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Iron Maiden - Powerslave CD (album) cover


Iron Maiden


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4.13 | 753 ratings

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Symphonic Team
4 stars "Hear the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Stay here and listen to the nightmare of the sea!"

"Powerslave" is the first great progressive metal Iron Maiden album, after they had released a few albums leading to this new direction in their music. IM were always threatening to release an album like this once they broke away from the confining short songs and 4/4 traditional rock signatures. There was always experimentation with time sigs but this was all taken to the extreme level with the brilliant 13 and a half minute onslaught of 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'; my all time favourite IM track.

I could spend this entire review talking about this track alone, and when I heard this on the metal radio show, when this was first released, the announcer stated that this track alone was worth getting "Powerslave"; I concur with this. It is simply brilliant metal and I have played this so many times I have somehow managed to memorise every lyric and even the lead breaks. There are some incredible lead breaks here by the duel guitars of Murray and Smith. The complexity of the music cannot be taken for granted, there are time sig shifts throughout and mood swings at every verse. The song begins with a galloping riff with small diversions and then it launches into a fast tempo speed lick. "The ship sails on through the fog and ice.... Water water everywhere and all the boards did shrink..." The lyrics are based on Coleridge's poem of the same name and it this song is a very faithful interpretation; the university lecturer played this track when I was studying poetry would you believe. I had given the lyrics and song to the lecturer on her request. It eventually cleared the room of all the ladies but I sat there and enjoyed it.

The song basically goes into each aspect of the poem, where the Mariner sees an albatross, kills it and thus the curse of death plagues the ship killing his crew. "The Mariner kills the bird of good omen..." and the siren like banshees of "Death and She Life in death they throw their dice for the crew", and they want the Mariner to succumb to their deathly charms. Eventually the pace slows and it grinds to a halt with a bassy passage with atmospheric effects, such as a witch's cackle and the creaking of the doomed ship. A narrative voice speaks Coleridge's epic poem that Dickinson had previously been screaming out with utter conviction. It reminds me now of Van der Graaf Generator's lyrics by Hammill on 'Plague of Lighthouse Keepers' that is also about a doomed ship and drowning. "They dropped down one by one," the narrator speaks and then the pace quickens again. The theme of dying and being stalked by death itself is powerful. When the bass begins and a new chugging riff enters, Dickinson's vocals penetrate with power, "The curse it lives on in their eyes, the Mariner he wished he died along with the sea creatures but they lived on so did he, then by the light of the moon he prays for their beauty not doom, with heart he blesses them God's creatures all of them too, then the spell starts to break, the albatross falls from his neck..." After the curse is lifted, a lengthy brilliant lead break with fret melting dexterity pummels the senses. It returns back to the intro riff with variations, I love the lyrics, "that we should love all things that God made" as it shows the Mariner has learnt his lesson from killing the albatross and now has converted to admiring creation rather than destroying it. The poem is also my favourite poem due to this song, and I wrote a very solid essay about it; thank you Iron Maiden for that High Distinction! Overall this track is quintessential to Maiden and is always the highlight for me when it appears on live concert DVDS.

OK, for the rest of the album there is enough here to make this a worthy purchase. 'Aces High' has a catchy chorus and very good guitar work, a classic track. 'Two Minutes To Midnight' was played on metal radio show just before the witching hour so I have heard it many times. It's great in concert and still a popular favourite with Iron fans. 'Powerslave' is a terrific song with killer riffs and a memorable chorus. The Egyptian themes here are of course due to IM's interest in the Egyptian Book of the Dread (shock horror) but the themes lead to the mighty stage set with the Sphinx and Pyramids, and Tutenkhamen mummified objects; it is all very "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for me, but a cool image in it's day, no doubt.

So overall here is an album with strong progressive elements, one killer epic to die for, and a lot of catchy shorter songs. It is definitely worth getting hold of, trust me on this. Along with "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" and "Brave New World" this is an excellent metal feast of Iron Maiden.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 4/5 |


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