Iron Maiden – Powerslave
The best way to describe Iron Maiden’s fifth studio album in one sentence is that it best represents the entirety of their 1980s output. It’s equal parts flat-out amazing music and every Iron Maiden stereotype there is. From the soaring guitar harmonies of “The Duellists” to the completely not-self-indulgent epic “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” to the straightforward rockin’ “2 Minutes To Midnight,” you get a “best of” style album that even today sounds fresh and inspired.
For starters, Bruce Dickinson really shines as a primary songwriter here, penning half the album (the mini-epic title track and “Flash Of The Blade” solo, and “2 Minutes To Midnight” and the criminally underrated speed metal assault “Back In The Village”). This is no doubt a reason that there isn’t a complete throwaway filler track like “Quest For Fire” from their previous release (“Losfer Words” is the closest Powerslave has to a skip-worthy track, and it has a few solid riffs and one of the better guitar harmonies on the album), due to Steve Harris trying to fill the space of the LP.
“Aces High” opens the album with a bang, with riffs that twist and turn like a dogfighting Spitfire and high-flying vocal acrobatics (the scream in the last chorus is one of the best of Bruce’s career). “2 Minutes To Midnight” is the furthest from metal that Powerslave gets, but is a ton of fun. A real rocker of a main riff that picks up the pace for a typically great Maiden chorus, and more great guitar work.
“Losfer Words” and “The Duellists” are pretty much “Every Iron Maiden Song Ever Written,” with galloping riffs and extended guitar harmony parts (and the latter has the best harmony section in Maiden’s career, and one of their best extended instrumental parts). Bruce’s vocals really shine on “The Duellists,” and it’s a shame that it’s never been played live.
“Flash Of The Blade” and “Back In The Village” round out the trio of lethal pure speed metal tracks on Powerslave (along with the opener); both songs feature atypical Maiden riffs and even more intricate guitar work that is totally typical Maiden. “Powerslave” and “Rime…” are simply phenomenal epics that musically invoke the atmosphere they’re trying to create (a great Egyptian/Phrygian riff set in “Powerslave” and the maritime shanty licks in “Rime”). Both feature the best guitar solos on the album, and Adrian’s solo in “Rime” (the first solo, for those that don’t know) is the best solo of his illustrious career, and the unison harmony to transition from his solo to Dave’s is just magical! Also, the riff played under Adrian’s solo is among my all-time favorites.
I can understand how the criticisms of this album are generally towards the “they’ve done it all before” side of things, and while it’s a bit formulaic, it’s as refined as the Maiden formula can get. It’s more of the culmination of 8 years of writing, and the quality of the songs and the production just explode off the vinyl (or CD or MP3 or whatever it is you kids listen to these days). So while one can say that it’s a rather “safe” piece of material (especially considering the level of experimentation that would go into their next two releases), you can’t deny just how awesome the results are.
As for B-sides and bonus tracks, you’re not missing much from Aces High (“King Of Twilight” isn’t all that great, and there are plenty of live versions of “Number Of The Beast”), but 2 Minutes To Midnight… ”Rainbow’s Gold” is a great uplifting rocker and “Mission From ‘Arry” might be the funniest piss-take track Maiden have done (Nicko is a comedic genius, even when he’s not trying to be!). It’s an argument between Steve, Nicko, and Bruce from August 18, 1983 in Allentown, PA after Steve sent a random roadie to tell Nicko to extend his drum solo so Steve could fix his bass, Bruce walked in as things were cooling down, started recording, and reignited the argument. Now, Maiden has been known to doctor some minor facts (the “Karaoke Bruce Remember Tomorrow” version from The Number Of The Beast single, for example), but everyone has affirmed that this is real, and while the salty language content is quite high (the best being Nicko’s “F*** my old boots!”), it’s absolutely hilarious!
Kylie’s rating: 5 out of 5