“The Book Of Souls” by Iron Maiden

Artist: Iron Maiden
Title: “The Book Of Souls”
Label: BMG Music
Release Date: 9/4/2015
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 4/5

It’s been five years since the world last received new Metal from the mighty Iron Maiden after “The Final Frontier” but the band had not been sitting idle on their laurels during this time as while new music was being worked on, the finalization of said works needed to be placed on hold as Bruce Dickinson dealt with and recovered from a cancerous throat tumor. Now that the always energetic front man received the respite he needed the album was completed and comes to us care of BMG Music with “The Book Of Souls”. According to what I’ve read in the press copy for the album, a good chunk of it was written by the band in the studio and immediately captured on tape so there is some sense of spontaneity to the larger body of work. Speaking of larger bodies, this is the first ever double album for the band in terms of a studio release and clocks in at 92 minutes long. It’s safe to say that the bygone days of shorter tunes are long a thing of the past when it comes to Iron Maiden material. Perhaps this is a good thing and as you listen to the eleven tracks go by you will find that almost all of them are over six minutes in length. Let’s go over a bunch of the new offerings.

The album starts off with a dramatic synthesizer introduction and Bruce bringing us into the new works on his own before the rest of “If Eternity Should Fail” kicks in. It’s chugging grove a familiar flow to the long time Maiden fan for sure. The track keeps a steady pace up until the solo where the speed is increased a bit to let their three axe-slingers do their stuff. Yes I envisioned Dickinson bounding about all over the stage during these lead breaks. Oh yeah and before I get too involved here I want to mention that the new Eddie seems to be some sort of aboriginal native judging from the cover. As my review comes from a digital servicing I had no visuals outside of the cover so cannot speak to anything else about the packaging but am going to assume that there will be lyrics along with new Eddie photos and that of the band. “Speed Of Light” is a speedier track and very simply rocks. This is apparently the first single from the album since there is already a video for the tune which you can see in our post about it from August on THIS LINK. It was very early on in the spin that I was finding Dickinson in perfect form and not showing any signs of slowing down after the cancer scare that found them taking a break. Musically speaking the band seems to have kept steady on the path of a more Progessive style of Metal and I am find with that since I love that stuff as well. To me this is a musical maturity and allows them to showcase even more skills on tune after tune. A quick nod to the bands past comes in the opening bass riff of “The Great Unknown” but of course that is the only history lesson to be had in the tune. With “Shadows Of The Valley” the band gives us a little musical reminder of “Wasted Years” thanks to the intro riff but the remainder of the tune embarks on completely new territory. I expect these two offerings will make their way into the bands live set at some point as they are really suited for the stage.

I mentioned that there were some lengthy numbers on the new album and in order of their track time the first epic comes with the title “The Book Of Souls” which is a little over ten minutes and while it’s a slow and steady number for the first five or so minutes, once it’s time to get the lead break going it speeds up considerably before leaving us with a final minute of synths and solitary guitar. The second longest tune is “The Red and The Black” which is over thirteen minutes and had a lot of vibe to me of “Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner” for some reason only with words as opposed to that tune being instrumental. Its solid stuff and musically impressive which didn’t really surprise me to find being the case. Now just when you thought it was safe for the band to get out of the Dream Theater song length waters comes “Empire Of The Clouds” which I think if officially the longest song ever recorded by Maiden and tops off at eighteen minutes long. It has an interesting beginning as well with piano and strings keeping company with Bruce before the rest of the band joins in at minute four. Congratulations Maiden on giving us your epic of epics. This is a hefty piece to absorb and while I enjoyed its numerous signature and melodic changes I sure don’t want to see this one done live as it would force a sacrifice of too many other tunes in the live set. Closing up I’d have to say that this is a commendable release by Maiden based on just how seamlessly they appear to move elements of their historic past into melodies aimed at the future, In comparison I will admit to liking this new album more than “The Final Frontier” and think that those who are still supporting the band and their new music will like it for the same reasons that I did. If you are a listener who pines for the DiAnno type stuff or the first few albums with Bruce then I don’t have a lot to advise you on. I’m one who maintains that while there are some off moments on any artists new works, that Maiden is keeping their fires strong and it shows well on “The Book Of Souls”. I think its also pretty amazing to have new material coming out from Iron Maiden so many years after their inception and that Metal fans worldwide should be thankful for their levels of productivity not only on record but in their aiming at bringing you a bombastic show in areas where few bands are even paying mind to,

The album comes out in a few days and I have to say that it was pretty damned cool to be able to absorb it for over a week before the rest of the world. Tour dates will likely get announced soon since they’ve already shared with the fans the existence of their new “Ed Force One” (an aircraft that I discussed on THIS LINK. The only question remains will be the set list composition when it comes down to the touring news. Since it’s been a common practice of Iron Maiden to load up the set with new material after every historical tour gets done and new works are on hand, this likely means this new live adventures should be heavy with new tracks. At least a lot of this album makes sense for the live stage to me and should be worthy of inclusion. Let’s see what happens.

Track Listing:
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
7. Death Or Glory
8. Shadows Of The Valley
9. Tears Of A Clown
10. The Man Of Sorrows
11. Empire Of The Clouds

Official Website: http://www.ironmaiden.com

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