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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.