Saturday, February 07, 2009

Iron Maiden: Powerslave

Another excellent album, and one of my favorites. This is the fifth studio offering from Iron Maiden, and on this cover Eddie has become an Egyptian deity rendered in stone as part of some pharaoh's tomb.

The album opens with "Aces High," one of many Maiden songs about historic British battles. The subject here is the Battle of Britain, a World War II aerial battle for supremacy in the skies over the United Kingdom. After that is "2 Minutes to Midnight," one of the best songs in Iron Maiden's catalog and in the history of heavy metal. Everything about this song just seems right, and it deserves to be on any "best of" list of metal songs. Subject: the Doomsday Clock.

Next comes the instrumental work "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)," and then it's "Flash of the Blade," another swordplay song that I like very much. Following this is yet another song about swords, "The Duellists." I'm particularly fond of the guitar solo in this work, which to me is the perfect embodiment of the Iron Maiden sound.

Then comes the manic "Back in the Village," another favorite of mine. I read somewhere once that this song is supposed to be a sequel the "The Prisoner" on The Number of the Beast album, but I would have no idea that were the case just from listening to the lyrics. Admittedly, I didn't watch the television show of the same name very much, so maybe the lyrics make sense to someone who is more familiar with"The Prisoner."

Here's a sample of the lyrics:
Turn the spotlights on the people,
Switch the dial and eat the worm,
Take your chances, kill the engine,
Drop your bombs and let it burn.
No breaks on the inside,
Paper cats and burning barns,
There's a fox among the chickens,
And a killer in the hounds.
Make sense to you? Ultimately it doesn't matter much, I like the song anyway.

After that is the title track, "Powerslave," a very good song about Egypt, pharaohs, the process of dying, and deification.

And the last song on the album is the thirteen-and-a-half minute metal epic "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Very generously based on the fantastical poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, this song is way up on my list of favorite Maiden tunes. Part of the reason why is because I was already a fan of Coleridge's poem before this album came out, and you can imagine how happy I was to see that a band I already liked and respected was daring enough to do a rendition of one of my favorite literary works. And it works. It's a great song and it tells a great story.

By the way, my fondness for The Rime can be seen in the structure of this very blog. I took "Painted Ocean" from a line in the poem (which is quoted verbatim in the Maiden song). The "strange power of speech" refers to the mystic power the titular Ancient Mariner possesses. And my pseudonym, Albatross, is one of the key metaphors in the poem, at various times signifying salvation, victimization, penance, and salvation again. It's a strange poem, but it's well worth the read if you've got the time.

I'm glad Iron Maiden did a version of The Rime. It's one of the reasons I like them so much.

UPDATE: "The Duellists": Never very popular, yet oh so good.


AlanDP said...

I thought maybe you had taken Albatross from "Moby Dick."

Albatross said...

Nope, but Moby Dick is one of my favorite books. I've never read any other of Herman Melville's works, but I love the tale of Ahab and his white whale.