Posted on by Oran

Iron Maiden’s seminal classic ‘Powerslave’ turns 36 years old today and couldn’t sound any better. We take you down memory lane for a brief look at the history behind one of Maiden’s most groundbreaking studio albums.

There are not many bands that can match such a distinctive and gloriously rich discography like Iron Maiden’s.

Even fewer can compare the longevity of the bands’ career despite their almost elusive presence in mainstream media over their 45 years of recording, touring and enriching the very existence of the Heavy Metal genre.

The year was 1984 and the world was already caught up in ‘Maiden Fever‘ thanks to their previous studio efforts of which were released in rapid succession from their self-titled debut in 1980, followed by ‘Killers‘ 1981, ‘Number of the Beast‘ 1982, and ‘Piece of Mind‘ 1983.

Iron Maiden featuring the late Martin Birch.

By today’s standards, Maiden’s work ethic seems somewhat unbelievable considering it takes [on average] up to 4/5 years for contemporary bands to write, record and release new music.

With Bruce Dickinson firmly in place as Maiden’s powerful new frontman [his debut being ’82’s ‘Number of the Beast‘], the perfect storm was brewing for the UK five-piece to up their game and unleash the full power of their capability… on a global level.

Clocking in at 50 mins with 8 phenomenal and genre-defining tracks, ‘Powerslave‘ was, without a doubt, bassist and founding member, Steve Harris’s most staggering and adventurous work of its time since the bands’ infamous debut.

Harris is responsible for penning 4 of the 8 tracks on the LP which included the masterful epic that is “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” – a 14-minute colossal soundtrack based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 626-line tale of a cursed sailor’s sin and redemption.

The album is peppered with subjects that include the mythology of ancient Egypt (“Powerslave”), World War II fighter pilots (“Aces High”) the arms race (“2 Minutes to Midnight”), the futility of Western-style gun battles (“The Duellists”).

Recorded in Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas in February 1984, with recently deceased producer Martin Birch, the band finished recording by May and mixed the album in June at Electric Lady Studios in New York City and released on September 3rd, 1984.

Almost immediately, the band hit the road on what would be their most extensive and challenging tour, dubbed the ‘World Slavery Tour‘ which began in Poland in August 1984 with continues dates that ran through late 1985 in California.

Audio and video recordings were made at shows in the Long Beach Arena in L.A. and London’s infamous Hammersmith Odeon. The footage was combined and skillfully edited together for the album and video ‘Live After Death’, [released Oct 1985] which is regarded as one of the most highly-respected live metal albums of all time.

Entering the Billboard Charts at number 21, Iron Maiden tracked around the globe converting their growing army of fans all the while laying down a solid foundation that would hold their increasing popularity for decades to come.

Powerslave‘ is a masterpiece in more ways than one. The album is a priceless and irreplaceable gem in the NWOBHM’s crown that saw band members Steve Harris, Dave Murry, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson and Nicko McBrain confidently explore the length and breadth of the group’s ability and imagination, alternating captivating moments of concise metallic power, with extended progressive experiments in equal measures.

Oran O’Beirne 2020