IRON MAIDEN — Powerslave (review)

IRON MAIDEN — Powerslave album cover Album · 1984 · NWoBHM Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Powerslave is the fifth studio album from UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. It is the second of the four album run that is considered to be by the band’s classic line-up of Dickinson, Harris, Murray, Smith and McBrain that began with Piece of Mind (1983) and came to an end with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988), though it arguably started up again as ‘classic line-up +1’ with Brave New World (2000). The album was released in 1984 and now many years later it is widely regarded to be among the group’s finest releases.

And it is very rightly so in my opinion. Given that Iron Maiden is one of those bands that has, for the most part, been very consistent with their releases (Virtual XI being the only major blip) it stands to reason that there will be a few albums that are done to absolute perfection among their number, and Powerslave is the first of three of those. Following on from the slightly disappointing Piece of Mind, Powerslave is the sound of an Iron Maiden with a renewed vigour. The music is noticeably heavier than on the previous album and the band had never sounded quite this powerful up until this point, even on the exceptional The Number of the Beast. The release is classic Iron Maiden in every sense of the term, and done at its very best on all fronts whether it be the writing, musicianship or production. Everything is just perfect.

That’s because Powerslave is an album that literally has everything that an Iron Maiden release should have. You have your metal anthems that make up the ‘single material’ of the album with the opening Aces High and 2 Minutes to Midnight, both of which number among the best known tracks by the band, with 2 Minutes to Midnight being a live staple, being played on almost every tour following the release of the album. Then you also have the closing epic, Rime of the Ancient Mariner. To date this still stands as the band’s longest song and is a re-telling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem. It’s really at the opposite end of the spectrum to the first two songs, and this is what makes the album so great. Maiden has a sound typical to them, but they can turn that sound into songs with their own identity, and because of that it doesn’t get stale in any way.

Then you also get all the stuff that falls in between those two extremes, which includes several Maiden tracks that I’m surprised to say just don’t seem to get mentioned as much as others despite Powerslave’s overall high regard. Flash of the Blade, Back in the Village and The Duellists are all of a quality with the rest of the album, but none are names you see mentioned as often as Aces High or 2 Minutes to Midnight. The title track is one of the album’s best though, and fortunately it sees almost as much regard as the singles and Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The album also includes a rare Maiden instrumental in Losfer Words (Big 'Orra).

Powerslave is one of Maiden’s three perfect records as far as I’m concerned, but if any if that three is the best of the best then it has really got to be this one. A textbook example of a band at the top of their game, this is definitely one Iron Maiden album that everyone needs to own. Absolutely essential. Full marks without hesitation.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scored at 10.0/10)
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