(All Album Reviews by Sean)
Ahh yes, Powerslave.... I remember this one well. As I stated in another review here, I was a huge Maiden fan as a teen and this was the first album to come out after my rabid fandom started. I went to the store the day it was released, looking for the familiar red logo across the top of the album. I figured it would be easy to spot. But they threw me for a loop and changed up the cover and the size of the logo! Doh!
What I got that day turned out to be one of their best albums. It also sported one of their most detailed covers. I remember looking at the writing on the pyramid and there were all these cool things in there like "Indiana Jones was here" and a pic of Mickey Mouse. Funny glyphs... Good luck ever reading them on the cd version though, vinyl was the way to take in this intricate piece of artwork! It had to be LP sized to catch all the little bits.
This album really showed Maiden going to the next level musically and scopewise. The previous albums are all classics and are the best of the catalog. Powerslave showed the band building on the epic style touched on in previous pieces like "To Tame a Land" from Piece of Mind and "Hallowed Be Thy Name" from The Number of the Beast. There was a refinement going on here as well, for better or for worse. This album seems less raw than any previous Maiden album had been to that point.
Maiden's members love of progressive rock is pretty well documented at this point. Bruce Dickenson cites Peter Hammill as a big influence. Steve Harris claims Genesis' Foxtrot is his favorite album ever. It is no shock that prog would worm it's way into Maiden's sound. Actually it had been there in some form even on their early albums. The epic "The Phantom of the Opera" from their debut quickly comes to mind. Also some of the pieces on their second album Killers seem to point that way, especially the instrumentals. It has no epic per se on it, but is still essential.
Powerslave was quite the news when it was released, mainly because it contained a 13 minute piece on it! To metal fans this was a head scratcher, but one that was welcomed and enjoyed immediately. To any old prog fan, it was clear to see the band was getting into the epic kind of music that their influences had done ten years prior. The tune in question is "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", maybe THE prog metal epic to end all epics. I prefer some of the bands shorter epics like the ones mentioned above, but "Mariner" had it's moments. It is certainly the highlight of this album.
The title track didn't fare as well, though it is pretty good. "Powerslave" was always sort of a dull tune compared to "Mariner", sort of an epic that never gets out of second gear. There are other great tunes here though, shorter ones like the killer instrumental "Loser Words", and the catchy "Aces High". "2 Minutes to Midnight" is of course the best known track here, and a step towards the more hook laden Maiden that would soon come, but not so much that is totally sucks. Still it is one tune I tired of pretty quickly. The remaining tracks are almost overlooked nowdays, but are strong as well. This is the bands last album that was truly solid from beginning to end.
After this Maiden would take a slight dip in quality with the follow up Somewhere In Time, an album that shows them dabbling in guitar synths with mixed results. It is another rather grand album in the vein of this one, but lacks some of the spark that is here on Powerslave. The band would rebound though with the excellent concept album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. After that the band would spiral into a haze of redundant albums. They were pretty much out of fresh ideas after Powerslave but managed to ride it out 'till Seventh Son by making them grander, after that....zzzzzzz.
(All Album Reviews by Windhawk)
Powerslave is the fifth studio album by legendary British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, and for many this release is seen as the peak of their career musically. With all members now having a minimum of one album and one tour under the belt, the band is very tight sounding. In addition they are more aware of what they want their music to sound like when recording in the studio, and main songwriter Steve Harris still has the ability to conjure up tracks containing slightly surprising creative elements.
Musically Iron Maiden now has developed a distinct style of their own. Small remnants of their early punk roots still remain, the heritage from 70's hard rock can still be heard in places; especially on a track like "2 Minutes to Midnight", but most times Iron Maiden now has a distinct, unique sound on this album. Fast paced riffing combined with slower, atmospheric riffs, harmonic riffs and extensive use of harmonic, melodic soloing are all trademarks of Iron Maidens sound here, as well as drums and bass at times played faster than the guitars; and the bass guitar being a central instrument in the soundscape of most songs.
In addition to that, the song structures now begin showing influences from prog rock. The long epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is the prime example of that, but also a track like "Losfer Words"; where the band plays around with repeating themes and slight touches of dissonance; is a good example of that influence. The musical style is still heavy metal though; as the influence from progressive rock shows more in structure than in style.
The songs on Powerslave are mostly good. Title track "Powerslave" and the long epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" dominate the album, but most of the other tracks here are of high quality as well.
Overall this results in a classic heavy metal album; and is a worthwhile addition to most music collections.
My rating: 80/100