Piece Of Mind

Iron Maiden

Capitol Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Since I've amassed a decent sized music collection covering several genres over the past 13 years, it never ceases to amaze me that I develop tastes for artists whose work I might not have listened to for some time. I mean, they sit on the shelves for months - sometimes years - and do nothing more than collect the dust of ages. But once I get the taste for that group, look out!

Recently, this occured with Iron Maiden, a band I absolutely loved in high school, but fell away from for no good reason. I don't know exactly what started it, but soon I found myself digging out my Live After Death video and listening to some of their albums incessantly.

One of these was their 1983 release Piece Of Mind, which marked the fourth different Iron Maiden lineup in as many albums. (Gone was drummer Clive Burr; in came Nicko McBrain.) While this album has some time-honored classics that sound as good today as they did 16 years ago, there are some moments on this disc that deserve to be forgotten. (Once again, by the way, I'm turning away from one of the many CD reissues, and am reviewing this on my original record I bought way back when.)

Piece Of Mind is notable, first and foremost, for the even and fair mix. Unlike some albums that brought founding member/bassist Steve Harris to the forefront, on this album, you hear Harris, vocalist Bruce Dickinson, guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and McBrain on the same level - which helps the music immensely. Instead of being rocked by Harris's bass work (which, as always, is outstanding) on tracks like "Where Eagles Dare", each instrument sounds crisp. This is a welcome change.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Piece Of Mind is also notable for a group of four songs. "Revelations" got notice from some after its inclusion on Live After Death, but it is a very progressive song that allows the band to develop a true musical piece, moving from slow to fast (highlighting some incredible guitar work from Smith and Murray), back to the gentle strains to close the song. The intertwining lead guitar work is brilliant, and should not be missed. Immediately following is one of Iron Maiden's best songs from this period, "Flight Of Icarus" -- in which Dickinson can be heard doing a little bit of a Ronnie James Dio impersonation after the first chorus. (I happen to find it both entertaining and endearing.)

"The Trooper" is another song that will forever define Iron Maiden; fortunately, it's another solid track that has withstood the passage of time and remains a high-water mark for the band. The final song in this group, "Die With Your Boots On," is one that might not be as well remembered, but is just as deserving of the spotlight.

For all the solid moments on Piece Of Mind, there are two mistakes -- one small, one major. The small mistake is on the track "Sun And Steel," just one song that draws upon Dickinson's love of fencing. (There would be two references to swordplay on their next album, Powerslave.) It turns out to be a pretty decent track in the end, but it starts out tentatively. The big mistake comes on "Quest For Fire," a song that is as cornball as anything the hair metal bands were putting out. It might have been a decent concept, but you know you're in trouble with the first lyric: "In a time when dinosaurs walked the earth" -- ugh! I honestly can't picture Dickinson singing this one without gagging. This is a track that can easliy be skipped.

The remaining tracks, "Still Life" and "To Tame A Land," are decent efforts, but don't measure up to the level of excellence that Iron Maiden shows for the bulk of the album. Even the opening track, "Where Eagles Dare," is a pretty good number -- though I guess it's better if you've read the book. (Incidentally, I haven't; I tried a few years ago, but got so bored I pitched the thing.)

The strong moments on Piece Of Mind make sure that this album remains a must-own for anyone who wants to fully appreciate Iron Maiden. But they also show that when they hit a landmine, they step on it full force -- which turned out to be a warning sign for the future.

Rating: C+

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© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.