Iron Maiden: Powerslave review

I think Powerslave is arguably Iron Maiden’s most consistent album. Aces High is an incredible opening track with gorgeous guitar harmonies and soaring vocals, leading into 2 Minutes to Midnight, a Smith/Dickinson composition, and one of the band’s very best tracks, particularly when it comes to the lyrics, dealing with the Cold War, the arms race and the threat of nuclear conflict. The next track is Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), an instrumental track, which lifts the mood of the album after the dark themes of the previous track, and there’s so much good stuff going on in the music that it doesn’t become self-indulgent. Flash of the Blade is a Dickinson composition with sword fighting as its theme. It has a hypnotic riff, exquisite guitar harmonies and a great chorus. The Duellists is a Harris-penned track. The notes in the chorus are so high that Bruce sounds a bit like Michael Kiske in late 80s Helloween. It’s a pretty solid track with a lovely bluesy Smith guitar solo and Smith/Murray trademark guitar harmonies. Back in the Village is another Smith/Dickinson track with a terrific, fast bluesy riff and a gorgeous middle eight. The guitar harmonies on this track, and throughout the whole album, are amazing. The title track is a Dickinson masterpiece, with its Egyptian theme, expressive vocals, multiple time changes and beautiful guitar work. The final track is the incredible Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Thirteen minutes of prog metal wonderment. The whole band excel themselves on this masterpiece, written by Steve Harris. I don’t think it’s easy to find any real weak points on this album. It really is one of their absolute best and the quality of the songs is strong and consistent throughout.

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Iron Maiden: Piece of Mind review

Beginning with a flurry of drums, Piece of Mind introduces the new member of the family: Nicko McBrain, former drummer with Trust, now Maiden powerhouse. Where Eagles Dare is an elaborate, progressive, opening track. Then the first official Bruce Dickinson songwriting masterpiece, Revelations. Borrowing from G.K. Chesterton for its opening is never a bad thing when it comes to Maiden. Epic riffs, great time changes, melancholy lyrics, make for a Maiden classic. Flight of Icarus was a Smith/Dickinson classic, forcefully sticking to its steady pace, despite Steve wanting a more brisk tempo. It’s often the unusual that stands out, and this was no exception, as Bruce and Adrian embarked on a fruitful collaborative partnership that endures to this day. Die With Your Boots On saw Maiden’s three principal songwriters (Steve/Bruce/Adrian) embarking on a pretty good track. Good chorus and plenty of variety, but its only downfall is being followed by The Trooper, a solid gold classic written by Steve. A mainstay of the band’s live set, it features the classic Maiden galloping tempo, screaming vocals and fantastic guitar solos from Dave and Adrian. Still Life was written by Dave and Steve and offers a nice change of pace, with a gentle beginning which picks up, with its tale of nightmares, a recurring theme in Steve’s lyrics. Excellent solos by both guitarists really lift this track. Quest for Fire is awful. Fortunately it’s only 3:42 long. Sun and Steel is another Bruce/Adrian track and is another galloper with a great chorus. To Tame A Land is the final track, written by Steve, and about Frank Herbert’s Dune stories. It’s a pretty lame way to finish a good album, but when you’ve got an album with The Trooper and Revelations on it, you don’t have a lot to worry about. But what’s this? A ticket to ancient Egypt? Sounds good to me.

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Gumbrich – a short story


Gumbrich – The Scariest Monster of All

A short story Paul Carden

Gumbrich lived in an old ruined tower on top of a hill overlooking the village of Spidgewell. He was employed by the Guild of Baddies to be the town monster but unfortunately he wasn’t very good at it.  With pointy teeth, pointy ears and green skin he certainly looked the part, but when it came to scaring and terrorising the villagers he just wasn’t up to the job.  Instead of frightening old ladies he would usually end up helping them home with their shopping, instead of scaring children he would usually end up playing in goal in their football games, and instead of causing people to be too afraid to venture out after dark he would go around lighting the street lamps for them as he was quite tall and could reach the lamps easier.  Basically, Gumbrich was not very good at being bad.

The Guild of Baddies were not at all happy with his work and Gumbrich was regularly warned that if he didn’t shape up and start terrorising people they would find another monster to replace him.  Gumbrich liked living in Spidgewell and the villagers liked him so he didn’t want to be replaced.  After many years the Guild gave him a final warning, their executive committee would visit Spidgewell on Halloween, the scariest night of the year, and if they found the villagers were not as terrified as they should be then Gumbrich would be sacked.

Gumbrich was terribly worried.  He wanted to stay in Spidgewell but didn’t want to have to scare his friends in the village.  When he didn’t turn up to play in goal at the children’s football game they became worried and wondered if anything was wrong.  A group of the children decided to go up to his tower to find out if he was okay.  When they arrived they found that he was terribly worried about what would happen when the committee from the Guild of Baddies arrived for their inspection on Halloween.  None of the children wanted Gumbrich to have to leave so they decided to hatch a plan to save him from being replaced.

The children assured Gumbrich that everything would be okay and went back to the village to tell their parents their plan.  They would decorate their houses in such a way as to make the usually jolly and quaint village of Spidgewell look bleak and scary with fake cobwebs, jack o’ lanterns, rubber rats and all manner of spooky decorations.  Also, instead of the usual smiling villagers, they would dress up as ghosts and monsters in order to fool the committee from the League of Baddies into thinking that all the villagers had been driven away because they were all too afraid of Gumbrich.

When the committee arrived they were overjoyed to see such a bleak, sinister place and when they saw it was now only inhabited by ghosts and beasties they congratulated Gumbrich on his excellent work.  In fact they were so impressed that they apologised for ever doubting him.

After the committee had gone, the villagers told Gumbrich that they had all enjoyed dressing up and decorating their houses so much that they had decided to do it every year on Halloween, and at the next meeting of the Guild of Baddies the executive committee declared Gumbrich to be the scariest monster of all.

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Finn Can Fly – a short story


Finn Can Fly

A short story by Paul Carden

Finn had often dreamed that he could fly.  He would dream that he could just spread his arms wide and he would float up into the air and fly around inside his dream wherever he liked.  He sometimes drew pictures of the places he had flown to in his dreams and showed them to his mum.  She thought it was wonderful that he could dream such fantastic things.

But one Saturday morning Finn’s mum got an incredible surprise when she came to wake him up, because Finn was floating a metre above his mattress while he was still fast asleep.  Finn’s mum was astonished and whispered quietly in order to wake him without startling him.  Finn slowly opened his eyes as his mum called to him.  He knew something was wrong straight away and started to panic but his mum asked him to try to think himself down gently like he did in his dreams.  Once Finn was back on the ground he was very excited.  He quickly washed and dressed and came down to breakfast where his mum was anxious to discuss what to do.  Finn was full of plans to fly to all the fantastic places he had been to in his dreams, like the Pyramids, the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal, but his mum suggested that it would be safer if he didn’t fly so far to start off with in case he got lost, so first of all Finn, with his mum watching, flew to the park and back.  After this was a success he flew to the shops and back.

Finn was now really excited but his mum was still worried about him travelling too far in case he lost his way, so she came up with the idea of mowing a large X on the lawn so that when Finn was flying overhead he would always be able to see where home was.  Finn rushed upstairs to get a book about things to see in Britain and put it in his rucksack so that he would be able to find all the places he wanted to see, and, after his mum had made him a packed lunch, he spread his arms wide and rose gently into the air.  He checked his dad’s old compass to make sure he knew which direction to go, and flew off through the clear summer sky.

First of all Finn flew over London and saw Canary Wharf, St Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace.  After that he flew to Dover to see the white cliffs.  He then flew west to see the sunny coasts of Devon and Cornwall.  Then Finn headed north to see Snowdonia in Wales and then up to Scotland to see Ben Nevis and Loch Lomond.  On his way back through England he saw the Angel of the North and after a full day of sight-seeing he decided to head home.

Just as he was flying towards his home town a passenger jet roared past him and sent him into an uncontrollable spin.  Finn could see the lawn with the X that his mum had mown onto it so that he would be able to find his way back, but he was out of control and falling fast.  He thought he saw his mum run out into the back garden as he tumbled towards the ground.

When Finn woke up he was in his bed.  His mum came and asked him what he would like for breakfast and he asked her what had happened when he had landed.  His mum didn’t seem to know what he was talking about so he explained everything that had happened to him when he had flown off around the country and then lost control and fallen towards the garden, but his mum told him it must have been a dream.  Finn jumped out of bed and rushed to the window but he couldn’t see an X mown into the lawn.  He sighed with disappointment but then told his mum that he was actually glad it had been a dream because flying had been far too dangerous.

As his mum went downstairs to make his breakfast Finn decided that he would draw some pictures of where he had been in his dream, but he couldn’t help feeling that, before he had woken up, he had heard the sound of a lawnmower.

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Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast review

The Number of the Beast was Iron Maiden’s breakthrough album. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s guitar harmonies were in place and Adrian had started contributing really strong songs. The band had also poached singer Bruce Dickinson from Samson with his extraordinary stage presence and incredible voice. The next piece of the puzzle for this album was that Steve was about to write some of his greatest songs.

Listening to the opening track, Invaders, it’s not as bad as I remember it, but the chorus is terrible. Children of the Damned follows and the songwriting goes to another level. An epic sounding track, albeit only 4:36 long, that starts slowly, building to a powerful chorus, and then to the time change as it races to the finish, with a final piercing scream from Bruce Dickinson. The Prisoner is one of my favourites, with its spoken opening, included with Patrick McGoohan’s permission. The song has one of Maiden’s greatest, most uplifting choruses, and a brilliant middle section where Adrian and Dave trade brilliant guitar solos. 22 Acacia Avenue continues the story of Charlotte the Harlot. Despite the lyrics by Steve, which haven’t aged well, this is another great Adrian track with cool time changes, awesome riffs and a lovely soulful guitar solo in the slower section. The title track begins with its famous spoken intro by Barry Clayton. This is obviously one of Maiden’s greatest songs and has featured in their live set ever since. For many years during Adrian’s guitar solo Bruce would lift Dave up on his shoulders and run around the stage with him, which was a great surprise to Dave the first time it happened. Run to the Hills follows, another of the band’s greatest songs with a brilliant chorus and the famous galloping rhythm which was to also feature in some of the band’s future songs. Bruce’s final scream is also extraordinary. Gangland features some great drumming by Clive Burr and has a nice instrumental section with the twin guitars playing some lovely harmonies, but the track suffers from being surrounded by some of Maiden’s greatest ever songs. Total Eclipse did not feature on the original album as it was the b-side of the Run to the Hills single, but it was included on the 1998 re-issue. It’s not bad, despite the section near the end where the vocals go wierdly high, but it ends up feeling like an unnecessary obstacle in getting to one of Maiden’s greatest songs of all. Hallowed be thy Name is the band’s first genuine epic, clocking in at 7:15. This is another track the band has to play in every live set. Steve Harris has long regarded it as one of the very best songs he’s written. The music is full of drama, brilliant time changes and blistering guitar solos.

Looking at the tracklisting, it’s easy to see why TNOTB is regarded as one of Maiden’s very best albums. With the title track, Run to the Hills, Children of the Damned, The Prisoner and Hallowed be thy Name being some of the band’s very best songs, and with Bruce Dickinson in place as the new singer, this was the album which broke band worldwide. Next, we meet Sooty’s best mate.

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Iron Maiden: Killers review

Killers marks the beginning of Iron Maiden’s long association with producer Martin Birch. He has revealed that he was surprised the band hadn’t asked him to produce their first album, but at the time they were a bit too intimidated to approach a man who had worked with Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac. The other important new arrival on this album was Adrian Smith, a fantastic guitarist who has written some of Maiden’s greatest songs over the years.

The Ides of March instrumental kicks off the album, leading into the classic Wrathchild and then Murders in the Rue Morgue, three songs it’s hard to follow, and Another Life doesn’t quite manage it. Yet another instrumental, Gengis Khan, follows, showcasing some great Clive Burr drumming. Innocent Exile is a great example of the difference Martin Birch made to Maiden, as Steve’s bass in particular sounds really full and rich.The track shows the quality of the album’s songs picking up again. The title track is another stone cold classic, from the pounding bass intro and Paul D’Ianno’s screams to the thunderous main section with Adrian and Dave’s chugging guitars and Clive Burr’s ferocious drums. The guitar solos are also pretty awesome. Prodigal Son which follows is quite a contrast; a really beautiful ballad full of Steve’s prog rock influences and some gorgeous bass playing, not to mention Paul’s soulful vocals. Purgatory is a ferociously fast Maiden classic which perhaps isn’t as well known as it should be. I would certainly love to see them play it live. Twilight Zone didn’t feature on the original tracklisting but is on the remastered album, and for an album with a noticeable quality dip it’s a welcome addition as it’s a really strong song. My favourite track is the final one, Drifter. From Paul’s first scream of “Rock ‘n’ rooooooolllllll” the track oozes excitement and exuberance. Who cares what the words mean when a song is this infectious? So a couple of tracks are a little weak but Maiden’s first album with Martin Birch contains enough classics to be considered pretty damn awesome, and it is also the swansong of the excellent Paul D’Ianno whose rich and powerful voice gave Maiden such a strong start. Now bring on the Air Raid Siren.

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Iron Maiden: Iron Maiden review

Steve Harris has often expressed his disappointment with the first Iron Maiden album, but its raw roots are its strength. Even if the band were doing their best with a producer who didn’t seem interested (Wil Malone), what they ended up with was amazing. The ferocity of Prowler leads into the prog rock of Remember Tomorrow with Paul D’Ianno showing what an amazing singer he was during Maiden’s early years. Running Free remained a favourite encore for a long time and provided Maiden with the first of their few Top of the Pops appearances. Phantom of the Opera is one of the great Maiden classics, immortalised on the Daley Thompson Lucozade advert in the 80s. The version on Live After Death features an arguably better dual guitar section due to Dave Murray and Adrian Smith’s telepathic guitar harmonies (Dennis Stratton and Dave featuring on this album version). Transylvania is a superb instrumental with too much going on to become self indulgent or boring. Strange World is another early foray into prog rock, showing Steve’s progressive influences, including Genesis. This is another showcase for Dave Murray’s beautiful guitar solos and a very restrained Paul D’Ianno showing the richness of his voice. Charlotte The Harlot brings the album back down to its raw, punky roots but includes a slow, melodic mid-section, giving a hint at the depth of Dave Murray’s early songwriting. Finally we have the band’s title song that has ended their main live set for many, many years. The words are largely irrelevant, apart from “Iron Maiden’s gonna get you,” which, in all probability, they will. They got me a very long time ago.

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