FEATURE FRIDAY: Looking forward to opening THE BOOK OF SOULS

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With last week’s official announcement of the upcoming Iron Maiden studio album, we want to go all nerdy and share our thoughts on the details provided so far.

Even though everyone knew that Maiden had recorded a new album in late 2014, and that it would be out at some point in late 2015, we got completely blindsided by the announcement that it will be out as soon as September 4.

With Bruce Dickinson thankfully being given the all-clear in May, the band announced that touring would not happen until 2016. Not much later it was revealed that Steve Harris’ British Lion will tour the UK in July and August, and that seemed very much to wrap up Maiden news pre-vacation.

And then, The Book Of Souls.

Maiden Revelations have been going for almost three years, but we have never had the joy of covering the release of a new Iron Maiden studio album. Needless to say, we can’t wait to nerd out about the details of last week’s announcements. Guest writer Adam Hansen, the fan club forum’s very own Drumhedd, joins in speculating about everything from artwork to writing credits.

Read on, and feel free to give your opinion in comments!

bookofsoulscover

COVER ARTWORK!
First impressions are important. How do we feel about the new Eddie and the overall style of the album cover?

Adam: Notice Eddie’s appearance: the haggard, wrinkled face (ok, more so than usual), the white hair, the dangling earlobes, the slightly faded glow in his eyes … he looks ANCIENT. It’s as if this saga between him and the listener is finally coming to a close. Here he is in all his ugly glory: nothing more, nothing less – staring you down as if to say “try me”.

While the lack of depth or background to the album cover has certainly raised a few eyebrows, I think it suits Eddie quite well! With a couple of exceptions, he’s always been up against some cluttered, colorful landscape. In addition, his pose is reminiscent of the debut album cover all the way back in 1980. It’s as if things are finally coming full circle for the rotting old chap 35 years later.

Christer: The original logo is back, almost. At least the pointed letters are back, but there’s a new layer of outline that still makes it look weird. It kind of suits the tribal voodoo-ish style of the new Mark Wilkinson Eddie, the meaning of which we probably can’t tell until hearing the album, and it’s the closest we’ll ever get to another Derek Riggs album cover. As a digital era thumbnail it will probably work better than the classic covers.

ALBUM TITLE!
It’s another “something of something”, Maiden have done a few.

Adam: In my opinion, this is the most exciting album title Maiden have had in years. Why? Because it’s so open to interpretation! The Final Frontier? Space. A Matter Of Life And Death? War. Dance Of Death? Death and war. Not since Brave New World have we had a title that conjures up such vivid imagery while still maintaining ambiguity in the subject matter.

Christer: The title somehow feels more like a Bruce Dickinson solo album than a Maiden album. Might be because of Book Of Thel and Tyranny Of Souls, I guess… But this is a good one. And it lends itself very nicely to packaging, something the DeLuxe Edition with hardback book proves just fine. You know you’ll pay for it:

bookofsoulslimitedDOUBLE STUDIO ALBUM!
It was contemplated in 1988, but now it’s real.

Christer: Obviously, much is made of the fact that this is Maiden’s first ever double studio album. The band considered turning Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son into a double album, but were reportedly talked out of it by manager Smallwood, no doubt due to cost concerns.

But the thing about double albums is that we’re talking about two different beasts in the 1980s and now. A double vinyl album back then could easily fit on one CD. On the other hand, The X Factor would have been a double album in the days of vinyl. A double CD album however … Well, longer doesn’t equal better, so the band have to really make it worth the length. As much as the prospect of 92 minutes of new Maiden music makes me drool, it takes a lot to stretch true greatness over all of that running time.

SONG TITLES AND WRITING CREDITS!
This is the really interesting part.

Adam: I think the obvious one here is Empire Of The Clouds. An EIGHTEEN-MINUTE MAIDEN TRACK? Written by the one and only Air Raid Siren? Bruce is obviously capable of composing epics, but the last time he wrote a significantly long Maiden tune on his own was Powerslave’s title track! This song is one big question mark, and I think it will really be the most anticipated piece on the record for hardcore Maiden fans.

Tears Of A Clown and The Man of Sorrows threw me off, the latter because it’s the title of a Bruce Dickinson song and the former because it’s the title of a Smokey Robinson (!) song. Not that this means either tune will be bad, it’s just difficult to distance the titles from the melodies already attached to them before we have the album to listen to! Hopefully the subject matter is fairly well thought-out and mature; otherwise I could see either of these falling a bit flat. It’s likely that one of these will be the ballad of the record.

Once again we see the classic Smith/Dickinson combo at work – will this album give us another Flight Of Icarus or 2 Minutes To Midnight? Fans of shorter songs will be glad to see that four of the album’s eleven tracks are under 6 minutes long, all of which involve Adrian Smith. Hopefully these will provide some balance to the epic, sprawling compositions that make up the rest of the album.

adriansmith2

Adrian teams up equally with Bruce and Steve for the album’s shortest songs. And that makes us excited.

Christer: Bizarrely, this is the third time Maiden recycle a Dickinson title, following The Wicker Man and The Alchemist. I have to agree with Adam that the two titles that threw him off don’t sit too well with me either. Mostly because I think some of the other titles are among Maiden’s strongest in a very long time.

If Eternity Should Fail is a fantastic opening title, and The Red And The Black always seemed destined for a Maiden album. On the other hand, as many as 7 of the album’s 11 lyrics are written by Harris, so I just hope he has been in Paschendale mode and not leaning too tiredly on the repeat button. It certainly looks like Smith is taking responsibility for bringing some shorter and more immediate rockers to the table, which he has hinted at earlier. It also looks like Dickinson is taking a huge responsibility in writing the album opener and album closer all by himself.

When it comes to singles the cat is out of the bag anyway, and a Smith number it will be, unless Maiden change their mind at the very last second just to throw people off. But I hope they do proper B-sides this time, and live tracks from the Maiden England tour is the obvious way to go, since there was never a live album. Give us proper Kevin Shirley-mixed recordings of The Prisoner, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, Phantom Of The Opera and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son!

METHOD OF WRITING AND RECORDING!
The band wrote much of the material in the studio, and rehearsed and recorded it “straight away”, as Harris commented.

Adam: Overall, it’s worth noting that there are no songs credited to more than two songwriters. The last time this happened was on 1992’s Fear Of The Dark. Even though the songs were written in the studio and recorded “while they were still fresh”, ideally this focused songwriting approach means that the tunes will still be very cohesive and well thought-out.

Obviously, there was a proliferation of material, and it was all good enough to make the cut, as Bruce stated in the press release. The last time Maiden made a statement like this was in response to playing all of AMOLAD live in 2006 – it was so good, they couldn’t leave anything out! It seems as though the band is even more confident than usual in this new material, which bodes well for the consistency and thematic content of the album.

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Janick, Steve and Bruce in the studio while recording previous album The Final Frontier in 2010.

Christer: It’s been five years since the last record, which is the longest gap between albums in Maiden’s career. This should mean that they had a massive amount of ideas going into the writing of this record. Dickinson hasn’t made a solo album in a decade either, which might explain that 18-minute album closer… What I’m hoping for is a record (a double CD record, no less) that has a surplus of exciting ideas, something I can’t say about The Final Frontier.

Some fans will be dismayed to see Harris brag about the “live feel” of the recordings in the press release. For many, this is the bone of contention when it comes to post-2000 Maiden productions, the fact that the band chief insists on their studio records sounding as live as possible. To be honest, I’ve never understood Harris’ take on this. When the band are in the studio he claims that as few takes as possible gives the recording a live feel. How then about the 23rd concert on a tour? Has the band lost its live feel by then? This has never made any sense to me, but I have faith that the great Kevin Shirley will do the best work possible on these recordings, within the limited scope that Harris’ dogma provides.

TOURING AND SETLIST!
Maiden will be on the road in 2016.

Adam: A 92-minute album would just about fill an entire Maiden show! It’s highly doubtful they will choose to play the whole record live, unless they did something unprecedented and played two sets without an opening act. While this would certainly fulfill the wildest fantasies of many fans, it seems unlikely that the band would want to mess with the formula they have: 13-14 tunes and a three-song encore totaling around two hours’ show time.

What will be interesting is which songs they choose: is there going to be room in a Maiden set for an 18-minute epic without sacrificing another song or two? Given the fact that the past few years have relied heavily on 80s “hits”, is there still room for a couple of good deep cuts alongside a sizeable amount of new material? Hopefully the song selection and tour makes the live show just every bit as potent and memorable as the album is going to be.

finalfrontiertour4

The previous album tour in 2010-11. You can rest assured that the next Maiden stage production will use exactly the same rig as before, just dressed differently. The album cover gives no hint as to what the dressing might look like.

Christer: The tour will begin “early next year”, according to the press release. If so, it’s a pretty safe bet that Asia and South America will be on the schedule, isn’t it? After that, it’s more than likely that a 2016 North American tour is in the cards, as this was apparently the original plan for the summer of 2015, before Bruce got ill. Personally, I think it would be fine if Maiden gave Europe a pass until 2017, as three years away might have rebuilt a little hunger and hype, particularly if the new album is great and does brilliant business.

I admit that I have become a bit cynical about Maiden’s live shows in the wake of the Maiden England tour. While very good, it stopped short of being truly great, almost like the band were happy to not go that extra mile. So my guess for the next tour is the usual rig dressed in voodoo materials, and a setlist consisting of loads of new tracks and your usual Troopers and Fear Of The Darks. No deep cuts, no surprises. Those days are gone, I’m afraid.

WHAT TO EXPECT?
When it all comes down to it…

Adam: The big reason why so many Maiden and metal fans are excited is that we really don’t know what to expect! The length of the record, collaboration between band members, artwork, recording location and ambiguity in the themes of the album are all fueling speculation as to exactly what this latest evolution of Maiden’s sound will bring.

We know they have preferred to write in the studio and record quickly, as they have done since 2003’s Dance Of Death. This is just about the only constant between The Book Of Souls and the other reunion-era albums. For that reason, we can expect an evolutionary step beyond The Final Frontier, but exactly where The Book Of Souls will take us is a bit hard to say. It’s going to be an epic adventure – the kind of experience that only a new Iron Maiden album can bring.

Christer: For me, everything after The Final Frontier will be considered a bonus. By this point, we have no right to expect new Maiden records, so we should enjoy this one as a rare gift. What I hope for is a more cohesive and enthusiastic album than the last one, one that brims with ideas and energy. Hell, I’m even gonna say that I expect it, because it would seem pointless for Maiden to make new music at all if they weren’t gonna be 100% into creating something that would be worthy as their swan song.

What do you expect from The Book Of Souls, folks?

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34 thoughts on “FEATURE FRIDAY: Looking forward to opening THE BOOK OF SOULS

  1. I will say that i got more the same feeling for this Book of Souls album, that i have back in time when i was waithing for Somewhere In Time album .
    And we all know how great that record is!
    Can’t wait to dive in to this new musc from IRON MAIDEN
    Cheers!

  2. When they do the tour for this album the song should be mostly post 2000’s songs. Example

    1. Intro
    2. Wicker man
    3. El Dorado
    4. The Tailsman
    5. Brave New World
    6. Speed Of Light
    7. When The River Runs Deep
    8. The Red And The Black
    9. Dance Of Death
    10. Ghost Of The Navigator
    11. Wildest Dreams
    12. Empire Of Clouds
    13. When The Wild Wind Blows
    14. Iron Maiden
    ————————————————————————————-
    15. The Final Frontier
    16. Monstguer
    17. The Thin Line Between Love and Hate
    18. Journeyman

    If they were to do a post 2000’s list

  3. I don’t know what to expect as I wait for this album to come out, but I do know the anticipation I have for it is probably bigger than I’ve had for anything else in the 23 years I’ve been on this Earth.

  4. I’ve set list speculated a cajillion times on this fan site, but four possibilities come to mind:

    1. Set list similar to the 2010 leg of the FF (kind of like CookieCrumbler’s suggestion only with FOTD and at least two more 80’s songs). Also, although Metallica broke tradition of not playing songs from albums that didn’t feature on the original tour for that particular album, I wouldn’t hold my breath for Maiden to do the same (nor would I completely rule it out)!

    2. Set list similar to 2011, i.e. 5 or 6 new songs, 80’s staples & about 2 or 3 2000-2010 era songs.

    3. Book of Souls Played in its entirety. When the did this for AMOLAD it was 15 songs including the encore. Due to the length of Book of Souls it would be 14 songs including the encore tops, seems unlike with an album going longer than 90 minutes, but you never know!

    4. The least likely, but a 16 song set list with a song from every album. Although the least likely, that’s what I’d pick now!

    • 1. They did attempt to rehearse Prodigal Son for the Early Days tour, so I guess there’s a 0,1 % chance of something like that ever happening. 😉 When it comes to a setlist in the vein of 2010, I think that’s out of the question since the new album will now be out before the tour starts.

      2. That would be my bet.

      3. A Maiden show typically features about 100 minutes of music, so this would mean only Iron Maiden and Fear Of The Dark in addition to new songs, tops…

      4. Could be fun. Therefore won’t happen. 😀 On the other hand, it would quite possibly feature something utterly predictable like: Iron Maiden, Wrathchild, Run To The Hills, The Trooper, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Wasted Years, Can I Play With Madness, Bring Your Daughter, Fear Of The Dark, Man On The Edge, The Clansman, The Wicker Man, Wildest Dreams, The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg, Coming Home and one new tune…

      • I live in the vain hope that we might see a truly different Maiden live set. The new album would have to be a career best for them to play it live in it’s entirety, and only the perspective of time can ascertain that. But I have to say, having seen Maiden on every tour since ’92, I have no desire to hear Wrathchild, 2 Minutes To Midnight or Fear Of The Dark this time around. The Trooper seems to still fire the band up, but again I could do without it.

        I understand the point the band make about younger fans having never seen the classic songs played live, but if they are younger, they can wait till the next tour, surely? AND they’ll be slobbering all over the new album anyway…us older fans would like some surprises please!!!!

        Something like Prodigal Son? YES PLEASE (in my opinion THE most underrated song in Maiden’s catalogue) although the fact that they’ve never played it live doesn’t bode well there…let’s be honest – we won’t hear anything that hasn’t been played live before – but at the very least they could treat us to something they haven’t played live for a VERY long time!

      • The 80’s songs I’ve seen played live (at Soundwave 2011 during FF) are Iron Maiden, Running Free, TNOTB, Hallowed, The Trooper, 2 Minutes & The Evil That Men Do.

        I’d be happy for both 2 minutes & Aces High to both be given a much needed rest in favour of Powerslave. Although that’s unlikely to happen, I reckon the solos of that song would be perfect timing for The Book of Souls walk on Eddie to come on stage 😀

  5. @Darren: I think the presence of FOTD in the 2008 history tour setlist pretty much assures us that it will never again be dropped from the set, 2005 marking the first and only time. Further, I think the disappointing number of rare tracks in the Maiden England setlist (only 3 that hadn’t been performed on the previous couple of tours) is a clear indication that the band is not going to be adventurous even when the occasion is very obvious.

    On a different note, it might be a factor how well Bruce holds up post-cancer. Hallowed was surely dropped from the set in 2012 for vocal reasons, and it’s probably likely that the next set will be even more clearly tailored to what Bruce can do these days. Which is not as acrobatic as it was a few years ago, cancer or not.

    • Bruce’s voice would probably not be affected; the treatment did target the tumour and not affect his larynx. 🙂

      I do not expect a hugely adventurous setlist, but hope that some post 2000 tracks would be featured in addition to the new material.

      • Well, it sounds affected to me in the new interviews. Since singing the way Bruce does is such a massively physical effort, it would be rather strange if such an ordeal didn’t affect it at all.

      • I agree, but as I said in my reply to your other post, his voice sounded fine in April:

        Anyway, it is still early stages post treatment and I have no doubt that Bruce will be back in great shape next year.

  6. Honestly, since this tour will be my first (and, if this is their last album, only) time seeing them live, I personally wouldn’t mind hearing all the staples, since those are the songs which got me into Maiden in the first place. For those who have already seen them live a number of times, I can understand why they’d get a bit sick of the big hits, though. I personally would absolutely love it if they’d bust out Remember Tomorrow, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and The Prisoner, but I guess those days have come and gone.

    Do they still play Dream of Mirrors these days? Cause that’s another one I’d love to hear. Still, with the length of some of these songs from The Book of Souls, I don’t know if they’d play any 8+ minute songs not from the album.

    • Dream Of Mirrors was only performed on the album tour in 2000. When it comes to playing the big hits, here’s an idea: Flight Of Icarus! The biggest US hit they ever had and it hasn’t been in the set since 1986…

      • Yes! One of the first Maiden songs I ever heard, and it remains one of the best. It would be a great surprise if they took that one out of mothballs. And maybe Alexander the Great while they’re at it.

    • As much as I’d also love to hear it, I’d be incredibly surprised if Bruce ventures Remember Tomorrow. I’d also love to be wrong!

  7. Whatever the set list ends up being, I’m looking forward to seeing the actual stage set based on the album artwork. And giant Eddie will be great if he looks like he does on the album cover.

  8. Alexander the great is one of a number of songs they never played live. Steve Harris said he regrets never playing that song the most.

    • Has Steve really said that? Because back in 2005 he told Metal Hammer that he didn’t particularly want to play it, after having seen the Iron Maidens perform it.

  9. Yeah, a few months ago he did an interview (with whom escapes me at the moment)but he said as the years went on he looked back on it and wished that they would have played it.

    • Let me know if you ever remember the source, because this is quite interesting. I know he regrets not filming the tour, but I had never heard about this recent Alexander thing.

      Although, HERE is a piece from 2000 where Steve says Alexander is the best Maiden song that was never performed live. 🙂

  10. How do you know for sure that ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son’ was supposed to be a double album?

    From all the reports and accounts of it’s making I’ve read over the years – including on your own site – it’s clear that the material the band wrote for the album is all the material they ever had, a double album would have necessitated much more material than they ever considered writing, and none of the band have ever stated they wanted to make a double album but were forced away from that by management or time pressures or whatnot… quite the opposite in fact, Steve Harris considers it still one of the best albums they ever made.

    Any links or quotes to prove your assertion would be nice, ’cause this is the first time I ever heard this, and I got into Maiden around the release of ‘Seventh Son…’.

    • Steve Harris said so in an interview with Kerrang! in the 90s, but only that the thought had struck his mind. It wasn’t “supposed to be a double album”, the thought was entertained for fifteen minutes or so during the writing of it. If my recollection of this is wrong, I humbly apologise. No biggie. 🙂

      • You have no need to apologize, good sir, but rather I do, if I sounded confrontational or argumentative, please accept MY humble apologies, it was not intended as such.

        I’m hoping for great things with ‘The Book of Souls’ but I just haven’t been that enthusiastic about any Maiden album post-1988 to be honest, the 1990’s were a steep drop-off in quality (although they did produce one or two killer tracks along the way, the superbly constructed abd atmospheric ‘Sign of the Cross’ the most notable one), even the Bruce/Adrian reunion albums just haven’t done it for me either (‘Accident of Birth’ and ‘The Chemical Wedding’ were both superior works in my opinion to anything they’ve recorded with Maiden since their return), plus I really can’t stand Kevin Shirley’s production, it sounds so harsh and brittle to my ears compared to the warmth and balance of the Martin Birch albums. But despite all that, I still hope for the best and am actually looking forward to hearing some tracks off the new album, whether or not it lives up to my expectations.

        Absolutely love the site, keep up the great work, best wishes for the future…

      • Thanks for the kind words! Arguments are good, not bad. 🙂

        Well, Shirley can only really work within the parameters set by the band, and it’s clear how they demand the work to be done. Even Birch had trouble making their last couple of albums with him sound good, in my opinion. I think Shirley does a great job with what he’s given. I particularly like A Matter Of Life And Death.

  11. @Alex: Yeah, a lot of people seem to think that’s the best one. I tend to disagree, personally, because I think Shirley hadn’t quite figured out how to handle the three guitars yet. Then again, none of the later albums have been mastered properly, so it’s kind of hard to compare them.

    • I think “A matter of life of death” is the best of the 4, both production wise and in terms of songs.

    • I truly believe BNW has the best overall sound, clearer and crunchier than the other 3.

      Musical coehesiveness wise, AMOLAD is probably the best.

      • I have to agree with Ghost. But then, I also remember buying Virtual XI back in 1998, and everything Shirley has done for them is in a completely different league. 🙂

      • Anyway, it’s amazing how Birch’s 80s work outclasses Shirley’s, considering just how limited the technology was back in the day in comparison with what the current producers have in their hands nowadays.

        Although Shirley obviously works within the limited scope set by Harris, there are all sort of unexplained production errors scattered through the records (I.e. various “clicks” on Dickinson’s vocal parts registered on different takes, etc). I wonder how would have worked with Roy Z at the helm.

  12. @Alex: Same old story … Roy Z, bla bla bla … I’m sorry, no offense, but it’s a complete fantasy, a kind of alternate universe in which Steve Harris is not in charge of Maiden. 😉

    Of course Roy Z could never have made them sound like Dickinson solo, or anything else he has done, because they’re Iron Maiden and Steve is in charge of the sound basics and general aesthetics. The compromise that Bruce and Adrian accepted was that they work with Kevin Shirley. I’m completely convinced that Maiden with Shirley is as good as they could possibly sound these days. And his method of working with them is also undoubtedly an important factor in them having gone more than 15 years since the reunion with a 5th studio record on the way.

    Birch would also not have been able to make them sound like he did in the 80s, which his last couple of records with them already proved more than twenty years ago. As soon as Steve got in charge of production, things were never going to be the same, no matter who produced along with him. Just consider the fact that Nigel Green was Birch’s sound engineer on Killers and The Number Of The Beast, and try to figure out how he could possibly have produced and engineered something as awful as The X Factor and Virtual XI. I think these cases prove Shirley’s innocence, if his quite stellar studio work with other artists wasn’t already enough proof.

    Anyway, if Maiden released an album today that sounded like Piece Of Mind, people would have dismissed it as a bad production. They would have complained about the drum sound, the guitars, and the clicks/smacks on Bruce’s vocals. 😉

  13. I thought I should write a little piece about the new Janick interview that surfaced. But it has been removed from all sites that featured it. Looks like Maiden management doesn’t want the fans to get any information about this album. I mean, I know pretty interested metal fans that are not even aware that Maiden are releasing a new album…

    Ultimate Classic Rock still has their snippet of the Janick interview up at their site, but it seems Maiden are hunting down any mention of it, so hurry if you’re curious to actually get a tiny bit of info on the upcoming release.

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