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4.22 | 83 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2015

Filed under Heavy Metal


Disc 1

1. If Eternity Should Fail (8:28)
2. Speed Of Light (5:01)
3. The Great Unknown (6:37)
4. The Red And The Black (13:33)
5. When The River Runs Deep (5:52)
6. The Book Of Souls (10:27)

Disc 2

1. Death Or Glory (5:13)
2. Shadows Of The Valley (7:32)
3. Tears Of A Clown (4:59)
4. The Man Of Sorrows (6:28)
5. Empire Of The Clouds (18:01)

Total Time 92:11


- Bruce Dickinson / Vocals, Piano (on Empire of the Clouds)
- Adrian Smith / Guitars
- Dave Murray / Guitars
- Janick Gers / Guitars
- Steve Harris / Bass, Keyboards
- Nicko McBrain / Drums

Guest/Session Musicians:

- Michael Kenney / Keyboards
- Jeff Bova / Orchestration

About this release

September 4th, 2015
Parlophone Records

Thanks to DippoMagoo for the addition and Lynx33, adg211288 for the updates


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Whilst Iron Maiden have never gone full prog metal, they've included progressive elements in their songwriting throughout their career to varying degrees with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son the high water mark of this tendency... until now. A sprawling double album replete with epic tracks, including the soaring 18-minute closer Empire of the Clouds, the Book of Souls finds Maiden taking their post-Brave New World purple period to new heights.

Inspired by Bruce Dickinson's love of aviation and completed despite the terrifying health scare he underwent during the process of preparing the album, it's another classic work in the band's discography which should silence any suggestion that they've been simply repeating themselves of late.
siLLy puPPy
As the heavy metal universe which i opine to have begun around 1970 is well into it’s fifth decade as it has expanded from the initial big bang to a vast array of styles that continues to branch out and ever further expand, it is no longer sufficient for one to claim they are a metalhead for these days you have to broaden that statement to include which particular branches of metal you prefer. In my opinion IRON MAIDEN has somehow become the default setting and unofficial mascot of the entire metal universe for i have yet to meet any serious heavy metal fan whether they are into doom, death, black or simply old school classic metal that doesn’t have a liking for a few classic MAIDEN albums. From their humble beginnings they were cranking out kick ass material that married all the best elements of heavy music and fast forward to 2015 to their 16th full studio release BOOK OF SOULS and this band that refuses to slow down releases another top notch high quality album that i find to be their best since their classic heyday period ending with “7th Son Of A 7th Son.” While other bands that began in the 70s have mostly called it a day or are impudent shriveled foreskins in relation to their glory days, IRON MAIDEN surprises us with a sprawling double album that not only takes cues from every trick in the IRON MAIDEN playbook but expands those signature sounds and ushers them into 21st century relevance like few classic bands have. No viagra needed.

I have to admit that i have always seen MAIDEN in a sort of brotherly competition with the other NWOBHM heavyweight Judas Priest, but while Priest has been consistent in delivering albums that have many good tracks i more often than not find there to be a bit of filler that either should have been reworked or weeded out altogether not to mention they fail miserably when incorporating progressive ideas into the mix such as on “Nostradamus”. MAIDEN on the other hand pretty much delivers on the goods with only the Blaze Bailey years being an aberrant twofer punch for albums that failed to present the high quality of musicianship and songwriting that we have become accustomed to. This brotherly competition between MAIDEN and Priest seems even more glaring as both bands released in the last couple of years albums with the “SOULS” in the title. It seems these two bands have reached a similar musical crossroads in their respective careers as Judas Priest seemed to revel in celebrating their entire canon of trademark sounds on their 2014 album “Redeemer of Souls” while a year later IRON MAIDEN manages to do the same by not only incorporating the various aspects of their past but sprinkles them with 21st century pixie dust and offers an album that is yet another milepost in the metal history books.

The album starts off with the classic “7th Son” type synthesized ambience (which is prevalent throughout the album) while Bruce Dickinson displays his mostly unaccompanied vocals that don’t seem to have changed one bit since he first hit the scene with “The Number Of The Beast.” With an ambience and metal performance that sounds a bit like “The Clairvoyant” from the “7th Son” album, it is clear that MAIDEN is back with a vengeance and with this album they can indeed revisit the past and one up the whole thing with their usual expected philosophical lyrics in top notch form along with the mandatory gallops, chord progressions and excellently executed metal delivery. This classic era lineup proves they have the chemistry that passes the test of time and their chops are immune to the corrosive properties that several decades more often than not erodes. After the super strong opener “If Eternity Should Fail” brings us back to their past and proves to us they still have that special musical mojo in play, the semi-progressive 8:28 track takes a turn with a strong percussive outburst and a little interlude that adds new musical twists and turns before resolving itself with the familiar established repeated chorus backed up by the addictive triple guitar harmonic assault of the three guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers. The track ends with an unaccompanied acoustic guitar with a highly processed spoken lyrics that add a bizarre outro. MAIDEN IS BACK!!!! This is for real :P

After the initial shock and awe sinks in, the band deliver their most retro of all tracks with “Speed Of Light” that would easily have fit in on the early Dickinson year albums such as “The Number Of The Beast” or “Piece Of Mind.” The catchy 80s classic metal verse / chorus / bridge formula offers few surprises but does once again cement the fact that MAIDEN can easily match the best of their glory days and then some. The track ends very much like the style heard in “Run To The Hills” where the band finds a way to masterfully milk every last note and cadence until it is perfectly sacrificed to the silence that separates the tracks. “Speed Of Light” is also the first official single and one of the absolute coolest videos i’ve ever seen showing Eddie evolve throughout the history of video games. Simply brilliant. The album is now firmly established with a somewhat retro feel that liberally borrows from their entire discography. As we get to the third track “The Great Unknown” we are once again treated to the classic song structures that include all those addictive ingredients: metal gallops, wailing melodic vocals, pummeling bass and drums, alternating softer and heavier passages etc.

But then beginning with “The Red And The Black” we get a strange new style of guitar playing as an intro before breaking into a riff that reminds me a bit of cross between “Flight Of Icarus” and the chugging of “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” with excellent alternating sections of Bruce’s vocals and a background chorus whipping out the “oh-oh-oh’s.” This track has lots of cool twists and turns but unfortunately the multi-minute soloing at the end is one of the few aspects of this entire album that wears thin on repeated listens. It’s the kind of stuff that makes for a great live setting but when listening repeatedly in an album format seems to irritate me even though i love soloing in general.

As the album continues there are more references to previous past glories such as “When The River Runs Deep” with a riff that sounds like “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” parts of the title track borrow from “Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra),” “Shadows Of Glory” starts out suspiciously like “Wasted Years” with that high guitar string riffage, “The Man Of Sorrows” vaguely reminds of “To Tame A Land” at times etc. but the album stays very consistent in delivering high quality riffing, bass abuse and lyrical content. While it may be true that perhaps Bruce Dickinson doesn’t quite have the range he used to, the fact that the band has opted for a drop D tuning keeps him firmly in command of the range of the musical progressions that we expect. There’s even an 18:01 musical behemoth that sees Bruce Dickinson playing piano and despite this first for the band in both the choice of piano and longest track ever, this still rings of a classic MAIDEN track melodically, rhythmically and in lyrical content. They seem to be unable to bugger up a song no matter how many new elements they throw out and to think that most of this album was created spontaneously in the studio with only a mere scaffolding of ideas at the work table.

So all in all, i love this album and have not been this excited about an IRON MAIDEN album since at least “Brave New World.” Not that the others in between were bad by any means but they were not nearly as consistent as this one and haven’t demanded repeated listens like this one has whispered in my ear. Like most of MAIDEN albums BOOK OF SOULS has the hooks that instantly grab me and the subtleties keep me coming back for more. This album cries out to me to be yet another classic that successfully reflects past glories and also establishes a relevant future but also casts a shadow of doubt upon the future of the band. With Bruce Dickinson’s cancerous tumor rearing its ugly head which delayed the album’s release it seems as if it could have possibly been the impetus for a creative spree that would be the perfect album to end a long career on. While i hope this not to be the case, a part of me fears it to be true. If this indeed turns out to be the last offering from one of the best bands in history then it would be the a pleasant note to end upon for they have set the bar pretty high here and what i fear more than the band calling it a day would possibly be a string of inferior albums that tarnish the greatness of the past. A near perfect album for me with only few minor blemishes. Yes, it borrows liberally from the past and is not an album that invents a new style of metal, but with a past so wonderful to meld together i really can’t complain one bit when it’s put together so very well. For me this is another classic album. Pretty damn good accomplishment for their only double studio album. MAIDEN!!!!!
"The Book Of Souls" is the 16th full-length studio album by UK heavy metal act Iron Maiden. The album was released through Parlophone (UK) and through Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG (US) in September 2015. It´s been five years and a lot of touring since the release of "The Final Frontier (2010)", but the release of "The Book Of Souls" was also postponed slightly as a consequence of Bruce Dickinson´s cancer treatment. "The Book Of Souls" was recorded with producer Keven Shirley at Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris from September to December 2014. The same studio the band used when they recorded "Brave New World (2000)". Iron Maiden opted for a slightly different recording and writing method than usual as all members came in with about an hour of material, and many tracks were then constructed or finished in the studio based on that material. So many of the tracks were recorded in a few takes and with very little time to practice or perfect parts, which was an intentional choice to allow for a more organic and immediate sound.

At the end of the day Iron Maiden had enough material for a double album release, which is a first in their discography (not counting live albums). Featuring 11 tracks and a full playing time of 92:11 minutes, it´s also the longest studio album yet released by Iron Maiden. Stylistically the music on the album pretty much continues the band´s post 2000 style, which means the album features only a few fast paced rockers, a good portion of heavier mid-paced tracks, and quite a few long epic tracks. Among the latter their longest track yet in the 18:01 minutes long closing track "Empire of the Clouds". It´s fair to say they´ve developed a taste for more proggy/epic compositions over the years. They used to only have a couple of slower epic sounding tracks on each of their albums, but now that´s more or less the dominant style.

It´s no surprise that the musicianship is of high class on all posts. Iron Maiden are seasoned heavy metal veterans and they know how to play and sing. While they are veterans, they are certainly no dinosaurs, and their performances are delivered with both passion and conviction. So it´s mostly in the songwriting department that things have changed over the years.

The material on the album is generally of a high quality. To my ears the highlights are "If Eternity Should Fail", "Speed of Light", "The Book of Souls", "Death or Glory", "The Man of Sorrows", and the Bruce Dickinson penned epic closing track "Empire of the Clouds". The rest of the material ranges from good to decent, but doesn´t stand out as much as the mentioned tracks. The overall quality and flow of the album is good though. Stylistically most of the material doesn´t feauture anything surprising. As always there is a strong emphasis on melody and memorability. There are a few surprises in store for the listener though. "The Man of Sorrows" is for example a very dark sounding Iron Maiden track, which is refreshing, and "Empire of the Clouds" features piano and orchestra, which as far as I remember is a first for Iron Maiden.

"The Book Of Souls" features a pretty well sounding production. The guitars could have packed a bit more punch, but other than that the sound production is well sounding and suits the material well. So all in all this is another quality release by Iron Maiden. As with most Iron Maiden releases post 2000, you should adjust your expectations to what it includes though. There are only three relatively fast-paced rockers featured on the album, and the rest of the material is mid-paced or slow building and epic (although some sections can be faster paced). It means that the material generally requires more attention and more spins to settle, than the more immediate material from their "classic" 80s period. But if you can adjust your expectations to that "The Book Of Souls" is quite the enjoyable listen and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.
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?
Iron Maiden is a band that (should) need no introduction; a band that have long proven that they are something special. Despite a poor showing in the 1990’s, the band have certainly been back on form since Brave New World in 2000 and although they have slowed down a lot in terms of how long they leave between full-length releases (though let’s remember that they tour hell of a lot in support of each album), they show no sign of being content to just relive old glories or even to age gracefully and deliver albums that are simply passable that don’t come anywhere near to the greatness of their past work. No, Iron Maiden are a band who keep pushing their sound forward, trying new things on each new album and The Book of Souls, their sixteenth, is not only no exception to this, it also pushes them forward more than any of its immediate predecessors.

A double disc CD/triple vinyl album, The Book of Souls is the longest Iron Maiden studio album so far, with a total time of about 92 minutes. There are however only eleven songs, which is only one more than either The Final Frontier, A Matter of Life and Death and Brave New World, and the same amount as on Dance of Death. You know, therefore, that the album contains some very long Iron Maiden tracks. The notable one, of course, is the final song, Empire of the Clouds, which usurps Rime of the Ancient Mariner (from 1984’s Powerslave) as their longest song, being a whopping 18:01 in length. But there are also a couple of others which pass the ten minute barrier while the opener If Eternity Should Fail hits 8:28. The musical ideas themselves are typical Iron Maiden for the most part, but Empire of the Clouds stands out again for its use of piano. It’s easily my favourite from the album, not only for being different but also being excellent from start to finish. I can say that about the whole of The Book of Souls though. Despite the long length this is a very easy album to take in one go. As with most albums there are highlights that stand above the rest, but no actual low points. There’s no temptation to play one disc and then take a break before starting the second one, although apart from Empire of the Clouds my personal favourites are on the first one; If Eternity Should Fail, Speed of Light, and The Red and the Black.

It’s been almost a month now since The Book of Souls was released and while it may still be too early to really say it, I think that this one may well have got one up on my previous post-Dickinson/Smith reunion favourite, Brave New World. I’m not fully confident yet to say that it does, but either way, it’s a really close call. It’s at least a stronger album than The Final Frontier, although I enjoyed that one more than many seemed to.
The Book of Souls (2015) is the sixteenth full-length studio album by the UK heavy metal legend that is Iron Maiden. The album is the band's first in five years, and is the follow-up to The Final Frontier (2010). We may have got this album a bit sooner than we did, but the band decided to delay it while vocalist Bruce Dickinson received treatment for cancer, which he has fortunately now been given the all clear from. This has been the longest gap between Iron Maiden studio albums. But while the band's output may have slowed their creativity has not, with the albums put out since Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the band beginning a new run of high quality releases. With The Book of Souls Iron Maiden has given the world a first for them though: a double disc studio effort, a milestone in itself but also the album is complete with a new record holder for Iron Maiden's longest song in the closing Empire of the Clouds, which clocks in at 18:01, replacing the 13:36 Rime of the Ancient Mariner from Powerslave (1984). Additionally The Red and the Black is only seconds short of equalling Rime of the Ancient Mariner's length. The title track adds a third 10+ minute track to the album. This is also the first Iron Maiden album since No Prayer for the Dying (1990) to feature tracks penned solely by Dickinson.

The first song to be given a single release from the album was Speed of Light, the second song on the album. The Smith/Dickinson written track has all the makings of a classic Iron Maiden single and is one of the more direct and full-on heavy metal tracks on The Book of Souls, so it's no surprise that it was chosen for just that purpose. Another Smith/Dickinson number kicking off the second disc is Death or Glory. I'd be really surprised if this one isn't the album's seemingly inevitable second single at some point down the line. Both will be sure crowd pleasers in the live environment too.

The bigger focus on The Book of Souls seems to be on Iron Maiden's progressive side, with several long songs featured. The crowning achievement is of course Empire of the Clouds, the 18 minute track right at the end of the album, which is unlike any other song Iron Maiden has ever recorded. In that respect it brings mind to Journeyman from the Dance of Death (2003) album, which achieved a similar status with its full acoustic approach. What sets Empire of the Clouds apart from the rest of Iron Maiden's work is not it's length, it's the piano. Yeah that's right, the piano. Played by Dickinson (the track is solely written by him too), the melodies are pretty awesome. Lyrically it's a thought provoking piece about the R101, an airship that crashed in 1930, killing 48 of the 54 people on board. While following a fairly standard song structure for a little while, with the full band kicking in after the intro the song then transforms into a prog epic, giving us listeners one of the most epic instrumental sections that Iron Maiden has ever recorded, before concluding with a final vocal section.

Another song that is bound to be a real crowd pleaser is The Red and the Black. This song sounds quite Fear of the Dark to me with those chants. You know the ones that the crowds do whenever Fear of the Dark is played live? It's like that. Only the album version of Fear of the Dark never had them. Maiden finally put something like that on record with The Red and the Black. Aside from that though, it's a pretty damn epic song in its own right. Some parts of it even have this quasi folk feel to them.

The band are in fine form on all counts. Considering Dickinson was suffering with (then undiagnosed) cancer at the time he actually sounds the best he's been in a long time. The production work is also very well done, more powerful I think than that of The Final Frontier.

I'm heaping a lot of praise onto The Book of Souls, but it does need pointing out that this hasn't proven to be the most instantly likeable release from Iron Maiden for me. I did still get into it pretty quickly, but it did take a few spins of the album more than usual for one of their albums. But not being instantly blown away is perhaps a good thing, as I've found more and more to like with each listen to the album, finding myself more and more impressed by what Iron Maiden have created each time. Despite the 90 minute length, it doesn't drag in the slightest. In fact it seems to be over all too quickly, and I think that's a sign of a damn fine album right there, that the hour and a half running time seems to fly by and I want to instantly restart it all over again.

The one song on the album that I think could be considered a filler track is The Great Unknown. The Smith/Harris penned track flows pretty well with the rest of the album but it's the only song that I don't find anything memorable about after the event. All the other songs have something or other that allow me to hear them in my head just by thinking about them, be it a catchy chorus or a strong instrumental section. This one, even after over half a dozen complete spins to the album, I still don't remember at all.

You may have to re-ask this of me in maybe a year or so, but my impression right now is that not only is The Book of Souls a top tier Iron Maiden release, but it's also worthy of being counted among the top five albums of the group. Maybe even top three. For now though one thing is clear: 5 stars.

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