Iron Maiden | The Book Of Souls
*Writers Note* This review is dedicated to the memory of late Iron Maiden drummer
Clive Burr- (March/8th/1957-March/12th/2013) & Robin Williams – (July/21/1951-August/11/2014)
Label: Parlaphone/Sanctuary BMG
Release Year: 2015
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: NWOBHM/Heavy Melodic Metal
Bruce Dikinson – Vocals/ Piano
Steve Harris – Bass
Dave Murray – Rhythm / Lead Guitars
Adrian Smith – Rhythm/ Lead Guitars
Janick Gers – Rhythm/ Lead Guitars
Nicko McBrian – Drums/Percussion
2015 marks the 40th Anniversary of one of the most influential, prolific, and global heavy metal bands of all-time Iron Maiden. With very little radio and MTV video type airplay, Iron Maiden’s grassroots efforts have led the band from going to selling out arena’s of 20,000 people to major open air festivals in Rio De Janeiro Brazil where they played to almost 250,000 people. In my 38 years in metal success has never been measured by how many hits on Billboard top 200 you have nor how many platinum albums one band can sale. It is measured more on a supply and demand basis.
Iron Maiden have certainly made very quality music on the supply side of the business and have been rewarded richly on the demand half of the business. I can not ever remember going to a heavy metal, progressive rock or any other genre in heavy metal and hard rock where I did not see quite a few in Iron Maiden t shirts or a patch sewn to a vest of some kind. No matter how segregated the heavy metal genre in its 30 sub-genres, Iron Maiden have been the most consistent act that both the fans and their peers in the music industry have come to agree upon. They have been the glue to hold it all together over 40 years, even more than your Sabbath’s, Zeppelin’s, Purple’s Priests and they contemporaries from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.
Now in 2015 more than 40 years after their creation they continue to solidly their position as the band we all can agree upon and their newest album The Book Of Souls is certainly no exception to this rule. The Book Of Souls is Iron Maiden’s first ever double conceptual album and their first concept album since 1988’s Seventh Son of A Seventh Son. The Book Of Souls also demonstrates that Iron Maiden are as tight as ever never having any writing or recording rust whatsoever. The Book Of Souls also taps heavily into Iron Maiden’s progressive rock influences like Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, ELP, etc… Especially with the 18+ minute epic Empire of the Clouds replacing their current record holder 1984’s 13+ minute epic , Rime of the Ancient Mariner off 1984’s Powerslave. Let’s now explore The Book Of Souls.
If Eternity Should Fail a rare killer intro with a keyboard creating an atmosphere much in the vein of early Rainbow and Tony Carey especially Stargazer. Then Bruce Dickinson’s voice perfectly compliments it with a echo effect perfectly executed by producer Kevin Shirley. Thereafter the track takes the traditional Iron Maiden galloping signature led by the very distinctive signature bass work of Steve Harris combined with the drums of Nicko McBrian. The tracks ends with a very unusual spoken word passage.
Speed Of Light fires up in the traditional Maiden/NWOBHM fashion. With killer guitar work between Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, in tandem with the signature rhythm style between Harris and McBrain and Dickinson’s traditional soaring vocals Speed Of Light suffices the audio pallet of for the long time listener and introducing a new generation to the traditional Iron Maiden sound.
The Great Unknown begins rather eerie with a heavy bottom rhythm section that reminds me of earlier Maiden tracks like The Number Of The Beast, Powerslave in the like. At the 1:37 mark it kicks in with Bruce’s soaring vocals and a traditional Iron Maiden signature. Adrian Smith has some great solo work within the track.
The Red And The Black opens up with a deep heavy acoustic bass that has not been heard on recent Maiden works. The Red And The Black has elements of Rime Of The Ancient Mariner combined with Alexander The Great from Somewhere In Time. The background vocals make this one anthem in nature with a more chant like vibe employed as a instrument. The Red And The Black also contains a very heavy keyboard atmosphere that is noticeable yet subtle at the same time. This is a one of the many tracks heavily bathed in progressive rock elements incorporating certain passages that Rush and King Crimson used in the 1970’s but with a modern sensibility.
When The River Runs Deep has a blistering guitar intro. It soon has a break and goes into a heavy rhythmic section. The backing vocal adds a nice accent to the main vocal. This track is a very traditional NWOBHM with up tempo passages. It is a little on the thrash metal side in scope. There are definitely various guitar solos being trading off and on going in and out complimenting the composition perfectly.
The Book Of Souls the title track of the album begins with a sweet acoustical guitar passage with keyboards. Then the track takes a heavy rhythm turn before the keyboard once again kicks in and creates a sort of backbone for Bruce’s soaring vocals. The track has a very blistering galloping middle with some wonderful guitar solo’s
Death Or Glory carries rhythmic elements like Where Eagles Dare from 1983’s Piece Of Mind in the intro. The standard Iron Maiden signature is in full effect here in all its integrity the long time fans have come to expect. The solo’s remind me a lot of The Evil That Men Do from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.
Shadows Of The Valley definitely opens up as if it were a sequel to Wasted Years from Somewhere In Time. You can tell Adrian Smith is very present in the intro. After the intro the track takes a turn with elements in the vein of Fear Of The Dark album. This track has some powerful backing vocal chants as well.
Tears Of A Clown was written and inspired by the life and last days of late comedian and actor Robin Williams. Lyrically it contains elements of a person feeling isolated and lonely feeling hopeless. These emotions ultimately result into the unthinkable suicide that frankly nobody expected.
The Man Of Sorrows begins with a semi electric guitar passage almost like a solo. The guitar lays back and the vocal comes to the forefront. It has a vibe that the band may of recorded this live old school in the studio. The composition takes a progressive turn into a modern fresh yet traditional Maiden sound. The vocals and solo’s once again soar in typical Iron Maiden fashion without the appearance of sounding dated.
Empire Of The Clouds opens up with something new in the Iron Maiden arsenal that of Bruce Dickinson’s piano work. Frankly I would of never expected a straight up piano passage in a Iron Maiden song. This is a testament of the band’s growth and maturity in song writing over the oast 40 years. Between the piano and guitar the band managed to in fact bring a orchestral element to Empire Of The Clouds. Nicko McBrian has some very nice orchestral drum vibes that serve a more subtle melodic instrument than a percussive beat. This is also a new element for the band. The song structure in of itself leaves the listener with anticipation of how it might sound in a live version.
Empire Of The Clouds is heavily steeped in progressive elements that are a reminder of early Yes compositions like Close to The Edge or Genesis’ Suppers Ready. At the 8:35 mark the track settles in and takes the more traditional Iron Maiden approach yet with some heavy progressive solo’s that take the listener on a journey of musical significance. At the 10:00 mark it has another hook with a guitar solo that is followed up by a nice rhythmic balance. About the 11:00 mark it has a beautiful keyboard synth underbelly before going into another powerful guitar solo at the 12:05 mark. Bruce sounds just as good or better than he ever has. At the 13:00 mark it trades off from a 5/8 signature to a 4/4 running side by side of one another. The 14:00 mark highlights the wonderful piano work of Bruce Dickinson. Empire Of The Clouds has very lush and beautiful instrumental harmonies laced and laid perfectly throughout its 18+ minutes.
Iron Maiden certainly surprised me in more ways than one with The Book Of Souls. This is by far the most ambitious project they have ever taken on. It is also the most progressive in nature and the first ever studio double album in Iron Maiden’s 40 year history. The Book Of Souls is also the bands most mature album as well. Although rumors are spreading this could be the bands last album, I find that hard to believe due to the tightness and detail to The Book Of Souls. This gets a rating of 5/5 and in ‘heavy metal’ circles could be Album Of The Year of 2015.