Iron Maiden has spent a lifetime defying the odds. Despite having been together for four decades as a band they continue to challenge themselves as artists and raise the stakes for themselves as well as countless bands following in their footsteps. They are a testament to creative longevity and determination. Far removed from their 1980s heyday, 2010’s “The Final Frontier” was the band’s most successful chart-wise album to date, reaching No. 1 in 28 countries and garnering their highest chart debut in the U.S., reaching No. 4 in the Billboard 200. Impressive numbers for any band but especially for one who has seen the music industry change exponentially through the years yet continue to impact music fans around the globe. Many fans believed the previous album was the last they would hear from Iron Maiden, a rumor further enforced when lead singer Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with a tumor on his tongue late last year. However, Dickinson soldiered on, never missing a beat and received a clean bill of health from his doctors. Back at 100%, the band is once again at full-strength and has its sights set on world domination.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, Iron Maiden will release their 16th studio album, “The Book of Souls,” on September 4, 2015. The highly anticipated double album features 11 songs spanning 92 minutes of the kind of sheer rock energy only Iron Maiden can deliver. Songwriting and storytelling has always been at the core of Iron Maiden’s success (not taking anything away from their epic live shows, of course!). “The Book of Souls” carries on this proud tradition. Dickinson and bassist Steve Harris lent their immense talents to creating the majority of this record, along with the band’s three guitarists: Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers contributing as well. The sonic rollercoaster kicks off with ethereal sounds of “If Eternity Should Fall.” It isn’t long before Dickinson’s classic vocal sound weaves in and out of the chugging bass and drum rhythms, setting the stage for the epic journey ahead. The band released the high energy track “Speed of Light” as the lead single for the album. It was a wise choice as it harkens back to some of the band’s early work when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was capturing the hearts and minds of music fans everywhere. “The Great Unknown” changes up the pace with a dark and moody vibe. Dickinson weaves his tale with a whispery vocal, expertly building it with each passing moment until it spreads its wings and soars. As a solo songwriter, Steve Harris offers up “The Red and the Black,” which is an inspired tune with another contagious chant that will surely be a hit in the live setting. It also features an outrageous six-minute soloing session with Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers. “When the River Runs Deep” perfectly showcases the talents of each band member. Dickinson shines on this track as he chases the rhythm vocal, rising and falling throughout the tune. It is a satisfying and inspiring adventure. The first half of the album features the Mayan-themed title track, “The Book of Souls.” Dickinson shines once again with theatrical vocals over heavy grooves which harken back to some of the most important eras of this iconic band. Clearly, they can still tap into the source and make the magic happen.
Disc 2 of the album brings a different pace. However, “Tears Of A Clown” shows Iron Maiden is not a band content reliving the past but exploring different territories as artists. “Death or Glory,” “Shadows of the Valley” and “The Man of Sorrows” are solid tracks but one of the clear standouts on this portion of the album is “Tears of a Clown.” The track is a tribute to the life of the late Robin Williams that explores both the dark and the light of a complicated artist with introspective vocals paired with some of the record’s grittiest guitar riffs. If you are a fan of the comedic legend, it is hard not to be moved. The first four songs lay the groundwork for the Dickinson penned grand finale, “Empire of the Clouds,” which clocks in at just over 18 minutes, that once again brilliantly showcases different elements from the band’s groundbreaking catalog. It is a perfect storm of storytelling, soaring vocals and expert musicianship. As the song continues to build, it shows Iron Maiden has plenty of fuel left in the tank creatively.
“The Book of Souls” is a daring and powerful album that serves as another epic chapter in the history of the iconic band. It is an album that draws on the strengths of its collective parts. Even though it brings the familiar vibe of the band’s back catalog, it in no way feels dated and brings a bevy of new tunes custom-made to rock stadiums to their core. With 40 years under their belt, Iron Maiden shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. The band recently announced plans for a globe-spanning world tour in 2016. Planning has begun to bring the legendary band to six of the seven continents (Australia, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Europe) and roughly 35 countries.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
“The Book Of Souls” will be released on September 4, 2015 through BMG in the United States and via Parlophone Records in the rest of world. Maiden fans can download the “Speed Of Light” song when pre-ordering The Book Of Souls on iTunes. It can also be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music.
Iron Maiden’s ‘The Book of Souls’ Tracklisting:
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
2CD Deluxe Hardbound Book Limited Edition
2CD Standard Edition
Triple Heavyweight Black Vinyl
High Res Audio (24-bit Mastered for ITunes and non-Mastered for iTunes)
Standard Res Audio (16 bit/ 44.1 kHz)