Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

maidenIron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

I’m breaking my own rule with this one, in not waiting for Sunday Service. This deserves to be posted now! On the release date!

Well folks, the wait is over – it’s here! And it’s a beautiful thing – I got the hardcover deluxe version and the packaging is beautiful. The book, which contains great artwork and all the lyrics, with the 2CDs tucked into a clever stack tray at the back slides into a gorgeously simple slipcase. They really knocked the packaging out of the park, on this one.

This was the first album I have ever pre-ordered from Amazon. Normally, I just wait for release and go get it, but I was pretty stoked for this release, so I pre-ordered. When I pre-ordered, it was over $30. It soon went to $22.99 and that’s what I ended up paying. I would have paid the original price too – it’s new Maiden, just send it to me! And I have to say, I’m impressed with Amazon’s turn-around. I got a Shipped notification midday yesterday, the day before the release date, and the set was in my trembling hands by noon on the day of release (today). I didn’t even pay extra for faster shipping. Nice one, Amazon!

I’m gonna go track by track here, which is not something I do much anymore – however, this release is totally worth it. I won’t get into the lyrics, though Deke promises me that they are brilliant (and from what I heard as I listened, I have to totally agree). I’ll give it another full spin, with the lyrics sheets, very soon. But for this review, I’m just gonna gut-react to the whole thing as I hear it. These words are written based on my first spin through.

Let’s give ‘er!  \m/   \m/

CD1

If Eternity Should Fail’s intro gives us a feel of something ancient, I assume from the cover artwork they’re going for Aztec or Mayan, something like that. Soon enough the band comes in mid-tempo and it’s glorious. All the elements are here. Around the 5:00 mark the drums roll and we kick into full Maiden gallop. It’s a very melodic section, gorgeous. We pull back to the original tempo and ride the wave out, until a creepy voice of the Harvester Of Souls talks us out haha awesome. Holy hell, this one song is like a Maiden master class. All the elements are here. YES!

Speed Of Light, the first single, is a corker. I still swear that the first 30 seconds of it sounds like a G ’n’ R track circa 1987. That riff, the drums (and cowbell – more cowbell!), that howl… But of course it immediately becomes an Iron Maiden ripper. You’ve all heard it and analysed it and have your own opinion. Me, I think you can’t help but be lifted up by the hugeness of it, and it fucking rocks.

The Great Unknown’s gently-picked guitar intro with Bruce’s vocals is reminiscent of many previous Maiden tracks. When it kicks in, it’s a swinging metal blues as only Maiden can rock it. At top volume (as if there’s any other way to listen to this album), this track hits HARD! This would make a fantastic gym work out track, it just has that energy and elevating feel to it. The ending brings us back down beautifully and I love every second of it all.

The Red And The Black is a masterpiece. It brings a sweet acoustic guitar sound (but is that a bass?) to the feel from the album’s intro before blasting us into that trademark Maiden galloping chug. This sprawling 13:34 track pounds along  through its distinct parts and it’s absolutely beautiful. You can almost picture a battle scene as it plays, a battle on a dusty open plain fought hand-to-hand by foot soldiers… the guitar soloing here is incredible. Haha I could write that about every Maiden track. The bit where the tempo switches around the 9:00, and then switches again at 11:55 (this is all instrumental, these whole sections) is absolutely fun, as is the shout-along at the end. Holy hell, what a track! This is gonna be HUGE in concert!

When The River Runs Deep blasts from the get-go. A quick intro and BAM! get ready to go full-tilt Maiden boogie! This is the kind of thing they do that makes me have to check myself and make sure I’m not driving too fast in the car. It’s easy to get swept along. They break it up with half-time sections, but the real meat here is the full gallop. YEAH!

The Book Of Souls lulls us with a beautiful acoustic guitar intro, then punches hard in the solar plexus with that guitar riff. Yes! This one is majestic, infused with the swagger of those long-used to ruling and power. I pictured Bruce in a cape and crown, for this one! Haha. Of course, at 10:32, the song shifts a few times – like around 5:45 where it full-on tries to separate your scalp from your head for the rest of the song (until the acoustic guitar carries your body to the morgue), but in whatever form it retains its acknowledged glory!

CD2

Death Or Glory goes 100 mph right out of the gate with another monstrous Maiden riff, oh man. I’m driving too fast again! If I had to pick the second single for the record, it’d be this one. I hear a track like this and am filled with so much joy and love and rawk and I must really resist the urge to hit repeat on it as I must hear the rest of the album yet, too!

Shadows Of The Valley builds of the strengths of the previous track and once again sweeps us along in its rip-tide. It’s another majestic track as only Maiden can do it, so many pieces of brilliance making up the hard-rocking whole.

Tears Of A Clown is not, sadly, a cover of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I would dearly have loved to hear that. Of course, it wouldn’t fit the album at all, a cover like that, but who would care? Not me! And what is it instead? Another hard-hitting Maiden mid-tempo rocker, of course! I love the way it plays with time signatures, and once again the guitars rule the show. The two guitar solo section from 3:02-4:00 is great, both instruments with different tones yet still working perfectly.

The Man Of Sorrows slows the tempo down even more for a while, from gorgeous intro to the stomping second section. Of course, the menace and tempo returns incrementally by the third tempo and that’s about where the songs stays. This one is very bluesy, with that cool swing to it yet retaining its metal edges.

Empire Of The Clouds is notable, first and foremost, for being 18:05. That is HUGE! And truly, it is a magnum opus. It starts us off on piano, and cello (though I’d say it begs for full orchestra treatment)! Whoa, this section is gorgeous. The band creeps in gently, that martial snare drum as Bruce sings us through the story. And being Maiden, it builds through several stages until full gallop is achieved, and then back down again. It’s an entire Maiden album in one track! You know, at this point, these guys are just showing off. 🙂 An Ultimate Maiden Epic. They have topped even themselves, with this one. Wow.

In Sum:

It wasn’t marketed as such, at least not that I saw, but I’d swear this was a concept album. Not just a collection of cool and amazing Maiden songs, comprising an album, but a fully-realized 2CD history book about a period (real or imagined) of history. I haven’t paid too much attention to the lyrics on this first spin through, but it still feels that way, to me.

Surely people will try to draw comparisons between this one and other albums in the discography. But I really don’t think that’s fair. Elements may seem familiar of course (as they should, at this point), but this is a separate project. Unto itself. Everything about this is epic and beautiful, from the tunes themselves to the pristine sound production to the packaging. Hell, even having new Iron Maiden in 2015 at all is glorious. There were conscerns about Bruce’s ability to get the job done, given his cancer battle, but I can say without doubt those fears have no basis on this record. He is in full-on form and holding nothing back.

Book Of Souls has no missteps, no moments that are even close to medicore, no tracks I thought were lesser. For me it was hit after hit after hit. This is solid, immutable and perfect Maiden music. There is nothing here to let down any fan. Not even close. And if there was anyone turned off by the last couple of albums, this will surely bring them back to the fold. It’s incredible.

Unless something better (unlikely!) comes out of the woodwork, this is the Contender for Album Of The Year for 2015. Hands-down. You’d better fucking believe it, mate. HOLY HELL THIS IS AMAZING!

69 thoughts on “Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

  1. Phillip Helbig says:

    “Speed Of Light, the first single, is a corker. I still swear that the first 30 seconds of it sounds like a G ’n’ R track circa 1987. That riff, the drums (and cowbell – more cowbell!), that howl…”

    Although objectively not bad, it’s probably the weakest song on the album. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to hearing it live, as there is only one way it can be introduced: “I am the real Bruce Dickinson, and I want more cowbell!”

    Like

  2. Phillip Helbig says:

    ” I still swear that the first 30 seconds of it sounds like a G ’n’ R track circa 1987.”

    The first three notes of “If Eternity Should Fail”, probably coincidentally, sound like one of the best-selling “classical” compositions of the 20th century, and one of the few that I like (I’m more a early-seventeenth-century-and-before type of guy). Answers in the comments box please!

    Like

      1. Phillip Helbig says:

        I’ll let you smolder on this for a while. It’s just three notes, so it’s not unlikely it’s a coincidence.

        Like

          1. Phillip Helbig says:

            Kick yourself? No, this is rather obscure, and probably a coincidence (it’s just 3 notes):
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concierto_de_Aranjuez

            This is practically the only “classical” piece written in the 20th century which I like. The second movement is quite famous and also “inspired” Miles Davis to Sketches of Spain. I immediately thought of it when I heard those three notes, even though I haven’t heard the Concierto in probably 25 years. (Time to hear it again! A former girlfriend had it on CD, but she took it with her when we separated. I should buy my own.)

            The second movement is really sublime.

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            1. Phillip Helbig says:

              According to Wikipedia: Deep Purple played “The orange juice song” (David Coverdale and Jon Lord) on the sessions of the 1975 “Come taste the band” album, which is based around the famous second movement. It appears on the collection “Days may come…”. It’s a small world.

              Like

      1. Phillip Helbig says:

        I’m probably giving too much away by saying that, instead of a reference, you could all it an allusion to Joni.

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        1. Phillip Helbig says:

          Allusion—illusion. One of Joni’s most famous songs is “Both Sides Now”. Check out the refrain. She reflects on how she now (as an old woman of 22 or whatever when she wrote the song) sees various things—clouds, love, life—differently. “It’s xxx’x illusions I recall / I really don’t know xxx at all” and so on. And in “If Eternity Should Fail” we have “To God’s illusion / Which I recall”. I don’t think this is a coincidence. It might not be conscious—like George Harrison recycling “He’s So Fine” for ‘My Sweet Lord”—but I’m sure that this line would not be there without Joni’s song.

          So, if you ever interview Bruce, you know what to ask.

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          1. Phillip Helbig says:

            On the subject of allusions, how many can you count in the music and/or lyrics to “Shadows of the Valley” (apart from the obvious one to the 23rd Psalm, of course)? I’ve noticed three, all to other Iron Maiden songs. (Hint: One of them is a song which has the same title as one by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, at least one of whom was once a lover of Joni Mitchell. It’s a small world.)

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            1. Phillip Helbig says:

              No takers? I’m up to 4!

              And doesn’t Tears of a Clown remind you of modern Uriah Heep? Not a particular song, but the general feel: the feeling, the wah-wah solo, and so on.

              Iron Maiden are heavy metal. Uriah Heep are hard rock. Why?

              Like

      1. Phillip Helbig says:

        I’ll drop an obvious hint in a couple of days in case no-one chimes in with the right answer.

        On the meantime, how many headbangers don’t know that Nazareth’s “This Flight Tonight” is a Joni-Mitchell cover? (This song contains wrong aeronautical statements. Bruce, of course, wouldn’t make such errors.)

        Like

            1. mikeladano says:

              Nothing. It’s the only thing I could hear on the album that might be anything significant. I thought it was extremely cool.

              I’m out. I’m not gonna get this.

              Like

              1. keepsmealive says:

                Maybe the S.O.S. is all ‘oh no I’ve listened to Blue again and I still don’t quite get it!’ 🙂 But I don’t know what that would have to do with Maiden’s new record…

                Haha oh man ignore me, I’m just muddying the waters…

                Liked by 1 person

                1. mikeladano says:

                  No I don’t know either. I think the S.O.S. was an intentional part of “Empire of the Clouds” but I didn’t notice it until the FIFTH listen! Next time you play it, listen for the S.O.S.

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  3. Phillip Helbig says:

    “There were conscerns about Bruce’s ability to get the job done, given his cancer battle, but I can say without doubt those fears have no basis on this record.”

    I think I read somewhere that at least his vocals were done before his illness. Maybe the whole album was delayed until it would be clear that Bruce would be able to tour. And tour they will (visiting the rest of the world first before coming to Europe), this time with a 747!

    And it is Bruce playing piano.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Well good on the band for waiting, but imagine sitting on all of this greatness and not releasing it! Gah! It’d drive me bonkers! 🙂 I heard about the plane happening again, that guy seems to be indefatiguable. I’ve already told Brother Wilf here in my town that, on no uncertain terms, when they tour near here (likely Toronto) We Are Going. I’ve never seen Maiden in concert before and I really want to! And I think these new songs would be so incredibly strong live! If they played this album top to bottom and that was their set, I would be so very happy!

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  4. 1537 says:

    Nice review Aaron but I still haven’t done it yet … but I wasn’t a big fan of the last couple of Maiden LPs – plus all their soldiers and Union Jack flag waving is a big turn off for me.

    Like

  5. boppinsblog says:

    Nice post. Great enthusiasm for this album. From what I am reading it is deserving.

    For you, where would this album rank compared to the previous albums?

    I think I need to buy this.

    Like

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to HMV and spend $25 of your hard-earned on the hardcover set (or $15 on the non-hardcover, or $45 on the 3LP) and lose yourself in the majesty. This record is really, really great.

      I’m not even gonna try to compare it to others in the discography (I think I said so in the review). I don’t think it’s fair to do so. They are who they are now, and did what they did for this record and it’s phenomenal and that’s all that matters!! 🙂

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  6. mikeladano says:

    A concept album!? I love that idea. It could be! I need to delve more into the lyrics, but on the first two listens this struck me as a thoughtful album lyrically. A concept album…yes I think it’s possible to fit that definition.

    I have my album of the year now. Spoiler alert, woo. 🙂

    Well done A, I think the only way to review this is song by song. I was gonna do it another way but I felt it was not the right approach. So I gave ‘er.

    In emails we were talking about the top 15 on the 15th. No I won’t be changing my list for this…but in a year? Two? Three? Who knows where it will be on my lists.

    Gonna go link to this. Rock on brother.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      Thanks Mike, I did this babbling in real time, as I listened. I’d say I had the CD delivered to my at noon, and I had it ripped, listened to and written up and posted by 3:00! It definitely deserves more spins though.

      Yeah that’s my theory. I could be very wrong about it – I need to do a listen while reading the lyrics sheets. But I could feel a thread all the way through the whole project… Could just be me.

      This’ll rank really high in my year end list too, but I need to revisit all the other 2015 releases I’ve heard too before deciding. But yeah, it’s fucking incredible and deserves the top spot if nothing else was its equal.

      Thanks for the link!

      Like

  7. mikeladano says:

    I got the same version as you, at HMV’s price (same here as it is up your way). Very nice packaging and art from Mark Wilkinson. My only disappointment in the packaging was – no new band photo! Ever since I got my first new Maiden album in 85 (Live after Death) I always looked forward to the new band photos inside. I think this could be the first album to NOT have one?!

    Like

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Oh my yes. Second spin of it is just as great. The solos on here are insane. I like that you’re holding off and making a considered opinion. Me, I just throw shit at the wall!

      Like

  8. J. says:

    Nice write-up, fella. I really like Speed of Light and I’m also really taken by the cover, but I’m still weighing up whether to nab this one. Dare say I will, but quite possibly much later on …

    Liked by 1 person

          1. DanicaPiche says:

            You can do it! It took me a few days and I had to get dramatic — there’s a fire and you get 15 albums! — and I finally have my list. My top 2 are solid, but the others have moved around a bit. I’m also hoping I’ll still agree with it on the 14th 🙂

            Like

            1. keepsmealive says:

              Thanks Danica! I’ve said all along, if there’s a fire, it’s my lovely wife and kids and then me. Save the cat if we can. Everything else can f-ing burn. But given those parameters, like “pretend” there’s a fire and I can only take 15 records with me… well, it all fails because I wanna ask if grabbing the whole box that holds all my GBV in one place counts as one album… I dunno. Most albums are, honestly, replaceable. The house burned down and I lost my copy of Exile On Main St? Well, I’d just go get another, it’s everywhere (though maybe not in my M- copy LP with the postcards not even separated – that’s it in my Gravatar). But you know what I mean… In terms of getting music into my ears, most of it is easily replaceable. So for me, the task becomes sifting through all the everything I own, because I wouldn’t own it if i didn’t love it (I’m notorious for ditching records all along) so if it’s here, it’s essential. Only 15 seems so tough! Too tough, even. Impossible? MAYBE!

              I appreciate the support, though. Right now all I can see is making a list of 15 for the 15th, and then wanting to change it again as soon as I click Post.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. DanicaPiche says:

                Okay you’re far too much of a realist for this exercise! 🙂 Hmm..ok Mr. 1537 is marching over with a merry band of rugby-playing Welshmen to borrow all of your music — you only have time to save 15 albums and you can only listen to those albums for the next 6 months…until Mr. 1537 returns the rest of your collection.
                My list started at 50+ and I thought a list of 15 would be impossible. So, I had to imagine extreme conditions to start eliminating. As it stands, I’ll probably disagree with a lot of my list as soon as I post it 🙂

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                1. keepsmealive says:

                  I have often been told I’m a bit too much of a realist sometimes, but I always counter it by saying it’s what has helped me survive this world this long!

                  If 1537 marched here he’d get pretty damned wet. But if anyone could do it, it’d be that hairy bunch of Welsh men. Hm. That’s actually a really frightening image… definitely an extreme condition!

                  Eliminating from the list is still soooo difficult. I’ve written my whole post around it, I just need to finalize choices a million more times. Maybe I need a dartboard with all the album art on it and just chuck 15 darts and take whatever they hit.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Haha thanks Deke! I still feel like I didn’t do it justice. I’ll just link to you guys when you get yours up for the REAL DEAL! But my gut tells me this record is bloody unbelievably great!

      Like

    1. mikeladano says:

      Hey JP, so little did I know my wife ordered this for me from Amazon. Because of our mailbox here, I would have to go get it at the post office, which wouldn’t be until Saturday…just crummy luck on my part,, so I got her to cancel the order. We just bought it at the mall.

      Anyway, long story short, she also ordered a Kiss DVD that was already in stock, to get free shipping. They sent that one right away even though they didn’t have to. When we cancelled Maiden, we still got the free shipping on the Kiss..just awesome. Amazon are great!

      Like

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