Exactly 30 years ago, the world would witness the birth of the best Heavy Metal album of all time.
Recorded from February to June 1984 at the famous Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and released on September 3, 1984, Powerslave is much more than just a milestone in the Heavy Metal universe. You can disagree with me and start all that blah blah blah about how this or that album from Black Sabbath or Metallica, or even another Iron Maiden album like The Number of the Beast, is better than Powerslave, but I’m sorry, nothing really compares to this album. Powerslave is by far the most complex, complete, exciting and powerful album of all time, and anything I say about it won’t be enough to describe this 50-minute Heavy Metal masterpiece’s grandiosity.
Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain were at the peak of their musical creativity and inspiration, delivering their fans unique songs about the Ancient Egypt, the experiences of a sailor from a famous English poem, the pleasures and honor of a duel, an aircraft battle during the Battle of Britain, and more. All songs have wonderful instrumental parts, together with clever and meaningful lyrics, making them some of the most requested by all Maidenmaniacs around the globe for any live concerts, best of albums, top 100 Heavy Metal songs, weddings, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals, prom nights, or anywhere else good music can be played.
Well, the album kicks off with my favorite song of all time in any music genre, Aces High, which still gives me the chills every time I listen to it. “Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die / Run, live to fly, fly to live, Aces High”, sings Bruce perfectly while Steve Harris “gallops” his bass like a wild beast. Not only that, you can feel the battle going on in the air with the lyrics, and the solos are among the best the band has ever produced thanks to majestic performances by Adrian and Dave. Do I need to say it sounds even more splendid live?
There’s no better way to continue the album than with another all-time classic, 2 Minutes to Midnight, a song that has an unparalleled starting riff that even a newborn baby can easily recognize, and amazing lyrics that make reference to the Doomsday Clock. Then comes Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), one of the few instrumental songs the band has ever produced, with total highlight to the beautiful job done by Steve and Nicko. Flash of the Blade keeps the bar high with its outstanding riffs and speed, while The Duellists is in every fan’s dreams of seeing it being played live by the band in any of their world tours. This is another one of my top Maiden tracks of all time, especially due to its incredible rhythm led by Steve and Nicko. Iron Maiden even tried to replicate this type of sonority with more contemporary songs like “Fallen Angel” and “Montsegur”, but it seems the fans didn’t like the new songs that much. Then we have Back in the Village, another song with amazing riffs, although it’s considered the least favorite of the album by many fans.
The last part of the album is simply awesome: Powerslave is one of those cases of a song that should be turned into a movie due to its excellence in telling the Ancient Egyptian history during its 7 minutes of pure Heavy Metal. Its initial drums are superb, the lyrics are perfect, the chorus is wonderful (“Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave / I don’t wanna die, I’m a God, / Why can’t I live on?”), as well as every other part of the song. Seeing Maiden playing this song live is an unforgettable experience in the life of any person. And last but not least, we have another Heavy Metal masterpiece, the one and only Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Inspired by the amazing poem from British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, this 13-minute song has one of the most elaborate lyrics in the world of music, different tempos, a beautiful narration in the middle taken directly from the original poem, and all musicians showing us why “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”. As I mentioned before, nothing I say will be enough to describe the magnitude of this song or the entire album.
“One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
Four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan),
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one.”
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)
If you think that’s all, you’re completely wrong. Iron Maiden is not a regular band, as they add a lot more than just the music to their work. Powerslave follows its predecessors with another unmatched front cover showing the band’s most celebrated “member”, Eddie the Head, this time inspired by the Ancient Egypt and perfectly representing the content of the album, designed by master Derek Riggs. It’s impossible not to fall in love for it, don’t you agree? And if you get the 1995 reissue, you’ll also enjoy the songs from the bonus disc, especially their cool version for Beckett’s Rainbow’s Gold.
Finally, right after the release of Powerslave the band went on their longest and most memorable tour of all, The World Slavery Tour, which began in Warsaw, Poland on August 9, 1984 and ended only in Irvine, U.S. on July 5, 1985 (187 shows in total), culminating with the launch of another masterpiece, the live album Live After Death. I have no idea of how many bands have been influenced by Powerslave or by Iron Maiden’s entire career, but I know that none has ever been able to deliver something so mighty and unique as Steve, Bruce & Co. did with Powerslave. UP THE IRONS!
Best moments of the album: Aces High, The Duellists, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Worst moments of the album: None. Powerslave is perfect.
Released in 1984 EMI
1. Aces High 4:29
2. 2 Minutes to Midnight 6:00
3. Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra) (Instrumental) 4:13
4. Flash of the Blade 4:03
5. The Duellists 6:06
6. Back in the Village 5:03
7. Powerslave 7:12
8. Rime of the Ancient Mariner 13:42
1995 Reissue Bonus Disc
1. Rainbow’s Gold (Beckett cover) 4:57
2. Mission From ‘Arry 6:42
3. King of Twilight (Nektar cover) 4:53
4. The Number of the Beast (live) 4:57
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Steve Harris – bass guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums