REVIEW – In 2014, AC/DC put out their best cd in ages with “Rock or Bust”. A band like AC/DC who seem to have the same sound cd to cd, putting out music that even their most diehard fans listen to and say, “Man, they still got it” in 2014 is quite the accomplishment. In 2015, when fans are really sick of newer bands that are not connecting, Iron Maiden has returned with “The Book of Souls”. The last two Maiden records 2006’s “A Matter of Life and Death” and the most recent 2010’s “The Final Frontier”. The band started to tease longer songs and really creative new directions. This is a positive for fans and also a negative for trying to lure new fans. When records go 76-minutes to 90-minutes and your average track goes for about 8 minutes, you are sort of painting yourself in a corner. Iron Maiden on their 16th studio record put out a daring, imaginative and challenging record that goes for over 91 minutes, and features a song that goes for 18 minutes. I will admit I am a huge fan of Powerslave, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner is almost 14 minutes, but an album that is this long in one sitting was quite the undertaking so I broke it down. I listen to the first side on one day and next day the second side. This record requires your attention; this is not place the cd in the car and drive around music. This is music to contemplate to think about and to fully grasp.
The album itself is really strong and very daring. Taking a cue from Somewhere in Time, the opener “If Eternity Should Fail” is that song that builds as it goes further along. You get the progressive feel and this unique and cuttingly rich guitar harmony. The album changes gear for the energetic “Speed of Light” which is Maiden’s calling card and a track fans are going to be expecting. This song has such catchiness that you will find yourself going along with it and wanting to re-listen. Though, “The Great Unknown” is one of my new favorite Maiden tracks and has this sick heavy groove with Bruce’s vocals just putting this song so over the top. “The Red and the Black” is going to be a live crowd favorite; Steve Harris really shines on this song and gets that classic bass sound going and the contagious feel of the song. For me it was disc two that I started to struggle with this record. Where disc one was good, and really kept everything in the vein of what I would expect with Maiden, disc two was a challenge. I love “Tears of a Clown” that was written about Robin Williams, it is a very emotional song that really hits home. “Shadows of the Valley” is a complete fail even though Dickinson does all he can to save this song from feeling like filler. Then we have the 18 minute song “Empire of the Clouds” which has already had fans split down the middle. This song is so far away from what you would expect from Iron Maiden, the best way to describe it would be Rob Halford in Two. The song is brilliant and I feel if Maiden fans go into with an open mind and twenty minutes to kill will be entertained. This record has a whole, I liked the first side better than side b, but “Tears of a Clown” and “ Empire in the Clouds” are some of the strongest Maiden tracks since Bruce came back in the band. If you are a fan of this band you already own it, no need to put a sales pitch on but if you are new to Maiden, you are clearly missing out.
1. “If Eternity Should Fail” (Dickinson) 8:28
2. “Speed of Light” (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:01
3. “The Great Unknown” (Smith/ Harris) 6:37
4. “The Red and the Black” (Harris) 13:33
5. “When the River Runs Deep” (Smith/ Harris) 5:52
6. “The Book of Souls” (Gers/ Harris) 10:27
7. “Death or Glory” (Smith/ Dickinson) 5:13
8. “Shadows of the Valley” (Gers/ Harris) 7:32
9. “Tears of a Clown” (Smith/ Harris) 4:59
10. “The Man of Sorrows” (Murray/ Harris) 6:28
11. “Empire of the Clouds” (Dickinson) 18:01