Metal Review: Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls (2015)

Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls

Purchase Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls

It is hard to believe that a band can exist more than four decades and still be doing things for the first time, but with Iron Maiden’s latest opus, The Book of Souls, this marks the British veterans’ first double studio album. More so than just putting out an hour and a half of music, it is something of note that the quality of their latest release is actually still up to Iron Maiden standards even with this marking the band’s 16th studio album.

It has been five years since the release of The Final Frontier, which I was lukewarm on, but that is simply because of the high bar that Iron Maiden has set. The length of time since the last release has a pretty good reason. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson was being treated for tongue and throat cancer leaving all metal fans shaken by the news that the band may just be mortal.

With that being said, every note sang on The Book of Souls was song by Bruce Dickinson while suffering from Stage 3 tongue and throat cancer with a golf ball sized tumor on the back of his tongue. Perhaps I should take back my comment about the band being mortal?

To get into the review, let me just say that I was judgmental on the band’s decision to release a double studio album. Bands at this stage in their career that have that much material typically means that most of it should be left on the cutting room floor. I am glad to state that Iron Maiden has set me straight. There is not a wasted effort on this album.

The album is highlighted by “The Speed of Light,” which ends up being the one song of this album that feels like classic Iron Maiden. This track feels like an emphatic statement by the band dispelling any silliness that the band is not what they once were.

Of course, The Book of Souls is much more than one song. It is eleven tracks of relentless melodies and intense instrumental work that proves that Iron Maiden has compromised absolutely nothing in their 40+ years of existence.

Songs like “The Great Unknown” and “If Eternity Should Fall” are as epic as the titles feel. Songs like “When the River Runs Deep” show Iron Maiden from a slightly different perspective because of bassist Steve Harris’ limited songwriting on this album having spent time in bereavement during the writing process. His trademark galloping bass is ever present, but his flair for songwriting is not as present as in previous Iron Maiden efforts. Of course, Harris’ contributions were missed, but the album did not suffer from his absence.

“Tears of a Clown” is a track that will garner a lot of attention simply because it is a tribute to the late Robin Williams. It is a very nice tribute to the comedic legend.

I would be remiss to not mention the closing track, “Empire of the Clouds,” clocking in at 18:00, which surpassed “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as the band’s longest track. It is layered with power and sound and introduces quite a few elements to the band’s repertoire.

Overall, The Book of Souls is not Iron Maiden’s best work, but it is easily their best album is quite a few years as well as a return to form from the sub-par The Final Frontier. Up the Irons!

Iron Maiden: The Book of Souls Tracklisting

Disc one
1. If Eternity Should Fail Bruce Dickinson 8:28
2. Speed of Light Adrian Smith, Dickinson 5:01
3. The Great Unknown Smith, Steve 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 Janick Gers, Harris 10:27

Disc two
1. Death or Glory Smith, Dickinson 5:13
2. Shadows of the Valley Gers, Harris 7:32
3. Tears of a Clown Smith, Harris 4:59
4. The Man of Sorrows Dave Murray, Harris 6:28
5. Empire of the Clouds Dickinson 18:01
Personnel

Iron Maiden Line-up

Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals, piano on “Empire of the Clouds”
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Steve Harris – bass, keyboards
Nicko McBrain – drums