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Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls CD (album) cover

THE BOOK OF SOULS

Iron Maiden

 

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3.87 | 226 ratings

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Windhawk
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars UK band IRON MAIDEN is a group of musicians that hardly needs an introduction. With a history going back to 1975 and with a grand total of 16 studio albums to their name, of which the greater majority will be regarded as essential listening by anyone with a taste for metal, this is arguably one of the greatest metal bands in the world still, a brand name strong enough to be recognized even by the greater majority of people who have never listened to the band. "The Book of Souls" is their most recent studio album at the time of writing, and was released in September 2015 through UK label Parlophone.

This is a production that have been highly anticipated by the metal community in general and Iron Maiden fans in particular. Five years have gone since their latest studio album, and as Iron Maiden have been on strong form ever since vocalist Bruce Dickinson returned to the band back in 2000, there has been a demand for new material by them, even in these days of declining sales and a lessened emotional attachment to music in general. That the band members have heralded this album as their possibly best ever is to be expected, most artists will state such opinions when they release new material, but the manner in which the members have talked about the almost 20 minutes long concluding epic have been creating quite the buzz, as well as the fact that this is the band's first ever double studio production.

Personally I have found most Iron Maiden albums to be something of a roller-coaster ride, with exceptional songs, good songs and passable songs making out their albums, with a few filers tossed in on occasion. I have much the same impression about this production, not quite as good as the band have been when firing on all cylinders, but just as strong as the greater majority of the albums they released back in the classic NWoBHM era.

The opening trio of If Eternity Should Fail, Speed of Light and The Great Unknown didn't entice me all that much. Pleasant Iron Maiden creations exploring their atmospheric laden, pace-filled and majestic territories respectively, with my main impression being that too much relies on enjoying Dickinson's vocals on these songs with too little substance and nuance provided by the instrumentalists. As always with splendid guitar solo runs though, and those truly fond of that aspect of Iron Maiden will find these songs as well as this album as a whole to be a splendid ride through and through I imagine.

The Red and the Black marks the first high point for me, a classic "...Mariner" epic with a nifty recurring riff motif looking back at the band's sound from the early 80's as an additional treat, and with a recurring vocal details that is bound to be a future concert favorite. A track that have all the trademarks of becoming a staple in their live set until the band at some point decides to call it quits. The following When the River Runs Deep is for me the low point of this production however, a composition that for me doesn't have anything much memorable apart from a nice guitar solo run, something Iron Maiden appears to be capable of producing in their sleep.

Title track The Book of Souls is for me the standout piece of the album, with powerful riff driven sequences, a spectacular and subtly exotic sounding guitars and keyboards arrangement in the opening half that is goosebumps-inducing, a nice run of compelling guitar solo and riff sequences, with a frail guitar motif opening and ending this magical ride.

From here on and until the end I find the songs to be generally enjoyable and of a high but not magnificent quality. Death or Glory is a nice run through a compelling energetic sound with a strong chorus as the icing on the cake. Shadows of the Valley have some direct references back to classic tracks from the "Somewhere in Time" album musically, lyrically and in terms of quality to in my opinion, while Tears of a Clown and The man of Sorrows both see Iron Maiden exploring their sound with more of a poignant and mournful tinge, much due to the topics covered in those compositions I suspect. The former of them with slightly more of a toned down instrument arrangement, the latter initially with a ballad-tinged expression and then unfolding as a mid-paced affair that wouldn't have been out of place on an album like "Sevent Son...".

The massive Empire of the Clouds is an impressive piece of work. Dealing with a subject matter presumably close to the heart of singer Dickinson, as he is a pilot as well as an admirer of airships: He has actually invested in firms working towards relaunching airships as a viable alternative to commercial transportation of people and freight alike. The opening third of this epic construction is one filled with gentle piano movements, violin details, orchestration, plucked guitars and occasional marching drums besides the lead vocals, and as some key members of Iron Maiden are fans of progressive rock I suspect the numerous subtle instrument details with more than a subtle trace of Jethro Tull in them in tone or delivery is an accidental feature either. This unfolds into a majestic epic where orchestration and piano details supplements the key Iron Maiden sound quite nicely throughout, in some passages as constants and in others as more subtle or occasional flavoring, briefly returning to the gentler opening themes again prior to the conclusion. Thoroughly entertaining and extremely well made, but not quite at the level of Iron Maiden at their most breathtaking my personal opinion.

In sum this is a recommended purchase. If you are a fan already I guess you'll have bought this one already, if you haven't this is an album worth buying. Probably not a production that will be regarded as their finest moment in retrospect, but at least for me this is a production comparable in quality with the classic Iron Maiden albums of the 1980's. And if there are people out there who haven't yet heard the music of Iron Maiden, this CD is as good a starting point as anything else.

Windhawk | 4/5 |

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