Fly as High as the Sky!
After becoming heavy metal legends with their previous album The Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden proved they were far from out of ideas with Piece of Mind. Released just a year after The Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden had already changed significantly by this point. First of all, on this album Bruce Dickinson's creative influence begins to really shine through. He co-wrote many of the tracks on Piece of Mind, and even wrote one of the songs with no help from the other bandmates. He's a fantastic songwriter, and it's great to hear that he's leaving his mark on Iron Maiden's music. Secondly, this is the debut of now-legendary drummer Nicko McBrain. Clive Burr is a great drummer and I have an infinite respect for him, but Nicko McBrain is simply one of the best heavy metal drummers out there. He really is a key part of Iron Maiden, and a complete monster behind the drumkit as well.
The sound here is unmistakably Iron Maiden. Although there have been some changes in Iron Maiden since The Number of the Beast, their sound is generally the same. Of course, judging by the immense critical and commercial success of their previous masterwork, that's definitely not a problem. Piece of Mind shows Iron Maiden incorporating a few more prog influences into their sound, but that wouldn't happen completely until Powerslave.
Piece of Mind is a 9-track, 44:38 album. All of the songs here are pretty great except for maybe Still Life, which is decent. Die With Your Boots On and Sun and Steel are far from Iron Maiden's best, but they're still decent tracks. This is one of Iron Maiden's more inconsistent albums, but highlights like Where Eagles Dare, Revelations, The Trooper, and To Tame a Land make Piece of Mind an essential Maiden album.
Like most Iron Maiden albums, the musicianship is possibly the best part about the music. They are an exceptionally tight-playing group of virtuoso musicians, and Piece of Mind was when they really began showing this. On this album they acquired one of the best heavy metal drummers out there (Nicko McBrain), in addition to already having some of the best musicians in metal.
The production quality on Piece of Mind is great. I love the organic sound, yet dynamic enough to display Iron Maiden's powerful music. This isn't quite as good as Powerslave production-wise, but it's still definitely among the better heavy metal productions. By 1983 many bands were using "that terrible 80's sound", but Iron Maiden, thankfully, were never one of them.
Piece of Mind is yet another great album by Iron Maiden, and even though it's not quite as good as The Number of the Beast, it deserves the 4 star rating just as much. It's really a shame that many people overlook this album since it's between two seminal albums (The Number of the Beast and Powerslave), because it really is just as good as those releases. Highly recommended to all NWoBHM fans.