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By this point in their career Iron Maiden had been running for nearly a decade and had released four great albums. Their fifth record would add even more classics to their rapidly growing catalogue of songs and make the band even more famous in the metal scene (if that was even possible). Maiden decided to do what the last four albums had done and give us a dose of good, old fashioned heavy metal while throwing in a few new things for fans to sink their teeth into.
The album has the usual lyrics from Iron Maiden: Historical (Aces High), Literary, (Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and Mythological (the title track). "Aces High" speaks of the Battle of Britain with the narrator being a British fighter pilot. The lyrics succeed in installing the desperation of the British in the listener as they repeatedly insist on getting the planes up in the air as quickly as possible. And even right after that, by shouting words like "rolling, turning, diving" without any other description paints a picture of total chaos. Those skies are filled with planes whose pilots have to be quick to react or they're going down. And the ending scream of "Aces HIGH!" really does sound like an air raid siren warning of an impending attack. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" lyrics continually switch moods, from the neutral beginning of the tale to the eerie telling of the mariner watching his shipmates drop dead in front of his eyes, the lyrics more often than not hit the nail on the head with what they want to achieve. A highlight is the ending, when Bruce states the the wedding guest leaves sad "and the tale goes on and on and on and on." There will be no end to the story. "Powerslave" goes for a more threatening set of lyrics, describing an Egyptian Pharaoh who questions if he's a god then why can't he live forever and concluding if his eternal rest is disturbed he will punish the perpetrator from beyond the grave. Personal preference says that this set of lyrics is slightly less interesting than the other songs but that's just because of the subject matter. They're still beautifully written and delivered by Bruce.
Speaking of Bruce, the performance from the band is spot on. Bruce's voice sounds just as good as ever, whether he's going for the air raid siren scream on "Aces High", sing-talking his way through "The Duellist" or complimenting the instrumentation on the title track, the vocals are rarely, if ever, disappointing. The guitars sound just as crisp, clean and heavy as they did on records past and the riffs they belt out highlight the band's knack for making great music. The drums are feet-tappingly excellent and keeping in mind that tracks like "Aces High" were done with only one bass drum just pushes Nicko's musical talents high above the rest of his piers. Steve Harris, what else can be said that hasn't already. The man writes great songs and plays his bass even better. Unlike most other metal records, the bass is not only audible but is doing things that a normal bass wouldn't. Most basses simply play the lowest note the guitar is playing, but sometimes the bass is heard playing independent to the guitars like in "Back in the Village" it's heard playing in between guitar licks pre-chorus.
All that being said, there is one glaring problem with this album: "Losfer Words". Instrumentals are always a risk in any album. Doing it right can potentially do something and give it purpose but this one doesn't. It's not offensively bad it just has no reason to exist on the album. It tries it's best to sound interesting, that's for certain, but trying your hardest doesn't always mean you're going to succeed. It's safe to skip this track without missing anything.
Apart from that problem, Powerslave is a timeless and classic record that has rightly earned it's spot as a classic in Maiden's discography. It's patented Maiden lyrics, vocals, bass, riffing and song structure make it a most have for every metal head out there.
Iron Maiden truly needs no introduction. It's one of a few bands that have been cemented into the minds of every metaller the world over to the point where owning at least one of their albums is an unspoken requirement. If anybody has to start, "Powerslave" would be an excellent choice. It's an album that has all of the trademarks that made Iron Maiden famous, but it also contains longer tracks than previous albums, thus proving Iron Maiden's quest to make more and more musical opuses, even though they've already churned out quite a few! This a point in Iron Maiden's career when a lot of other famous NWOBHM bands like Def Leppard would go straight for the radio-friendly love song, but Iron Maiden decided to get more and more complex with their songwriting.
On "Powerslave" there is no song that is shorter than four minutes. That means that the band is wanting to put out songs that display its talents more and more, and while some bands just put in a lot of repetition just to lengthen the song, Iron Maiden puts more material into theirs. The thirteen-minute "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", based off of the famous epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is obviously the best example of this. The first part of it contains a galloping riff that breaks into harmonic solos every now and then with each verse sung by Bruce Bruce himself. It then escalates into a faster, more powerful riff to carry the story from the poem from which the song is based, not to mention the sound effect of the ship creaking as it sails in a stormy sea. All of that grinds to a halt as we hear a haunting bass line of Steve Harris and a soft guitar playing as Bruce narrates part of the actual poem. The fact that some of the actual poem make up the actual lyrics of the song add to the intelligence of the songwriting. After the narration, Steve picks up a more energetic, yet soft riff that would eventually build up to the song's conclusion. It isn't just the song's length that make it a masterpiece, it's how that amount of time is actually used, and that time is used very efficiently and nicely.
Of course we have the excellent harmonies created by Dave and Adrian that elevate the sound well. It's part of Iron Maiden's signature, and it can be very well be heard in many of the songs on here, including the crowd favorite, "Aces High". In fact, the harmonies that the guitarists create make up the song's intro, as well as its main riff. The tones of these harmonies are fast and gallant, and the riff of more aggressive power chords that make up the verses are grinding and powerful, creating a sense of desperation. If you want to stop the Luftwaffe from killing thousands of innocent people in an attempt to help Nazi Germany take over the world, you'd have to have that kind of attitude! It's the high energy of this song that captures the spirit of Spitfires embroiled in a dogfight, and the signature formula of having complex harmonic riffs helped create that high energy. The harmony doesn't stop there, we've also got the solos of "Flash of the Blade" and the instrumental track "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)". It isn't just the harmonic riffs that create the complexity of Dave and Adrian's work, for there's also the also the riff that is played in the chorus of "Back in the Village", which consists of rapidly played notes, not something you'd expect to be played outside a solo.
I said earlier that the harmonies that make up the main riff in "Aces High" create the atmosphere of the Battle of Britain, but it isn't the only song that conveys the atmosphere of its intended subject matter. The title track is about the death and afterlife of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, and to give us this ancient Egyptian vibe, the riffs are played mainly using harmonic minor arpeggios. These harmonic minor arpeggios give off an eerie, ancient feel, as if the listener is actually inside a pharaoh's tomb. The main riff also contains ominous-sounding chords and introduces the song as it carries us into that tomb. There's also "The Duellists", which has a quick-paced tempo and a fast flurry of arpeggios just before the solo that is also made into a harmony by the guitarists. These factors convey a message of the elegance and the swiftness of a dueling swordsman, which is basically what Bruce Dickinson is in much of his downtime (seriously, he's a world-class fencer!). The message is carried even further with the elegant-sounding chorus, with powerful chords and even more vocal delivery of Bruce.
There's no doubt that "Powerslave" is among the classic albums that's on almost every metallers' playlists, but if you listen carefully enough, you'll find that at the time of its release, it was a more advanced release than its predecessors. The band was getting more and more popular with each album the shovel out, eventually becoming a household name among metal fans in the 80's. However, instead of "selling out" and making their songs less complex and more appealing to the Duran Duran crowd, they continued to make their songs longer and more powerful than ever. They would create riffs that C.C. Deville would puke at the sight of, and still manage to fill arenas with horn-throwing fans across the globe.
Back in the fall season of 1984, the new crop of 1980s heavy metal scene was still pretty much in its early stages. Yet, a band like Iron Maiden seemed to be the old established pioneers by this point. Much like the 1970s, rock music evolved similarly quickly with every new and passing year in the 1980s. The early 1980s was an attempt by nearly every signed artist to move away from the sounds of the 70s and make things harder and louder, or if you were on the other side of the dial, more electronic and filled with synthesizers. The 1980s started with bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Motley Crue, and while all of these bands had a different style of heavy metal music, they all had the rebellion thing going on. By the end of the 1980s, bands like Guns and Roses and Skid Row capitalized that on the fact that the 70s were cool, and to a point they incorporated the sound into their music, especially G N’ R. This lead to the throwback bands of the 90s like Black Crows, Counting Crows, Lenny Kravitz and Blues Traveler, who thought that they can reproduce the Me Decade while the subculture of grunge suddenly became the popular culture, and nearly ruined music as we know it.
Bassist Steve Harris has been the main songwriter of Iron Maiden since the beginning. By the time Powerslave, their 5th album came out, he had written half of the eight tracks. While lead singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith have nudged their way onto the album, Harris’ songs still manage to steal the spotlight. His best effort here is the opener Aces High, a real heavy metal crowd pleaser that breaks all speed limits and is a blast to sing along to. It is the perfect song for the live setting. The lyrics are again about war, this time from the perspective as if from the cockpit of a fighter jet. 2 Minutes to Midnight, written by Dickinson and Smith is considered to be the companion song to Aces High, much like Queen’s We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions. 2 Minutes to Midnight is six minutes of excellence, coming very close to the brilliance of Aces High. The lyrics again tackle the subject of war, and more specifically the threat of war, referencing the doomsday clock put in place by scientists in the late 1940s. Two minutes to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been set.
The band in keeping with the now tradition of including some instrumental tracks on each album, included one for the Powerslave album, Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra). The song sounds as if was written on the bass, and since it was written by Harris it is likely. The instrumental sounds like it would make good incidental music for some cool Iron Maiden footage. Perhaps some stoners have already played Powerslave while turning the volume down low to It’s a Wonderful Life and noticed how the audio and video gel so well. I can see the old pharmacist beating the heck out of the young George Bailey right now to this song. Anyway it makes for a good long intro for Flash of the Blade as they have almost the exact same groove. Flash was written by Dickinson alone giving the listener a good impersonation of Rob Halford and Judas Priest. The Duelists again steals the same groove as the last two songs; luckily Steve Harris added a contrasting melody line for the lyrics. The chorus is very catchy despite the song’s abundant length.
To my ears, Bruce Dickinson sounds a heck of a lot like Liza Minnelli on the song Back in the Village. It’s that pretentious vibrato he owns. Sometimes it comes across as cabaret sounding; hence this is not the best track on the album by far. The title track Powerslave was written by Dickinson and the lyrics were the inspiration of the ancient Egypt-looking album cover, featuring the sphinx in Eddie’s image. The last track Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the longest track by Iron Maiden, nearly giving Pink Floyd’s Echoes a run for its money. The song goes through a few twists and turns, sounding more like three songs than one. The middle part that features the slow bass is simply hypnotizing as poetry is read aloud.
I believe that Powerslave outshines Piece of Mind by a tad, as is therefore my favorite Maiden album. I like witnessing the progression of Maiden’s greatness growing with each and every release. Powerslave made concrete what Piece of Mind had suggested…that Maiden was here to stay and a force to be reckoned with in the world of heavy metal.
I don't get it. Why do people regard this album so highly? I've even heard from some that this is the greatest metal albums of all time. This album, excluding a few classic tracks, all blends together into a gallopy mess. Iron Maiden is my favorite metal band, and you can't imagine how much it hurts me to have negative things to say about an Iron Maiden record. But alas, I must go on.
Even though I dislike this album, that doesn't mean it doesn't have some bright spots. This record does include "Aces High," "2 Minutes to Midnight," and the title track, three Maiden classics. "Aces High" is a staple in the Iron Maiden repertoire, a true metal gem. With an amazing riff and anthemic chorus, coupled with Nicko McBrain's sick fills, "Aces High" is a truly epic metal tune that vividly illustrates the intensity of a high flying dogfight. The other classic Maiden tune that graces "Powerslave" is "2 Minutes to Midnight," a straight up catchy rocker that will you get your foot tapping and your head banging. You can't help but air guitar to this sweet tune. With an unforgettable main riff and catchy hook, "2 Minutes to Midnight," will be stuck in your head for days. The title track is a throwback to ancient Egypt, to a land of pyramids and pharaohs. With amazing vocals by the impeccable Bruce Dickinson and a guitar riff that King Ramesses II would write if he was handed a guitar, this track kills. To top it all of, the track is slowed down in the middle to allow for a mellow yet powerful guitar solo, only to speed back up again to allow Adrian Smith and Dave Murray to really let loose and flaunt their soloing skills. Even further adding to the atmosphere, Bruce Dickinson sings with conviction and grit, making him at times seem like a powerful pharaoh, ruling over his people.
Now that we have gotten the exceptions out of the way, let's get to the meat and potatoes of this bore fest. I'm gonna come out and say it: this album is mediocre at best. Most of the tracks on this record are uninspired and overrated beyond belief. I feel that all of the songs after the epic "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight," are just filler leading up to "Powerslave," the album's title track, which in my opinion is the only decently good song left on the album after the two aforementioned classics on the record. I feel that when they were writing this album, Adrian Smith, Steve Harris, and Dave Murray got a little obsessed with the gallop. It's used so much that it becomes tiresome quite quickly, and it causes songs to blend together, making them only distinguishable by the melodic guitar parts. I'd like to specifically mention the 13 minute "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." This song drags on way too long, and again overuses the gallop, even though it would have been more enjoyable at a 5 minute running time. I personally have a hard time digesting such a long, drawn out song. Oh, and I haven't even gotten to the section of "Rime," where Dickinson just whispers over some cliché accoustic meandering. Not even Dickinson's legendary singing could rescue this song that's too long for its own good. With the immense amount of galloping and indistinguishable tracks, the praise this album receives puzzles me.
To sum it up, this album very much disappointed me. Not because it's a terrible album, but because it's only decent, and I know that Iron Maiden is capable of much more. When compared to the Maiden monoliths that are "The Number of the Beast," "Somewhere in Time," and "Piece of Mind," this album just falls short of the Iron Maiden standard.
It has occurred to me that I’ve really yet to write a truly positive Iron Maiden review. This isn’t because I don’t love Maiden, quite the opposite; I love Maiden so much that I get a little pissed when they fail to deliver. And hell, a 73% is hardly an insult, although in the context of giving it to one of the bands most popular albums, maybe it was a bit low. The point is, while Number of the Beast blew me away when I was but a wee lad, now, pushing a decade later, it’s a little too consistent to really blow me away. More importantly though, is it’s hard to write about a band like Iron Maiden that’s almost universally enjoyed or at least respected for their contributions to metal. I was listening to the likes Number of the Beast and Powerslave since I was 13 or 14. I have at least 12 Maiden shirts, one of which I’m wearing as I type this… mummy Eddie biting through the chains from the disc on the remaster of Powerslave, the second Maiden shirt I bought, which I’m wearing under a Powerslave hoodie. Also, I have a Rime of the Ancient Mariner shirt. So yeah. I kind of like Powerslave.
Ok, remember that Number of the Beast review where I talked about hearing the title song and then going out and buying the album. Incidentally, between hearing Number of the Beast and buying the album, I heard ‘Aces High’ on the radio, flipping through the classic rock station. Once again, I was fucking blown away, and after doing the early 2000’s equivalent of research, which, like today, involved Wikipedia, but unlike today also involved dial up, I found that these two songs were not on the same album. And then cried. So faced with having to choose, I went with Number of the Beast. And loved it so much that I bought Powerslave within a few months. Unfortunately I did so off of Amazon and received that fucking flat cardboard slipcase thing, and had to later re-purchase it so I could make Eddie’s face out of the remasters. Is my fanboy showing?
Enough fan-rambling, on to the content of the album. As I said, Aces High blew me away when I was 12. And it still has that effect. That riff absolutely blazes through everything, a mighty piece of speed metal created to melt the face of posers and make Invaders shit a brick, as Bruce commands you to run, live to fly, fly to live aces HiiiiiIIIIiIiIiIiiiiIiGH!. And don’t you dare disobey him, you fuck. Maybe it’s a little bit nostalgia, but seriously, this right here is one of my favorite Maiden tracks, and I can’t think of one faster right off the bat, except maybe Be Quick of Be Dead. This goes into another lovely war song, which, while always is a theme for Maiden, goddamn battle is a concept of this album, is some form or another, be it guns or swords. This one is another fan loved song, and while I used to be indifferent to it, I think now it’s just because I wanted another fast song after Aces High. I think getting into thrash metal cured me of this, and made me appreciate midpaced tracks more. Although that’s no excuse for Losfer Words to be so damn boring. Yeah. Even one of my favorite Maiden albums I have a gripe with. It’s not the melodies, which are perfectly fine, it’s that this is a song that felt like it either needed lyrics to be a full song, or that it’s length should have been cut dramatically, because it really stops being interesting around 2 minutes. …TO MIDNIGHT. No, I’m sorry, that was just lame of me.
Flash of the Blade, a fun and catchy song about fencing with a simple but effective main riff, and Back in the Village, a song recalling the theme of the same TV show that the song The Prisoner was based on, are both speedier tracks, although the former is definitely better, and one might argue that Back in The Village is, much like Gangland from Number of the Beast, a fast but overall filler song. I sort of agree with this, but at the same time I argue that this song beats the hell out of Gangland so thoroughly that it’s really not comparable, as even Losfer Words, the main reason for point loss on this album for me, is probably more interesting than goddamn Gangland. Back in the Village isn’t really a bad song so much as forgettable compared to much of the awesome on this album. The other middle track, The Duellists, which is not bad in and of itself, but it’s a little long.
Anyways, the last two tracks are seriously some of Maidens finest moments, which says a lot. After an eerie intro, the band brings the Egyptian inspiration from the cover to their famous galloping riff style, as it ponders the inevitability of death, and regardless of your position of power on the planet, we are all, from the president to the bum, slaves to deaths power. The end adds a little mysticism to it as the pharaoh plans to bring the mummy’s curse to anyone who opens his tomb. A very ambitious and interesting epic, but that’s not all folks. On this album Maiden felt the need to give us not one, but two phenomenal epics, as the Rime of the Ancient Mariner brings 13 minutes of pure awesome to the original story of the same name, including a few direct quotes from it. One of the things that, to me, makes a great epic is the ability for it to never grow stale, and this song never does. It definitely goes through enough phases and riff and time changes that no one riff ever overstays its welcome or gets boring. It begins midpaced, stays this way for a few minutes before simply stopping, as the ship does, and becoming a quick speed metal song as the mariner and crew is approached by a ghost ship. The song becomes a very calm, quiet and ambient piece, as Steve Harris’ bass leads us through the darkest part of the mariners tale, as he watches his entire crew die. The song becomes slightly more upbeat as the Mariner prays and is relieved of his punishment. And as the rain falls from the sky, the song quickens up, before coming full circle. The song returns to the mariner telling his tale to the opening riff (although, wouldn’t a stranger telling a story to the guests ruin a wedding? Why isn’t the bride like, we’re trying to get married bro, cant this wait?). And so ends easily one of Iron Maidens greatest masterpieces. God I love this fucking song.
I’ve heard it said that this album consists of four mediocre songs sandwiched between two awesome songs. No, these people are wrong. While Aces High, 2 Minutes to Midnight, Powerslave, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner do make the bread of epic, the contents of t he sandwich are fantastic as well, as Flash of the Blade and Back in the Village make up the fun speed metal meat, while The Duellists makes the midpaced dueling mayonnaise… Just a bit too much of it for my taste, but the only real complaint is still the unnecessary Losfer Words lettuce, which really just dulls down the flavor in my opinion. Ok, seriously, I’ll stop. This is getting too dumb. No more drinking and reviewing.
The bottom line is that this is one of the best Iron Maiden albums, and one of my favorites for sure. I’ve heard it said that Maiden is a band that makes great songs, but not great albums. This is a great album, one of several they’ve made. It’s not perfect, but I’ve yet to hear an album that is, and the complaints here are pretty minimal, mostly a couple songs overstay their welcome. But this is still a fine piece of Iron Maiden metal, and though Number of the Beast may be a better ‘intro to Maiden’ album, this is a still a great follow up.
This album has been my favourite Iron Maiden album for a pretty long while. I have changed my mind throughout the years and I prefer "The X-Factor" and "Somewhere In Time" today, but "Powerslave" is without the glimpse of a doubt in my definitive top 3 albums of the band. Almost every song of this album is great but most of the songs have also some negative points.
"Aces high" is an amazing opener, probably the heaviest, fastest and straightest that they have ever done to date. Especially Bruce Dickinson delivers an amazing job on the vocals. The only negative point of this song is that the brilliant introduction of Churchill's Speech that has been used on the concerts, hasn't found its way on the studio album.
"2 Minutes To Midnight" is darker than the opener but it has a brilliant introduction and main riff, a very catchy chorus and an atmospheric bridge and is as brilliant as "Aces high". This heavy metal high quality double pack fits perfectly together even though they sound very different from each other and convince each one in their own way. The lyrics are very interesting and the music video is maybe the eeriest and weirdest stuff that the band has ever done. The only negative point of this song is that it has a little bit lost its magic because of its yearlong presence on greatest hits album, live concerts and other stuff.
"Losfer Words" is a very tight and interesting instrumental song without any doubt and maybe the most diversified as well as the heaviest and most amazing instrumental song the band has ever done. It fits to the epic style and conception of the album and is quite underrated in my humble opinion. But the song has still somehow the touch of a filler for many fans and has some little lengths and this is its only negative point about this very good song.
"Flash Of A Blade" is a heavily underrated song. The intro riff sounds really melodic, straight and innovative. The song itself has a very fast and intense main riff. Bruce Dickinson is in absolute top form and performs his vocals in a very stunning way by almost aggressively rapping the verses while singing the chorus with his high pitched and powerful voice. The contrast created by this phenomenon creates a very particular and special style and sounds overall new and fresh. The twin guitar parts sound amazing and this is surprisingly the very first track on the record where there is not a single negative point that I could mention.
"The Duellists" starts with a very tight main riff and has some very melancholic and melodic vocal lines. Bruce Dickinson does an amazing job in the verses. The instrumental parts in the song only have an average quality and are a little bit too long in some parts. The most negative point of this song is without any doubt the chorus. It is epic, but way too happy and doesn't fit with the atmosphere created in the rest of the song at all. It is one of the weaker songs of the album.
"Back In The Village" begins with a very melodic and still heavy introduction and the verses are once more very straight and great. The closing moments of the song are very straight and fast and I like this surprising effect. The hypnotic chorus is though the negative point of this song and neither very catchy nor very well developed. The instrumental parts of the songs are of an average quality and comparable to "The Duellists". This song is probably the weakest one on the album just behind “The Duellists”.
I didn't like the song "Powerslave" when I listened to it for the first time, but this song has really grown on me within the last few years. It all begins with a very interesting intro, has some heavy, but still mystical and innovating verses and a very epic and catchy chorus. The middle part of the title track is amazingly melodic and sounds more elaborated than some of the other instrumental parts on the album. The song gets you in a magic atmosphere and creates a very special tension. All instruments do a brilliant job here, especially the bass guitar who has been too much dominated by the guitars in some of the previous songs. Today, I must admit that there is no negative point to find within this great title song.
"Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" is one of the greatest, if not the best song Iron Maiden has ever written. This song has everything that a metal fan needs. It is catchy and attractive the first time you listen to it, but you will still discover new passages years after your first experience with this song. The song is heavy and straight, but it also has its slower parts which create a dark and mysterious atmosphere. The guitar solos are intense and simply amazing. Bruce Dickinson does a very diversified and energetic job on the vocals. The drumming is tight and stunning. The bass guitar is as strong and particular as in the title song and even surpasses the previous opus magnum. The song has many changes in style, but all parts fit perfectly together. The song is never boring or seems to be long even though it is the longest one the band has ever written until today. Sure thing, there is no negative point about this masterpiece. I don't like to give too general comment or prejudices, but if you don't like this song, you do simply not like heavy metal and Iron Maiden. For me, this song is the opus magnum of heavy metal in the eighties.
As you can see, I would say that there is one masterpiece ("Rime Of The Ancient Mariner"), two extremely brilliant ("Powerslave" and the underrated "Flash Of A Blade"), two brilliant ("Aces High" and "Two Minutes To Midnight"), one very good song ("Losfer Words") and two average or rather good songs ("The Duellists" and "Back In The Village"). The album cover is more than brilliant and probably the best one that Derek Riggs has ever done. Even after years, you still discover something new on it. The production of Martin Birch is simply brilliant and better than some of the modern Iron Maiden records. Iron Maiden combines their style and heritage (on more traditional songs like "2 Minutes To Midnight" or "Flash Of A Blade") with some new and innovative elements (like the atmospheric parts on the title song "Powerslave" that can only be compared to “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “To Tame A Land” but it definitely reaches a climax on this record). That's why, even if there are some little negative points to mention related to some of the songs, this is album in all its imperfect perfection is one of my favourite albums of all time and has been my favourite Iron Maiden record for a long while!
During the 80's Maiden was getting bigger and bigger. Their true brilliance, however, came from their ability to go further than virtually any of their contemporaries, (with the possible exception of Manowar) with each album expanding their sound while at the same time making it even more commercially accessible than their previous offerings. Every album after Number Of The Beast almost feels like a game of "top this", as each successive record aspired to new heights; Piece Of Mind took the epic elements of the aforementioned album and turned it into an entire album, setting Maiden almost completely apart from the rest of the NWOBHM with its proto-power metal sound. Labels aside, it was indeed far more epic and overblown, yet it worked because of the band's combined songwriting skills, which adds up to one of the greatest combination of musicians ever - something they are known the world over as for a good reason.
But where could they take their sound after PoM, which also topped the charts just like its predecessor? The answer is right here - Powerslave, which took the epic sound of PoM even further, with only two songs here sounding remotely like the NWOBHM. Everything else has a proto-power sound, the same kind of epic storytelling style that Manowar were using at the time - they being virtually the only other band to do so, and much farther from the mainstream than their British "counterparts". In what they did, Maiden pretty much inspired the vast majority of the power metal genre, maybe even more than Slayer did for death metal with Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood, as well as hugely influencing progressive metal and everything element of the genre synonymous with "huge and epic".
...Boy, how opinions change. Not very long ago I was lambasting this album as the worst thing Maiden put out in their entire career. This was mostly due to my own ignorance about both metal and hard rock, but to have called Powerslave a "shitty, poppy hard rock album" was utterly ridiculous. I've heard real poppy hard rock and it is NOTHING like Powerslave. No, Powerslave is most definitely heavy metal. Perhaps not heavy "fucking" metal in the way Priest were and still are, but certainly close and equally as heavy, just not so "metal in your face screaming" like another masterpiece released this year by said metal gods, Defenders Of The Faith. (Which is for another review)
Could the album be called pretentious? If so, you may as well call Piece of Mind, Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son the same, if not more so. Either way such a statement would be foolish and incorrect. Yes, it's completely different from how Maiden started out. Does it matter? No, because it is equally as good if not better. The band's songwriting skills were at their peak during this period.
How is it innovative? Well, for one I don't think anyone had written a 13 minute long heavy metal song before this album. And that's just one example - songs such as Aces High and Two Minutes To Midnight are not particularly innovative, but the former is certainly somewhat epic, and the latter great for what it is. Songs such as Flash Of The Blade and The Duellists have stunning middle sections with fantastic guitarwork, and the latter could be considered progressive to a point, while the title track has plenty of everything - heaviness, a clean break, great solos, the works.
There is one slightly weaker song here, but it's not actually bad, simply less brilliant than everything around it. That aside, there is nothing on this album that could be called weak.
As for being epic - well, I don't think this really needs much explaining. Aside from Two Minutes To Midnight and Back In The Village, all the tracks on Powerslave have this sound to one degree or another.
So, onto the songs. "Aces High" is about as good an opener as one could ask for. The first riff is powerful despite not being typically heavy, ditto for the second which makes use of the typical Maiden harmonies, yet it isn't too obvious or anything - the speed and power is there, and in this case that's all that matters. The third riff is heavy. Bruce's performance here, while strong, is still not my favourite from him - when he tries a more subtle approach it usually works much better. Nevertheless his voice has that inner strength about it, which is probably another reason for this song's huge popularity. Whether one agrees with the lyrical subject matter or not is irrelevant provided they can get caught up in the song enough to enjoy it, which I now can do. The chorus is great, the guitar and basswork strong throughout and the drumming excellent. While I would say this song is a little overrated, for the most part it works fantastically well.
We now come to "Two Minutes To Midnight", another of the album's biggest hits. Yet it isn't pop, or even hard rock - it's still heavy metal. Of all the songs here it admittedly does have the most hard rock-ish sound and as the bluesiest riffs, but that's part of the appeal. In a way it's "rock 'n' roll" - not as we define it by the actual term, but basically heavy metal based on a hard rockin' vibe not too far off from said music done around this time, a crushing, down and dirty swagger that's just a bit heavier, lyrically darker, and longer. It also has an interesting middle section, a great main riff and a memorable chorus. In addition, Bruce gives one of his finest performances as a vocalist here, showcasing a grittier, harder style quite different from the "epic singing" he used in the opener and in most of the other songs. Considering the subject matter I'd say this was very appropriate. Either way this is one of Maiden's most beloved songs for a reason: it's mesmerising, it's lyrically intelligent, and it rocks.
"Losfer Words (Big 'Orra) " is up next, and considering it's an instrumental the band does an admirable job keeping it interesting. It starts with some heavy riffing, then some cool melodies appear just before the 1 minute mark. It goes back and forth like this for a while and then ends. There isn't much to say, but it works, especially in the context of the album's epic vibe.
"Flash Of The Blade" is a very interesting song considering its fairly short length. I have no idea why I used to hate this song - because of the clean guitar moments? Either way that whole thing was absurd. The opening riff isn't very heavy but it's good. Then the drums kick in, then the other guitar, and around the 40 second mark it gets both heavy and fast. Bruce gives a very good performance here, sounding very honest about a subject that may seem somewhat silly, but works in this context partly because of his singing. The middle section is one of the best parts of the song, with fantastic twin-guitar harmonies creating an almost neo-classical sound. After going through the chorus a couple more times the opening riff is played again, then the song ends. An excellent song.
One of my most frequent criticisms with regards to Maiden is their lack of consistency between either albums or songs. I used to think this was the case for Powerslave. This was really due to my own misguided beliefs about the album's "metalness", which in turn came from me not having actually listened to it properly. Thankfully I have now realised that not only is Powerslave overall a masterful album, but also an extremely consistent one.
There is but one genuinely weaker song here, and it ain't "The Duellists", which is one of Maiden's greater songs to say the least. Beginning with a drumbeat, it goes into some brilliant heavy chugging riffs which then continue under Bruce's vocals. He gives another great performance. The song's only real weakness is its lyrical similarities to Flash Of The Blade. Musically pretty much everything here is brilliant. The one and only point of contention I have is the "chorus" where Bruce goes: "OHHHHHHHHHH! Fight for the hoonnouuuurr, blah blah blah" which is just a little too happy and cheesy for my tastes, although nowhere near as bad as the chorus of Invaders from Number Of The Beast. Ignore that and you've got another great song. The middle section is amazing, with the first more melodic riffs starting around 1.50 into the song and continuing for three full minutes! This section goes between melodic harmonised (and also ordinary) riffing and great solos played over heavy lower riffs, all of which demonstrate Maiden's fantastic musicianship and key ears for good melodies. It's stuff like this that makes Maiden the legends they are, and that rightly earns this album labels such as "proto-power metal" and claims such as being influential to prog metal. The song finally ends the same way it began. Pure brilliance.
Sadly, Maiden pretty much never made an album that absolutely, definitively ruled from start to finish, hence the oft said "great albums overall, but with some filler tracks". "Back To The Village" is a very good example of such a song. Musically it's actually very good, but compared to the first five songs it just ain't as memorable or interesting. The lyrics are a sequel of sorts to The Prisoner from Number Of The Beast, and really, do such lyrics belong on an album about dogfights, war, swordfights, pharaohs, and sailing ships? To a point perhaps, but they're hardly the definition of epic, or imaginative for that matter.
Musically the song is also pretty nondescript, and the only track here with any significant NWOBHM influence aside from Two Minutes To Midnight. The difference is that the latter is interesting both lyrically and musically despite being reasonably simple while the former wallows in an already used subject and in comparison is thus rather tepid. Not a bad song, simply a less good one.
But this album is not known as mostly filler-less for nothing, and indeed, the title track then comes pounding in with a mighty riff that reminds me why I love Maiden so much. The use of the harmonic minor scale here is completely appropriate considering the subject matter (even though Ancient Egypt may not have actually used such scales. I have no idea either way) and Bruce gives a great performance once more, showcasing how much variety he has as a vocalist. Too many people think of him doing the high-pitched operatic wailing and little else. There's far more to him than that, as he would also prove in subsequent albums.
Although the song is pretty straightforward from a compositional point of view, with just two main riffs, it is actually fairly progressive as a whole. After the verses and chorus repeat a couple of times, the song becomes much quieter, and a lovely melodic solo is played over clean guitar. About a minute or so later the heaviness returns, but the solo continues. A few more twists and turns follow and then the song goes back to the verses and chorus, finally ending with some more great harmonic minor riffs. All in all, a true classic.
After all of this brilliance, with six great songs and just one of a more average kind, one might imagine that the album could not really be any better than it already is. They would be mistaken, as Rime Of The Ancient Mariner opens with a crushing riff sure to get any heads banging instantly. This song is known not only as another classic but also as one of, if not [I]the[/I] greatest epic composition Maiden ever wrote, and it can be safely said that this is completely true. Although the main riff is simple, it works. The harmonised twin-guitar riffs are fantastic, with the section just after Bruce's "and the ship sailed on and on into the sea" being superlative, regardless of whether it is complex or not. The song as a whole is definitely that, though, with many stops and starts, one long break, and plenty of changes from start to finish. Said break is a very cool part - a little overlong perhaps, but it works. As a contrast between the first and second parts of the song it works even better. The latter half is very positive, with a fairly light riff playing over Bruce's singing of how the Mariner survived his horrible ordeal, and then the heaviness returns and a fantastic solo - one of Maiden's best ever - follows. Finally the song goes back to its original main riffs, both the normal and harmonised ones, as Bruce finishes the tale by explaining that the Mariner had learned greater respect for all life by the time he returned home. A fantastic and very heroic and positive end to a magnificent song.
So there you have it. While nothing is perfect, this is one of the only two Maiden albums that have no genuinely weak songs. The other is Somewhere in Time. That album is my favourite of their entire discography, and this one is now second. Considering how I used to feel about it that might seem strange, but it's true. I simply hadn't listened to it properly before. It really is all that - like its predecessor and next two successors it influenced the epic side of metal hugely, and by that I mean HUGELY. It represents the furthest they could take their songs without the use of keyboards or synths, and they succeeded admirably at everything. From the twin-guitar harmonies, to the heavy yet melodic riffs, soaring vocals, fantastic storytelling and often progressive, massive compositions, this album was easily as influential as Number Of The Beast in its own way, as were the other three directly around it.
Now the biggest question: is Powerslave overrated?
Hell yes. But it is also one of the best albums the band ever created, and almost perfect from start to finish. That might seem like a bizarre statement, and technically speaking it is: the very term overrated implies a sense of hype, of making something up, that the true contents are not as awesome as the pretty wrapper. But this album somehow manages to be beloved by all - hardcore fans, casual fans, non-fans who simply like Maiden, and even ordinary rockers alike, and yet still remains utterly outstanding in every way. Very few albums are like that, and that's another part of this record's charm, I guess.
So to sum up: essential, whether you love Maiden, love Heavy Metal, just love good ol' heavy rock, or love all three. Influential beyond belief, and all around fantastic.
Powerslave is a monumental album in many respects. Drawing inspiration from an age long past, here was Iron Maiden at the top of their game. I mean…fuck yeah, man! This was the band! I wasn’t there myself, but just listening to Powerslave fills me with the kind of adrenaline rush that no other band can. This is the kind of stuff that makes me want to move mountains. It is the kind of music that makes a man want to sail the seas and battle rivals for treasure hidden in dank caves and under waterfalls. It isn’t really as good as some of their other 80s albums like Piece of Mind or Somewhere in Time, but that doesn’t mean anything, as this is still a great, great album that any metal fan worth his salt should have.
What does this album do right? It’s just epic and exciting as hell. Everything about this is big. Have you seen the stage shows from this era? Huge pyramids, Eddie as an undead pharaoh and enough scope to make this band and this album larger than life altogether. Maiden went all out making this as hugely grandiose as possible, and it really makes the whole thing a lot of fun. I remember reading something Bruce Dickinson said in an interview about how his stage antics and singing were doctored to make sure everyone in the whole arena can hear him – it’s about making sure everyone gets the full experience, he said, and to do that, you have to emphasize everything important to the nth degree.
That about sums up the feel of Powerslave. The songs on here lack the punkish quality of the early releases and they aren’t quite as intricate as the compositions on Piece of Mind, but they make up for that with a lot of swagger and bravado, making every single note count. They have a lot of energy here, too, and it’s a lot of fun. Nothing is subtle about this, nothing is abstract or downplayed, and it all makes the whole experience more enjoyable. Lyrics are about everything from sword fighting to fighter planes to Ancient Egypt; it’s practically a soundtrack to every boy’s innate dreams and fantasies growing up, except magnified to a real-life, moving epic of metallic wonder. It is a certain childlike sense of imagination that pervades the music here.
The music itself is rife with upbeat twin guitar harmonies, galloping riffs, Steve Harris’ trademark bass acrobatics and the wailing crescendo of might from vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s iron-coated lungs. No ballads, no bullshit, just heavy metal putting everyone’s balls to the wall for eight rounds of ass kicking. Opener “Aces High” soars to the clouds with dizzying harmonies and a daring motif before album single “Two Minutes to Midnight” stomps through the speakers with its own display of doom and despair. “Losfer Words” has a supreme hook, galloping onward without fail, and then the duo of “Flash of the Blade” and “The Duellists” pits the listener in a fight for their life with excellently crafted riffs swiping through the speakers like sharpened blades. “Back in the Village” is a more restrained hard rocking song, but Dickinson’s bellowing and the cut-throat guitar attack elevate it to a better plane.
The two best songs on here are saved for last, with the title track coming first. The riff in this song is just fucking legendary, with a killer groove and a sinister laugh backing it up to make it sound like it really did come from some dark, musty Egyptian tomb long since buried underground. The verses are excellent, demonic and deep-throated in delivery, and the chorus is delivered with a dramatic flair that is nothing less than irresistible. Filled with theatrics and metallic pomposity, this song just flat out rules. But then they hit you with the thirteen minute Samuel Taylor Coleridge reference “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – bet you wish you paid attention in English class now, don’t you? This song’s epic scope is also just fucking legendary, never getting boring or wearing out its welcome. Do you want the full experience of this song? Go get the original Coleridge poem, take an iPod or other mp3 playing device, and put this song on while you read the poem by the sea. I have done it myself, and it is truly epochal and wondrous. Try it out sometime. Take my word for it.
So that’s Powerslave. It encompasses just about everything Heavy Metal is about, from the adventurousness to the iconic over-the-top execution. This might not be the best Maiden album, but it’s probably the most quintessential example of what they are about, as well as 80s metal as a whole. A grand-standing masterpiece. Unforgettable.
From the release of The Number of the Beast in 1982 to the career defining masterpiece Somewhere in Time four years later, Iron Maiden could simply not be stopped. The four studio albums of this period and the excellent Live After Death represent one of the strongest, if not THE strongest runs ever from a metal band, and Powerslave fits into this with a grandeur of lyrical legerdemain and unforgettable songcraft. Who could forget the iconic Derek Riggs artwork gracing this cover? As timeless as its source.
Like any proper Maiden album, this one is best defined by its unerring melodies, powerful vocal performance and lyrical adherence to history, mythology and fiction. Half of the tracks here can be counted among their hits, staples of many a setlist across the past few decades. "Aces High" is one such staple, an energetic and fist banging tribute to the aerial dogfight. "2 Minutes to Midnight", yet another classic burns with a pure NWOBHM fire: bluesy riffing which can break out the spikes and leather in all of us. The vocals in the bridge and chorus are immortal. "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)" is an instrumental pun with some excellent winding guitar leads over Steve Harris' extravagant bass, while one of the lesser known tunes from this disc it's actually got some of the best riffing in all Maiden. "Flash of the Blade" is another killer which stems from Dickinson's love of fencing, a celebration of swordplay throughout the ages. "The Duellists" takes this theme a little further with a toss of the gauntlet, and an anthemic chorus line which I number among their all time classics. "Back in the Village" is a nice post-war anthem with a catchy, noodling guitar lead in the chorus.
As memorable as all of these songs are, we haven't yet arrived at the 'epic' portion of the album, comprised of its final two tracks (at least on the original release). "Powerslave" is unbelievably awesome, Dickinson's vocals taunt and beckon the listener back to this mystical empire of old. No offense to Nile or any other band which thoroughly explores Ancient Egypt thematically (and more accurately), but this remains the most effective Egyptian themed metal song ever to this day, despite having only a few riffs which directly mirror the cultural vibe. It's all in the delivery.
Fuck!!! This was 1984 people, do you know the effect this stuff had on a young and deviant mind addled and fueled by Dungeons & Dragons and science fiction novels? It's not over yet, because Maiden pays a special tribute to Samuel Taylor Coleridge with the 13+ minute epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", with its memorable and creepy mid section slathered in bass, samples and ringing guitar ambience, one of the most brilliant passages ever committed to tape by this band.
Though the album has been remastered, the original mix still sounds fantastic. Some decent bonus tracks have been added with the 1995 version, in particular "King of Twilight" is worthy of being here. The musicianship is all-around excellent, from Nico's well balanced drumming to the Harris bass wizardry, dual guitar melodies and Dickinson's masterful delivery. Compare this to almost any album of its year...with the exception of maybe Ride the Lightning it was unsurpassed, from both a technical and nostalgic standpoint. It goes without saying that this belongs in any true metal fan's collection, but in the rare case some reader has been living under a rock or kidnapped by merfolk all these years...actually, fuck it. Even the merfolk listen to Iron Maiden. So you have no excuse.
One of Iron Maiden’s greatest albums, Powerslave is filled their greatest hits, best riffs, and catchiest songs, but the album is still held back by a few glaring misses and some shoehorned filler sections.
As most in the metal community already know, songs like “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, and “Powerslave” are some of Iron Maiden’s greatest hits. From their WWII soundtrack that rivals their Crimean War anthem, “The Trooper”, found in “Aces High”, their amazing Cold War social commentary of the abuses of power by elected officials and description to the countdown to doomsday in “2 Minutes to Midnight” and their complete change of focus to the Pharaoh god-kings of ancient Egypt in “Powerslave” as they come to grips with their own mortality, Iron Maiden demonstrates not only their musical prowess but their ability to intelligently take on such drastically different subjects and shed new light on different moments in time.
Bruce Dickinson’s vocals and lyrics are top notch. His most poignant social commentary comes forth in the apocalyptic “2 Minutes to Midnight” explaining that “The body bags and little rags of children torn in two, and the jellied brains of those who remain to put the finger right on you, as the madmen play on words and make us all dance to their song, to the tune of starving millions to make a better kind of gun”. The sense of frustration with the corruption in the Capitalist and Communist systems as they prepare for what may be the final struggle of mankind is perfectly explained as Dickinson lays blame on humanity itself rather than one or both primary factions coming to a head in the 1980s to for what is now called The Cold War. The reference to the Doomsday Clock is another great apocalyptic allusion found within this song. The closest that the Doomsday Clock has come to midnight was two minutes in 1953 when the United States and the USSR were testing thermonuclear weapons within months of each other, tensions were at a height, and the battlefields that were used just eight years prior as the Allies struggled against the Third Reich were set to erupt again between two socioeconomic ideologies. By 1984, tensions were still very high between the Capitalist and Communist empires, and Bruce Dickinson expresses aggravation with the powers that be that, despite being at the brink of an inconceivable nuclear holocaust, still practice the same corrupt intrigue that brought these tensions to this height. The sound of his vocals still have the operatic flow that they always had and really add to the epic feel of the Battle of Britain being fought in “Aces High”, the near impending apocalypse “2 Minutes to Midnight”, and “Flash of the Blade”.
The guitars are memorable, flashy, and distinctively Iron Maiden. “Flash of the Blade” has a great melodic riffing harmony between all the guitars that seems both chaotic and well-ordered at the same time. The riffing and solos in the big three tracks of the album (Aces, 2 Minutes, Powerslave) are perfect and greatly compliment the rest of the band. “The Duelists” features a very heavy guitar sound that brings in a good balance between the lower guitar riffing and the high pitch of Dickinson’s operatic vocals. When the vocals are taken away, they continue with an amazing solo section that brings out more emotion than Dickinson’s empowered lyrics. The guitars are perfectly written for this album and display what Maiden is really all about.
The only downside to this album is one of the songs, “Back in the Village”. “Back in the Village” has an incredibly annoying chorus of “back in the village, again in the village, back in the village again” that by the end of the song has gone by at least six times and takes away any of the credibility of the rest of the song, which proves to be well-written though with a shoehorned chorus.
Ending this album is one of Iron Maiden’s most epic opuses, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. This song is one of the most amazing Iron Maiden epics that I’ve ever heard and has every element that made the rest of this album great. If there is any quintessential Iron Maiden song that displays everything that makes this band great and so beloved by their fans, it would be this song.
Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” has always been a favorite album of mine, and with only one fault that I can find, it’s no wonder that “Powerslave” is considered one of Iron Maiden's most classic albums.
There you have it. All kinds of standard metal proof items filling the lyrical content of this classic Iron Maiden album. After their major breakthrough Number Of The Beast and their consolidating Piece Of Mind effort. The band now found themselves at the height of their career in the middle eighties.
Entering the studio with a hand full of songs and quickly finishing some other ideas (like the mighty “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”!) the band released yet another album rather quickly after 16 months in which the band toured a lot. The result is remarkable. It is obvious Iron Maiden could deliver under stressing circumstances. The band simply didn’t have the time for doubts nor insecurities. They just went in and came out holding Powerslave under their arms. And what a majestic piece it was.
The band (especially Harris) surpassed himself with the mighty “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. The band had written some epics earlier but this one was over 13 minutes long yet still logical and easy to sit through without ever getting dull or dragging. Opener “Aces High” was the ultimate short efficient heavy metal anthem including raging riffs, great melodies, pounding drums and a marvellous vocal performance by Dickinson. “Flash Of The Blade” following closely in terms of greatness.
Now “the Duellists” is a song balancing between the shorter singles and the longer epic songs. Especially the strong middle section including its harmonies and leads is a great piece of work not forgetting to mention the strong chorus. “Back In The Village” is a song balancing between heavy metal and hardrock in terms of riffing but manages to be a refreshing tune because of its tempo and catchy vocal lines. Once again Dickinson excels here.
The title track, as Dickinson and Harris explained later, initially consisted of three different ideas for songs but somehow worked together perfectly. The good Egyptian atmosphere of the main riff, the laid back middle section which excels in beauty, it all worked out fine. Coincidence, sheer dumb luck or clever composing? Who cares really. The song is a true Maiden classic.
There were however two weaknesses on the album. Not weak enough though to ruin the album. But “Losfer Words” was probably one of those hasty ideas that didn’t work out that well due to a time limit. The song should have matured some more. It would prove to be the last instrumental on a Maiden album and it doesn’t come close to earlier classics like Genghis Khan or Transylvania even though there are some pretty brilliant riffs and melodies here and there.
The other weak spot is “2 Minutes to Midnight”. Some people love it, others hate it. It’s also a fact the band has been playing this song live far too long and although it being much better in the live environment it remains “that hard rock tune” on this over all classic heavy metal album. The pre-chorus and chorus are mind blowing though! So in fact “2 Minutes to Midnight” isn’t really that bad, it’s just that the rest of the songs are so much better and genius!
Now the production is perfect. It is organic yet clear and certainly heavy enough. The guitars have a crunchy sound and are a bit broader than they were on Piece of Mind making this album ‘breathe’ more than its predecessor. For some reason the sound of the guitars is just as ochre as the album cover.
Talking about the album cover, one of the best in Maiden history as well. I always liked the little “Indiana Jones was here” and “What, No Guinness” details. Something which is hard to find on the small CD cover by the way. I know, a CD version is easier but this is an album you should own on vinyl because of the artwork! So I advise everyone to get the vinyl and, if possible, the poster.
Perhaps one of Maiden’s greatest hits, Powerslave not only ranks as one of the band’s best pieces of work but, perhaps one of the best albums in metal. So what makes this album so great? In the most straightforward terms, it has everything you could ask for. Soaring vocals, in depth lyrics, blazing solos, dueling riffs, grooving bass and hammering drums. You could be thrashing your brains out to a song like “Aces High” while, appreciating the ingenious songcraft of “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”. Here we see fusion many elements which propelled Maiden for the apex of their career.
Lyrically, the song themes you will come across are classic Maiden. Songs about battles and war are now completely encompassed by dog fighting in the air to classic sword fights. Pretty rare for a band to write about both types of warfare. Other songs include lyrics about Egyptian Mythology. This compliments the music 100% since Iron Maiden started to experiment with the harmonic minor scale which usually projects Middle Eastern sound. I hate it when the music does not blend with the words. Not an issue here. The harmony lines will simply blow you away. Two guitars truly prove to be better than one from the opening lick of the album all the way through the very end of the record. Trademark gallops, are at there pinnacle here as well. We see Adrian Smith with his bluesier, crunchy style perfect his style and finally become truly 50/50 with Dave Murray. Not that Dave’s role has been diminished. You will still hear his legendary legato trills more than ever. Steve Harris is one of the best bassists in metal. Finally something I can hear. However, I must have noticed that his volume on his PAN must have been lowered because it does not have the same kick as Piece of Mind and certainly not of the first albums. (This is not a complaint but rather just something I noticed). With the unfortunate and sad departure of Clive Burr, Nicko McBrain makes his sophomore appearance. Bringing less of marchy feel he does not disappoint here. The album is loaded with fills at every 3 measures keeps your mind from wandering astray. Constructive criticism and let downs are at a minimal. In fact there is none.
So what separates the album and why the rating of 100%. Easy. The songs can be classified as epic stories or headbanging thrillers. For those who want to sit down and really listen deep in the song, you are not disappointed. For those who just want to go balls out and raise hell you are not disappointed. For those who just want to cruise with their buddies on the highway while listening to highway tunes you are not disappointed. It has the adaptability to appropriately conform to any environment. There are no fillers here. You can listen to every single song and really have every single one as a regular song on your IPOD.
Even the cover is insanely awesome. It gives you the appropriate feel of the album while having bitching artwork to compliment the album. Eddie can be seen as a Pharaoh and a Mummy. (Eddie can be seen as a lot of people).
However, these reasons still do not make this the greatest album of all time. Only this does. It symbolizes metal. Elements of power, thrash, progressive, heavy, even some black metal can be found here. Many influences for many years will look back at this album as a reference.
In the most layman’s terms, this is why I got into metal. To hear a sophisticated style of music while still having fun. It is significant of me.
My personal favorite album, so no need to say that it gets a 100.
Sickest Songs “Aces High” “2 Minutes to Midnight” “The Duelists” “Powerslave” “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”
"Every Maiden album has too many fillers that ruin the listening experience".
One month ago I thought like that. The Number of the Beast has Gangland and Invaders, Seventh Son has The Prophecy and Only the Good Die Young, Piece of Mind has Quest for Fire and Sun and Steel, Powerslave has Flash of the Blade and The Duellists...
Two weeks ago, I gave another chance to Powerslave and, oh my God, I was terribly wrong about this album: it has no fillers at all! From the beginning to the end, this record is (almost) flawless. This is the peak of Iron Maiden's career, undoubtely.
The guitar work is the most brilliant aspect of Powerslave: Adrian Smith and Dave Murray form a fantastic team and they deliver an amazing performance. All the guitar solos are absolutely stunning, from the fast one on Aces High to the calm one on the title track. The riffs are also amazing and very memorable. The main riffs of Flash of the Blade and Two Minutes to Midnight are among the best of the record. However, they show their real virtuosity on the middle part of The Duellists: just listen to it, all the riffs on it are amazing and so are the solos.
Nicko McBrain, the drummer, delivers a very consistent performance too. As all the songs are relatively fast, he plays in a very dynamic and efficient way. In fact, he doesn't play ultra-technic patterns, he prefers to stay behind the guitars and play relatively simple but very memorable beats (listen to the first one on Flash of the Blade, believe me, it's very catchy).
The vocals are another highlight of the record. Bruce Dickinson shows his great talent on every song, especially on Aces High, where he delivers an amazing vocal performance. However, I miss his whispers - he does that a lot on A Matter of Life and Death. Nevertheless, this is one of his best performances ever. He also proves to be an excellent songwriter: he penned two of the best songs of the record: Aces High (with Adrian Smith) and the title track.
The bass work is audible (kudos to the great production!) and excellent. Steve Harris is an amazing player and songwriter: he composed many of the tracks of this record, including the fantastic epic Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
As I've already said, all the songs are pretty fast and energic, so don't expect ballads on this record. At the same time, you should neither expect a typical heavy metal album full of straight-forward songs, that follow the same structure. Almost every track is relatively complex, with lenghty instrumental sections and some breakdowns here and there.
It's very hard for me to name stand-outs: all the songs are very good.
The first one, Aces High, is one of my favourite Iron Maiden songs and it is very fast. 2 Minutes to Midnight needs no presentation, as it is one of the greatest Maiden classics. An amazing anthem with a very cool breakdown.
And now, I'll review the middle section of the record, which seem to annoy many people. "It's full of fillers!" they say. Meh, such a lie.
Losfer Words is a decent and solid instrumental song, but definitely not a filler.
Flash of the Blade is an underrated track. It opens with one of the best guitar riffs I've ever heard; then, the drums and the bass join the guitars and Bruce begins to sing. The chorus is extremely catchy and after it comes an extremely good instrumental section. The guitar riff that begins is very good and the solo is pretty decent. After a while, Dickinson sings – again - the fantastic chorus, the first riff is played and the song ends. Very good track.
Then, you have no time to breathe. McBrain hits the snare and The Duellists kicks off. This is the third best song of the record and that is saying something. The chorus is also catchy and the instrumental section is even better than the one on the previous track. The song is pretty fast and the lyrics fit well the music, as they talk about a fight between two, err, duellists.
Back in the Village is the worst track of the record, but it isn't that bad actually, there are some very good riffs here and there.
So, how can you people call those tracks fillers? Okay, Back in the Village is a bit weak, but isn't horrible; Losfer Words is a nice song, Flash of the Blade and The Duellists are some of the most underrated Maiden tunes ever!
Then, we reach the last two songs. Well, those two are real masterpieces.
The title track is the heavier song of the record, thanks to its main riff. Bruce Dickinson delivers a very good and passionate performance and the lyrics are among the best of the album. They talk about Egypt and some riffs are very reminiscent of the music of that country, so the atmosphere of the song is amazing.
After 3 minutes, there is a fantastic breakdown, with superb bass lines, soft drumming and an outstanding guitar solo. Then, the song becomes heavier and the solo gets faster. When the solos end, McBrain plays a fast fill, the main riff returns and the chorus is repeated, bringing back the egyptian atmosphere. The song ends greatly this way.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner begins immediately after the end of the title track. Every Maiden album has an epic track. The Number of the Beast has Hallowed Be Thy Name, Somewhere in Time has Alexander, the Great, the debut has Phantom of the Opera and so on. But Rime of the Ancient Mariner has to be the best epic Iron Maiden ever wrote (The Legacy is a very close second). The song was entirely composed by Harris and it is based on the homonym poem of Samuel Coleridge.
The song has lots of different sections. It begins with a drum fill and some simple guitar riffs. Bruce begins to sing about the mariner and how he killed a bird. The shipmates blame him because of that as they apparently think that the death of birds brings bad omens. Then, they hang the bird around the neck of the mariner, as a punishment.
After 6 minutes, the song becomes calm and a narrator talks more about the story. Then, a wonderful bass line is played, which is related to the rising of the unlucky mariner. The song becomes heavy again and wonderful solos are played.
The song ends with the first guitar riff played and, also, with Bruce Dickinson concluding the story. This song is an authentic journey, indeed.
So, we reach the end of the record, which is full of catchy yet complex songs, with fantastic instrumental sections, catchy choruses, solid drumming, good bass lines and outstanding vocals.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the best track of this record, undoubtely, closely followed by the title track and The Duellists. But every song is really good - even the worst track, Back in the Village, is good.
Concluding, this is a masterpiece. A fantastic album. The peak of Maiden's creativity. A CLASSIC, my favourite album ever. I just don't give away 99 points easily, so, if I gave 99 to this record, you HAVE to get it. This possibly is the best metal album ever, consistent, solid, complex yet catchy, heavy yet progressive, basically everything about this record ROCKS.
Even the artwork is one of my favourites. I would also recommend you to get the remastered version of Powerslave, the quality of the sound is much much better, it also contains the music videos of Aces High and Two Minutes to Midnight and the booklet has lots of cool pictures and that kind of things.
Best Moments of the CD:
EVERY moment. Yes, I never thought I would say this, but every moment of this album is priceless.
99 points - Outstanding record; my personal favourite and that's saying something. Highly recommended.
EDIT: I just changed the points and the conclusion of the review a little bit. I just felt the review deserved a change because I heard the record recently and I discoverd that it remains enjoyable after so much time constantly listening to it. A winner.
Fueled by guilt, I have decided to write a review for one Iron Maiden's countless classics after I ruthlessly slagged their newest record. Powerslave is a very special album to me; it contains some of my absolute favorites, and it was my first Iron Maiden purchase. I was about to type my obligatory history lesson here, but then I decided that if you are reading this review, you must be on the Metal Archives, and if you are on the Metal Archives and do not know about Iron Maiden, well then you should probably pack your shit and leave.
This album is the disputable peak of their creativity, songwriting, and playing ability. Some say Number of the Beast nailed it, others believe Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was the absolute pinnacle. For me, it is Powerslave. This album is like a beacon of awesomeness in between two overrated records, Piece of Mind and Somewhere in Time. This is strange for me, I am a huge Iron Maiden fan, but it seems like they have a really uneven shit to great album ratio. I'll save the complicated explanation for another day and another review, just trust me when I say Powerslave contains some of the cathiest, most intense, most memorable, and overall most impressive songs Maiden has ever penned.
It has been argued that Iron Maiden started off as a heavy metal band, and the passage of time has transformed them into hard rock. My answer to this statement is 2 Minutes to Midnight. No amount of time will ever make that song less metal than it is. That song is truly THE Maiden classic to me. I'd rank it above Number of the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, or The Trooper.... the only song it pales to is Hallowed by thy Name. Featuring their goriest lyrics, catchiest riffs, and most memorable chorus after Run to the Hills, 2 Minutes to Midnight serves as essentially the perfect testament to what Iron Maiden is and also serves as a great introduction.
Aces High is the other high profile song here. Well... there's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and the title track, but no song is covered as often as Aces High. You think Powerslave, Aces High is the first song to come to mind, a fast, ripping number that leaves your neck sore and throat aching.
I'd like to go on and on about how this is my favorite and their best album, but frankly, I'd just repeat myself the whole time. Just know that people are certainly justified in hailing other albums as masterpieces, as Maiden definitely (usually) know what they are doing when it comes to music, but Powerslave ranks above as the only album they've ever recorded with no stinkers on it. Every last song is catchy and memorable, and this album is almost worthy of a coveted 100% rating. Unfortunately, I feel Rime of the Ancient Mariner to be a tad too self indulgent and meandering at times, and Duellists just doesn't seem to measure up to the others. Even the unknown songs like Back in the Village and Flash of the Blade are absolute classics, worthy of every metalhead's time.
A very worthy A is awarded. Excellent job guys, you've made a near perfect record. This is my favorite release from these pioneers, and it could only take a couple tweaks to make this album perfect. Essential listening, go buy it.
This was probably the most important album for Iron Maiden to craft as it was "make or break" for them. It really can be seen as the twin album to Piece of Mind as it has many similar traits with that album, including the production and the all around aura they both obtain. This album is much more majestic, however, as it truly cemented Maiden's position as THE metal band to beat in the 80s metal scene. Sure, there were heavier and faster monsters (mainly looming from the West Coast of the US at the time, but that's another story), but Maiden was truly stepping into the world's spotlight at the time. Sold out tours in America and just about everywhere else on the planet cemented that fact into the most metal of all stones. Quite a feat considering Maiden recieved next to no airplay in America.
The album itself is quite collossal. I consider it to be just as collossal as the stage show that followed after this record hit shelves. The 12 foot tall eddie coming out during the title track, holding Steve Harris in his hand. [sigh] What I would do be alive to witness such an important thing in metal history.
The album opens firing on all cylinders with 'Aces High'. A nice fast song recalling WWII air combat, with very turbo jet engine like riffing ideas and some amazing vocal work courtesy of Bruce Dickinson.
'2 Minutes to Midnight' is next, one of the band's biggest hits, and probably an eternal concert staple. For some odd reason, the intro/main riff recalls 'Welcome to Hell' by Venom to me. There's just a whole lot more to this one, and let's just say the guys in Maiden knew what they were doing a bit better than the Newcastle never-do-wells :)
'Back in the Village' is supposed to be part 2 of 'The Prisoner' which was on Number of the Beast. The lyrics are based on some reality TV show or something. I'm not quite sure though. I could be wrong. Musically, its got a very great rhythm, reminding me of something Megadeth would do on Killing is my Business.
The two closing tracks on the album are the true highlights though. They are so completely massive and epic, they put any other band trying to top this to shame. Symphony X wish they could write another 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. The title track of the album has some great egyptian style melodies. This is another Dickinson penned song, and it shows he's made a great leap since Piece of Mind, as this song is even better than Revelations, despite that song completely slaying. 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' itself is the coin Maiden epic of their entire discography. It has some great gallop type riffing, and some great lyrics to go along with it, detailing Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 19th century poem of the same name. Describing this song would be redundant and overlong, so I just recommend it is heard. It has so many feels and moods in its 13:40 minute duration. But I will say here, that the section around the 9 minute mark, after Bruce yells 'THEN DOWN IN FALLS COMES THE RAIN!' would have to be one of the greatest metal moments ever. It's like those spine chilling moments during 'Hallowed be thy Name' all over again, just less somber sounding.
Yes, this was the album that put Maiden at the top of the world. And it was rightly deserved too. The album cover art of an Egyptian carved Eddie is very fitting, considering Maiden is eternal and will be remembered always.
Oh, great. Another Iron Maiden album i've yet to listen to. But in my never-ending quest to listen to every Maiden album since I experienced the thrashing punk-metal on their self-titled debut and its follow-up, Killers (arguably the two albums that changed my life at thirteen) I was perpared for an arena-ready glam metal that had less metal than Judas Priest and less makeup than Motley Crue.
But, amazingly, Powerslave doesn't follow the trend set by Number Of The Beast. Instead, the band strays unto new ground that their followers had been setting, leaving behind the glam sound for more riffs and more heavy, making a thrash-power metal crossover that would leave room for metal giants Metallica and Pantera to experiment with in the 90s.
The album thunderingly begins with Aces High, a riff-induced monster that sounds perfect to open shows with, with the strong muscular palm-muting riffs that the song is surrounded with. Powerslave doesn't mellow there, choosing to thrash and rage right into 2 Minutes To Midnight, which would be the album's biggest single and heaviest hit. Losfer Words, despite having a rather shty name, is a bleak instrumental that just slows the rage of the album into something progressive, which is a route Maiden never needed to go (sadly, they did with their most recent albums, in Dance of Death and A Matter of Life and Death).
Flash of the Blade, The Duellists, and Back In The Village are all great, real metal songs, and Powerslave slowly starts to build up the thundering pace that it started with before it runs into the greatest song Maiden has ever made: the title track. The opening riff is dark, powerful dhit, and the song continues to thrash on, with Egyptian flair and allusions to mythology smushed (yes, smushed) with Bruce Dickinson's rumble of a voice. It's pure magic.
Yet Maiden finds a way to almost totally destroy the magic they had achieved with their previous song with a dullfest named "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". Based on a poem as old as dirt, this 14-minute (14-minute!!!) supposed "epic" is just a drone, with Maiden again trying to be a progresssive band when they really need to throw away all of their Pink Floyd records.
Despite the progresive shortcomings, Powerslave is a welcome change to the arena-ready pop metal of their previous albums with Bruce Dickinson, and is definately one of their greatest albums.
Ah, this is truly where Maiden got their act together and put out a blast of an album. It is only behind 7th son and that truly isn’t a fact to be ashamed of – as every metal release itself is behind 7th son! The album also has great variety, ranging from breakneck speed metal in the form of Aces High to the more mature, pseudo Egyptian atmosphere of ‘Powerslave’ and ‘Losfer Words’. The album contains what is Maiden’s last instrumental (as for now) in the form of ‘Losfer Words’.
There isn’t quite any weak track on the album. All the album members have now actively involved themselves in songwriting, which has brought about the best in Maiden. The riffing here is tight, inspired and would prove to be a great influence on the power metal scene. The soloing still is top-notch. The interesting thing about Maiden is, they’re mainly a riff-based band. Despite having a 13 minute long track on the album, neither Dave nor Adrian perform any extended soloing in it. Bruce too is absolutely impeccable here with amazing vocal performances on ‘Aces High’, ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’ and ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’. Nicko too gets better with every single release, providing fine backing to the band and going for the neck on ‘Aces High’. Steve plays a mjor part in carrying forward songs like ‘Powerslave’ (with that excellent but short bass solo) and ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’.
‘Aces High’ is speed metal with excellent riffing and great vocals and drumming. ‘Two Minutes To Midnight’ contains that excellent intro riff which is more or less omnipotent in metal – as of now its shown up in Mercyful Fate, Accept, David Bowie (!), Grave Digger, Hellhammer, Scanner and a heck-lot of artists who if I was to mention would occupy the entire review. Of all these artists, I can safely say only Maiden bring out its luster completely. What else is noticeable about the song is Bruce’s biting vocal performance and the excellent chorus. ‘Losfer Words’ as has been said, is probably Maiden’s last instrumental and it works in a somewhat Egyptian way. Some excellent melodies to be heard here. ‘Flash Of The Blade’ is a forgotten classic from the album, its insatiably catchy with excellent riffing and soloing. ‘The Duellists’ is another fine track with a seemingly endless instrument only passage in it. ‘Back In The Village’ is another lost classic with an excellent vocal performance and chorus and a stalwart solo. It’s a worthy follow-up to ‘The Prisoner’ from NoTB. ‘Powerslave’ is one of Maiden’s best, with heavy pseudo-Egyptian riffing. Steve’s bass lines play a great part in driving the song, with him playing a near bass solo in the song. Bruce’s voice contains a venomous biting edge here. ‘The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ then is another classic and would easily show up in a Top 5 Maiden list. Its 13 minutes long making it Maiden’s longest song and is based on the epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Not surprisingly, the poem was written under the influence of Marijuana (as Bruce would recount later). Bruce, Nicko, Steve, Dave and Adrian all deliver an absolutely outstanding pefromance here. Never once does this song seem overlong (unlike the thousand prog ‘epics’ out there) and never once does the band seem underwhelming or struggling to keep up with each other here. A remarkable feat indeed.
On the whole, the album is a culmination of all the maturation seen in the previous releases. This release could be marked as the release where power metal actually began as some of the songs here show elements that influenced the genre most. All in all, a very worthy buy – and one every metal fan would like.
Following the rather amazing, yet somewhat inconsistent "Piece of Mind" album, Maiden offers up yet another studio effort that evolves the standardized formula that began with "Number of the Beast". But unlike the rather giant progressive leaps that were taken from their first two albums, the evolution at work here is very gradual.
This album is structured a bit similarly to "Piece of Mind", starting off with a fast track and putting most of the longer winded material towards the end of the album. However, the scope of the songs is much larger, as both Steve Harris and the other composers of this band are broadening their horizons. This can be observed both in the rather long epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", which is loaded with changes, as well as the harmonic progression of such tracks as "Two minutes to Midnight" and "Powerslave", both of which are musically more complex than what is found on the previous release.
The guitar work on here has been taken up a notch, as the difference in sound between Adrian and Dave's solos has become a bit more distinct. The dueling solos on "Powerslave" and "Aces High" give us a good back to back example of this. However, Adrian's highly melodic style is really brought out in the solo of "Two minutes to midnight", which is super-imposed over a fairly complex chord progression.
The basswork on here is also noteworthy, as Steve Harris is never one to be upstaged by the others in the band. His own set of melodic fill ins on "Powerslave", as well as his dreary drone during the quiet section of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", reveal a character to his playing style that sets him apart from most of the other NWOBHM bassists who were content to merely play the root and do support work only.
Bruce's vocals are as riveting as ever, shooting up into the upper stratoshpere at times. His final note on "Aces High", as well as a rather nuerotic scream at the end of a development section of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" rival the work he did on the two previous albums. In fact, I would argue that this album is his finest work as a vocalist, not to mention that "Powerslave" is probably the best song he's ever written for the band.
Unfortunately, just as on Piece of Mind, we have a couple of tracks that don't measure up to the standards that Maiden had already set for themselves on earlier albums. "Back in the Village" is not a throw-away song, but I can't really get as excited about it as I did it's lyrical predecessor "The Prisoner" (both songs are about the same TV show). "Losfer Words (Big Orra)" is probably the weakest instrumental effort Maiden has ever put out, and is probably the reason why they haven't written anymore since.
But on this album, there are so many good things happening that it makes up for the less than stellar songs. "The Duelists" is a bit simplistic considering how long it is, but it's quite catchy and Bruce helps it to shine with his vocal delivery. "Flash of the Blade" is a very unusually progressive, yet quite good sounding rocker, kudos to Bruce once again for writing this one.
In conclusion, this album has some changes in it that make it a bit more exciting than "Piece of Mind", yet carries a similar collection of classic Maiden tracks. Songs like "Aces High" and "Two Minutes to Midnight" rock about as hard as they come, and are probably the most accessable to fans of earlier work of Maiden with Bruce as vocalist. I recommend it highly to any fans of traditional metal, as well as to younger fans who discovered Maiden since 2000 when Bruce re-united with them. This album contains some elements of the style that they carry today, which is reaching out to a whole new generation of Maiden faithful.
"Powerslave" was the album that catapulted Iron Maiden from their status as "one of the leading hard rock acts" of the world to the very top position that only very few bands in the rock world ever managed to reach. It was a showcase of the band's no-compromise policy, the presentation of which ranged from the unashamedly self-confident album cover to the musical delict of "Two Minutes To Midnight", a song that could just have been a chartbreaking single, had it not been six minutes long. But certainly, the most spectacular piece on the album is the thirteen-minute long "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner", a tour de force that cuts virtually all aspects of Steve Harris' songwriting abilities and to this day stands out as one of the very best -and very longest- songs in Heavy Metal history.
Sadly, one can almost sense the musical stagnation that this album threatened to become a starting point of. Songs like "Back In The Village" or the sub-par instrumental "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)", a piece of superficial catchiness, sound uninspired and forgettable. "The Duellists", despite being fully loaded with powerful emotion, is painfully flabby.
Nevertheless, these three songs out of eight do not manage to overshadow the album as a whole. The album opener, "Aces High", is a furious song that absolutely rips live and sets the highest expectations for the rest of the album. Besinging the glorious victory of the RAF in the Battle Of Britain, it does complete justice to these heroes of the free world. The aforementioned "Two Minutes To Midnight" then creates a groove that can only make me think of smoky, mid-eighties Hard Rock discos. The lyrics may well be the angriest and most cutting in the band's entire history- at least until "Virus", over a decade later. It is the lyrical misinterpretation of songs like this or "The Trooper" that earned Maiden the completely unfounded reputation of being an aggressive, stereotype Metal band, while precisely these lyrics could serve to prove the exact opposite. Intelligent, critical and perhaps ahead of their time, they scream for an activation of the brain in a way only musicians like Bob Dylan ever did before.
The already mentioned "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)" complements the procession of the album well, but would not be noticeably missing if left out. The same can definitely not be said of "Flash Of The Blade", a wonderful rocker with a really hooking riff.
The album drops a peg with "The Duellists" (why two songs about swordfighting right after another anyway?) and "Back In The Village", both songs somehow lacking and leaving me with the impression that they were included as fillers, a very strange (and hopefully unfounded) accusation to Maiden.
Everything is forgotten, however, once the majestic "Powerslave" kicks in, the most dramatic and (no pun intended) powerful song of the album. It brings ancient Egypt back to life and gives the whole album a very well needed point of orientation. This is where all the threads run to and where the whole energy that somehow seemed a bit contained in the previous tracks virtually explodes. Also, the instrumental section in the middle may be one of the best in Maiden's career.
The album ends at the highest possible note with the epic "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner", a song based on the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name and a masterpiece in its own right. Just like being a summary to Coleridge's work, it is almost like a summary of Maiden's work up to that point, and possibly even a perfect introduction to the band for any new fan.
The album is far from being Maiden's best, and it is not even among my top five. It spawned four absolute classic tracks and one that is also very good, but having three below average tracks is too much to be considered outstanding among the band's back catalogue. "Powerslave" is almost like a slave to its own power, exploding at the one moment but showing its mileage at the other. It is nevertheless absolutely essential listening to any fan of Maiden or mid-eighties metal, with approximately three quarters of an hour spent exploring the depths of a bygone era. And when putting the disk back into its case, any listener will likely once again be struck by the awe-inspiring painting of Eddie, who is depicted as a statue of himself, guarding his own tomb and an album that is so very, very close to being absolutely great.
Wow, this album disappointed the hell outta me. I was expecting sheer Maiden perfection with all the praise lofted on this one, but I guess I should've looked one album back. This isn't to say that Powerslave is a bad album, on the contrary, when it's good it's literally as good as metal gets period. But when it's off, it's just tepid.
The band was coming off the 'omigodbestalbumevar'-type performance on Piece of Mind, and hopes were high for a follow-up to be just as good. Alas, just as Motorhead's Iron Fist paled against Ace of Spades (which in turn was considerably weaker than Overkill), and Sabbath's Technical Ecstasy was hardly a shadow of Sabotage, so it was again here. But man, give the boys credit for starting out the gates strong.
"Aces High", the most giddyingly Maiden track in the Maiden catalogue just hammers out of the gates, digits flying, vocals soaring, guitars harmonizing like nobodies business...if you wanted to explain Iron Maiden to someone, file this alongside "The Trooper", "Fear of the Dark", and perhaps "Wrathchild" as your instant declaration of metal supremacy personified. I love love love this song.
Next up, "2 Minutes to Midnight", the most rock 'n' rollsy swaggering track on the album, a two-fisted pummelling in which horror of horrors, Steve Harris pretends to be a normal bass player. And wow, try to follow that narrative if you can (made even more confused by the nonsensical video), or just revel in Bruce's most deliciously vile performance 'til "Be Quick or Be Dead" five years hence. It's a truly godly tune.
Now, perhaps you're wondering why I sorta slammed this album earlier, so here it is. This album has got filler, and extremely dreary filler at that. "Flash of the Blade" is a waste of vinyl, the band half-heartedly trying to repeat what worked so gloriously on PoM to no avail. "Losfer Words" is unremarkable in the extreme, a solid little Maiden gallop they should've just used in a real song. This is, and feels like, filler. And then, "The Duellists" another sagging gut of a track that despite Bruce's epic approach to the lame narrative, succeeds in merely passing the time, no pulse evident. This stuff is just so horribly ‘blah’ that I barely had the heart to listen to it.
But lo and behold!, the boys come to with "Back in the Village" leading the way into a eventful ending suite, the song being a personal favourite of mine. Fun speedy little riff, Bruce going mad over a sing-songy and insanely catchy melody. Seriously, I sung the chorus to this over and over for nearly a week and a half without tiring of it. People around me though...
Ah, "Powerslave" how I love thee, a title-track worthy of carrying that banner. Intriguing lyric, nice moody atmosphere and then boom! that chorus hits you, a sort of song within a song, and it's even better than the rest of the brilliant track and then that godly solo break...almost an "Aces High" killer is "Powerslave". This track's that good.
Now, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the start of the well that Maiden would perhaps draw from too often over the years, but damn if it isn't a good template. You can almost sense the band wondering how they can do more epic songs than "Hallowed be thy Name". Apparently the answer that occurred to them is 'make it long...REALLY long', and boy did they ever. Still, the track does trundle along solidly, Bruce at his most thespian telling the tale of a man wearing an Albatross (cue Monty Python) around his neck, something that you'd think would be rather uncomfortable considering his size. Gotta love those riffs though, even if not that much really happens, and that up-tempo section is so worthy I can almost forget the silly spoken sections and drawn out "ambient" bits.
So, we have an awesome opening, and a fine close with a truly leaden middle. I would have ranked it higher, but coming off of PoM this is a disappointment. A really big disappointment.
Stand-Outs: “Back in the Village”, “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”
With "The Number of the Beast", Maiden created a classic to be known and loved by metalheads through all ages, and while it's not the BSET ABLUMN EVEEEEERRR!!1!!1 as people claim it to be, it's definitely awesome. "Piece of Mind" is another classic, but I myself found it slightly disappointing, and not at all as good as it could've been.
But Maiden kicked right back to the top with 1984's "Powerslave", probably their best album ever. It's their most intense and powerful album, and it constantly keeping up a very high pace in all of the songs. Musically, most of the tunes are extremely catchy and quite upbeat despite rather dark lyrical subjects ("2 Minutes To Midnight" especially comes to mind here), as a great part of the songs write about war. And it is done incredibly well, since this is in the time when Maiden had not completely watered out all of their lyrical subjects, not even that of war.
This is closer to "Number of the Beast" and "Piece of Mind" than to "Somewhere in Time" and "Seventh Son" (the albums that followed it) soundwise, in that the rhythm guitars have a very rough and sharp edge, yet when played together they give a strange, harmonizing effect which works extremely well.
And of course, the melodic leads that we all know and love are all over this album, and they are better than ever before! They are blasted out in just the right moments, used just enough times in each song, and constantly add an amazing amount of power and atmosphere to the songs. The leadwork shines especially much in "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)", which is probably their best instrumental to this point.
The entire band is really in top shape, with Steve's bass being slightly lower in the mix for the most part, which is in fact a good thing. It's still very 'there' and adds alot, yet never tries to steal attention from guitars, something that at times was obvious on previous Maiden records.
Nicko's drumming is as usual catchy, memorable and instantly recognizable, even though he at times overuses the ride and/or hi hat during rhythm sections.
And Bruce's vocals, like on any early Maiden record, are very solid, but I still don't think he's anywhere near the best Metal singers ever.
These factors all help in making "Powerslave" into one of my favourite Maiden album, challenged only by "The Number of the Beast" and "Killers" - but the biggest part is of course the songwriting, as it is the only Iron Maiden album without a single weak track to be found. It's all here, and it's all great.
The energetic "Aces High" opens the album and is one of Maiden's greatest tracks ever. The rough yet harmonizing riffs blast out in full power all over the song, to explode in one of their most powerful choruses yet, and then continues to further kick your ass with a mindblowing solo.
"2 Minutes To Midnight" is catchy as all fucking hell, with that instantly recognizable opening riff, and the awesomely memorable and dark pre-chorus and chorus lines, combined with a truly sinister vocal performance.
"The Duellists" has some fun fast sung vocal lines, a very solid chorus and also that completely mindblowing middle section, showing off some of the greatest leadwork in the history of Maiden.
And of course the epic closing tracks; there are two of them! We first have the title track, "Powerslave", which is the best song on the album and one of my top 5 maiden tracks ever. The out of this world instrumental section is just huge, with that beautiful slowed down piece in the middle and all- but what really makes the song is the absolutely fucking insanely heavy riffwork, together with the wicked vocal performance and overall atmosphere, with Steve's basslines providing a very strong, Egyptian feeling.
And then we get right on to "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner", which is another classic Maiden epic with loads and loads of time changes and is also their longest song to date. The atmosphere it manages to build up has to be heard to believe it. To spell it out for ya; you've got to own this album.
Some people say that Powerslave has four mediocre tracks sandwiched between four classics. I say that they can go fuck themselves.
"Losfer Words", "Flash of the Blade", "The Duellists" and "Back In The Village", all of them show Maiden at their best, and I pity the fool who doesn't recognize this obvious fact.
To close this review with one sentence: If you were to own only one Iron Maiden album, this is the one.
For the first time ever Iron Maiden didn’t change the line-up between albums. Congratulations! It must have been a good thing too, cause “Powerslave” was the best album so far in their career. Released in 1984, and little did Maiden know how big their ‘World Slavery’ tour was gonna be! They once again gained in popularity, to the point where it was smart to release a live album. But that’s another review. This is all about “Powerslave”. The production is, as with “The Number of the Beast” and “Piece of Mind”, excellent. Producer Martin Birch really knew his stuff, and had created a timeless sound on this one.
‘Aces High’ kicks off the album, and with style. This is an upbeat, and very fast track, with some excellent dual guitar play, and an over-the-top vocal delivery from Dickinson. This is faster than anything on “Piece of Mind” . Looks like Maiden was out for blood again. Note the fantastic lead-guitar solos. It’s a piece of perfection. After this superb first song comes the almost as excellent ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’. This is another classic, and the lyrics are extremely well written. It’s a little more slow-paced than ‘Aces High’, but what isn’t…The main riff is one of Maiden’s best, and heavy metal at its best. With a very memorable chorus, you’re bound to hum it daily after a couple of listens. ‘Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)’ is an instrumental, and their last one ever (probably). The title is a slang for Loss For Words, I guess. The rest of it makes no sense, though. At first it may seem that this track is quite a filler. There’s really not much happening. But after a while you realize that this is one kick-ass track. It’s not a very hummable song, but you’ll appreciate it in the end. Still, it’s the worst track on the album.
Then we have ‘Flash of the Blade’. As with ‘Aces..’, it’s a fast song, with killer riffs, and a great chorus. I don’t know what went on in the Maiden camp during the recording of this album, it seems they were on speed or something. This song has a somewhat lenghty mid-section with instruments only which sound great. Dual guitars, harmonies, the works. Great material! Track number five is another fast killer and is named ‘The Duelists’. Especially the chorus is great. Also, this song has a really lenghty instrumental mid-section, which I love. This is pure class! All other metal bands, take note. Adrian and Dave is a great team, and I’m glad they both joined Iron Maiden. So comes ‘Back In the Village’, the second of two Maiden songs based on the TV series “The Prisoner”. Yet again it’s a fast track. The chorus may be a bit stupid and overly repetitive, but it’s still a great song. And the main riff is so fast and wicked, it’s unbelievable! And the solo is as with the rest of the songs incredible to listen to. Phew. This album is a rollercoaster!
So comes the title track. ‘Powerslave’ is a different kind of song altogether. It’s much slower than what has gone before (except for the mid-section of it), and is the closest of all the tracks to being a ballad. Not that it’s even close, though. It has an Egyptian feel over it, which is not strange, considering it’s about some Pharaoh. I didn’t like this song at first, but it grew on me over time. Now I love it to death! Dickinson does a really great job here. As if the vocals weren’t enough, the faster middle of the song is maybe the best “interlude” ever. It begins slowly, with a great solo, and then it speeds up to reveal a second solo. It’s this little part that is the best part of the song. Perfect, really. Then the song slows down again, and another verse and chorus with Dickinson comes along. It ends perfect. You have to hear it to…you just have to hear it!
Last, but far from least, is ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’. It’s based on the poem of the same name, and it’s Maiden’s longest song yet. 13 and a half minute of pure bliss. It’s almost progressive stuff, with all the different verses and choruses. Plus, the middle of the song is completely calm, just some words spoken, and excellent bass and guitarwork. The best part is the build-up to the last third of the song. Pay close attention to the bass. It remains the best epic of them all, in my opinion.
To sum it up real quick: This is Maiden’s second best album, only beaten by “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, and you really NEED to buy it. Every song is a masterpiece. To sum it up even quicker: This album is PERFECT!