Do you want to find out what real Heavy Metal sounds like? I mean the genuine, down-to-the-ground, bony metal beat. Then just go for Iron Maiden‘s Powerslave.
And yes, I know it is old. But who are we kidding? This is the real thing. From back in the age when metal was metal. With none of that gazillion of different names and nuances to every damn metal sound, someone wanted to play.
However stellar metal was already on the menu, but just barely. Just consider the somewhat greasy chart environment at that time: Laura Branigan, Cindie Lauper, Yes, Duran Duran, Eurythmics – I think I am growing delirious. And all of them wanting to drown us in a deluge of fondue.
So, what a refreshing gust of wind that blew from Leyton in the UK, sent Iron Maiden. One that finally ripped into the midst of all these disco crazed knuckleheads back then.
After the outstanding success of The Number of The Beast in 1982 and the follow-on record Piece of Mind in 1983, we were very wary of what Iron Maiden had in store for us for their newest concoction. After all, the band – for some reason – decided to produce one album every 12 months, come hell or high water.
But what a mighty relief it was when their 5th studio album Powerslave came along. The one featuring such stellar tracks as 2 Minutes to Midnight and Aces High. And truly, the band’s mighty marketing machine fed off those two for a while in later productions like crazed vampires.
Powerslave truly is one of the more authentic records of Iron Maiden.
This record really showcases the know-how of the band itself. Of an outfit centered in itself and confident of its capabilities. Back then, they were somewhat at the summit of their trade for a long time – with popularity on the rise. And it is this type of performance that kept them going.
The friggin’ pyramid on the album cover, complete with Iron Maiden‘s trademark death mask – Eddie – really puts you in the mood before you even start working on the album itself. This is Massive Addictive, as some more goofy players in the funky pop-metal universe would say these days.
When Iron Maiden took Powerslave on the road on their World Slavery Tour, they featured this monster stage set of the Egyptian kind in the background. Complete with Eddie, the Face. Probably the biggest prop they ever created. All of you who had the pleasure to attend a concert back then will for sure remember the stage and the stellar show that went with the music. The tour was, by the way, the longest ever in their career. It lasted for a thundering 331 days and 187 gigs played. Respect!
Interestingly, Powerslave did not hit the charts too hard in the South of Europe and in the US. They actually got quite a mixed reception. However, kind of ironically and perhaps as a precursor of things to come, it really rocketed up these charts in Scandinavia. These folks seem to have a knack for metal sounds of all kinds. And this has been confirmed like way further down the road in the distant future.
None of the tracks on Powerslave are bad. Perhaps except Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), the instrumental loser in this album. But following Aces High and 2 Minutes to Midnight, you should most definitely take Flash of the Blade and The Duellist with you.
This whole toxic metal brew also contains an exception of sorts. The epic last track Rime of the Ancient Mariner of some 14 minutes in length, complete with an excerpt in the middle taken from the Coleridge poem. This is MOST unusual in the Heavy Metal genre, but there you go. The RMR deck crew relished the variation and this willingness to step out of the proverbial box.
Yet, you will find that the fan base is split right down the middle on this track. Some think it is a total waste of space, whereas others absolutely love it. But hey, one just can’t get it right for everyone.
Whilst professionally executed by the crew around Bruce Dickinson and Steve Harris, well furnished with riffs and Iron Maiden style tunes, Powerslave also plays it a little safe to my taste. No real forays in unknown territory. No pushing the boundaries, and kind of meek in delivery. Much of the same well-known soup of sounds all along this whole album. This does not mean it is not Iron Maiden, but it just misses this hundredweight of spice that would turn it into a stellar record.
So, in conclusion, Powerslave is one of the best and most authentic trademark productions Iron Maiden created so far. I prefer it by far over its predecessor Piece of Mind and it beats for sure some of the follow-on albums that came out later.
However, it will not get near the #666 that so neatly featured stellar metal back in 1982 with no energy to spare. But would I call it the best ever Heavy Metal album of all times as some of my co-reviewers opined? Nope, sorry guys. It does not cut it by far. However – as an Iron Maiden fan – Powerslave is something you should most definitely own.
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: EMI | Web: Official Site
Release date: 3 September 1984