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 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 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 10 May 2016
What; you'll only let me award a maximum of 5 stars for this! Well here are a few more **************.
Fresh from the success of Number Of The Beast; Maiden were going to have to produce a worthy follow up; which they did; and here is the proof. Piece Of Mind not only introduced the world to Bruce Dickinson's songwriting talents for the first time, it also marked Nicko Mc Brain's debut with the band, who gets to open the album in style with his drumming at the start of Where Eagles Dare. A song written about the film of the same name and one of the best starts to a metal record. This album has it all and there should be something on it to please just about any old-school metalhead.
Want a brainstorming song to that begins an album? Then Where Eagles Dare, with it's stop-start riffing will do it for you. If you like the 70s metal sound, which I do greatly, then Revelations should appeal to you with it's main guitar riff strongly influenced by Warrior, by Wishbone Ash.
Want some US style hard rock, but mixed with Maidens trademark sound? Then you'll dig Flight Of Icarus; and what a great single that was.
How about a true metal anthem that will get you to sing along to it (and maybe headbang too!) Then The Trooper is the one; and not only does this tune still survive their set; they even named a beer after it as well (and I wish I could taste it!). Feel like listening to an uptempo, joyful rock track? Then Quest For Fire will help to lift your spirits. And what about something a little epic? Then we get To Tame A Land to finish the whole thing off.
By 1983, I.M. could do no wrong. Their popularity rose and rose, and a string of classic albums were all to follow afterwards. Piece of Mind, I believe to be their finest work, and anyone who considers to be a true fan of Maiden, and of traditional heavy metal ought to own this.
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 24 January 2004
With this album from 1983 Iron Maiden consolidated their status as Kings of Metal. New drummer Nico McBrain completed what is regarded as the classic Maiden line-up, bringing a touch of insanity with his larger than life personality and this is reflected on the album cover, which shows band mascot Eddie as an inmate in a lunatic asylum.
Opening track 'Where Eagles Dare' is based on the World War II film of the same name and sets the tone for the whole album with its relentless pounding and galloping bass lines which are an important part of the Iron Maiden sound. 'Revelations' became a live favourite over the next 2 years and is one of the few songs to get fans of the band to wave lighters in the air in true metal fashion. The great anthemic song on the album is 'Flight of Icarus' but the song to make most impact with the fans is 'The Trooper' which sees Eddie in the uniform of a British soldier during the Crimean War.
Despite all this my personal favourite track is 'Sun and Steel' because it is one of the most melodic songs from the band and helps make side 2 of the album almost as strong as side 1. This is as good a Maiden album to start with as any other for people interested in finding out what the fuss is all about.
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 7 February 2005
Yeah, Number of the Beast is more famous; yeah, powerslave has some incredible moments and yeah, the self titled debut is probably more consistant - but for some reason this is, and has always been my favourite Iron Maiden album! If you ask me this album sums up what heavy metal is all about - galloping riffs, trademark solos (by the way Davey Murray is also my favourite guitarist of all time!) and Bruce's incredible vocal delivery...
The way that new boy (as he was back in '83) Nicko pounds them skins on the intro to where eagles dare is just incredible - and when the riff kicks in - you just know youre listening to something special - Iron Maiden have always epitomised heavy metal to me - and where eagles dare is them doing what they do best! - Then Comes Revelations - an incredible arena metal anthem - (the version on live after death is also amazing) - written by Bruce and again summing up what Maiden is about - with the build up to that fast galloping riff which just makes the hairs on your neck stand up! Then comes Flight of Icarus, which is really good, more anthemic but not their best song by a long way - (how did this song end up on that terrible 'best of' called Edward the Great that was released last year? Especially as tracks such as Aces High and Hallowed be thy name were omitted?) then we're onto probably my favourite track - die with your boots on - a proper boys own, heads down metalishious assault! - Seriously dont drive while listening to this song - you may harm yourself and others!
Ok, then we're onto the Trooper - what more can I say - this song is absolutely stunning - again one of my top 5 maiden songs - the twin guitars, the hammering bass, the pounding drums, and one of Bruces best vocals laid down on wax! - Incredible! - Still life comes next co-written by Davey Murray - great song, typical of 80s metal really, then to conclude the album you have Quest for Fire (what other band apart from Iron Maiden would write a track about Cavemen?) Sun and Steel (again, classic metal track including one of my favourite lyrics - 'well you killed your first man at 13, killer instinct animal supreme! - fantastic!) and the album concludes with the epic Dune influenced 'To tame a land' - I love when Steve Harris knocks out these epics - be sure to check out Alexander the Great and Rime of the Ancient Mariner as well - again what band except Maiden can write about such a range of subjects?? Anything from prostitution (Charlotte the Harlot), through to the Ancient Pharoes (Powerslave)
Seriously my metal brothers and sisters - get this album! - To be honest its probably my favourite maiden album cos its the first one I bought - if your new to Maiden get this first - and an incrediblr back catalogue awaits you once you fall in love with this band! Get this, get your (rivit) head down and mosh for England - as Nicko would say, you know it makes sense!!!
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.
I suppose the first time that I heard Iron Maiden was when ‘Run to the Hills’ stormed into the charts back in 1982. Back then, the appearance of anything resembling heavy metal on the radio or, God forbid, the TV, was a rare occurrence. While rock radio thrived in the U.S we were awash with New Romantics and 2 Tone. When Saxon, Motorhead or Gillan gave us a glimpse of the good stuff on Top of the Pops, we thanked the metal Gods and waited patiently for months until our next allowance. Tommy Vance got two or three hours a week on Radio 1 to assuage our thirst, and the unmentionable Jonathon King had a television show, Entertainment USA, seemingly designed to annoy us with how much better our transatlantic cousins had it music wise. It’s all right though, you needn’t weep for us, we still had the vinyl and cassettes, and you didn’t yet need a mortgage to buy gig tickets, so it wasn’t all bad news.
So anyway… if you were a rocker back then you could hardly ignore this flash of light in the darkness that was the UK top ten. If you hadn’t already discovered them in the Di’Anno days then this was a wake up call. Replacing their original singer with the Samson front man was eyed with great suspicion at the time, but clearly they knew what they were doing. Of course I dutifully went out and bought ‘Number of the Beast’ and wasn’t disappointed. It’s not my place to discuss the merits of the album here but suffice to say that, although admittedly nostalgia hazes the issue, I don’t think it has ever been bettered. Moving on though, I awaited the follow up with great interest.
Word emerged that Clive Burr had been ousted from his drum stool and replaced by the bizarrely monikered ex-Trust man, Nicko McBrain. We frowned and shrugged. The band disappeared off to Jersey in the Channel Islands to write new material before heading for the sunshine of Nassau to lay the tracks down. Once more Martin Birch, a teenage hero of mine due to his work with Deep Purple, helmed the controls. What could possibly go wrong?
‘Flight of Icarus’ hit the streets on the 11th April, 1983. Naturally I rushed out and bought the 7” and eagerly cranked it on my parent’s stereo. Long story short… I hated it. A plodding pace and unremarkable vocal line just did nothing for me. Being a fickle fifteen year old with limited spending power, I didn’t bother buying the album and turned my interest elsewhere. The end.
Well, not really. The true Maiden experience has always rested in their live shows and it quickly became clear that Piece of Mind contained some real gems. I caught them on their storming Powerslave tour, as well as seeing them headline the UK Monsters of Rock in 1988, and P.O.M tracks were a solid part of their set. I’m not ashamed to admit that I bought ‘Live After Death’ years before I finally invested in ‘Piece of Mind’.
Listening to ‘Piece of Mind’ 33 years after it was released, (I know, I know, 33 years, don’t get me started), one is reminded just how on fire the band were. It’s not a 100% hit rate but when they get it right, they really get it right.
McBrain makes his presence felt right from the start, hammering out a couple of solo bars before the rest of the band kick in. Throughout ‘Where Eagles Dare’, a tribute to the film that every British kid used to be legally required to have seen before they were ten, his drumming is bombastic. It’s a great track with endless time changes and a fist full of riffs. This is classic Maiden.
‘Revelations’ starts with interesting base harmonics before swaggering into the main riff. A Rush like drop leads into a joyous chug that showcases their dual guitarists. Then they slow down once more before delivering a master class in dynamic heavy metal. Shades of Thin Lizzy can be heard in some of the later melodies.
I’ve since read that Bruce wanted ‘Flight of Icarus’ as a single to ensnare American radio stations. While Steve thought it was too slow, Bruce was convinced that this would work in their favour. Well… both of them were right and they lost me for a while because of it, but listening to it now, it isn’t as bad as I remembered. With its melodic chorus and laid back verse, its certainly one of the more commercial tracks on ‘Piece of Mind’. Less immediate than Beast’s ‘Run to the Hills’ it made less impact initially, but has arguably stood the test of the time better for that very reason.
‘Die With Your Boots On’ is, for my money, one of the strongest on the album. Yes, it’s geezerish back ground vocals are a little cheesy, and its not as heavy as ‘Where Eagles Dare’ or ‘Revelations’, but it’s the sound of a band letting loose. Dickinson’s vocal melody is spot on and the whole thing hits the groove perfectly.
‘The Trooper’ is quintessential Maiden. Staccato riffs, dueling guitars, the perfect chug and a phased vocal melody all fused together perfectly. It’s little wonder that this is still at the core of their live set more than 30 years later. This is one of those tracks that just lifts and lifts for a relentless journey.
‘Still Life’ begins with a reversed message raising a proverbial finger to American religious conservatives, referencing the ineffective backlash against them at the time. Its just McBrain mucking about in the studio, a mere humorous aside, but a good reminder of the nonsense that the band endured. The track proper begins with shimmering cymbals and mellow plucked guitars, letting us in gently before building to a restrained riff and a solid vocal. Decent.
‘Quest for fire’ is the antithesis of ‘Die with Your Boots on’’. A dull vocal line and Neanderthal lyrical content, (see what I did there), accompany a rather robotic composition. This is a low point in my opinion.
‘Sun and Steel’ seems to have been largely forgotten by Maiden fans but its lighter vocal harmonies flow nicely and provide a nice alternative dynamic to the other songs on the album. I really like this one.
I have to admit I’m a huge fan of ‘Dune’ so ‘To Tame a Land’ drew my attention to the lyrics more than usual. Unfortunately they aren’t really an interesting adaptation and the song itself doesn’t do much to conjure up the book; to my ear it’s more Mexican desert than alien world. That aside, this just isn’t one of the stronger tracks on the album and is a pretty forgettable finish to proceedings. You can’t win them all I suppose.
With an album such as this, that has established itself as a classic with the fans, I know anything I say is going to attract differing opinions. Personally, I do think this is a great record. There are a couple of duff tunes, low moments that would do well to be forgotten, but like with ‘Number of the Beast’, the highs are truly memorable. Here’s hoping plenty of them are in their set, the next time they cross my path.