Thursday, May 16, 2013

Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind

Today (May 16th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Piece of Mind, the fourth studio album from British metal band Iron Maiden. The multi-Platinum release went to number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 200, number 10 in Austria and Canada, number 9 in Norway, number 8 in Germany, number 6 in Sweden, number 3 in the UK and number 2 in Finland.

There was a slight change of the group’s line-up with this album; Nicko McBrain (formerly of the French band Trust) became the band’s new and permanent drummer. He joined Bruce Dickinson (lead vocals), Steve Harris (bass and backing vocals), Dave Murray (guitar) and Adrian Smith (guitar and backing vocals).

Side one opens with the driving tempo of “Where Eagles Dare”. It is full of the fury and thunder of warfare, complete with blazing gunfire sound effects on the bridge. The title comes from a 1968 film of the same name about World War II and starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.

On “Revelations”, I like the musical transitions from the heavier rocking sections to the lighter, almost acoustic parts. It makes for an interesting listening experience.

“Flight of Icarus”, the first single, went to number 19 in Finland, number 14 in Ireland, number 11 in the UK and number 8 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Of course, this song is influenced by Greek mythology where Daedalus and his son Icarus used fashioned wings to fly; however, the boy flew too close to the son, the wax that held the wings together melted, and he plunged to his death.

“Die With Your Boots On” features strong, dueling guitars throughout. The lyrics contain a motivational message in that you have to give everything your all, even if you end up failing to complete the task.

Side two starts with “The Trooper”, a song inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s narrative poem Charge of the Light Brigade. As the second single, it went to number 18 in Finland and on the US Mainstream Rock chart, number 12 in Ireland and the UK, and number 5 in Canada, Sweden and Switzerland.

“Still Life” includes a bit of backward masking as a joke to critics who constantly accused the band of being Satanic devil worshippers.

“Quest for Fire” was inspired by the 1911 Belgian novel by J.-H. Rosny which was adapted as a film in 1981 by French filmmakers Jean-Jacques Annaud and Gerard Brach; the latter starred Ron Perlman and Rae Dawn Chong. I recall seeing Quest for Fire on HBO around this time. The song really sums up that struggle of early humanity very well.

“Sun and Steel” tells of a man who grew up in a world of violence and death, trained at a young age to be a killer.

“To Tame a Land” was inspired by Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune. In fact, the band wanted to call it “Dune” but Herbert rejected their request. The song is epic, clocking in at nearly seven and a half minutes. That leaves plenty of room for some amazing instrumental solos.

As I noted in my review of Iron Maiden’s 1982 album Number of the Beast (click here if you missed that one), my exposure to this band mostly came from my best friend in high school and tracks that played on the local album-oriented rock station. My own personal music library is lacking in this area, and that is a huge oversight on my part. Every now and then you want to just crank some music that sounds great at that volume, and this album by Iron Maiden certainly fits that bill. The best part, for me, is it has some fantastic melodies vocally and the lyrics are intelligent and thought-provoking. That is a double-win in my book.

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