Monday, September 28, 2015

The Greatest Album Is ... Piece Of Mind

Every band that has been around for a while and released great records runs into this debate; what is their greatest album? The greatest album is… is a column dedicated to tackling that age old question. What is the greatest album recorded by Iron Maiden? Join with us now as the question is answered and arguments are made that the greatest Iron Maiden album is Piece Of Mind.

It would be easy to argue that any of the big four Iron Maiden albums released in the 80s (Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son) deserve the title of greatest. However, when played consecutively, one album does rise above the others. The reason Piece of Mind comes out on top is due to the overall strength of every song on the album. There isn’t a bad one, or even a semi-bad one, to be found. Every song on Piece of Mind is a masterpiece.

The record launches at a galloping pace with the double bass kicking of (newest member at the time) Nicko McBrain pounding the drums for “Where Eagles Dare” and just unleashes a force of amazing from there. The slower, daunting pace of “Revelations” follows and eventually gives way to “Flight of Icarus.” Those three songs are the best combined opening of any Iron Maiden album ever recorded. The placement of the tracks to kick off the record is absolutely brilliant.

Piece of Mind is stupendous in every aspect. As with most Iron Maiden albums, the music is heavily layered and intricate. It can take several listens to pick out all the little nuances contained in each song. Guitar solos, bass solos, drum solos, sound effects, and the voice of Bruce Dickinson fill Piece of Mind with glorious treats for the ears. Piece of Mind found Iron Maiden hitting their stride in the world of progressive heavy metal. It was the first of many albums to feature the core lineup of Dickinson, Harris, Murray, Smith, and McBrain. And while Clive Burr was a terrific drummer in his own right, Nicko McBrain brought an element to the band that had been absent on previous albums. His ability behind the kit is superb. The fills placed into the drumming had never been achieved on prior Maiden records, and it is most evident on the opening track “Where Eagles Dare.” McBrain is a master of his craft and he was the final missing piece that catapulted the band from hard rock heroes to international superstars.

Iron Maiden even included a little tongue-in-cheek jab at their critics with the hidden message that appears just before “Still Life.” At the time there were several critics who accused Maiden of being worshippers of Satan, and who had clearly not listened to their music before making that blanket accusation. The message can only be understood when played backwards, and it was far from satanic. Nicko McBrain was reciting an English comedy routine and it was captured on tape during the recording of the album. The decision was made to put it on the record backwards for a good laugh at the expense of the “idiotic” critics who did not understand the band.

The song “Still Life” itself is one of the greatest underrated gems in Iron Maiden’s entire catalog. It is an outstanding song that never got the recognition it deserves. The song centers on a man’s obsession with spirits in a pool of water that eventually overtake him. There are suggestions that the song was based on a short story, “The Inhabitant of the Lake” by Ramsey Campbell. While this is not mentioned in the linear notes, it has become generally accepted by fans over the years. Steve Harris has gone on record to say that “Still Life” in its simplest form is a song about the fear of drowning.

Rife with nine absolutely amazing songs, Piece Of Mind is a brilliant album and the best work that Iron Maiden has ever created. The band was in full force, and the addition of Nicko McBrain behind the drum kit completed what would become the most successful and talented lineup that Maiden had. They would stay together for three more albums before Adrian Smith would leave the band. It would be the most successful period of Iron Maiden’s career and it all started with the finest gem they ever made.

The greatest Iron Maiden album is…Piece of Mind.

Vital Statistics
Released: May 28, 1983
Produced by Martin Birch
RIAA Sales: Platinum
Peak Position on US Charts: 14
Rated Greatest Metal Album Of All Time By Kerrang! In 1983
A farcical hidden message was contained at the beginning of “Still Life.” This was in response to the many rumors that Iron Maiden was Satanic.
This is the first Iron Maiden album with drummer Nicko McBrain

Flight Of Icarus
The Trooper

Track Listing
Where Eagles Dare
Flight Of Icarus
Die With Your Boots On
The Trooper
Still Life
Quest For Fire
Sun And Steel
To Tame A Land

Band Members
Bruce Dickinson – Vocals
Dave Murray – Guitars
Adrian Smith – Guitars
Steve Harris – Bass Guitar
Nicko McBrain - Drums 

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