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"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.