Iron Maiden

Capitol Records, 1984


REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


In 1984, Iron Maiden was riding the crest of the new wave of British heavy metal. Their previous release Piece Of Mind had spawned their first charting U.S. singles (they had already had several in Europe), MTV was saturated with their videos, and U.S. audiences were clamoring for more. Maiden had achieved a rarity for any band; mass opinion was that each album they released was better than the previous. This despite a lineup change on every album they had released prior to Poweslave, the album solidified what many consider to be the quintessential lineup; the incomparable voice of Bruce Dickinson, the tandem guitar attack of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and the most powerful rhythm section in heavy metal history, Steve Harris on bass and Nikko McBrain on drums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Powerslave carries on the progressive metal trend that was emerging on Piece Of Mind, fueled by Harris' fascination with sci-fi and fantasy literature, mythology, military history and ancient civilizations. Not satisfied with the typical heavy metal fodder, they explore far beyond the leather-clad cock-rock of most of their contemporaries. As well as being much more interesting lyrically than most metal of their time, Maiden was far more adept musically. Most metal bands of that period were stuck in a 3-chord rut, and there are few of their fellow headbangers that could touch them from a compositional standpoint.

Kicking off Powerslave is the classic "Aces High". Harris' tribute to WWII Spitfire pilots. Relentless machinegun percussion provides the perfect backdrop for the sprawling adventure tale of dog fighting flying aces. Continuing in the war machine vein,"2 Minutes To Midnight" is a chilling cold war tale of mercenary bloodshed and impending holocaust.

Harris and Dickinson each offer up a swordplay epic, Dickinson with the gothic "Flash Of The Blade", and Harris with the fiery "The Duelists"; aptly named as it consists mostly of blistering duel between Murray and Smith that showcases the guitar harmonies that have become a signature of Maiden's sound.

Closing out this album are the 2 songs that lift Powerslave above the rest of their catalogue in my opinion. The title track explores the rites of succession of Egyptian pharaohs, using lyrical imagery to describe the demise of a god-like ruler faced with grim mortality.

In a musical coup-de-grace to close the album, Harris adapts Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" into 13 minute prog-metal tour-de-force. Coleridge's harrowing tale of a sailor cursed for his sins against nature, is prefect fodder for Maiden's treatment. Harris deftly translates Coleridge's Victorian prose without losing any of the color of the era, or any of the epic grandeur of the tale. Flavored with shifting musical themes and time signatures, this song alone seals their place as the premiere progressive metal outfit.

Powerslave above any other Maiden album shows the diversity and power that make them one of the all-time metal giants. If I could only own one Maiden album, Powerslave would be it.

Rating: A

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© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.