it always will...
Highlights: All of them, but with To Tame a Land at the rear of the marching order.
Well blow me...this album is underrated. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised by that though - most good things are, unfortunately.
A strange statement, you may be thinking right now. Piece Of Mind? Underrated? Is he mad? That album is a well known classic!
Yeah, except in comparison to its painfully opposite followup, it is. That album suffers from the reverse extreme - it's overrated, and doesn't deserve it. In fact, for the most part it's total crap. But that's another review.
Still, it's an important factor, one that I feel is often missed in discussing the albums of our favourite enormous heavy metal band, a band so well regarded, known, and praised by damn near everyone from 13 year old teeny boppers(who may as well be emo faggots, and a lot of them probably are)to 68 year old geriatrics with "nostalgia" for the "good old days". Of course, in doing so they often neglect the true Metal Gods, a band that laid down all of the blueprints for pure heavy metal following Sabbath, and without which Maiden would be nothing like they are. Sad as it may be it's true - face it, Judas Priest is not as well regarded by the majority of the world, or even by most metalheads, as Iron Maiden. Is this right? No, and in fact the opposite should be true. But it isn't, because mediocrity draws people to it in droves like a swarm of flies is drawn to a dung heap. Sure, it tastes like crap, and it is crap, but it's sustaining.
Ok, that was a cruel and unfair comparison. Iron Maiden aren't remotely a dung heap. Nevertheless, their music has and never will be as influential or as purely great as Priest's, in my opinion, and hopefully the opinions of everyone with genuine intelligence.
How is this relevant to my review of Piece Of Mind, you may ask? Well, much as I far prefer Priest, I still like Maiden, and comparing their stuff to Priest's albums from the same period is very interesting. What we have here is exactly the reason why Maiden have been more respected everywhere, including a lot of the most extreme fringes of the metal world, than Priest - an album of daring inventiveness, with epic lyrical subjects, brilliant compositions, fantastic musicianship, and awesome performances all around. By comparison, Priest in this time was releasing albums that, while great, were not, for the most part, either as progressive or(and this is the false part)as "properly metal" as Maiden were. Do I agree with this? On the former, yes, but most certainly not on the latter, which is why I labeled it a "false part", because it is. Judas Priest are and always will be more purely and truly heavy metal than Iron Maiden could ever be.
But I digress. The main point is that It's albums like this that have gotten Maiden an almost ridiculous amount of respect and recognition from everyone, even pop critics, as they are daringly progressive and epic, not afraid to go way over the top in order to fulfill this potential while still keeping a tether on the level of cheese to make sure it doesn't go too far. And here, they genuinely succeed at this brilliantly, with only a couple of weaker songs amongst(gasp)actually consistent quality for once.
One of my biggest gripes with Maiden(which I still have)that applies to almost all of their albums, including the "classics", is their level of consistency, or lack thereof. They have a good song which becomes shitty due to some idiotic songwriting, then a brilliant song, then an average one, then a great one, then an overrated good one, then an overrated bad one, then a terrible one, then an underrated good one, and end it with a brilliantly thought out, stunningly epic closer which somehow manages to overshadow the vast pool of mediocrity that fills a lot of the previous tracks on the album. What I just described is, in a nutshell, The Number Of The Beast. Great in places but painfully shitty in others, and still dreadfully overrated.
It seems to me as if Maiden has "wild streaks", or something along those lines, as after an extremely inconsistent yet still widely loved classic, they released this piece(pun not intended)of proto-power metal majesty, which believe or not is completely consistent from start to finish. Even the weaker tracks are as they fit within the pattern properly - there's nothing here along the lines of "Gangland" being followed by "Total Eclipse", or on the original version of that album, "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Instead, the worst of this album is simply boring and not all that great. Not to mention, the first six songs on the album are all good! Wow...for Maiden that is really impressive. If only the same was true of their next record...
"Where Eagles Dare" is a great opener, using all of the classic qualities of the band to its advantage. Starting with an almost pulse-pounding drumbeat by the then new drummer Nicko McBrain, the heavy riffing kicks in soon afterwards, and it's great. At the same time, the album's one significant flaw becomes apparent instantly - the guitar tone. It's quite shitty in a lot of ways, sounding cardboard and fairly thin, and gives the album more of a hard rock vibe than a heavy metal one. This is a problem I've always had with Maiden, that frequently makes me question their metal status - if they are the best example of true heavy metal, then why does even one of their classic albums sound more like hard rock than heavy fucking metal?
One could blame the producer I suppose, but he's Martin Birch, the same chap who produced Killers, Number Of The Beast, and the next five albums after this one, so I don't know why. It's a problem that Powerslave also shares(and which is even worse in that regard), but that Somewhere In Time does not, and then Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son just sounds weird. What the fuck? It's weird. I find it very hard to believe that Maiden intentionally asked Mr. Birch to make the guitars sound shittier than they did on the previous album, or to make everything slightly less loud and heavy, yet that's exactly what happened. Of course, maybe Birch was ordered to make it sound weaker by the record company in the hopes that it would be less abrasive to pop listeners and thus make more money. Considering that it did, that's entirely possible. And despite the fact that Maiden supposedly never sold out during this period(which is a lie anyway), I bet they liked the idea of extra cash, so they thought "fuck it, who cares...we'll be richer. If it's a little less metal, we can just tell the fans that ol' Martin was drunk when he produced it or something! Yeah, that'll work! No one will figure out the real truth!" Sorry, Maiden, but you didn't fool this metalhead.
Sarcasm aside(and I wasn't joking entirely, in fact a large part of me believes that could genuinely be the reason why the guitars sound so weak), this aspect of the album is it's one serious failing, and a rather large one at that, one that made me detract points from the score which would be a lot higher if the album actually sounded completely like a heavy metal album.
In any case, Where Eagles Dare is a good song, maybe even a great one, and certainly more consistent and interesting than "Invaders" from NOTB. However, it's not perfect. Its middle section is way too repetitive. The solo is pretty good, but as good as they are, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are no K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. Also, this song isn't very progressive, but it goes on for far too long. However, this is still a very good song and easily the best way Maiden could have opened the album. I must also point out that Bruce's singing here, while great, is far from flawless. Try as he might, Bruce is no Rob Halford. He just doesn't have that indelible "inhuman banshee" quality that Rob is possessed of. To be blunt, he's too ordinary a singer in comparison. Sure, he wipes the floor with the majority of normal rock singers in terms of range and ability, but those two aspects of singing aren't everything, and sometimes a little grit is nice. Bruce has none here at all - he's constantly hitting the high notes, often sounding very cheesy in his vocal acrobatics, and at the same time not extreme enough to transcend cheesiness and go beyond normal human singing.
Next we have a power ballad, "Revelations", a tune penned by Dickinson. Considering Bruce is responsible for co-writing two worthless abominations on Powerslave, and for directly and solely writing another song on that album so terrible that it makes me want to eat my own shit, I don't have all that much faith in his songwriting skills, and it's a telling fact that Somewhere In Time, which is probably the best album Maiden ever released, has no contributions from Dickinson at all. However, in this case, "Revelations" is actually a great song. Very well written, and while it's obviously tailored for the best possible usage of ol' Bruce's vocals(understandable I suppose as he wrote it, but still, metal is not about vocals), it works excellently from start to finish. Very dark, beautiful atmosphere, and some great guitar moments too. Here Bruce's singing is at it's best too: instead of wailing high all of the time, he uses much more of his range; not sounding gritty or anything, but singing both forcefully and softly depending on what's needed. Unlike his over the top performances on Maiden's faster songs, Bruce is completely convincing here, which I think is partly because he doesn't try so hard. Either way, despite its non-metal elements, this is a great power ballad, with a fantastic atmosphere and really is a proto-power metal song in numerous ways.
"Flight Of Icarus" follows, and while a good song, I wouldn't say it's great. For a start, aside from Bruce's fairly good(if, again, slightly cheesy)performance, it's not very metal at all. From the tempo, to the breaks, and that awful, weak guitar tone that is a constant weakness on the entire album, this is more hard rock than heavy metal. It's no wonder it cracked the Billboard 200 - plenty of hard rock has and still does. The only truly metal aspect here, aside from the lyrics and(to some degree)the singing, is the occasional chugging in the riffs, and even that isn't anything special. So why did I say this album is consistent? Well, it still is - even though this song isn't great, it's good, because of Bruce's singing, the fun and easily headbangable riffs, and the solo, which is fairly inspired for once. It really does scream "single", though, which is hardly a very metal quality and one more likely to be seen on a very commercial hard rock or pop album than a metal one. It's not perfect, but it's good nevertheless.
Next up is "Die With Your Boots On", another song with a somewhat hard rock vibe to it, that all the same remains metal for the most part. Here Bruce's singing is far more interesting - for once, there's a little grit to his voice in some of the verses. Also, the riffs are quite aggressive almost and pretty heavy, and the lyrics are very dark. Not much else to say really - another good song, not as good as the first two really but better than Flight Of Icarus.
Now we reach one of Maiden's supposed "finest classics", The Trooper. However, does it live up to its reputation? Absolutely. Yes, this is one of those songs that really is "all that", like Hallowed By Thy Name, Killers, Phantom Of The Opera, Wrathchild, and numerous other classic songs by numerous other bands. Although it's very melodic in a way that could be considered overly commercial, I wouldn't say this is nearly as sickeningly prominent a 'quality' as it is in "Run To The Hills", "Aces High", Two Minutes To Midnight", or even Flight Of Icarus from earlier on this same album. For a start it's quite pounding. It's very fast, and has heavy riffs throughout as well as a good performance by Dickinson that, while again going over the top on more than one occasion, works very well here. I still have a lot of trouble seeing most of the stuff on this album as pure heavy metal, especially with that horrible guitar tone, but this song really is genuinely great. A little overrated, but nowhere near as badly as the shit on Powerslave.
"Still Life" follows, and here we reach a song that is often criticised. Why? I have no idea. If people really allow themselves to be bothered by a humourous intro or the fact that a song that is SUPPOSED to have a long buildup does have one, then they obviously have other issues in their lives. Seriously, this song kicks arse. I find the backwards intro to be quite funny, and the rest of the song just bleeds atmosphere. So very dark, and that's another thing I love about it. It's quite a disturbing subject, about a man who loses his mind and, seeing faces in a pool from his madness, commits suicide and forces his woman to do so at the same time. Bruce's performance here is fantastic - really using the calmer side of his vocals earlier on in the song, and then taking on a great tone for what follows after the heavy guitars come in at around 1.21. The one and only weakness here is the "Nightmares! Spirits calling me!" section, which comes across as cheesy due to its hokey and obvious nature. Other than that, a great and unfairly underrated song.
"Quest For Fire" then starts, and I have to ask myself: Just what is wrong with this song? Why is it so widely panned and even hated? Oh, yeah...the lyrics. They're silly, inaccurate, and cheesy. So what? I'm more inclined to believe it was an intentional bit of fun on Maiden's part when they wrote the part that mixed dinosaurs with humans in the same time period, rather than them actually getting something very important wrong by accident. One of metal's biggest problems is that it often takes itself too seriously, and what I really do like about Maiden is that they don't usually do this. This song may be somewhat silly, but Maiden knows that - they're just goofing around, writing a fun yet epic little song that makes one feel invigorated and inspired. Its simplicity is its beauty - it only has a couple of riffs, but all of the guitaring here is uniformly excellent. In addition, the epic feel created by Bruce's singing, the lyrics themselves despite(or perhaps because of)their cheesiness, and the guitars all add up to create a marvelous atmosphere that really is a proto-power metal sound. If I had to name one song as possibly the first power metal song ever, this would likely be it, silly lyrics or not.
Then we ge to the album's first actual weak spot, Sun And Steel. Not a bad song at all - just plain boring, to be honest. Not much to say...the special part is Bruce's vocals, which are overdubbed during several points in the song to create a choral effect. Very epic and definitely a precursor to power metal vocals. This was done several times before on the album too, but it stands out the most here, I think, although that could be because the rest of the song is so boring and ordinary, which is rather disappointing.
Finally, there is "To Tame A Land". This song is based on Frank Herbert's Dune, an excellent book well worth reading, although I'm not sure if the lyrics here are entirely accurate or not. Either way, this song is excellent and a great and suitably epic closer to the album. From the soft(ish)melodic intro to the heavy chugging riffs that follow, plus all the other numerous sections, this song is close to a masterpiece and has no problems. While not the best of their "epic" songs, it fits this album perfectly. Maiden was going into really grand stuff, but they didn't want to take it too far at this point, with this new proto-power metal style they were playing only starting properly right here, on Piece Of Mind. So, while this song isn't a work of compositional genius, it doesn't have to be - it's great on its own terms.
The most interesting aspect of this song is the history behind its conception and inception. Apparently Steve Harris asked Frank Herbert for permission to title the song "Dune". However, Mr. Herbert's agent apparently said something back along the lines of: "No. Because Frank Herbert doesn't like rock bands, particularly heavy rock bands, and especially rock bands like Iron Maiden". Hilarious. Another example of the "older generation" pooh-poohing metal, supposedly at least. In actuality they probably all love it but just pretend to hate it because it's how they are perceived. Thankfully this didn't become a big controversy like the idiotic "Maiden are Satanists" hype that took off in the US because of Number Of The Beast. Funny nonetheless.
To conclude: this is a very good album, one of the better 80's Maiden records. Its biggest strength, and the thing that firmly keeps in in metal territory despite its weak and hard rockish guitar tone, is this: it actually uses heavy guitar riffs as the basis for driving a song forward. On Powerslave and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, instead of doing this, Maiden would start with a heavy riff, and then subside into a melodic and weak one that one couldn't even headbang to, and vice versa. Instead of staying heavy, like heavy fucking metal is supposed to do, and keep the flowery melodies in the solos where they belong, Maiden planted their sickeningly commercial flowery melodies all over the place, but because they covered it up with "amazing songwriting" and "progressive tendencies", they got away with it and weren't called sellouts and pop-metal wannabes when they rightly should have been. Meanwhile, Priest laboured on producing real heavy fucking metal, and releases such as Defenders Of The Faith, a masterwork of heavy metal if there ever was one, were largely ignored in favour of the likes of Powerslave. It's disgusting, and just goes to show how the majority of people are too stupid to look past mediocrity for genuinely good music, and would sooner accept the former than the latter. That would be bad enough, but let's face it, the majority of people are not metalheads. If an album reaches No.1 on the charts, it's because everyone is buying it, not just metalheads, but rockers and evidently even pop lovers as well. So I could look past that. I can't and won't look past the fact that Powerslave is to this day more respected in the metal world, amongst genuine metalheads, than Defenders Of The Faith is, even though the former is a lame proggy hard rock album with an obscene level of cheese and disgusting poppy tendencies while the latter is a heavy fucking metal album with real balls.
That said, this album is also infinitely superior to Powerslave, yet gets less good reviews on average everywhere than it. Shows you just how easily people accept mediocrity.
Keeping all of that in mind, this album, while not fantastic, is extremely good, with no real weaknesses aside from the occasional overuse of silly vocal acrobatics by Bruce and a guitar tone more suited to hard rock than to heavy metal. It's a great album, underrated as it's stuck between two horribly overrated records, neither of which are as good as it is. If you are a fan of power metal(especially the earlier stuff), epic songs, interesting lyrics, or just good old classic heavy metal, then this album is well worth getting.
After the sucess of “The Number of the Beast”, Iron Maiden released the acclaimed “Piece of Mind”. And while it is a good album, it suffers from the same problem as its predecessor: the existence of too many fillers. The album released after this one, “Powerslave”, solved this problem, as it probably is the only Maiden record 100% filler-free.
Anyways, this record shows Maiden adopting more epic lyrical subjects, with “Flight of Icarus” speaking about greek mythology, “The Trooper” about some battle between Russia and England (I love History, but I really can't remember the name of the battle now, damn) and “Die with your Boots On” about the prophecies of Nostradamus. Iron Maiden continued writing this type of songs later on with songs like “Powerslave”, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Stranger in a Strange Land” or “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”. This epic feel that many tunes share and the fast, melodic guitar work, give Maiden a more power metal (or proto-power metal) sound, “Piece of Mind” being arguably the first of many power metal-ish albums the band recorded. Gone are the punk influences that made the debut, “Killers” and parts of “The Number of the Beast” what they are.
Another key factor of “Piece of Mind” is the presence of the excellent Nicko McBrain, a drummer that while not trying to surprise the listener every time with some technical fills, still sounds great. “Where Eagles Dare” is absolutely dominated by his tight playing, one of the most complex (from the drummer's point of view) songs Maiden ever composed. The tune also shows the immense vocal range of Bruce Dickinson: got to love that fantastic chorus. “Revelations”, a Dickinson penned take, follows, carrying a very egyptian/oriental vibe that was explored further by the band when “Powerslave” was released. It also features some nice tempo changes, the song changing constantly between calm and more aggressive sections. Again, the drumming is very good on this track too.
“Flight of Icarus” is another strong song, insanely catchy and enjoyable, and the exact same thing goes to “Die with your Boots On” albeit this one is a bit weaker. The bass solo, courtesy of Steve Harris, is the highlight of the song, showing that Harris still plays an important role within the band. However, his bass here is a bit more buried under the guitars than on the previous albums, a thing that was fixed on the next pieces the band released (especially on “Powerslave”, where is bass is, at times, as loud as the guitars). The production is pretty competent, nevertheless, not the best the band had nor the worst. “The Trooper” is a classic that everyone that is into metal knows, the fantastic guitar riff featured on it are absolutely unforgettable and so are the “ooooooooooaaaaaoh” parts. You can sing along to this song until you die, that's for sure.
Unfortunately, the next three tracks absolutely kill the flow of “Piece of Mind”; those, friends, are the ugliest and the most annoying fillers that Maiden ever recorded, that's right. “Still Life” is unforgettable and boring, got to hate that silly spoken intro. “Sun and Stell” is a bit better, the chorus is listenable, but the song is lame, all in all. I like the “life is like a wheel... and it's rolling... stiiiiillll” part quite a bit though. Finally, “Quest for Fire” is another abomination just because you'll hardly ever remember anything about the song. The most horrid trilogy of songs ever put into a Maiden CD? I think so, lads. The closer, “To Tame a Land” contains some nice melodies, working decently well as a closer. However, I don't like the tune that much, especially when I compare it to other album closers like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, “Alexander the Great”, “Hallowed be Thy Name” or even “Iron Maiden”.
After all, I've got to say that the performances of the musicians are top notch, this is Iron Maiden, not KoRn, isn't it? The guitars are excellent as ever, with the Murray-Smith team delivering some quite good solos and riffs. Nicko McBrain is the man of the album as I've already said and Steve Harris is always there, performing some tasteful bass solos on some tracks. The biggest flaw of the piece is its unconsistency, the afore-mentioned trilogy of fillers killing the flow of the record and harming the whole listening experience.
Summing up, this album is very overrated, Maiden made better albums undoubtely (“Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, the debut, “Powerslave”); however, the first five tunes are worth listening, they are all classics in their own way. “Piece of Mind” would be a killer album if that awful trilogy of fillers wasn't present. Meh.
Best Moments of the CD:
-the guitar attack of “The Trooper”.
-”Life is like a wheel... And it's rolling still!”.
-the final repetition of the chorus of “Flight of Icarus”.
Well, there are people who think this album was even better than Number Of The Beast. For one thing the sales on this one were massive. But that is always to be expected with an album following a breakthrough release. Me personally, I think “Piece Of Mind” is excellent but balancing between two even better albums. Whereas Number Of The Beast was an album finding a new way with a new vocalist, this time that new vocalist also contributed material and the band had to get used to a new drummer, Nicko McBrain.
Opener “Where Eagles Dare” immediately proves the new dude can play. Such dynamics and power. However the fastest songs on this album do not feel as fast as, let’s say, Invaders and Gangland were earlier (not forgetting to mention early days songs like Purgatory). On Piece Of Mind Nicko McBrain clearly has less tendencies to pick up the tempo or he just doesn’t sound that fast. This is something I always disliked despite how good the man actually is.
The guitar sound is pretty weird on this album. Later on it would prove to be the missing link between their raw early days and their more massive works from the late eighties. On this album however the guitars sound as if they were recorded in a small cardboard box. This works for some songs (Flight Of Icarus and even “To Tame A Land”) but isn’t really good enough for songs like “Where Eagles Dare” and “Revelations”, which could have done with a wider sound.
There are only three songs on this album that are debatable in terms of quality. “Still Life” (the only Murray contribution here).This song is more about melodies and dynamics than a catchy song structure. It is the rather generic “Nightmares, Spirits calling me” section that will raise some eyebrows now and then because the rest of the song is remarkably beautiful. The others are two songs which are considered fillers by many. We’re talking “Quest for Fire” and “Sun and Steel” here. Now “Quest for Fire” has a strong chorus but indeed is pretty much average material. “Sun and Steel” is slightly better but has an over generic fist banging metal chorus. Neither of these songs can be considered really bad though. They’re just fillers compared to the rest of the songs.
The power ballad “Revelations” is a Dickinson song and even though it is a rather simple one, the melodies and dynamics of the song are strong and certainly Maiden-proof. The biggest highlight however (together with opener “Where Eagles Dare”) is the closing song “To Tame a Land” which is the epic anthem on this album. Darker than Hallowed Be Thy Name was yet having a more prominent role for Harris’ bass.
“Die With Your Boots On” is a straight forward rocker with some typical Smith riffing yet fitting into the Maiden sound. His other composition, the single “Flight Of Icarus”, is fairly simple but efficient. This song dramatically pounds along with some nice vocals details on the chorus. The other single “The Trooper” is a galloping Harris song and one of the best Maiden singles ever. Sheer power and superb dynamics. The energy of the song has withstood time with ease. The only complaint about this song is hearing it too much on every live performance, compilation etcetera.
Now as said the production feels lacking at times and there are some fillers here. Making this album not as good as some other Maiden albums from the eighties but still having plenty of classic Maiden songs to stand firm after all these years!
It was 1983 when Iron Maiden released their fourth album, Piece of Mind. Up until this point, Maiden were undeniably one of the better bands to come out of the NWOBHM movement, with their strong bass-heavy rhythms, their harmonized guitar tag team, and a powerful vocalist to lead the way. But it was with Piece of Mind that they really stepped up to the plate and cemented their status as “Legendary.” For it was with PoM that they really upped their “epicness,” so to speak, with even more of the band’s great songwriting and the best lyrics in the business.
There’s little point in going over most of these songs, as everyone knows them already. Anthems like “The Trooper,” “Flight of Icarus,” and “Where Eagles Dare” have been staples in the band’s live show for decades, featuring all the elements that people look for in this band. Soaring vocals, melodic solo duels, an unconquerable sense of harmony: these things a good Maiden album make. This is the first album with the so-called classic line-up, with drummer Nicko McBrain the last to be recruited in replacement of Clive Burr. His addition is welcome, and everyone else has improved over the last album, most notably Bruce Dickinson vocally and Steve Harris (whose bass is not overwhelming as on their previous album).
One particular aspect of this album that I find important is the heightened emphasis on lyrical storytelling, an aspect that would become standard on Maiden’s future albums. Not that they couldn’t tell a good story before: songs like “Prodigal Son,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and “Phantom of the Opera” prove they always could. But it’s here that every song gets equal treatment. From the somber tale featured in “Revelations” (the spiritual successor to “Prodigal Son” musically), the chilling and oft overlooked “Still Life,” the wartorn “The Trooper” and the epic “To Tame a Land,” Piece of Mind features some of the band’s most compelling lyrics, brought home true and direct by the mighty voice of Bruce Dickinson.
And with not a weak song (though both “Quest of Fire” and “Sun and Steel” always come off as filler material, they’re actually much more interesting than some of their past filler tracks (like "Gangland" for instance). And it’s not like either are long enough to get boring….) on the album, PoM is one of the more potent examples of Iron Maiden’s always having been a more consistent band than Judas Priest. A must-own, but then again, most people reading this probably already do.
Don't get me wrong, like most other metalheads, I find a lot of Maiden's output essential. However, Piece of Mind falls rather short when compared to Killers, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
The album starts on a rather high note with Where Eagles Dare, with the epic-sounding drum intro, and the guitars that kick in a few seconds later, giving off the same epic feeling. Bruce's vocals are alright, but nothing too special. A typical, melodic, harmonized solo that we've come to expect from this band comes in. Revelations slows things down a bit, and kinda drags on, but it's not a bad track by any means.
However, after this, we have an incredibly solid trio of metal classics: Flight of Icarus gives us the typical galloping feel, then breaks down into a fist-pumping chorus that one can't help but rock out to. The album moves into Die With Your Boots On, which is a perfect example of how make a riff that involves pinch harmonics correctly, which is something a lot of bands fail at. The verses are kinda dull, but like Flight of Icarus, the chorus is incredibly infectious, albeit not on the same level.
However, we have one of Metal's most well known songs: The Trooper. How can anyone not love this song? The descending intro, which feels like it will drag you straight into a warzone, and the fast paced riffs, and Bruce's perfectly complimentary vocals. Amazing, it's not hard to see why this song is a live staple. I DARE you to not sing along to this song, this is a perfect example of a Metal anthem.
Still Life slows things down once again, however, I find this pace perfectly fine, and the highlight definately being Bruce's vocals. They give this song a very soaring-esque feel. Power Metal bands, take heed, this is how you make a slower paced, epic song.
However, at this point, the album tends to disappoint me. Quest for Fire seems like a filler track, not really leading the album anywhere. The riff is generic Maiden, and really fails to capture my attention in any way. Same goes for Sun and Steel.
To Tame a Land is a decent way to close the album, although I really would have prefered a much faster song for them to go out on. There are some good riffs in this song, however, they just lack the energy the band had at the beginning of the album.
There you have it, Piece of Mind. I recommend picking the album up, but only if you are a Maiden enthusiast. Otherwise, go for Powerslave or Killers.
I have a strong feeling this album was concocted by Iron Maiden to shed their NWOBHM skin entirely. They sure as hell were head and shoulders above the rest of the competition when it came to making this kind of music. Less NWOBHM and more power metal is on hand here. It has all the traits that future power metal bands would take from them: vocal acrobatics, melodic and epic sounding guitars and songwriting, technical chops, lyrics speaking of battlefields, barren wastelands and sci fi imagery, bass lines that bring along ensemble work with the guitars, and drumming that is completely over the top.
Speaking of drumming, exits ex-drummer Clive Burr and enters Nicko McBrain. I dont know which drummer I prefer more, but lets just say that both drummers have their strengths and weaknesses. This will be the 4th time and the fourth album where they lose an original member, but this lineup would remain stable until 1990. Onto the songs themselves..
Where Eagles Dare. The aforementioned power metal sensibilities come into play here. Quite the epic song if I do say so myself, stretching the 6 minute mark, with several riffing ideas built on top of the last one. Revelations, the first song written entirely by singer Bruce Dickinson, which changes feel and tempo without warning several times, alternating between heavy riffing sections, and softer, prettier sections for the verses.
The true classic on hand here is The Trooper, which is a staple in the live set today, and for good reason. This Steve Harris (bass) penned composition has just about everything good about Iron Maiden included in its four minute duration. The riffs are meant to make you raise your fist and join in with the defiance, while the lyrics are very descriptive and detailed, like many Maiden lyrics.
Other standouts include the very atmospheric To Tame a Land (which was to be based on the novel Dune, and was to be titled "Dune", but the author of the book threatened to sue Maiden if they used the title), and Still Life, a song that reminds me very much of Hand of Doom by Black Sabbath for some reason, and Flight of Icarus, the first single from the album, with a very anthemic sounding chorus.
Yessiree, this album took Maiden to the next level and beyond, as their stage show got even bigger and more theatrical, and they began touring more consistently with lengthier tour sets. The NWOBHM tag had finally been torn off and now they were the leaders of the modern metal movement of the time. The only question was...where do they go from here?
This is where 'Maiden' began to shape their classic form. Here 'Maiden' stood with their best line up and created a fully epic heavy metal album. 'The Number Of The Beast' was still in the middle between Dickinson era and the NWOBHM era, but in this album they were fully matured to their epic style and created an album which considers to one of the best classic of heavy metal from all times.
We start off immediately with 'Where Eagles Dare' which is based upon the same movie from 1968, which talks about a rescue operation of an american general from the nazi's claws in WWII. A short drumming section to introduce the new drummer comes in and then the riffing taking over immediately. It's amazing how such simple power chords riffing can produce a lot of atmosphere without too much variation, maybe this marvelous atmosphere increases more and more due to the epic vocals of Dickinson which rise his tons flawleslly and has an exciting vibe, anyway the riffing backs up the vocals perfectly and flows extremely well for the whole song. The soloing is also pretty epic and dives a lot with a bit psychedelic sense within and keeps on the precious atmosphere of this song without letting go. Very intense opener track, just puts you straight into the magical mood of this album. 'Revelations' is the half ballad of the album. It comes in with moderate riffing which sounds pretty similar to 'Black Sabbath' and has a badass vibe, then there is a nice chilling bridge and it turns to a sweeping melodic leading guitar which sounds just incredible. There is a fair bunch of powerful riffs here and pretty intense C-PART, and overall it's a very epic track as the opener one. It is maybe an improved version of 'Children Of The Damned (from their former album) if you wish to look it at that way.
Then we have 'Flight Of Icarus' which is one of Maiden's well known hits. The verses flowing alright and the chorus is superbly catchy and epic. It isn't cheesy too much, it's actually pretty good one, but it's very obvious that this song was meant to be the commercial single from this album.
This album could be a real masterpiece if it was shorter. It isn't a length problem, this album isn't overlong, but there are some tracks which aren't really at the same league with the highlights of the album. The row of 'Still Life', 'Quest For Fire' and 'Sun And Steel' is a row of fillers, honestly. These tracks sounds alright but they doesn't leaves a mark on you after you listen to it, as opposed to to the rest of the album. It doesn't sounds epic or unique and feels like a let down. However, after these tracks comes the incredibly epic closing track which take this album back to it's high level : 'To Tame A Land'. This song is one of Maiden's more progressive songs to date, and it's such a damn good way to close this album. It begins slowly and then becomes heavy at the verse, the chorus just rises up and leads to an astonishing instrumental section and so it closes up just awesome and sounds flawlessly epic. Easily, one of the greatest songs from this band, and that's means a lot.
'Piece Of Mind' marks the first level in the progression of 'Iron Maiden'. It has some of their best songs along some average fillers. Anyway, this album manages to be very enjoyable and even exciting sometimes, you just can't miss such a great album if you didn't listened it before. It combines the heavy metal style with an epic feeling pretty easily and I'm sure that each metalhead will like this one.
Every metalhead knows Iron Maiden, right? They need no introduction; the NWOBHM kings and the gateway band for many a metalhead both old and new. This was their fourth full length, and it's one of their "Golden Era" classics, one of those albums that bands still pilfer from today, and one of the albums that still retains the energy and fun factor that made it so fucking great in the first place. They've perfected the sound they created with Number of the Beast, and everything sounds first-class.
One tidbit about Maiden's sound on Piece of Mind is that the band does not recall their punk rock influences from the Di'Anno albums or even their NWOBHM influences from the previous release. On Number of the Beast, the band was still a fledgling outfit, finding their own sound and style - lyrically and musically. Well, none of that amateurishness was present here; the band had polished up their sound a lot, going for a more streamlined, almost arena-rock style that would gain them much fame in the coming years. No other band in the world was doing what Maiden was doing, pumping out heavy metal classics year after year, never growing weaker or stale (not in the 80s anyhow). This was the beginning of Maiden's sound as modern fans know it.
Tracks like the best song on the album, "Where Eagles Dare", the jumpy, catchy "Flight of Icarus", the heavy, kinetic "Die With Your Boots On", and the mandatory Maiden concert classic "The Trooper" overflow with youthful energy, the sound of this young band in their prime. They may be near-progressive, dark, and introspective nowadays, but this is Iron Maiden's heart and soul---jumpy, classic heavy metal riffs and bass lines, powerful drumming, and the melodic howls of the legendary Bruce Dickinson. This is the sound of a band having a fucking good time. "Revelations" and "Still Life" are darker and more thought provoking tracks, with the former being based around a Bible passage, and the second being a somber ghost story. Iron Maiden does this very well actually, not disappointing at all. Iron Maiden always did well with things like this; as seen in past classics like "Number of the Beast" and "Phantom of the Opera", and these two continue that tradition.
There are a few filler tracks here, namely "Quest For Fire" and "Sun and Steel." These are good songs, and full of vigor and an overall lighthearted atmosphere, but they don't measure up to the other songs of the album. Every Maiden album is like that, with a few great songs and a few fillers, and this is no exception. And we finally come to our token Iron Maiden epic, "To Tame a Land", which is based off Frank Herbert's Dune series. It's a good song, and has some Middle Eastern melodies packed in, but it's not as good as "Hallowed Be Thy Name", "Phantom of the Opera", or "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" off the other Golden Age Maiden albums. It does hold a special place in my heart though, being one of the first Maiden songs I heard in my first days as a metalhead.
The lyrics here are great, too, with themes revolving around old war films ("Where Eagles Dare"), religion ("Revelations"), war itself ("The Trooper"), Greek myths ("Flight of Icarus"), and even a prophecy by Nostradamus ("Die With Your Boots On"), Japanese samurai ("Sun and Steel") and science fiction literature ("To Tame a Land"). I can't blame Iron Maiden for having a bit of fun, but "Quest for Fire" is lyrically ridiculous, and historically off balance. But what else does one expect from an 80s NWOBHM band? The lyrics are one of the strongest points of Piece of Mind, though, as every song here is about something completely different, transporting you to new worlds and different times with each song. This is an adventurer's album; the musical tool of the armchair voyager, and it has a staying power due to this that many albums couldn't even dream of possessing.
If you haven't heard this one, you're missing out on a classic piece of metal history, so go out and get it right now, be you damned otherwise. Up the irons!
‘Piece Of Mind’ isn’t quite as good as its predecessor ‘Number Of The Beast’. On this one, the band takes a more melodic and yet more mature direction. This release is where Iron Maiden true sound actually begun. The album isn’t quite as consistent as the previous one, it has some slightly underwhelming songs for Maiden’s style which is what actually prevents it from getting a higher rating. Still, this is undoubtedly a damned good album. The variety on the album is outstanding, there are proggy numbers, (‘Revelations’, ‘Flight Of The Icarus’, ‘To Tame A Land’), speed metal (‘Where Eagles Dare’ and to a lesser extent ‘The Trooper’) and shorter, more melodic numbers (‘Still Life’, ‘Die With Your Boots On’, ‘Quest For Fire’, ‘Sun And Steel’).
Bruce delivers some of his best performances on some of the songs here – just check out his outstanding performances on ‘Revelations’ or ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘Flight Of Icarus’. This I guess, is because the band as it progresses is getting more and more adaptive to Dickinson’s more operatic style. Dave and Adrian provide more melodic riffing this time around. The soloing here is totally ace – the solos on ‘Die With Your Boots On’, ‘Flight Of The Icarus’, ‘Revelations’ and ‘The Trooper’ rank among Maiden’s best. Steve does a great job on bass, his bass is the driving force for ‘To Tame A Land’ where he provides mesmerizing, trace-like pseudo-Egyptian bass which proves to be the backbone of the song. Nicko does a good job here although he isn’t quite as prolific as Clive.
‘Where Eagles Dare’ starts off with a burst of pure speed metal. Its based on Alistair Maclean’s excellent novel of the same title. ‘Revelations’ is a half-ballad with excellent, murky Sabbath-style riffing and stands only next to ‘Infinite Dreams’ in the list of Maiden’s best ballads. Also to be noted here is the awesome solo. ‘Flight Of The Icarus’ is regarded as a Maiden classic and rightfully so. It’s slower with an excellent vocal performance by Bruce (Dio’s influence on Bruce is clearly visible on this one) and excellent soloing by Adrian and Dave. ‘Die With Your Boots On’ is a melodic, hard-rockish number (the title’s origin isn’t clear at all). It’s one of Maiden’s catchiest and has a heck of a solo and chorus. ‘The Trooper’ is another short, speedy number. Although some of its char has certainly been lost by overplay, this one still does rule. ‘Still Life’ is a rather haunting song, Bruce keeps up with the tense atmosphere. It’s good but not quite up to Maiden’s standards, a rather underwhelming number for Maiden. ‘Quest For Fire’ and ‘Sun And Steel’ aren’t amazing either, although they’re in no way bad – they’re both very catchy with excellent choruses. Of course, all this is made up for by the last track – ‘To Tame A Land’. Based on the frankly amazing (pun intended) Dune, this one qualifies as one of Maiden’s best ever. The mesmerizing bass along with the murky Sabbath riffing is the driving force of the song. The song reflects the desert atmosphere of Arrakis (for those who haven’t read Dune, read it fools!) and pays tribute to the legendary book quite well. The song feels builds up a trance-like atmosphere excellently and finishes in a truly hypnotic fashion.
The maturity of the band is clearly seen in this release and it is recommended for Maiden fans and true metal fans alike. Although some might find the ‘lack of heaviness’ here a turn-off factor, it does make up with its more epic, mature songwriting and deserves its place of recognition in the metal universe.
This is Maiden's follow up to their highly successful break out album "Number of the Beast", and the second album with vocalist Bruce Dickinson. Much like the previous release, there is a good deal of structure to the songs here, in a more basic form than the music found on the 2 albums before Dickinson. And just as on the previous release, we have an issue of an amount of sameness among the tracks that keeps it from being completely amazing.
One of the problems on this album is that we have way too much mid-tempo rocking, and not enough really fast stuff. "The Trooper" takes the cake for the fastest song on here, with one of the most well known main guitar riffs associated with the band, an amazing performance on vocals, and some excellent lead guitar work. "Where Eagles Dare" is quasi-fast, and introduces us to the less jazzy drumming style of drummer Nicko McBrain, as this is the first album he is with the band on. The guitar riff is simple and to the point, easily remembered after one listen. "Die with your boots on" is a strong track with some amazing guitar work, and a highly memorable chorus.
"Flight of Icarus" is a heavier track with yet another catchy chorus, and a very intense final scream courtesy the air-raid siren (Dickinson). "Revelations" is an attempt at a more epic song, and although the vocal delivery is top notch and the lyrics are highly thought provoking, the music gets a bit boring and repetitive after the first 3 minutes, this one definately should have been shortened a little. "Still Life" is our first example of what would later become a standard quiet intro to an epic track, with a broken power chord line in the bass and rhythm guitar, lead by a gloomy sounding melodic solo. This song is a high point of interest as it is the blue print by which other amazing epics like Seventh Son's "Infinite Dreams", Somewhere in Time's "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner", and "Fear of the Dark". The lyrics are quite dark, describing a man who looses his mind and drowns himself and his woman in a pool.
Unfortunately, we have two utter throw away tracks on this album. "Quest for Fire" has some of the dumbest lyrics I've heard, completely destroying the song, despite the music being pretty hard hitting. It's really sad to because it started off with a decent intro riff. "Sun and Steel" is musically boring, and again suffers in the lyrical department. It gallops a bit, Bruce sings about a samurai killing his enemies, and that's pretty much it. (snore) Both of these songs are short so the damage is minimal, and with the invention of the CD, we can skip to better music with the touch of a button.
The highlight of this album is "To Tame a Land", which Steve Harris regards as one of his finest compositions ever. It starts off with a highly atmospheric texture, complete with a beautiful theme in the lead guitar, which has a very distant sound to it. What follows is a very dark and heavy set of riffs and a rough sounding vocal performance, all of which stay fresh and exciting through the entire seven minute plus duration. This song was originally meant to be titled "Dune", but the title was changed as they couldn't secure permission from the writer of the story due to contraversy that arose due to some of the lyrics on the previous album. Although the title never materialized, it still remains a great lyrical and musical hommage to the classic Sci-Fi novel.
In conclusion, this album would have been the greatest if they had ditched the 7th and 8th song and replaced them with one other song similar in structure to "The Trooper" or something else that would have been fast enough to give it a run for it's money. It comes highly recommended, but I can't bring myself to say it's their greatest when it contains two of their worst songs ever. But everything else on here is quality material.
Piece Of Mind is one of my favorite Maiden releases to be sure. I never quite understood what the big deal about Number Of The Beast was; yeah, it was good, but inferior on many grounds compared to their other work. But this is a Piece Of Mind review, not a Number Of The Beast review.
It took awhile, but once the riffs and melodies sunk in on “Where Eagles Dare”, it made me realize how brilliant the song was from a song-writing standpoint. The bass and guitar work on this track is just amazing, some of the best melodic work Maiden has done; it is also quite drawn out and open ended for an opening track- an interesting choice. In a way, the rest of this CD was much like “Where Eagles Dare” for me, in the sense that it took awhile for everything to sink in. Once I found myself fully exposed to Piece Of Mind, the number of catchy hooks, melodic riffs, memorable song structures, and great vocals really hit home. I will disagree with the other reviews here and state that I liked every song, including “Quest For Fire”. Yes, “Quest For Fire” has lame lyrics, but I really like the chorus and despite the straight forward-ness of the arrangement, obviously being too easy for Iron Maiden, I enjoyed the track. I actually think that the weakest track on here is “Die With Your Boots On”. It is not bad, but for some reason I just found some sections in the song to be annoying, despite other sections containing terrific melodies.
Dickinson really starts to come into his own with his performance on Piece Of Mind. He hits some great notes and really carries songs like my personal favorite, “Flight Of Icarus”- his vocals make that song! The same could be said for “The Trooper” and “Sun And Steel”, which much like “Quest For Fire” is a little too easy, but still good to listen to. I don’t mind the more simple songs on here because the CD has plenty of cleverly arranged and progressive tracks such as “Revelations” and “To Tame A Land”. Everything else comes to together from an instrumental stand point including a lot of quality solos and of course those Maiden melodies and galloping riffs.
I don’t really have any major complaints with Piece Of Mind; there are a lot of classics on here along with quality musicianship throughout, and some worthy of note lyrics (“Quest For Fire” being the exception). I’m only taking off points because, as someone pointed out, a lot of the songs lack the certain “punch” and “oomph” that later CD’s would possess, especially when compared to Powerslave.
Song Highlights: Where Eagles Dare, Flight Of Icarus, Revelations, The Trooper, and Sun And Steel
With the release of 1982’s “The Number of the Beast”, Iron Maiden got a big breakthrough in the world of metal, and the future of the band seemed bright. It was a little setback, then, that drummer Clive Burr decided he didn’t want to continue as a part of Iron Maiden anymore. Due to “musical differences” he called it quits. This was very sad, especially since Burr was one of the greatest drummers at the time. Steve Harris & Co. didn’t give up, of course. Members of Maiden had come and gone for years, so they quickly looked around for a new drummer. They found Nicko McBrain. With drumming skills much better than his name, he would prove to be a staying member of Iron Maiden.
1983 saw the release of “Piece of Mind”, Maiden’s fourth studio album. An album that is a little more laidback than its prequel, it proved to be Maiden’s biggest seller yet. It all kicks off with a short drum intro from McBrain, probably to prove that he’s as great as Burr (Personally, I don’t think he can beat Burr, but he’s still good), before the guitar-riff begins. ‘Where Eagles Dare’ is playing, and it’s great. A mid-paced song based on the movie of the very same name (with Clint Eastwood and all), and featuring a rather lengthy instrumental mid-section , where you can hear gunfire. The main guitar-riff is godly, both in the verse/chorus, and its offspring in the instrumental sections. As usual for Maiden, the chorus is very memorable, and all in all it’s almost the best song on the record. Track two, ‘Revelations’, has got to be the best song on the album. The opening riffs are great, the song itself is great, and the ending is perfect. It’s a ballad, though occasionally fast-paced. The intro verse is a passage taken from the Bible, probably from Revelations. The whole song is very melodic, and the verses/chorus are wonderful. Dickinson wrote the song himself, and proves beyond a doubt how good a songwriter he really is. For further proof, look up on his two latest solo studio albums. ‘Flight of Icarus’ is the third song, and it too is superb. It was the first single off the album, and is based on the legend of Icarus. A kind of slow-paced song, but it still packs a punch, and of course a melodic hook or two. It’s really a song not easily comparable to other Maiden songs, and it stands out as a really memorable track. Dickinson shines on this with his excellent vocal delivery, and the end guitar-solo is kickass.
Number four is ‘Die With Your Boots On’. This is a faster song, though compared to “Number…”, it’s not really fast at all. It’s very cool, and the chorus is a real singalong one. And don’t forget the excellent guitar solo! Really cool stuff. The song that the majority of people will say is the best song on display here, is ‘The Trooper’. And it IS great. From the twin-guitar attack at the beginning, to the in-your-face verse and the galloping rhythm, it’s a real treat. I think the two solos in this one is two of Maiden’s greatest ever. So what do we have so far? Five GREAT songs, almost perfect every one of them. It’s too good to be true, right? Of course it is. Otherwise I would’ve rated it as high, if not higher than ‘Number…’. Track number six, ‘Still Life’, is sort of the title track. It begins calm, with a nice accoustic/lead guitar intro. A problem is that I found Dickinson’s vocals here not quite as good as he usually is. When he tries to sing nice and calm, he doesn’t quite succeed (he would in later years, though, especially on “Brave New World”). Overall, a good song, but nothing special, really. It just doesn’t have that “punch” that most Maiden songs have.
Then we have ‘Quest For Fire’. Hardly a killer song, it features a very simple rhythm pattern, and stupid lyrics. It’s really cheesy, and I wish it would’ve been left off of the album. It’s just another ‘Gangland’. Good news, then, that the b-side ‘Sun And Steel’ is better. It’s featured on the remastered version of “Piece of Mind” as track number eight, and it’s a good rocker, with a catchy chorus, and an interesting verse. Not really much else to say about it. This album’s epic track is the last; ‘To Tame a Land’. Lyrically, it’s based on ‘Dune’, and it would’ve been named after it too, if it weren’t for the jackass author of said novel that didn’t want a band like Iron Maiden to represent his sacred work. Anyway, the song has a bit of an Egyptian vibe, no doubt because of the lyrical content (y’know, dunes and all that). The structure of the song changes several times as it goes on, and all the instruments gets it their way. The numerous solos/twin guitars, the bass, the drums; it all comes together in this song to make an outstanding epic. Dickinson is actually shoved into the backseat. But what he does here is great still, even if it’s an instrument’s song. It was actually Harris’ favorite song for years.
Ok. So what we have is another great album from the best band in the world. I rate it lower than “Number…” because of the weaker second half, and the slight laidback feel of the album. This would be turned around with “Powerslave”, luckily. Still, nine out of ten ain’t bad, is it…