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Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls

When you look at the storied career of NWOBHM legends Iron Maiden, it's easy to block out all the 'eras' of the band, each one signaling a slight change in their direction. First, you had the original line-up led by Paul Di'Anno, who left after their second album Killers in 1981. In comes new lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson in time for 1982s The Number of the Beast, which kick started a run of stellar albums that last until Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in 1988. Fast forward to 1990, and guitarist Adrian Smith exits, to be replaced by ex-Gillan member Jannick Gers, and then in the mid 90s Dickinson jumps ship for a solo career, with Blaze Bayley taking his place for the ill-fated The X Factor and Virtual XI albums, which saw the bands popularity plummet. The year 2000 once again sees Dickinson & Smith come back home, and the band unleashed Brave New World, a much more epic & progressive sounding Iron Maiden, which we would also see on subsequent releases Dance of Death, A Matter of Life and Death, and The Final Frontier. All excellent albums in their own right, though decidedly different than their '80s or '90s output. Longer songs, epic arrangements, but still with that classic Iron Maiden sound. Now, here in 2015, the band returns after Dickinson's battle with tongue cancer, complete with a daring, double album titled The Book of Souls. To say this new release also fits into the 'epic' category would be a severe understatement.

For those who might have a problem with Maiden's more adventurous, drawn out compositions since the 2000 reunion, I'm not sure The Book of Souls is going to change your mind much, as this one is still packed with lengthy tracks and lots of experimentation, but there's a catchiness to many of these songs that hints at their '80s output, and the overall playing and songwriting is excellent as always. Lead-off track on disc one "If Eternity Should Fail" chugs and gallops along in vintage fashion, plus the chorus is ultra catchy which always helps. "Speed of Light" is the first single, a rousing rocker with Nicko McBrain's rumbling drum fills, plenty of canon bass riffing courtesy of Steve Harris, the triple guitar army of Smith, Gers, and Dave Murray, and Dickinson's soaring vocals. It's worth noting that the vocalist sounds better than ever throughout the album, and we can only hope he sounds this good on the proposed 2016 tour after his cancer recovery. "The Great Unknown" might be the first lukewarm song on the album, but it's still a decent metal anthem, but "The Red and the Black", at nearly 14-minutes long, is a whopper of an epic, filled with crunchy riffing, tasty harmony leads, and Bruce's 'whoah oooohh o oooohhh' vocals that stick in your head and refuse to get out. Yes, the band have generally done these to death over the years, but thankfully they limit them to this song here on this album. "When the River Runs Deep" grinds along at a frantic pace, driven by Harris & McBrain's thunderous rhythms and loads of tasty riffs & solos, and the 10+ minute title track again sees plenty of hooks and melodies woven around intricate guitar interplay and alluring rhythms. Plus, the chorus is ultra memorable, a trend you'll hear throughout the album.

Disc number two kicks off with the rumbling "Death or Glory", a heavy piece with a killer groove, Dickinson snarling along like it was 1985 all over again, while "Shadows of the Valley" features brilliant lead guitar work and arrangements that wouldn't have sounded out of place on 1986s Somewhere in Time. By now most have probably heard about "Tears of a Clown", a song written about the late actor/comedian Robin Williams, and the music perfectly conveys the serious subject matter. "The Man of Sorrows" is a tender ballad, Dickinson crooning poetically over lilting chords and synths before more powerful rhythms kick in to bring it to a triumphant climax. Speaking of triumphant, the album closes with the 18-minute "Empire of the Clouds", easily the most prog-rock styled song the band have done in quite some time. Piano, strings, and synths create lush tapestries alongside Harris' nimble bass as the song gently begins, giving way to Dickinson's soaring vocal and majestic & symphonic arrangements. It's great to hear Iron Maiden tackle something of this magnitude, and the amount of emotion & class that is packed into this titanic track is nothing short of amazing.

Toss in some stellar production from Kevin Shirley and the dynamic artwork courtesy of Mark Wilkinson (Eddie as a Mayan warrior no less!) and you have a truly masterful 90 minute collection of heavy metal from the legendary Iron Maiden. Don't be thrown off by the sheer weight and volume of music here, as most of these songs are instantly accessible and memorable, and yes, it's heavy and majestic just like we expect the band to be. At this point, should we ever anticipate anything less? Highly, highly recommended!

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
Disc 1:
01. If Eternity Should Fall
02. Speed of Light
03. The Great Unknown
04. The Red and the Black
05. When the River Runs Deep
06. The Book of Souls

Disc 2:
01. Death or Glory
02. Shadows of the Valley
03. Tears of a Clown
04. The Man of Sorrows
05. Empire of the Clouds

Added: September 22nd 2015
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2931
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls
Posted by Jordan Farquharson on 2015-09-22 20:38:56
My Score:

Peter, this album was record before Bruce's cancer diagnosis.

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