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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.