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

THE BOOK OF SOULS

Iron Maiden

 

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3.90 | 208 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I'll confess two things right off the top here: one is that I loved Iron Maiden in the early 1980's and the other is that I didn't buy any of their albums after "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". I really enjoyed and still enjoy the debut, "Number of the Beast", and "Piece of Mind". I don't have "Powerslave" anymore but I want to get it. It was my second concert to go see and I still have the T-shirt. But "Somewhere in Time" didn't impress me and "Seventh Son" didn't do much for me either (though I have it on CD now and I think it's pretty darn brilliant). Some of my favourite songs are "Revelations" from "Piece", "The Prisoner" and the title track from "Beast", and "Phantom of the Opera" and "Remember Tomorrow" from the debut. I think it was the synthesizers that began showing up on every metal album after Van Halen's "1984" that bothered me. Well, okay, not the thrash and speed metal bands, but those I had loved in '83/'84 were suddenly playing around with pop music synthesizers, and it had been the guitars all along that had drawn me to metal.

Iron Maiden's history has been a trip of twists and turns since 1987. Adrian Smith left and then Bruce Dickenson left. Then they both came back. I have only heard one song from the intervening years between "Seventh Son" and this latest release, "Book of Souls" and it was a live version of "Fear of the Dark". I had a ticket to see Iron Maiden perform in Saitama, Japan on March 13th, 2011, but as the band was flying in from South Korea on that fateful Friday the 11th, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Ed Force One redirected to Nagoya where the band watched the news footage of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami disaster and decided that this was no time to hold a concert because this was no time to celebrate or party. They cancelled the show and have not been back to Japan since.

So the new album comes out, and I am not particularly thrilled. Just, "Oh, Maiden have a new album. Hm." But then I see the packaging: a hard cover book inside a slip case. The artwork looks intriguing and I think that I have to have this. Hey, Iron Maiden should still be good, right?

Well, Iron Maiden sounds exactly as I expect them to. One reviewer said that this is the album that should have followed "Seventh Son" and for my ears I have to agree. As I said, I don't know what Maiden did between 1987 and 2015 but for all I can tell they simply hoped aboard a time machine and came over to 2015 after wrapping up the Seventh Son tour. Well, of course Janick Gers is on board, too, now and has been for rather a long time.

Yes, this sounds just like classic Iron Maiden, so much in fact that I couldn't help but notice the guitar sound hasn't hanged since the 80's. The riffs, the song structures, Dickenson's voice, just about everything sounds like this is the next album after "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". In fact, as I listened to "The Great Unknown" I found myself thinking to the middle part of the "Seventh Son" title track. The beginning of "Shadows of the Valley" reminded me of "Wasted Years", and some of the long instrumental sections of some songs like "The Red and the Black" are very much like things you'd here on "Piece of Mind".

Hearing so much similarity to past glories makes me wonder if the band has evolved at all over the last 30 years or are they still following the same formula? Then again, maybe they just went back to their classic formula because it was time. Didn't Deep Purple, Voivod, and Black Sabbath do the same on their recent releases?

Well, there may be synthesizers on this album, too, but by now I have come to not only accept them in metal but actually enjoy hearing them in the right context. I'm glad for their use on this album. But seriously, the biggest thrill here so far has to be the epic historical number, "Empire of the Clouds". I had to read the Wiki article about the R101 and I also read about how Dickeson had purchased at a charity auction a piano used by Jamie Cullum and later used the instrument to compose "Empire". The song is quite beautifully structured and the story well told, sticking to history while still sounding poetic as Dickenson said he wanted. The orchestra is a great touch as I always thought that Maiden's metal would work well with an orchestra or performed by an orchestra. "Empire of the Clouds" is in my opinion a fantastic piece, but I do love most of the songs on the double album as I listen to them. Some instrumental sections go on for a while without introducing anything that hasn't already been done ("The Red and the Black" for example) while other songs like "Tears of a Clown" tamper with unusual time signatures. Iron Maiden is not prog metal in the way that Dream Theater or Opeth are, but I have always appreciated the extended instrumental sections that aren't just guitar solo showcases. Also, Maiden didn't often drop many kick ass riffs as I always felt they went more for a classical type of riffing that rarely hits with a wallop and usually lays out a musical landscape with a warm and steady path to follow. But they find space to deliver a few good 'uns here and there as on "Speed of Light" and "When the River Runs Deep".

I think the album sounds great. It's what I'd expect to hear from this band. I like the longer compositions and that there is careful attention to each of the songs. For that I give this baby an easy four stars. But after 30 years I'd have expected to hear something new, more than just piano and an orchestra. But on the other hand, it's great to hear Maiden sounding like Maiden. I'll get "Powerslave" on CD soon and I've got "Brave New World" on standby to order, too.

Now when are they coming back to Japan?

FragileKings | 4/5 |

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