New Maiden album day is right up there with Christmas Day and Birthdays in my household. Despite the songs being available on the internet in advance, and despite them also being available on Spotify on release day, not one note can be played until the CD is in hand.
This release was no different, apart from this time the band had kindly released their own beer which made drink choice easy. With a bottle of Trooper cooling, pint glass on standby and speakers warming up I waited for the postman. And waited. And waited.
Finally! With that it was on with the album. If Eternity Should Fail is easily one of the bands heavier album openers, if not heaviest. It has the distinct sound of a Bruce Dickinson solo song, and considering he has the writing credit for it, I would be surprised if this wasn’t at some point destined for an album of his own. With harmonies strewn all over the place, a grand chorus and dramatic narratives, it’s a more full on opening track than we’ve seen for many albums now.
Speed of Light follows, as if to remind us that they’re still capable of turning out a short, few minute long stomp. When I first saw the video I wasn’t overly taken with the song, I felt it lacked the big chorus I wanted from a new Maiden song. However, within the context of the album I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the initial kick in with the trademark air raid siren scream.
To fully review the entire album would take more space than our self imposed word count allows so I’ll just focus on particularly glorious songs.
The Red And The Black has been called Rime of the Ancient Mariner part 2 by some online, and in a way they have a point. Clocking in with a similar track length, the initial guitar rhythm shares a groove with Rime. It is certainly one of Maiden’s finest moments in many years though does present an issue. While it would be tremendous to hear this live with the singalong whoa-ohs, the overall length of this track, along with other tracks from Book of Souls would mean Maiden are either destined to play a very long set (yes please) or a normal length set but with less songs (no!).
Speed of Light music video
This album is essentially composed of closing track worthy songs. While they once ended on songs like Hallowed, Alexander The Great and Rime, they’re now pumping the entire album full of “epics.” The aforementioned Red And The Black, the title track and it’s keyboard boosted chorus, Empire of the Clouds, Shadows of the Valley. You can’t escape them.
This isn’t to say there are no short songs on it. Speed of Light I’ve already mentioned but we also have Death or Glory which is a relatively short but jumpy song. Despite a slightly clunky pre-chorus, it would be surprising if this doesn’t make it into the set just to speed things up. One vast improvement this album has over The Final Frontier is the lyrical content. There were jokes kicking about before release that the title tracks chorus would simply be..
“The Book of Souls, The Book of Souls…. The Book of Souls, The Book of Souls”
..but repetition has turned out to be sparse over the course.
I was slightly disappointed to find The Man of Sorrows wasn’t a reworking of Bruce’s own solo song of the same name, mainly because I’ve always wanted to see that song performed live. However it also means that I got an extra song out of it which is always good news.
Somehow, we’re getting on that plane
Empire Of The Clouds was easily the song I was anticipating most from the release. An eighteen minute Bruce song was enough information to excite me. Even if you didn’t know who wrote the song before going in, when you listen to the lyrics you would immediately figure it out. A long, winding dramatic narrative on a crashing airship can only be a Bruce song. If they were to perform this live it would require a full orchestra (S&M where M is Maiden would massively work though, lets make that happen) so I’m not holding my hopes out for a full performance on the upcoming tour.
Everyone evidently brought their best to the table for this release, however special mention must go to Bruce who performed the entire album while suffering from the early stages of cancer, unknown to him at the time. There’s no evidence of it in his voice though, while it does sound a bit thin on some occasions, which can probably be ascribed to age.
Overall I’m pretty ecstatic over the album. It should be noted that I’m a big fan of new Maiden, perhaps even more so than their older material (sue me), so for those of you looking for the next Piece of Mind, this might not be your favourite album. For me though, it’s exactly what I was hoping for from a new Maiden album.
The Book of Souls is out now
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