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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.