Let’s face it. The ’80s were Iron Maiden‘s heyday. Alongside others, like the mighty Dio, this band truly wrote metal history. A decade that delighted us with records like The Number of the Beast, Powerslave, or again the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. All of them friggin’ heavy hitters in their own right. Talk about the creativity of a band totally unchained and in full creative vigor.
Fast forward to modern times, it is now some five years since The Book of Souls hit our turntables. And nobody knows yet when the next one will take a hike on Ed Force One. Even if we heard some rumors that 2020 may be the unholy year of Eddie again. Compared to the ’80s, the pace of releases slowed to a trickle with a new album every few years at best. Not that churning out an album every year is necessarily good for quality.
Because, in a way, the 1983 record Piece of Mind never quite struck me as that one totally stellar album others praised it to be. The beast probably still roamed savagely in my brain. Even if, by the mighty powers of Eddie, this record truly is a pretty sturdy continuation of its predecessor. Not just much of the same all over again, but enough change and variation in their tune to please the ear.
This was also the first album with Nicko McBrain on drums. With a truly brilliant contribution to the success of Piece of Mind. And by Jove, they tested him sorely. But – hey – this seems to have worked out for him, he is still with the band to this day.
Now, let me point out Steve Harris‘ bass work that blew me away a few times. So, it’s not only Murray‘s and Smith‘s guitar work, but a band in its prime that came together and built this album with a true band effort.
Already the non-sensical album cover with a chained Eddie in a padded cell really piqued our interest back then. As – by definition – sharp objects should never exist there. But, the artwork with the deranged monster did raise that unholy hunger for more stellar maiden. But was that record enough to sate it completely?
The first track – Where Eagles Dare – shows Iron Maiden at a level of musicianship superior in complexity and prowess of anything they could throw at us before. Gone is the somewhat predictable structure, and in comes that steely brand of a progressive Heavy Metal piece. Complete with frequent changes of tempi and complicated song patterns that blow your mind. And the way they locked the drums to the lead guitar is just stellar. A truly non-linear melody that resonates in my mind to this day.
This – of course – gives full reign to Bruce Dickinson‘s vocal powers. When the beast boasted a lot of screaming around the stage, this time modulation went far beyond what one would expect from a metal piece.
This new-found maiden honor continues in Revelation. Albeit on a much quieter course than those cross seas we encountered the first track. In a way, the first few songs on Piece of Mind are a prime example showcasing that Heavy Metal contains much more oomph than just linear guitar riffs and screeching like Hetfield on an enraged day. But once Flight of Icarus gallops off onto dangerous heights, things become truly maidenesque again. This is one stellar example of this band’s song-crafting powers.
By the time Piece of Mind‘s B side comes around, most of that undue progressive complexity evaporated like so much snow in the sun. And truly, once The Trooper hits the needle, things are back on track in a sense.
We, of course, all understand that there is comfort in known things. But it’s a pity that they ditched that pretty juicy foray into prog world. I always appreciated that new direction, which is more complicated and heavy on the ears. But it truly adds a ton of juice and a sturdy unpredictability to a pretty much pre-defined style.
Yet again, the more traditional allure of the songs, with much less knotty intricacy, probably talked better to the fans of the ’80s. Not that any of the following tracks were bad. We truly enjoyed the much simpler airwaves of Quest for Fire or Sun and Steel, for instance. And never forget To Tame a Land which – at times – sounds like the precursor of the ancient mariner.
Technically much more astute than the beast ever was, Piece of Mind nonetheless did not boast the inherent power its older sibling was able to muster. It comes across as a jumble of miscellaneous songs that seem to stick together only by the sheer charisma of Eddie. Thus, the record often feels like Iron Maiden on a journey, with a compass that’s in need of calibration. Something that wasn’t there anymore, once Powerslave hit the shelves.
But all shortcomings notwithstanding, Piece of Mind turned out to be one of the most memorable records Iron Maiden ever made. And thus becomes yet another of their albums that should definitely find its way into your music collection.
Record Rating: 7/10| Label: EMI | Web: Official Band Site
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