Iron Maiden

The Book Of Souls

Written by: MN on 09/10/2015 00:59:24

Iron Maiden hardly needs an introduction, partially because of their monumental influence as the pioneers of the New wave of British heavy metal, but also for their inextinguishable production rate and the subsequent endless touring all over the world. Spanning a career of over 40 years, Iron Maiden have earned, deservedly, a revered respect from all corners of metal appreciation. No one can deny that Iron Maiden is an entire metal entity on its own, with a discography spanning 16 studio records and a multitude of live albums, Iron Maiden now return to the limelight with their first double album, namely “The Book Of Souls”.

I personally got into Iron Maiden after witnessing their Roskilde Festival performance in 2003. At this point, having acquired the seminal live show at “Rock In Rio”, I became instantly infatuated with the old dudes, also thanks to their release “Brave New World”, which has grown to be my favourite Maiden album. Everyone has their favourite Maiden record, and unlike older Maiden fans that swear by “The Number Of The Beast” and “Powerslave”, I truly admire how Iron Maiden have managed to stay productive way into the 2000s to mass critical acclaim.

“The Book Of Souls” was an extremely difficult album to place a conclusive opinion on. Clocking in at a whopping 95 minutes, “The Book Of Souls” is one big mouthful where one's undivided attention is needed in order to fully appreciate the effort. Unlike some of the older records, “The Book Of Souls” is thematically consistent with themes such as mortality and the soul. The album cover (which is, upon every release, always viciously debated) is inspired by the Mayan civilization, and to my personal taste, a good fit for the omnipresent mascot, Eddie, and a good reflection of the conceptual approach employed by Maiden. Now to the actual music!

The album is opened by “If Eternity Shall Fail” in an unsettling manner, where the haunting lyrics and soaring vocals of Bruce Dickinson signal that his energy is nowhere near depleted. The opener is classic Maiden with a contagious riff and galloping drums and tasty guitar work. It is impressive to see Bruce continue with such admirable success, despite having dealt with a cancerous tumour. In fact, he now plans to take on the role as a pilot of their own 747 airplane during their next world tour, something he had to take additional flight lessons for.(Seriously, this guy is just too cool.) His voice is as earnest and dramatic as always, his storytelling abilities staying classic but rarely tiresome.

“Speed Of Light” is the closest to a faster paced Maiden classic along the lines of “Aces High”, the riff is memorable and chorus with great sing-a-long potential. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers are still a mean guitar trio, where the guitar work especially on “The Red And The Black” is both catchy and original. This song is definitely Maiden’s most complete on the record, it even contains an “Ooh, Oooh, Ooh” vocal chanting that will definitely make stadium crowds sway like drunken hooligans at the local football derby. More importantly is the solo work on the track that should make any guitar enthusiast beam with satisfaction. “When The River Runs Deep” is a joint-composed song by Adrian and Harris, a song reminiscent of their 80’s sound, making “The Book Of Souls” a more diachronic listening experience.

Title track “The Book Of Souls” is a narrative regarding the concept of afterlife that the Mayans were known for, so for the history buffs, this song paints quite a good narrative picture of the lost civilization - the song also contains some of the best solo work. “Shadows Of The Valley” is a personal favourite of mine on the record, mainly due to a strong melodic verse and killer lyrics to boot. Another interesting addition to the record comes in form of “Tears Of A Clown” which pays homage to the late comedian Robin Williams, a song that delicately brings forth themes of depression hiding behind the façade. It is actually one of the best songs on the record, and even has an interesting solo that uses crunchy distortion and a wah-pedal, something truly rock n' roll.

Iron Maiden always have to try new things, and in the case of this record, that endeavour came in form of attempting the longest song yet released by Maiden, namely “Empire Of The Clouds”, which features Bruce on Piano. A song of 18 minutes, the composition basis is good and develops at a befitting pace, rarely becoming a tedious listen. Midway, the instrumental section is allowed to dabble away in classic Maiden fashion, even brass and woodwind instruments are heard to add to the density and complexity of the song. It is also the album closer providing both a climax and denouement to this gargantuan record.

I firmly believe Maiden should retain the creative freedom they deserve after so many years of releasing records. Meaning for some this record may be “too new-school” or “too old-school”. This is a great record, but it is nowhere near one of Maidens best in my opinion. Both “Brave New World” and “The Final Frontier” are marginally better from their post millenium era. That being said, “The Book Of Souls” sees the rampant Maiden entourage continue with fury and determination into newer territories where most of it turns out a grand success. It is definitely an album for both and fans and curious readers to check out.


Download: Empire Of The Clouds, The Book Of Souls, Speed Of Light
For The Fans Of: Dio, Judas Priest, Queensryche

Release date 04.09.2015

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