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The only complaints that ever come from reviews of Piece Of Mind are that the record contains a couple of fillers in the form of Sun And Steel (which I wholeheartedly disagree with; it’s full of great riffs and is a terrific yarn about Samurai soldiers) and Still Life (which people may have a point about). Regardless, the only problem I have with this record is the production.
Imagine if you will an elastic band which has been pulled and stretched until it’s just about to snap. That is how thin and tight this production is. It’s too distracting for me and why the album isn’t in my top three records for 1983. People including Steve Harris himself have often cited the debut self-titled record of having the weakest production in the Iron Maiden catalogue, but I think the buzzsaw guitar sound worked really well on that. Three years later Martin Birch simply produced the hell out of their new record, being far too clinical and precise. Luckily, fans only had to wait a couple of years to hear the majority of songs as they should have been recorded when Maiden released the incredible live album Live After Death. The sound quality was vastly improved, being richer and fuller and giving the instruments the amount of scope they really needed for that epic metal sound.
So with that major gripe out of the way, I can tell you that Piece Of Mind kicks off in the usual triumphant Maiden style. First track up is Where Eagles Dare. A rolling drum segment from new drummer Nicko McBrain kicks off proceedings before the galloping bass and dual guitars begin their attack. Every song contains at least one classic (I know classic is a term I throw around, but in every sense of the word these songs are truly classic.) lick, bridge, solo or vocal that has been with me as long as I can remember. It’s ridiculous that when I listen to the record I know each and every word before Bruce sings it and I know each and every guitar line (with air guitar at least) before it arrives as well. These songs have grown with me throughout my teenage and adult years. Maiden fans will all say the same about the band. How the hell can any unit come up with so many great ideas? Just from Nicko’s opening snare hit I know that Quest For Fire is about to begin and I still laugh at the teenage me trying to come to grips with playing the record backwards to decipher the oddness of the message that precedes Still Life. It’s that iconic to me.
Steve Harris said at the time that his favourite track was To Tame A Land, which was to originally meant to be called Dune after Frank Herbert’s novel. Unfortunately for the band, Herbert was disgusted about a band such as Iron Maiden using his title and Harris promptly altered the song’s moniker. The worst thing about the song is its title. Everything else is perfectly crafted. This is what the band do best, seven and a half minutes of intricate and yet totally accessible heavy metal. To Tame A Land is up there equally with Iron Maiden's other lengthy tour de forces in Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son and Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. Harris had every right to be proud of it.
As well as this, the album contains two of the band's greatest singles in The Trooper and Flight Of Icarus. It contains one of the true great live songs in Revelations (its recorded counterpart is just a fraction too slow). Nicko’s addition to the band completed what most fans call their definitive line up and the band's upcoming two tours made them huge all over the world. If the production was better, then this really would be in with a chance of being labelled one of the greatest records of all time.