Book of Souls
4 September 2015, Parlophone
Four decades into an iconic and influential career, Iron Maiden release The Book of Souls, a 92 minute long, double-length epic. The Book of Souls is the 5th number one album to come from the one of the world’s most enduring metal groups. Coming five years after their last output, the band’s sixteenth studio album comes bringing all the Iron Maiden-isms fans have come to love and expect. Operatic vocals belting out apocalyptic poetry over wailing guitars and hammering bass lines are ubiquitous in Iron Maiden’s music. However, The Book of Souls proves that even after years of success these veterans aren’t afraid to try something new.
The album’s monumental run time is mainly comprised of three extensive pieces, including Iron Maiden’s longest song to date, ‘Empire of the Clouds’. At over eighteen minutes long, this theatrical ode to an air travel tragedy in the 1930s is nothing short of a masterpiece. Four distinct “movements” and a sense of magnitude not heard since 1984’s ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ make it an instant classic. ‘The Red and the Black’ and the title track ‘Book of Souls’ bulk up the rest of the band’s first double album. The title track is a beefy anthem that can’t be listened to without rocking your head, whereas ‘The Red and the Black’ seems to swallow lead singer Bruce Dickinson’s usually vehement voice. This criticism may be somewhat harsh in the record’s context, given he recorded the entire album with a cancerous tumour on his tongue. Fortunately he is now cured and ready for the band’s upcoming world tour in February.
“an album worthy of the number one spots it has achieved in 24 countries”
The rest of the album is made up of shorter (but by no means short) songs, including the album’s first single, ‘Speed of Light’. Other notable songs are the powerful ‘When the River Runs Deep’ and the nod to late comedian Robin Williams, ‘Tears of a Clown’. These songs help tie the lengthier feature songs together into an album worthy of the number one spots it has achieved in 24 countries. However, some of the classic ingredients of Maiden albums are very heavily featured in this record; I nearly found myself shouting “Run to the Hills” during ‘Speed of Light’. Such similarities to past releases means this album occasionally risks slipping into self-parody.
Thankfully it’s rescued by adventurous creativity and the fact that Iron Maiden are a sub-genre within themselves. Book of Souls finds the balance between using the tried and tested musical formula and pushing the boundaries beyond this Iron Maiden “sub-genre”. This album is sure to please the die-hard fans and rope in the new.