The first time I heard this record,I was about thirteen. It had already been out for about four years,and in that time its acclaim had grown to the point where it was already widely regarded as a classic. Once I heard the brief drum solo that opens lead track Where Eagles Dare, it was easy to hear why. There was something so fierce about Piece Of Mind. Perhaps it was the production of Martin Birch, or the primal screams and powerful wails of Bruce Dickinson. Maybe it was nine-round axe duel between Adrian Smith and Dave Murray or the masterful rhythm section of Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain at work. I think it was all of those, but most importantly, it was the songwriting that made this album the highlight of metal’s most creatively stellar year,1983.
Listen to the aural acrobatics of the aforementioned Where Eagles Dare which features one of the best examples of daring riffery and acrobatic melody the metal genre has to offer. Even the album’s weakest track, Quest For Fire, thrusts, dodges, lunges, and parries with proud cunning. Every composition on Piece Of Mind broke ground, and the album as a whole could not have been written by any other band. Piece of Mind is one of those records that always seemed to be not unlike an anthology of self-contained, yet vaguely related stories. When reading the acknowledgements, it comes as no surprise that the band thanks Alistair MacLean and Frank Herbert for the inspiration that their novels brought to their work. My young mind was engrossed in the richly British escapism of the lyrics and still is to this day. Where Eagles Dare sent us on a mission to infiltrate a castle in the Austrian Alps. The intricate dirge Revelations told a tale of Biblical intrigue. Flight Of Icarus brought the myth of one who tempts fate with man-made wings to a whole new generation. Die With Your Boots On gave us warnings from Nostradamus. The Trooper, with its rousing, galloping twin-lead riff, put us right onto a battlefield during the Crimean war. Still Life told us a ghost story. Quest For Fire took us back to a prehistoric time that never actually was. Sun And Steel took us into the mind of Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, and finale To Tame A Land thrust us far beyond our universe to Frank Herbert’s desert planet Arrakis. Never before or since has a album taken me to so many fantastic realms in such a short period of time. This, combined with everything else I have written, is what makes Piece Of Mind the definitive Iron Maiden experience. All in all it remains a swashbuckling thriller of sound and fury that has withstood the onslaught of Father Time long enough to become my favorite album ever.