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Swordfighters, Egyptians and seamen - 99%

morbert, May 20th, 2008

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.