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Definitive Iron Maiden - 95%

Empyreal, March 8th, 2007

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!