Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind

Excellent album.

This is Iron Maiden's fourth studio offering, and it is the first one to feature Nicko McBrain behind the drum kit. I liked Clive Burr, but McBrain -- like Bruce Dickinson -- brought a character to the band that made it somehow more Maidenesque. The drummers' styles are definitely dissimilar, and, because the first track opens with a rapid fire drum intro that hits you like a slap in the face, you can tell right from the start that something's different.

On the cover, we can see that Eddie has been caught. He's been lobotomized, and now he is locked away in a padded room. The brain operation apparently doesn't take hold because, as you may have already guessed, Eddie comes back to grace each new album cover with more maniacal mayhem as the years go by.

Piece of Mind demonstrates the wide range of influences that guide the band members' songwriting skills. On this album, we have two songs that are based on movies, one that's based on a classic science fiction novel, one that's based on a poem, and another that's based on Greek mythology.

The first song on the album is "Where Eagles Dare," a good song that's based on the movie of the same name that starred Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. A very good movie, too, if I can remember from so long ago.

The next song is "Revelations," a Bruce Dickinson offering with a great guitar solo, and then comes "Flight of Icarus," a Maiden hit that is based on the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, his son who flew too close to the sun. After that is "Die With Your Boots On," which is one of my favorite Maiden songs, and then it's "The Trooper," a very popular song at the time that tells the story of British fighters during the Crimean War, taking its cue from the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Next up is "Still Life." This song is notable for its intro, which is a backwards masked message. Apparently the band had come under some criticism for supposedly including secret hidden Satanic messages on its albums, so the band threw it back at the critics by including an obvious backwards message at the beginning of "Still Life." It's a joke, and it's pretty funny.

After that is "Quest for Fire," a catchy song based on the caveman movie, and then comes "Sun and Steel," one of those odd Iron Maiden tunes that actually has an upbeat feel to it despite its dark subjet (swordplay and death). Maybe it's the harmony they use in the chorus when they sing of "Sunlight falling on your steel," maybe it's something else, but the song gets my toe a-tappin' and actually puts me in a pretty good mood.

The last song on the album is "To Tame a Land." It's based on Frank Herbert's Dune, a fabulously sprawling novel about power struggles on a desert planet. So, why didn't Steve Harris just use the title of the novel and call the song "Dune," like the band usually does with works based on books or movies? Apparently they respected Frank Herbert enough to ask his permission. And he responded like an ass. So they gave it an odd, stupid sounding name instead. Too bad. It's a good song anyway.

Overall, Piece of Mind is a great album, and it solidifies the sound of Iron Maiden for years to come.

UPDATE: Be prepared for the onslaught of Nicko McBrain!


AlanDP said...

"To Tame a Land" is also the title of a Louis L'Amour book. One of his better ones, too, imo. I don't know why it was never made into a movie, when so many others were.

Albatross said...

Perhaps that's where Steve Harris got the idea for the title when Frank Herbert rejected him. He's obviously fairly well read, so I wouldn't be surprised if he is familiar with a lot of books in different genres.