An Iron Soul part 1: Maiden’s “The Book of Souls” review

It has been 5 years since the release of “The Final Frontier” but Iron Maiden’s 16th album is now available around the world. Even after 40 years the band has still been able to break new ground and it has had me revisiting their entire back catalogue in anticipation. Not one to wait I was keen to get my hands on a CD for my car straight after work on September 4 and spent the rest of my afternoon rocking out to “The Book of Souls”.  If your like me and have scanned the web for any reviews you’ll have seen the usual official music commentary which has been largely very positive and a more mixed reception by some fans so I thought I’d take the time to do a detailed review.

The first track “If Eternity should fail” creates a real atmosphere for the album with the South American inspired introduction and Dickinson’s echoing lyrics before it kicks into gear with the usual Maiden gallop. The heavy guitar riff drives the track and noticeable slows for the chorus where Nicko’s cymbal work becomes more noticeable. It’s a catchy track and easy for fans to pick up the lyrics so I wouldn’t be surprised if it appears in the set list for the 2016 tour. My only criticism is the addition of Dickinson’s distorted soliloquy at the conclusion which I fell detracts from the song as an individual track but it works as part of the album to introduce the recurring themes present in the album.

“Speed of Light” is a much simpler song with a faster pace and a traditional Dickinson wail it immediately feels more familiar. Yet, even this seemingly straight forward track introduces a cowbell to demonstrate Maiden’s willingness to experiment with new elements. The first single of the album has grown on me after a few listens as the rush is starts the adrenaline pumping and Dickinson’s vocals are easy to belt out while I’m driving.  The energy is quickly shifted by the soft distinctive guitar introduction of “The Great Unknown” which I found really draw me into the track after the intensity of the previous song before the customary change of pace assured in with Nicko’s drums. Unlike some of the other tracks on the album the continuation of the riff through the song instantly made this one of my favourites.

However, it is quickly overshadowed by the bass at the start of the epic, “The Red and The Black” which quickly explodes into a galloping riff that gives the song a militant feel as it mirrors the rhythm of the drums. The psychological themes of the song are somewhat reminiscent of Stendhal’s book of the same name where the main character is often battling contrasting ideas and presenting a façade to  those around him. This literary link had already got my attention before I listened to the track but the changes of pace, Dickinson’s lyrics, the melody and the inclusion of some ripping solos during the instrumental bridge instantly made this my favourite song off the album. Even before I was finished with the first listen I was busy humming the rhythm, always a good sign.

The faster pace of “When the river runs deep” caught me by surprise after the deliberate pace of the previous track. The guitars seem to race Dickson to the chorus before slowing and allowing Harris’ rhythm  to come through behind the vocals to capture your attention. After this intensive burst of speed comes the title track, “The Book of Souls” which has a real sense of theatre, starting with an acoustic guitar and an almost tribal riff. The song is reminiscent of 1984’s “Powerslave” as the lyrics deal with the religious practices and beliefs of an ancient civilization. Like the earlier epic it starts with a very deliberate pace before it gives way to a strong guitar solo and starts racing towards the finish with a fast gallop reminiscent of classic Maiden.

This 92 minute album is best appreciated in two halves as this provides time to reflect and re-listen to some of the more demanding tracks with that in mind stay tuned for part 2 and my closing thoughts.

Up the Irons!!

Continue reading part 2 here.


About jgbarry

A teacher, poet, novelist and causal tech guru I am always keen to share my thoughts. A firm believer in critical thinking I rarely rush a decision without any research and once made my mind is primed for a good debate.

Posted on September 9, 2015, in Music, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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