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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.