Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls


Artist

Album

The Book of Souls

Label

Parlophone / Warner

Year

2015

Genre

For Fans Of

NWOBHM, Mid 1980's Maiden, Post 2000's Maiden

Summary

Iron Maiden returns, after their longest break between albums, with a mighty comeback.

Rating

85 / 100

Iron Maiden, the very name strikes a mighty image of heavy metal, grand live shows and a rich back catalogue. After five years in between studio albums, Iron Maiden return with their sixteenth LP ‘The Book of Souls’…and spoiler: it’s another fine release.

The first half, beginning with ‘If Eternity Should Fail’, has eerie sections mixed with trademark fast paced moments, which remind listeners of classics such as ‘The Flight of Icarus’ minus the monumental high notes. ‘Speed of Light’, the first official single from the record, at first strikes a dull chord, however upon further listens becomes quite a superb tune calling back to Maiden’s faster, bluesier songs, featuring catchy riffs and an enjoyable hook. Moreover, ‘The Great Unknown’ opens with a looming clean riff that eventually leads to the band jolting in to a mid-tempo track that seems as though it would have fit in with 2000’s ‘Brave New World’ just perfectly as it has an overall darker atmosphere to it. ‘The Red and the Black’, spanning thirteen and a half minutes, offers one of Maiden’s longer musical journeys. In this time however, the song provides an interesting take on much of the same gallops, solos and belted operatic vocals that shorter Iron Maiden songs offer. The song is simply a catchy track that offers fans of the band another ‘epic’ moment. Conversely, ‘When The River Runs Deep’ is one of the more forgettable songs on the album, while sporting decent riffs, it doesn’t offer anything new or entirely infectious compared to the other shorter tracks on the full-length. The album’s title track, ‘The Book Of Souls’, is a well produced point that offers an almost Egyptian feel, which reminds listeners of something from ‘Powerslave’, featuring Bruce Dickinson’s legendary wails, an indulgent string section and some hefty lead guitar lines, the song is an instant Iron Maiden classic. 

Death or Glory’ opens up the second half of the album, and instantly it is much in the same vein as the aforementioned ‘Speed of Light’, a strong, memorable song sure to be regarded as a recognised Maiden anthem, despite its cheesy name (but hey, it appears as though Iron Maiden are exempt from all cheesy-ness). Contrastively, ‘Shadows of the Valley’ opens with a riff that is almost identical to ‘Wasted Years’ slowed down. The track turns into a mid-paced, catchy tune that will go down well with any Maiden fan. ‘Tears of A Clown’ is the shortest track on the record and is lyrically centred around the death of famous comedian Robin Williams. Equally, ‘The Man of Sorrows’ opens up with a melancholic blues guitar solo leading into a clean played riff as Dickinson melodically croons over the ascending track before the rest of the band kicks in. ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is the album’s climax, an eighteen minute, grand opus regaling fans of the tale of England’s worst airship disaster, the final voyage of Airship R101. A bit of quick band history 101, ‘Empire…’ becomes Iron Maiden’s longest track ever recorded, surpassing ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, and, well, it continues in much of the same epic feel. The band jumps into the action with thunderous drumming, exciting lead guitar lines and solos, and thumping basslines, eventually evolving into a faster and more climactic track, progressing with many elements before leading out with a haunting piano and vocal duet.

Instrumentally, ‘The Book of Souls‘ feels right at home with any other Maiden record. There is not really any improvement or lack of ability from any member of the band, and none seem to show their age at all. Bruce Dickinson, for someone who has just recovered from tongue cancer, and is pushing 58, holds up to his standard particularly well. In the second half of the album, his vocals warm up to the feel of the record. The only downfall of the album is its inconsistent production, which is absolutely solid at times, while sounding very muddy at others.

Conclusion

Iron Maiden’s latest album ‘The Book Of Souls’ is a long and interesting listen. Clocking just over 90 minutes, the album explores many elements that make this an enjoyable experience. While it does, admittedly, take a while to warm up to, and you won’t love each track at first,  listeners will be impressed with the consistency a band that is pushing forty years old can still carry. However, it’s not just the legendary Iron Maiden status that automatically makes this album passable. It is the best of both worlds. All the things we loved about the mid 1980’s from albums such as Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave and Seventh Son, as well as the better material from post-2000’s Maiden are all present.

Tracklisting

Disk One
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. The Great Unknown
4. The Red and the Black
5. When the River Runs Deep
6. The Book of Souls

Disc Two
1. Death or Glory
2. Shadows of the Valley
3. Tears of a Clown
4. The Man of Sorrows
5. Empire of the Clouds

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