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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.