In 1984, while pioneering what has become known as the "New Wave Of British Heavy Metal"(NWOBHM), Iron Maiden released one of the greatest records in Metal history. With a fanbase inherited from the popularity of their two previous releases, "Piece Of Mind" and "The Number Of The Beast", Iron Maiden was poised to deliver........and deliver they did.
"Powerslave" kicks off with the high energy rocker "Aces High", which follows the classic Maiden formula like a Yellow Brick Road. A song with break-neck guitar grinding, rapid fire drumming, and the incredible thumping bass lines of Steve Harris. The bellowing of vocalist Bruce Dickinson becomes so integrated with the band's music, it also has the feel of an "instrument"- one sign of a truly tight group of musicians. As "Aces High" comes to a close, the gritty and tough opening riff of "2 Minutes To Midnight" leaps out of it's cage. A simple, yet highly effective riff that immediately sends your hands an invitation to an air guitar party. As usual, you get the entire Maiden package here also; the rumbling and rolling drum fills of Nicko McBrain, the banging and clanging bass from Steve Harris, the superlative dual guitar work of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, and of course the vocal hand of Bruce Dickinson to lead you right through to the end. The lyrical adventure in this stuff is pretty fantastic also. Whether Bruce sings "As the reasons for the carnage cut their meat and lick the gravy, We oil the jaws of the war machine and feed it with our babies", or when he shouts "The body bags and little rags of children torn in two, And the jellied brains of those who remain to put the finger right on you", either way, you know you're on a Maiden voyage. And when they leave lyrics and vocals out of a tune, you get fiery instrumentals like "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)". A four minute plus display of pure musicianship which set this British powerhouse way ahead of the 80's pack of "hair metal" bands. Iron Maiden was the real deal. No talk of fun, sun, sex, or women. This was serious, uncompromising metal that never backed away from its goal; with a sound that never sacrificed its integrity for a hit single. These guys put their talent on display with challenging charts and arrangements to play, that came embedded in songs that didn't "fit" the radio single format. They did the kinds of songs that they wanted to do.
As the album moves at a relentless pace, all of the astonishing elements about this band are transferred from song to song. With catchy songs such as "Flash Of The Blade", The Duellists" or "Back In The Village" we are treated to a rigorous session of Metal supremacy, a showcase of every nuance of this great band. As we descend into the title track, ringing in at almost 7 minutes, we hear one of the best guitar solos on the record. A memorable piece, impeccably constructed around one of the best rhythm sections in metal history.
So, here we are. The final track of this infallible record. Wouldn't you know,....it's one of the greatest tracks ever recorded.
"Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" is a masterpiece adapted from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem of the same name. In fact, I remember the excitement I had when I found this in my High School English textbook. I had finally found something I could relate to in school!! Someone in that same English class brought a tape of this recording in, to play for our straight-laced teacher. I can recall sitting there for 13 and a half minutes listening to this song with the entire class. A strange and beautiful moment.
Anyway,...yes, I said 13 and a half minutes. Iron Maiden was one of the few groups that could get away with a 13 minute song, because they kept things interesting. "Rime" is a song with peaks and valleys, a song with a majestic quality. It tells the great tale that Samuel Taylor Coleridge told, in almost the exact same verbiage. Just the task of writing and arranging a song, to fit this type of poetry, takes an enormous amount of talent. To make it last 13 plus minutes, and keep it from dragging, is astonishing. I am convinced that only Iron Maiden could pull this off. Not only do they keep this song going successfully, they leave you wanting more. I have listened to this song 4 or 5 consecutive times before, it's that good. This is the perfect closer to this resplendent record. It's a record with a dark, medieval mood that plays out like an Indiana Jones film. An adventure that is both exciting and approachable, over and over again.