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Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls

Published:

Last Updated on 07:23 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

Genre : Heavy Metal
Country : U.K.
Label :Parlophone
Year : 2015

It would be an exaggeration to say that the future historian will dedicate his time to the “Reviews of Iron Maiden records by Greek Metal press” phenomenon for a couple of reasons: firstly, he will surely have more important facts to care about and secondly the ratings of 5,5/6, 6/6 or 9/10, 10/10 on mediocre work such as “Virtual XI” are derogatory enough on their own. And we’re talking about guru-level reviews and ratings. Well, I guess Iron Maiden has achieved some kind of holy-cow status here or maybe wearing the fan’s glasses can blur even the sharpest of visions. Thankfully, the passing of time can help us look at the past in a neutral way and I hope I can now be as strict and objective as I should, despite being a Maiden fan myself.

For me there are five distinct Maiden eras. First comes the genesis, the years of N.W.O.B.H.M. and badassery with the mic in the hands of Di Anno (1976-1982). Second is the Golden Era, the coming of Bruce, the recognition and ultimate success (1983-1988). Third comes the beginning of decline, the fights, the samples of bad recordings and Dickinson leaving (1989-1992). That is the time that I became part of the Maiden-mania, barely scraping the barrel bottom of the Golden Era, too young to evaluate everything as I was mesmerized by “Fear Of The Dark” and “Be Quick Or Be Dead”! Fourth is the time of Bayley instead of Bruce, the rough times that toughened the fans. And fifth comes the era of the resurrection, the longest still starting circa 2000 up to the day. This is the right time to state that The Book Of Souls is the band’s greatest effort since the release of “Brave New World” (maybe equivalent to “Dance Of Death”), probably due to its excellent guitar work. However the rating should be based on the band’s whole discography in order to be as true and accurate as it should.

  1. IF ETERNITY SHOULD FAIL (DICKINSON) 8:28

The mystery intro in the spirit of “Seventh Son” will probably be the opening to the upcoming tour. Sounds fairly nice, up to the fifth minute when the volume goes up and the melodic guitars go all in. Typical Maiden track with galloping riffs. In the end, we hear Dickinson recite with distortion/effects to his vocals. It could have been at least two minutes shorter to its benefit, the composition is not bad; it just sounds too sophisticatedly long.

  1. SPEED OF LIGHT (SMITH/ DICKINSON) 5:01

The first single. It may have been a turn-off when the whole track was released, but the more I listen to it the more I start to like it. Let’s not forget that when the 28 seconds of the solo were leaked people went crazy, an indication of the band’s greatness as well as the track’s quality.

  1. THE GREAT UNKNOWN (SMITH/ HARRIS) 6:37

Three to four seconds of a low bassline in the style of “Wrathchild” are not enough for collocations and of course the “Great Unknown” has nothing to do with the first era of Maiden. It is reminiscent though of Bruce’s solo career (up until 01:30) and the long duration tracks composed by Harris after “Brave New World” (from 04:30 on). Bruce’s vocals and the bridge make it sound like a lost track from “Dance Of Death”.

  1. THE RED AND THE BLACK (HARRIS) 13:33

This is the album’s first hit. Galloping riffs and chanting o-o-ohs will lure you away from the likeness to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Heaven Can Wait”. People are thirsty for anthemic hits and the new generation of fans is expecting its own “Fear Of The Dark”. Cutting edge guitars, amazing solos, wandering melodies for 5-6 minutes inside the almost 14 minute long “The Red & The Black”. One of the album’s top tracks.

  1. WHEN THE RIVER RUNS DEEP (SMITH/ HARRIS) 5:52

I don’t know if listeners will dig this one, but as a speed lover I definitely do. It would have made a great first single for my liking. “When The River Runs Deep” reminds me of the era of “Somewhere In Time”, not only for the synths in it, but also for the feeling it gives out. A fantastic track that shows that the band’s splendour is not limited to 10+ minute epicness, it is equally obvious in their shorter pieces.

  1. THE BOOK OF SOULS (GERS/ HARRIS) 10:27

The album’s homonym track sounds like it came out of “Dance Of Death”. It begins with an acoustic guitar, it has some oriental bits (that doesn’t make it equivalent to “Powerslave”, people!), it has marvelous guitars and it is full of feelings. All the transitions come very naturally in the composition’s flow and are remarkably harmonic.

  1. DEATH OR GLORY (SMITH/ DICKINSON) 5:13

This song title seems to be a hit among iconic bands, since it has already been used by Heavy Load, Motorhead and Running Wild. It would definitely work as a single, with its powerful sound and 80’s aesthetics. Smith has left his mark as a composer on the album, with his hard rock/straight forward heavy approach in songwriting. Pleasant to the ear, it works as a listener’s intermission from the Captain’s long labyrinthine creations.

  1. SHADOWS OF THE VALLEY (GERS/ HARRIS) 7:32

Another track that sounds like a ”Dance Of Death” – “Seventh Son” mix. It is one of the album’s weak moments, although the arena vocals after the sixth minute are trying hard to change that. However, the euphoria of a live set is bound to upgrade it. That is, of course, if it gets to replace some other track on the setlist. Weak, though not invalid.

  1. TEARS OF A CLOWN (SMITH/ HARRIS) 4:59

The simplicity in the rock composition that is “Tears of A Clown” has a really nice taste. The song is dedicated to the recently deceased Robin Williams. The lyrics are contemporary and well-timed, which makes an interesting exception to the usual heavy metal band topics and themes.

  1. THE MAN OF SORROWS (MURRAY/ HARRIS) 6:28

Reading the title and listening to the actual track, I wasn’t expecting to see Murray & Harris as composers. I was leaning towards Roy Z or Dickinson to be the creators of this well-written ballad… It didn’t win my heart, but I am not a ballad lover so I may be a little unfair with this one.

  1. EMPIRE OF THE CLOUDS (DICKINSON) 18:01

Finally a composition that addresses Harris’ quest for a more progressive sound. Bold enough, Maiden has the luxury of wild experimentation (it is their 16th album after all and they owe no proof to nobody). Funny how Harris’ vision of progressive acknowledgement is fulfilled by a Dickinson composition, eighteen minutes that embrace the meaning of artistic pursuit and innovating ideas. To clear things up, progression is not defined by track duration and so “A Matter Of Life & Death” and “The Final Frontier” do NOT constitute progressive albums just because the songs in their tracklists are long enough. With this item however, Maiden test their own limits and explore new paths and that is regardless of whether you like the final result or not. The “Empire Of The Clouds” is cinematic/theatrical, with its use of piano and violins and its fascinating story-telling. A ravishing closure that upgrades the album with its boldness.

4/6

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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