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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.