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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!