Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’ Songs, Ranked Worst to Best
Over the past three or so decades, British heavy metal icons Iron Maiden have given their fans more incredible albums than they could have ever hoped for. But 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ is special; if it isn't universally regarded as their all-time best album, it is in many ways the quintessential Iron Maiden LP. Even though it was the band’s fifth studio album in five years, ‘Powerslave’ was the first to include the same lineup as its predecessor: singer Bruce Dickinson, guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain. ‘Powerslave’ also marks the last time Maiden fans were in agreement about one of the group's records. So with that in mind, we rank its songs, from worst to best.
There’s just something missing from 'Powerslave'’s oddly titled third cut, ‘Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)’… Oh yeah, the vocals! This was Iron Maiden’s final foray into instrumental compositions, evidently because their enthusiasm for them was starting to wear thin at this point.
‘Powerslave’'s fourth track finds Dickinson expounding on his love of competitive fencing, as his lyric “cuts and thrusts and parries” around his bandmates’ athletic metallic performance. There’s also a refreshing simplicity — and brevity — to ‘Flash of the Blade’ that would take a backseat to the longer epics found on Maiden’s next few albums.
A particularly spirited and rambunctious little number, ‘Back in the Village’ showcases guitarist Smith in fiery form, while songwriting partner Dickinson sings a somewhat scattered, but very entertaining, lyrical mishmash, simultaneously predicting his next extracurricular hobby (piloting airplanes) and revisiting the British TV classic ‘The Prisoner,’ a show that had already shown up in ‘The Number of the Beast.’
You could say that ‘The Duellists’ is no more than a big brother to its fencing-inspired predecessor ’Flash of the Blade,’ but the song takes the subject to the next level of instrumental complexity and utilizes Harris' familiar charging guitar gallop, heard in other Maiden adventures like ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name.'
Even in 1984, when the songwriting excesses of '70s prog-rock were still a not-so-distant memory, a metal epic lasting nearly 14 minutes was a positively jaw-dropping proposition. But Maiden possessed the talent, vision and pure guts to dare such an enterprise, spinning the words of 18th-century poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge across multiple musical passages of stunning variety, and rewarding fans with a metallic behemoth for the ages.
An album as imposing and magnificent as ‘Powerslave’ demands an equally commanding and majestic title track, and Iron Maiden deliver here. Dickinson’s fascination with ancient Egyptian religion and tradition is the main subject, but the band brings a suitably morbid and metal interpretation to the tomb, as they muse metallic on an entire civilization developed around the cult of death. How metal is that?
If ‘Flash of the Blade’ wins with its straightforwardness, the spectacular ‘Aces High’ scores a victory for the ages: a pulse-raising album-launching juggernaut that Iron Maiden has arguably yet to match, never mind top. Too bad the band didn't include Winston’s Churchill’s celebrated “We shall fight on the beaches ... ” speech before the song, like it did on the World Slavery Tour.
A stone-cold Cold War metal classic, '2 Minutes to Midnight' was inspired by the infamous Doomsday Clock (which counts down humanity's time until total annihilation), and the song's bleak and terrifying lyrics rank among Maiden’s very best. The music is great, too, infusing the band's familiar technical proficiency with an undeniable hook.