Released: 2015, Parlophone, Sanctuary Copyrights/BMG (US)
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com Staff
Waspman / Rating: 4.5/5
After 40 years and 15 previous albums, what’s left to say about Iron Maiden? I’m actually struggling to come up with something to write about THE BOOK OF SOULS, album #16 in this British heavy metal institution’s discography.
When it comes to song writing, Iron Maiden has always written whatever was in their hearts and minds at the time, trends be damned, and that certainly hasn’t changed with this album. Is it heavy? Yes. Does it continue the band’s recent trend of writing more progressive-influenced music? Absolutely. If you were hoping for a reduction in lengthy epics, forget it, as the shortest song offered up is 5-minutes long. Beyond all of that, the band sounds phenomenal, particularly Bruce Dickinson who puts in yet another masterful vocal performance. In fact, this album is something of a showcase for Dickinson as he wrote, to my ears, the two best songs on the album (book enders “If Eternity Should Fail”, and “Empires of the Clouds”), as well as two of the punchier tracks in tandem with Adrian Smith (“Death or Glory”, “Speed of Light”).
So yes, the parade of epic songs continues with some more successful than others. The Harris-penned “The Red and the Black” is the most egregious example of the dichotomy many fans feel with modern Iron Maiden: it’s a lengthy song that is initially engaging but loses steam long before its 13-minute runtime ends. On the other hand, the previously mentioned “Empire of the Clouds” is easily the best Maiden epic since “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. It’s a tragic tale that weaves through several musical motifs and moods and is consistently absorbing despite being 18 minutes long.
THE BOOK OF SOULS is the freshest Iron Maiden album since BRAVE NEW WORLD. It’s still undeniably Maiden, but the band has reached a new level of musicality, sophistication, and comfort in their abilities, even if the trade-off has been the youthful abandon they once possessed. If recent interviews are anything to go by, the band had a blast making this album, so we can only hope that means there are more to come, especially if they are as high-quality as this. Long live Iron Maiden!
EvilG / Rating: 3.5/5
I've been spinning the new Maiden every day since it has been out. It's clearly a grower, as when I first heard it, I wasn't super impressed as it all blended together into a large “paint by numbers” Iron Maiden collage. Nothing stood out right away. I obviously liked it, but it didn't have the immediacy of my fav (and heavier) Maiden albums (Powerslave, Piece of Mind, and Number of the Beast). With repeated listens, my opinion on the album has vastly improved. For me it's their best album since BRAVE NEW WORLD (2000) and has a lot of great material. On the negative side there are several songs that meander along and you forget they are on. On the plus side, I really enjoy songs like “If Eternity Should Fail”, “Speed of Light”, “Death or Glory”, and the song that sounds like it could of came from a Dickinson solo album,“Tears of a Clown”. Maiden fans will love it all regardless. Up the irons!
Erich / Rating: 3.5/5
Not sure how many more of these we will get, so I always look forward to a new Maiden album. Perhaps in anticipation of the inevitable curtain close, the band has offered fans a double album, clocking in at whopping 93 minutes. Being a Maiden fan is about as exclusive a membership as owning a mobile phone (ok, that is an exaggeration), but you get the point. Understanding this, I try to distinguish myself by refusing to be a Maiden sycophant that loudly proclaims every album an unassailable masterpiece, the apologists for Maiden being about as numerous as the mobile phone users I mentioned.
THE BOOK OF SOULS is an album that is loaded with classic melodies and 10 or 12 viable riffs in each of the three 10 plus minute songs on the album. Each of those riffs could have led to their own songs. It reminds me of …AND JUSTICE FOR ALL in many ways, in that so much is packed in that full assimilation of the album takes some time. “Speed Of Light” grew on my insidiously, an upbeat rocker with a great chorus that initially I felt was pedestrian but now consider a high point. “When The River Runs Deep” is an unmistakable partial lifting of one of the opening melodies from “Moonchild” and a better song for it. That is what is great about The Book Of Souls; you get to hear large slices of Maiden’s storied history, the band unafraid to use something from the past in a different context if it works in the present. There is no hiding from the fact that this is also Maiden at their most progressive and bloated, some songs simply too long for no good reason. It’s not a new problem, or one that the band gives a damn about. Take it or leave is the Maiden stance at this point. Still, the more concise songs are all pretty good, “Death Or Glory”, “Tears Of A Clown” and the previously mentioned “Speed Of Light” and “When The River Runs Deep” helping overcome some of the more indigestible tunes. I’m not crazy about sequencing an 18 minute, low energy song at the end of the album, but maybe the band figured if you made it that far in one sitting they would do what they could to help put you to sleep. Perplexingly and Maidenly, there are also many admirable moments in “Empire Of The Clouds”, a tune that Dickinson considers one of his crowning moments.
Ultimately, THE BOOK OF SOULS delivers a worthy album that should keep fans busy. If you are one of the sycophants looking for a much more clearly supportive viewpoint, check out Nicko McBrain’s interview on Blabbermouth.com, where he states THE BOOK OF SOULS is, “The Best Album We’ve Ever Made.” There ya go, from the horse’s mouth!
JP / Rating 4/5
There were many people, Metal fans and industry observers, myself included, who had predicted after four long, progressive (and some would say, self-indulgent) albums, Iron Maiden would return with a short, fast album. Well, we were all wrong! They did exactly the opposite of what was the general expectation and have delivered their longest album to date. There are a few surface negatives, an uninspired album title, a dull album cover, featuring a close-up of Eddie, the first 'head-shot' of Eddie on a maiden album since the debut! Closing the circle perhaps? Fortunately the cool art in the booklet makes up for a weak album cover.
The band are in full stride, mature, confident, nothing left to prove and yet they can still bring some fire to the table. Many people have commented on the long songs but that is not a big deal, the band has always had long songs and they are not that long compared to the average Prog Metal band. As long as the song holds the listeners interest, and in this case they do, then the song-length is irrelevant. Good production, intelligent lyrics, epic concepts and some great guitar and bass tones (see: The Red And The Black) Iron Maiden have presented their strongest album in years.
Helias / Rating 4/5
It's been already five years since THE FINAL FRONTIER has been released with many people murmuring around the upcoming end of this glorious band and all we have said that FRONTIER is not the best ending of a majestic career.
We can say the same about THE BOOK OF SOULS, for sure. It has nothing to do with its predecessor except for the style and the compositional side and artistic evolution. The album contains eleven songs that many of them overpass the six minutes. The overall duration of the album is at 92:11. So, you can listen to a lot of music within.
The only problem here is the sound of specific songs as “Speed of Light” and “Death or Glory” that don’t fit to the entire sound of the album being dirtier than the others. There are epic songs like “The Red and The Black”, the title track, “The Man of Sorrows”, and the closer 18-minute “Empire of The Clouds”.
THE BOOKS OF SOULS can be described as an album that isn’t based on guitars like POWERSLAVE, but the atmosphere and the progressive style dominate here. Generally, this sixteenth outing sounds vital, fresh, new, different, mature, atmospheric, and melodic. I think it’s gonna conjure a universal praise of glory and fans will love it. THE BOOK OF SOULS worth every single minute as a cinematic-sounding encapsulation of great music of a great band.