1983 was such a great year in the history of music in general and heavy metal in particular. So many emblematic albums were released. Metallica unleashed their first album with Kill ’em All, Slayer released Show No Mercy and Dio penned his all time classic with Holy Diver. The list goes on but one record remains special and stands out from the crowd: Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind.
At the time of its release, Maiden was already a well known and established entity, having spent the last 3 years virtually recording and touring non stop. Their previous effort, The Number Of The Beast put them on the map in the US and introduced their talented new singer, Mr. Bruce “Air Raid Siren” Dickinson to the world. A little bit of controversy with the title track achieved to cement their popularity in the Land Of The Free while irritating the most conservatives. Although commercial success was still modest, Maiden were on their way to become metal superstars.
Piece of Mind would help them achieve strong sales and was their first album ever to reach gold status in the US. First of all, take a look at the sleeve: an enraged Eddie tries to break free of a padded cell. Probably imprisoned after the crimes he committed on the sleeves of the previous albums (where he killed Margaret Thatcher amongst others and sent the Devil back to hell), he seemed to have suffered a bit of a lobotomy. Apparently, it only increased his anger and aggressiveness which gives the picture an aura of darkness and fear.
First effort featuring the contribution of octopus drummer Nicko McBrain, Piece of Mind delivers two strong singles that became classics and live staples: “Flight of Icarus” and “The Trooper”, two of Maiden’s finest tunes. It finally seems like the band has found its balance as the songwriting duties get split a little more evenly. Even if Steve Harris retains his place as the main creative force, Bruce Dickinson finds his mark and pens the great “Revelations” while forming a strong partnership with guitarist Adrian Smith on “Sun and Steel” and “Flight of Icarus”. Smith gets for the first time a chance to show his impressive songwriting abilities that will peak on 86’s Somewhere In Time and 88’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. The record concludes with an hidden germ: “To Time a Land”, lyrically influenced by Frank Herbert’s Dune and served with a subtle and delicate riff that translates perfectly the dark and futurist atmosphere of the novel.
Even if the first side is a little stronger, Piece of Mind remains one of those classic albums that contributed to making heavy metal popular and Iron Maiden its main ambassador. Following its release, the band embarked in a gigantic tour featuring no less than 139 dates over a period of 8 months playing all over Europe and North America. Far from resting on their laurels after such a grueling schedule, the band would come back even stronger the following year with the arguably equally classic Powerslave.
In my opinion, one of Maiden’s finest effort which cemented their classic 80’s lineup.