Iron Maiden – Powerslave
“Live After Death” on cassette was my first Maiden. I even high speed dubbed the album, just in case the cassette deck chewed up the original tape. “Powerslave” came a few years after because if you had “Live After Death” you didn’t really need the earlier albums.
Owning music was a risky business. The vinyl could get a scratch or it get warped from the heat, and the cassettes could get chewed up by the tape deck or if not played for long, the reels could get stuck together. And then you had to re-purchase something you already had purchased.
After the “Piece Of Mind” tour ended at the end of 1983, the band took January off and in February, they started to write new material. They booked the studio for March-April and in May, they mixed the album.
In June/July they spent rehearsing the tour set list and by August 1984 the 13 month “World Slavery” tour commenced in Poland with the album coming out in September after the tour had started.
I remember reading how the band would play in total 220 shows and transported around by 6 huge trucks in the US due to the larger venues which means a larger PA or 4 trucks for Europe and 5 tour buses for band and crew.
If there is one thing about Maiden, they knew that the live show had to work and that the show was their bread and butter. It would eventually make Bruce Dickinson consider walking out on Maiden, something he did in the 90’s after “Fear Of The Dark”.
What’s even more amazing is that the band got bigger and bigger in most markets without any singles and airplay that was afforded to bands like Def Leppard, Scorpions, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Ozzy and Quiet Riot. And this grassroots word of mouth fan base still sustains the band to this day.
The other thing with “Powerslave” which makes it great is that it has the power and energy of a live album and the line-up is finally stable. When you don’t have to look for new musicians to fill the void, you can focus on writing great songs as they did with “Peace Of Mind”, “Powerslave”, “Somewhere In Time”, “Seventh Son of A Seventh Son”.
Steve Harris basically wrote a speed metal song with key changes and syncopated technical passages.
The intro from 0.00 to about 0.34 starts in the key of A minor and Kirk Hammett loved it so much he used it for “For Whom The Bells Toll”.
And how good is the section just before and after the solo. You can mouth sing it and it sounds brilliant.
Minutes to Midnight
Adrian Smith’s addition to Maiden made them a lot better and Nicko McBrian’s addition also made them more technical.
This song is written by Smith and Bruce Dickinson and the One Riff to Rule Em All is also the main riff for this song.
That slowed down solo section from 3.24 to 4.10 is perfect. It starts off with a riff, then some simple E minor pentatonic leads and then the build from Nicko into the main riff again.
Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)
It’s listed as written by Harris, so if you believe his haters, it means he copied it from someone or stole their intellectual property. I seriously can’t believe our world has come to this.
The section from 2.34 to about 3.20 is why this song is on this list. If it doesn’t lift you up and inspire you, then I am losfer words.
Flash of the Blade
The song is solely credited to Dickinson, so I’m presuming he wrote the cool open string intro riff.
The section from 1.50 is what I play air guitar too. It reminds me of the feel and simplicity from the debut album.
Then from 2.15 there is a stop/start section to about 2.30 which is brilliant and then a melodic lead starts to happen over the previous riff, before it evolves into a full solo section.
Back In The Village
That intro is basically a blues boogie on speed. It’s brilliant. Then the music build up to the solo section from 2.17 to 2.30 is desk breaking stuff and they revert back to it at 2.40 to 3.00. In each song, there are a little bits here and there that deserve to be fleshed out a little bit more.
Then again, the most recent album from Maiden had them fleshing out these bits for way too long and the songs could have used with some edits.
It’s another Dickinson cut and as a guitarist the song is full of excellent riffs and passages.
So if Dickinson wrote those riff’s, he is then the true unsung guitar hero of Iron Maiden.
The opening galloping riff which segues into the verse is a perfect example of simple, yet effective riff creating. But when the Chorus riff comes in, with Dickinson’s wonderful vocal melody, it’s cathartic.
Then from 2.35 it moves into a ballad like interlude section, which is a perfect release from the distorted guitars that came before it. And that slow lead break builds up to the faster leader break.
But the piece d’resistance is from 3.58 to 4.21. That harmony lead break is the stuff of “air guitar desk breaking” material. I guess I am a slave to the power of the melodic guitar break.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Another Harris track to close the album and what about the music. If the first 15 seconds doesn’t get your head banging, your fists pumping, then there is a problem.
It’s got everything, a pedal point galloping riff, a single note motif that makes it sound progressive and then at the end a super vocal melody kicks in.
And the way Bruce sings “sailing on and on/curse goes on and on” is the stuff of hairs raising on the back of neck.
From 4.39 it has a simple riff and drum response just before the slow section starts at the 5 minute mark. When I write songs, I always try to incorporate something similar.
From 7.33, Steve starts one of the most iconic bass lines. And the song gets its second wind.
That section from about 8.38 that starts building up from the bass interlude into the lead feels like it’s another desk breaking time moment.
That harmony lead break from about the 10.03 minute mark. It’s perfect. Any lead break which the audience can sing back to you, is a great lead break. And Maiden have a catalogue of them.
For an album which is 34 years old, it’s still so relevant today as it was back then. That is the power of music and great song writing.