Maiden's fourth album would build upon what they had created with Number Of The Beast, giving fans another set of metal anthems. This was another huge album for the group received well by fans and critics, and selling millions around the world. Nicko McBrain joined as new drummer and remains to this day setting in place the classic line-up. After the success of their last album the band had garnered a huge following, but due to their rise to success they had also acquired an army of critics- parents, politicians, and other media types who accused them of devil worship and other treats; metal was on the verge of it's golden era and Maiden were front and centre. The band have never hidden themselves from controversy and include a few humorous references to these criticisms throughout the album. This more than any other album shows the band's love for art and literature and they manage to blend a myriad of influences and references into both hit singles and expansive epics.
`Where Eagles Dare' introduces us to Nicko with the group letting him open the album. After a splattering of drums a clattering riff starts before Dickinson chimes in at his most air raid siren style. The lyrics and themes are based on the film and book of the same name and cover the usual fare of war and bravery. The overlapping riffs, drums, and effects give a new wall of sound style that the band had not tried before. The dual attack is perfected on this album more than any, and this song highlights the harmony amongst the band as they tried ever more complex constructions.
`Revelations' opens with stadium chords showing a band full of confidence. Things slow to sludge tempo as the band go Sabbath on us. Dickinson is again on top form, bottomless lungs providing some great vocals. There is tenderness here, the dual guitars work extremely well, and once again the song never stays in one place. We get changes of pace, more F-Zero solos, shifts in tone, and all manner of ideas. Dickinson adapts many of Alastair Crowley's ideas into lyrics as the themes cover bargaining and fate.
`Flight Of Icarus' continues with the huge guitars and riffs. We have an ominous tone and a trotting rhythm to symbolize the inevitability of the character's death. This was a fairly successful single for the band helped by a big chorus which audiences could lap up, and thanks to the classic rock imagery and style it reached a wider audience- no mention of devils or demons to worry about here. Also, it ends on a classic Dickinson wail which is always nice.
`Die With Your Boots On' opens in top gear with competing guitars trying to reach the end of the riff first. The climbing melody of the guitars coupled with the pace gives a breathless song, while Dickinson belts out some war propagandist lyrics. Another classic chorus follows and the song as a whole works as a perfect partner to the next song- both clever takes on the theme.
`The Trooper' opens with one of the band's most famous riffs, a lightning fast double attack which continues throughout marking this as one of their best songs. Based on the Charge Of The Light Brigade it is a warning against war, a snarling tribute to the men who kill and are killed for their countries. The rhythm is clearly meant to evoke the image of horses galloping into battle, the lack of a chorus showing that the clash continues always without break, turning point, or winner. Maybe that's a stretch, but for the single to be a decent hit without a chorus is quite an achievement.
`Still Life' slows the album from the frenetic pace it has followed from the start. The rest of the album, starting from here follows a wider range of influences and styles hinting at the more progressive sounds the band would soon adopt. Opening with some funny background fun from Nicko (to further terrify censors) this turns with a midnight, skyscraper played solo into a more subtle epic. This one is often forgotten by fans but it just definitely be re-examined. The chorus my not be the best, but everything that surrounds it is great.
`Quest For Fire' opens with an ascent and descent of guitars before some silly lyrics and over theatrical vocals. This ends up sounding most like Spinal Tap and brings down the authenticity of the rest of the album. Melodically it is fine, there is nothing wrong with the playing, but with a few changes it could have been a much better song.
`Sun And Steel' brings back the galloping rhythm, the lyrics this time focusing on Samurais, in particular Miyamoto Musashi. The verses are fine here while the chorus edges towards classic rock territory again. This is another good album track which people usually pass over, nothing outstanding but still woth another listen.
`To Tame A Land' is Maiden's epic based on Dune. We have distant winds blowing, lonely solos, and eventually crunching guitars and bass over some Eastern rhythms. The verses aren't particularly exciting, but the instrumental sections between are strong. Everything is constantly building and threatening to explode, and Dickinson reaches some ridiculous levels with his vocals. Once the pace picks up the song gets stronger and proves an effect end to arguably the band's best album.
At this point in their career Iron Maiden could do no wrong, and no amount of negativity or pressure from certain groups could slow down their momentum. While this album shows signs of branching out into different areas of music this shows the band paying tribute to some of their heroes- Sabbath, Zeppelin, and some of the other monsters of the Seventies. There is no doubt that this is metal, but there is clearly a classic rock core. From now onwards the band would be more progressive, weaving wilder epics and more expansive sounds. This is another must for fans.
on 26 November 2003
With the arrival of drummer Nicko McBrain, Iron Maiden settled in to a rigorous album-tour-album cycle that would see them climb to global dominance in the metal world. This is not the sound of a bunch of kids emerging from the pub circuit, but a bunch of musicians growing and maturing as a band. Gone are the tales of prostitutes, subways, boozing and remembering tomorrow and in come the high concept tales of fantasy, mythology, war and sci-fi. In making that transition to global status, I feel that Maiden lost something of their earthy roots, but what the album lacks in urgency it makes up in professional sheen. Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickinson came more to the fore as songwriters, and Harris also weighed in with his fair share of quality material. Of said material, the pick of the bunch would definately appear amongst the first half of the tracks, as the album has often been accused of tailing off towards the end a little in awkward epics such as "To tame a land" and "Quest for fire".
on 14 April 2005
Having broken through with The Number of the Beast, aided by new vocalist Bruce Dickinson's roaring vocal style and the unusually sophisticated songs it allowed them to pursue, Maiden continued their evolution towards superstardom with this gem. Lyrically it moves towards serious fare, with the group's trademark fascination with ancient history, particularly the darker side of oppression and brutality, really coming to the fore.
In those days Maiden only released 2 singles from each album, which continued until they bombarded the charts with 5 from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (ironically the album which perhaps marked the beginning of their artistic decline). The choices here are fairly anthemic, with Flight of Icarus featuring a chanting chorus and touching on Greek mythology, and The Trooper having a pounding guitar riff and juddering bass along with some strong lyrics.
Better still however is Revelations, Bruce Dickinson's first contribution and a gradually mounting 7-minute assault with slow contemplative verses and a pounding solo. Warfare is the theme of Die With your Boots on and opener Where Eagles dare, the latter of which is especially strong. Indeed the group was almost unique among metal bands of the time in adopting an anti-war stance. Steve Harris bravely took on a science-fiction theme with closer To Tame A Land, a track which I actually think stands up better for not being directly named after Dune.
This was the second of Maiden's string of classic albums, but in my view it's the best, with a little bit of every aspect of metal, and some of their most stridently confident songwriting. I think it exhibits a lot of hunger; a desire to reshape the boundaries and redefine what people expect of heavy metal.
on 14 November 2011
Along with Somewhere in Time, this is one of Iron Maidens most underrated albums. In retrospect people love it but at the time it had a lukewarm reaction following the huge success of TNOTB. One of those reasons being a distinct change of gear in the sound and style of the band. Not different as such, but a refinement and the sound of a band really getting into its stride. Some people, like me for example, love Iron Maiden (rather a lot of people in fact) and some don't. What can't be denied is that they have that thing which all bands need but hardly any have. Their own distinct sound; and to me Piece of Mind is the album that starts to really bring that out.
My favourite track is Where Eagles Dare. After Clive Burr's departure (apparently Steve Harris was getting much more sophisticated with his time signatures and needed a drummer who could cope with it) Maiden chose Nicko McBrain to fill his shoes, and he fitted into the band perfectly, both musically and socially. The best way to introduce him to the public is a fantastic drum fill right at the start of the album on Where Eagles Dare. Due to Nicko's stubborn refusal to use a double bass pedal (he found it un-drummer like), at first he couldn't play 30 seconds of this song without his leg falling off. But he built up his stamina and boy, are we treated to a drum fest. Perfectly syncing with Steve's unique bass style. Add Bruce's vocals onto that and you have a masterpiece.
The first five tracks are killers. I tend to skip over Still Life and Quest for Fire but the final two are great, especially To Tame A Land, which was Steve's first venture into the longer, more complicated storytelling songs (influenced by the 70's prog-rock he was a big fan of) that he further developed on Powerslave (Rime Of The Ancient Marine) and Somewhere in Time (Alexander The Great).
To me, no band came up with a continuous sequence of such good albums during their prime period between 82 and 88, and this album is classic Maiden.
on 14 August 2010
It's amazing to think that this album (Maiden's fourth) was released just 3 years after their debut, considering both the change in sound from the first album and also the quality that the band managed to maintain. The album starts with the two pronged guitar attack that is Where Eagles Dare, a fantastic opening if ever you heard one, the album goes from strength to strength. Revelations is a brilliant song loved and underrated in equal measure, and should be in the upper echelons of Maidens slower numbers. Flight of Icasrus, Die With Your Boots on and the fantastic and relentless The Trooper ensure that the album is shaping up to be one of the best metal albums of all time. Then someething goes wrong, Still Life is not a bad song, but it doesn't stand up to what has gone before, the final three songs on the album however are poor songs; Quest for Fire, Sun and Steel and To Tame a Land are the band at their weakest, lyrically and musically weaker than what has gone before. Quest for Fire almost gets into the so bad it's good category, but eventually settles on just being bad.
Piece of Mind is a fantastic album (or at least half an album) I think that the first half of the album is up there with the best, but for the first time Maiden aren't able to maintain the standard throughout. The problem is when you finish listening to the abum it is the last three that stay in your memory. Definately worth getting though for the opening 5 songs, five of the best Maiden have ever done.
on 6 October 2015
I am guilty of an appalling oversight here - Piece of Mind is now safely embedded into my top 5 ever Iron maiden albums - I recently decided to fill in the few gaps in my Maiden voyage (been a fan since around 1989 when I was 10 and have a taste for it again since BOSOULS is so great) and this along with Powerslave were my two shames - I may have briefly come across them whilst lapping up the wonderful Beast, Seventh Son, Somewhere in Time.....etc..........but these I missed and oh how I feel the shame right now.......especially with this album.
Revelations is such a suitable name because that track alone is a revelation - at its heart it contains everything i love about this band, the operatic metal, the spine tingling arrangements, the acoustic sections which counterpoint the strumming layered guitars.......WOw!
Do not make the mistake of ignoring this album........
Speaking objectively (since Ive only been listening to these two albums for the last week) Piece of Mind is the masterpiece of the two - Powerslave is good - but has to sit on the edge of my top five because I think the others contain more iconic moments and overall contain more focussed musical genius.....so without further ado here is my re-corrected (after 30 years of being fan) MAIDEN TOP ALBUMS EVER that you should check out if you are a newbie.....
1 The Number of The Beast (THE ALBUM)
2 The Book Of Souls (almost THE ALBUM - but BEAST has the history)
3 Piece Of Mind (a REVELATION - contains my new fave tracks ever)
4 Seventh Son of the Seventh Son (one of the strongest full of classics)
5 Somewhere in Time (full of catchy choruses - some of the best lyrics of all the albums)
6 Fear Of The Dark (The last of the iconic records from their first peak years - now is their new peak era of course.....)
7 Powerslave (love R of the A Mariner but for me I cant see how it tops the above musically as an album- not the biggest Aces high fan either- though it is quality)
on 7 March 2013
Album number four from the masters of metal, Iron Maiden. After the departure of drummer Clive Burr, Nicko McBrain is brought into the fold. Quite possibly one of the most underrated drummer in the world (and by underrated I mean he deserves even more praise than what he already gets hurled at him by every single other metal drummer who's picked up a pair of sticks). From the start Nicko McBrain means business and he finalizes the trademark Maiden sound that's been developing over the previous three albums. Although the subject matter consists mainly of war and death, there is a fairly upbeat feel to a lot of the songs and the band sound like the are in a very good place.
The album kicks off with Where Eagles Dare (loosely based on the film of the same name) and from the start we're treated to the amazing synchronized playing between the band and McBrain. There aren't many drummers who could fill Clive Burr's shoes so easily but Nicko's feet are more than big enough. Not only can he keep the pace, he also brings plenty of new tricks to the table and effortlessly keeps pace with the rest of the band. The lyrics to the song give a pretty sparse interpretation of the story, but musically the journey is right there with plenty of lengthy instrumental sections conveying the intense danger.
Revelations is a track with a confusing title as it bears no relation to the Book of Revelation from the Bible even though they have quoted from said book in the linear notes on the album cover. The band would not make such an easy mistake as to accidentally add an `s' to the end of Revelation so I'm assuming it's intentional to draw attention to the song being separate from the Biblical version. Judging by the inclusion of the Fool and the Hanged Man it could be more to do with tarot cards of some sort. Either way it has some very evocative imagery in the lyrics provided by singer Bruce Dickinson.
Next up is the band's take on the flight of Icarus, the tragic greek story of a boy who made some wings to enable him to fly the heavens but got too ahead of himself and burnt his wings on the sun by flying too close to it. Its given the full Maiden treatment here with a pounding steady verse and a chorus worthy of a story about soaring high in the sky. I've read in interviews that Steve Harris thinks it wasn't quite road-rehearsed to be recorded but I think it sounds fine. The next track Die With Your Boots On could almost be called a morale builder with it's catchy chorus of "If you're gonna die, die with your boots on if you're gonna die". I can't think of anything more gung ho than that statement. If the inevitable is coming you may as well face it.
We return to war with the Trooper - mine and most other peoples favourite from this (and any other Maiden album). The lyrics reference the Battle of Balaclava which took place during the Crimean War. It is also the subject matter of Lord Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade but the Maiden treatment is more gritty and deals with the fatal experience of a single soldier. This is probably Maidens most well known song and rightly so. It's a belter from beginning to end and is the quintessential Maiden track - galloping riffs, guitar harmonies and Dickinson giving it his all on the horrors-of-war lyrics.
After such a set of fantastic tracks leading up to this point the album does take a little bit of a downturn. I've heard a few theories about this song from dealing with a lost love to alcoholism. I'm sure the band have their own interpretation for this slow-burner. It's not a bad track, but Dickinson doesn't really do slow and soft well so it's only when the song kicks in that he really shines on it. Whatever the interpretation (I thought it more along the lines of a ghost story) it's a pretty decent number.
Quest for fire is a bit of a muddled affair, the lyrics and the music don't gel too well; and there's also the problem of Dickinson singing about early humans and dinosaurs in the same time frame (I haven't seen the film or the books it's based on so I can't confirm if it's true to the source material). Possibly the album's weakest track and feels a little bit like a filler.
Sun and Steel brings the quality back up with the Metallers singing about the life journey of a dedicated Samurai warrior. Comparisons have been drawn between a real life warrior named Miyamoto Musashi who wrote a book about strategy, tactics and philosophy called The Book of Five Rings. Someone in Maiden is very well read (Probably Harris) as there are some very diverse topics covered in their songs. It's short on lyrics (Only two small verses) but the chorus is a belter.
Finally we come to the 7 minutes plus closer for the album: To Tame a Land based on Frank Herbert's epic, Dune. The song doesn't delve into a lot of detail about the plot of the book (Which is quite intricate) but it does throw the basics and some of the exotic names in. Frank Herbert is not a Maiden fan (he rebuked their request to officially name the song after the book by saying he didn't like heavy metal bands, especially Iron Maiden) which is a shame as they are clearly fans of his work. Personally I thought Dune was okay. It's very well put together and it does have an epic scale to it, but the characterisation was a little week (the bad guys in it are pretty much like pantomime villains with absolutely no tact).
All in all this is a very good Maiden album, taken from the golden era when they got better and better with each release. Well worth a listen.
on 18 January 2012
It took me a while to get into the album, moreso than The Number of the Beast. But everytime I listen to it, it continues to grows on me, and I can see it making its way to my albums of the 80's list. The first four tracks are fantastic, and are truly classic Maiden. "When Eagles Dare" is a great start to the album, and the vocal performance from Dickinson is one of his best. "Revelations" has grown on me considerably since the first few listens and easily a high point. The intro to that song is superb. "Flight of Icarus" is just perfect, straight up heavy metal classic, and probably my all time favourite Iron Maiden song. That chorus was stuck in my head for days! "Die With Your Boots On", to a lesser extent, is another great track. Again, the chorus is s*** hot, with a very memorable bridge. "The Trooper" needs no introduction, with an insanely catchy riff, and a top sing-a-long chorus. One of the best singles they ever put out. Now this is where the weaker songs kick in. Starting with "Still Life", it's not too bad of a song. The build up to the chorus is promising, and very ballady, which I love from Maiden. But the chorus completely pisses me off. The chants of "NIGHTMARES!!!" aggravate me to a pulp. The next two tracks I can barely remember, but I can recall they are just as average as "Still Life". "Quest for Fire" has pretty poor lyrics, and that chorus, ouch. But "To Tame a Land", the last song on the album does make up for the previous filler. Although not half as good as anything on the first side, it does go out with a bang, and the lyrics are just fantastic. It seems Piece of Mind either has f***ing stunning hooks or plain weak ones. But what it lacks in the consistency department, and although it has a smaller quantity of killer tracks than The Number of the Beast, it does have better songs overall. So yet another solid album in the Iron Maiden catalogue.
Key track: The Trooper
Personal faves: Flight of Icarus, Revelations, When Eagles Dare
on 8 March 2012
I first heard this album when I was about ten and I didn't really appreciate it for what it was then, simply a brilliant album. I was getting into metal in the early nineties when it was still considered cool and almost mainstream. I was listening to Seventh Son, Powerslave, No Prayer For The Dying, Fear Of The Dark etc and I thought they were awesome but this album went under the radar somewhat.
Now I can appreciate it for what it is, a stalwart unsung hero of an album. They've played most of these songs live at some point, which speaks volumes. Where eagles dare, revelations, flight of icarus, die with your boots on, the trooper, still life and I think To tame a land; they have played all these live at some point or another.
Having listened to this album over and over I now think it is better than Powerslave, a bold statement I know and I say it with the exception of Rime of the ancient mariner and powerslave (title track) but this is a better album in it's entirity than Powerslave imo. There are some classics here like revelations, flight of icarus and the trooper but the real winners here for me are die with your boots on, still life and the epic to tame a land. Some consider quest for fire to be a dud track, but even that has a great riff and solo.
An album that I can listen to all the way through.
on 17 November 2010
Piece Of Mind was the first Maiden tour I experienced ..... and they were awesome. Mind you, they had a damn fine album to promote on the road. From the opening drum sequence on the first track 'Where Eagles Dare' it becomes obvious they have stepped up their game and enlisted an incredible new drummer in Nico McBrain to replace the very capable Clive Burr. Nico's power and energy runs through every track and this really does rank as possibly my favourite of their albums .... probably as much due to the romanticism attached to my first live experience of Eddie on stage as anything else. This came as part of a sequence of barnstorming albums that had started with Number Of The Beast and Iron Maiden suddenly became the dominant force in world metal. They had managed to find an incredible singer in Bruce Dickinson and a tremendous drummer in Nico ... both of whom were the icing on the cake to the power guitar work of Dave Murray, Steve Harris and Adrian Smith.
This is Maiden in their pomp ... fresh with energy and vitality and before the drudgery and politics of the music business began to wear them down. They are back now with renewed vigour but the spirit of this era is hard to re-create. Some cracking tracks on here and I heartily recommend it to any budding newcomer to world of Iron Maiden.