Christer Reviews: The Book Of Souls (2015)

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We have all spent this weekend getting to grips with Iron Maiden’s new album. It might be a different story in two years’ time, but here is what Christer thinks about it right now.

This is the longest gap between records in the history of the band. This is their return to Paris and the studio where they recorded Brave New World in late 1999. This is the album that was made while cancer was growing in the singer’s throat. There is no denying that The Book Of Souls is one of the most unique albums Iron Maiden ever made, even without taking the actual content into consideration.

So how does it sound?

Bruce Dickinson delivers the opening number, which sounds suspiciously like something he would co-write with a certain Roy Z. The track was indeed written for a potential future solo album and then intercepted by Maiden. If Eternity Should Fail is easily Maiden’s most epic opener since Sign Of The Cross back in the 1990s, and the most sinister one since Moonchild in the 1980s. Good start!

Speed Of Light acts a bit like earlier Maiden singles (Flight Of Icarus, Wasted Years) in that it benefits significantly from its place in the running order, following the dark opener and leading into the album highlight The Great Unknown, which boasts one of the band’s most glorious choruses. Adrian Smith surely kept his promise of focusing on shorter songs for this album, and variety is a keyword here.

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Gers, Dickinson and Smith deserve all the awards they get, after all these years of metal service. They also write a slightly bewildering bunch of tunes for Maiden’s new album. It’s nothing if not interesting.

The first question mark of the album is Steve Harris’ epic The Red And The Black. This is one of his custom Celtic-tinged self-indulgences, written for the woa-woa-woa singalongs of South America, one of which has been featured on every album since The Clansman appeared in 1998. The chord progressions are the same as always, but the groove and some of the melodies in this one make it worthwhile.

However, there is no reason why this song should be as long as Rime Of The Ancient Mariner. And it’s a bit embarrasing how Harris rips off Howard Shore’s Lorien music from The Lord Of The Rings for the track’s intro and coda. Once upon a time, Harris could give us musical and lyrical takes on movies we hadn’t seen (Children Of The Damned, Where Eagles Dare), but come on, ripping off music from The Lord Of The Rings…?

When it comes to ripping off, Maiden sure recycle their own previous work in various places on this record. The most glaring example is Janick Gers’ music for Shadows Of The Valley, which rehashes the intro from Wasted Years and the chorus from The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg, with other bits and pieces of earlier tracks thrown in. There were signs of this on Maiden’s previous album The Final Frontier (2010), and it is more prominent this time.

Even Gers’ and Harris’ title track seems uncanny at certain points, but that song is strong enough to rise above it. A highlight of the album, and surely a song that will work extremely well on stage.

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Dickinson is a force of nature. Or supernature. The performance he gives on Maiden’s latest is unreal for a man of 56 years.

On the other hand, the band do present music here that is different from any earlier efforts. Tears Of A Clown, lyrically based on the tragic fate of comedian Robin Williams, is a haunting and beautiful mid-tempo rocker which would sit quite easily on solo albums by either Dickinson, Smith or Harris. And then there is the album’s pièce de résistance, Dickinson’s operatic tale of the doomed airship R101, Empire Of The Clouds. Words can’t really do it justice. Much has been made of the fact that it clocks in at 18 minutes, but it doesn’t feel that long. It seems to rush by. Like an airship in the sky.

What can I say? Iron Maiden are Iron Maiden. They sound like they want to sound. But the record is not without surprises, the Dickinson entries and Tears Of A Clown being chief among these. Some fans will bemoan the fact that producer Kevin Shirley can’t make them sound and write like it’s 1984, but come on. What Maiden deliver with their 16th studio album, in their 40th year of existence, is beyond what anyone could have hoped for back in the late 1990s.

Have we been spoiled?

Yes.

Are Maiden a rare breed?

Absolutely.

Do we want more?

They must never stop.

For all of the arguable faults with this record, there are also many things to admire. Number one, the fact that a band in their late 50s sound like half that age and have a surplus of good ideas. Number two, the fact that the lead singer completely owns almost all of the 90 minutes of music. Number three, the fact that Shirley does the job required in communicating the eccentric wills and won’ts of the band to the public.

Brave New World (2000) and Dance Of Death (2003) might have sharper individual tunes, but The Book Of Souls is cohesive to a degree that only A Matter Of Life And Death (2006) has been thus far in Maiden’s post-2000 era. There is an iron will behind this, a band that refuses to die, and the future will undoubtedly sing their praise.

Christer’s verdict: 4/6

6/6 Masterpiece
5/6 Great
4/6 Good
3/6 OK
2/6 Disappointing
1/6 Crap

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50 thoughts on “Christer Reviews: The Book Of Souls (2015)

  1. I’d agree in a 4/6 …. I really enjoyed the album in it’s entirety (listened to it 6 times as a whole and a few tracks on their own now and then) and it really seems to go a lot faster than shorter albums like the final frontier..

    What I personally liked the most..
    1: The opening track..I completely agree it’s up there with the sign of the cross as an epic opener …. plus some drop d maiden.. YAAAYYY
    2: The book of souls title track… Amazing song… seen the lyrics first seemed a bit random without the melody, you know no rhyming in favour of storytelling but after listening to it, they really fit… Plus really awesome riffs and melodies as well.
    3. The whole album has great moments, even within tracks that didn’t really stand out to me … It’s a proud effort and much better than anything I personally expected from a band like this, in this day and age ..
    4. The performances… The band sounds great … Even Bruce ! when speed of light came out I was a bit dissapointed cause I really didn’t like the note in the part of “shadows in the STAAAAARS” which repeats itself a lot cause it’s in the chorus.. But I think the echo effect, and the fact that I’m not really into Bruce’s “pulling balls” high notes, anymore, played a factor.. In the rest of the album he sounds great.. even better than “TFF” to be honest,as is the rest of the band ..
    5. The production… I prefer the loud grandiose productions than the low ones (even though my fav album AMOLAD has a low dark sound, but I guess it fitted the songs then like in the XFACTOR). This album sounds awesome..
    6. Absolutely great artwork and packaging details… Plus the cover.. In comparison with previous artwork covers like “TFF” “DOD” and “Virtual xi” proves that less is more..

    THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE TOO MUCH..
    01. The intro to Shadows of the Valley.. It’s too reminiscent to wasted years, and I think Jan and Steve could come up with something different..
    02. “The Great Unknown” I don’t know why but I really didn’t like the track.. The lyrics doesn’t rhyme at all (besides in the bridge) even in the chorus! .. It really sounded like a lesser effort compared to the others. Which is a shame cause based on it’s duration is one strong candidate of being played live..
    03. The “breakdown” on “The Empire of the Clouds in 6.57-7.18 is a joke of an effort and for me, it really “hurts” this otherwise great track.. Plus at 9.14-10.03 and at 10.58-11.50 it sounds a lot like “The Legacy”. It’s a great riff guys but you’ve done it before.. 😛

    Anyways I’m a pleased fan at the end of the day 🙂 much happier with this album than I was with the previous one and now I’m going to go listen to some “Book of souls” 🙂 Nice review guys although I don’t agree with “the great Unkown” but it comes down to personal taste so it’s whatevs .. I agree in the most parts and in the “rating”

    • And also sorry for any mistakes I tend to type very fast … Plus some musical terms might be wrong like “the bridge” and “the breakdown”.. My native language isn’t English and I learn musical terms from interviews, tutorials etc..

    • The “breakdown” on “The Empire of the Clouds in 6.57-7.18 is a joke of an effort and for me, it really “hurts” this otherwise great track..

      What do mean here? This is one of the most atmospheric moments of the track!

      • I mean it could be done a lot better …. I didn’t like that part at all … I’m not even sure you got what I was talking about… I was only talking about this part with the bland drumming and guitar picking from 6.57 to 7.18 … not the melody after

    • “The “breakdown” on “The Empire of the Clouds in 6.57-7.18 is a joke of an effort and for me, it really “hurts” this otherwise great track.. ”

      You do realize that’s morse code to S.O.S. as a reference to the airship crashing down, right?

  2. I’m really not sure what your expecting from a band that’s pushing 60 with the exception of Nicko who is already in his 60’s.This band should have been finished after bruce left in the 90’s like most rock bands who existed in the 80’s and 90’s are finished and have been finished for a number of years now.If your looking for another seventh son or powerslave,I’m sorry to say but those day’s are over.What we have now with this record is a band who have defied the odds and continue to reinvent themselves by now creating the best album since the aforementioned seventh son.Now one of the reasons this record is so great is that Steve didn’t have to bear the entire load,everyone contributed to the making,they lifted each other up and gave everything they had and created a monster of an album with only three not so great songs in my opinion,the great unknown,the book of souls and the man of sorrows other than that this is an unbelievable album that surpasses everything from no prayer for the dying to the final frontier by a long shot.So please just enjoy what has been created by the greatest metal band ever who should be past their prime by about 20yrs but who seem to be ageless and stop looking out the rear view mirror and start focusing on the windshield. UP THE IRONS

    • @Duke15 If you’re talking about me.. The fact that I just said somethings that I didn’t like is what reviews are for… and I’m happy to be able to say them here cause in the official forums you’d get eaten alive… I really do enjoy this album and it far exceeded my expectations especially after an album I didn’t like at all (tff).
      But we as a community have opinions and the right to name them.. the things I mentioned are minor compared to this long album’s strong moments … I didn’t bash on it but I will not “swallow” everything whether I like it or not.. Noone who publicaly puts something out there is above judgement.. and people tend to be harsher on things they love..
      Of course maiden are a freak of nature and I think they are unbelievably great even at this day and age .. Does it mean I don’t get to voice my opinion then ? I’m a fan not their manager or press guy ..
      In the end I really enjoyed the album as you’d already know if you read past my “Things I didn’t like so much” and as of now is my 4rth favorite album since seventh son right behind AMOLAD (my favourite maiden album ever), Brave new world, and Dance of death..

      • and I never said anything like I expected another Powerslave or seventh son… I never did… And besides my favourite maiden album is a post reunion one (“a matter of life and death”)

    • @ Duke15, I’m not looking for another Seventh Son or Powerslave, don’t understand where you got that idea. If you read my review carefully, you’ll see this: “Some fans will bemoan the fact that producer Kevin Shirley can’t make them sound and write like it’s 1984, but come on. What Maiden deliver with their 16th studio album, in their 40th year of existence, is beyond what anyone could have hoped for back in the late 1990s.” So you got the completely wrong idea when you’re asking me to “stop looking in the rear view mirror and start focusing on the windshield.” That’s exactly what I do. 🙂

  3. For me this double album The Book Of Souls is maybe the best album ever, becours it got it all in it .
    Not a borring sec …. on the two disc’s at all , but ask me again in two years time maybe a different story then.
    But i don’t thinkso , becours when i heard Maiden for the first time back in 1981 i remember this feeling now its here a gain.
    This record blow me away

    for me this is 6/6 Masterpeace .

  4. I think this is a great and fair review. For me, the album is very much in the mould of the other reunion albums … mostly playing it safe and traditional, the propensity for longer songs is still there, and there are a few moments of welcome experimentation. I also think it has the same weaknesses … perhaps too many ideas and some lack of willingness to self-edit. Personally there are a few songs stretched too long for the sake of it. Like the band had a spare riff or idea lying around so they stuck in a time change and made the song a few minutes longer. Some songs are quality enough to rise above this … If Eternity Should Fail, the title track, Empire of the Clouds … these are the songs that I feel I will remember this album for. There’s also a handful of shorter songs that work well … Speed of Light, Death or Glory and Tears of a Clown are all solid enough for me. More questionable in my opinion are The Red & The Black and Shadows of the Valley … I don’t think there’s anything that I haven’t heard before here. Then tracks like The Great Unknown and When The River Runs Deep I don’t find memorable either. WTRRD I think suffers from the problem I mentioned of being too complicated for it’s own good. If this had been a foot-to-the-floor rocker without the time changes I think it would work better.

    So I think the rating of 4/6 is representative of my thoughts. I like the album more than The Final Frontier right now, it probably stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the other reunion albums (of which I hold Brave New World in the strongest regard, still).

  5. Sakaraka7…no I wasn’t talking to you I was talking to the one who wrote the article,sorry I should have made that clear.

    • And like I replied earlier, Duke15, you have the wrong idea here, since my review is clear about NOT expecting another Powerslave, or indeed anything as good as this album even. I don’t understand how that is me looking in a rear view mirror.

  6. I give the album 10/10 or 6/6 as you wish and it’s because of the emotional impact it has on me . The album touches my deepest feelings. the darkest corners of my soul. Lyrics wise it’s their best ever , strong an meaningful . Of cause the album has a couple of songs i like less than others like Speed Of Light,The Great Unknown,When The River Runs Deep but still they are good songs.For me the highlights are IESF, TBOS,DOG, TMOS,EOTC

    • I completely agree with the songs you like less and the highlights you picked.. In the highlights I’d personally add TOTC too.. Nice choices

  7. 5/6 for me. It might replace AMOLAD as my favourite post-reunion album (that one is my 5th favourite Maiden album after TNOTB, SSOASS, POM, and Powerslave), although it is too early to tell.

    Highlights are Empire of the Clouds (superb!), Death or Glory, If Eternity Should Fail, The Great Unknown, The Book of Souls and Tears of a Clown. The Red and the Black is Steve Harris by numbers and therefore predictable, but it is great too. When the River Runs Deep and Speed of Light are really good tracks. Shadows of the Valley recycles past songs, but the end result is a rather good song. The Man of Sorrows is, albeit good, in my humble opinion, the weakest track of the album, which is something that I kind of expected as Davey’s tracks have not been the strongest off the records lately.

  8. Interesting. I’ve only had the time to listen to the first disc so far, but The Red And The Black is my favorite so far. Very lively number that I feel rolls along at a very nice pace.

    • Yeah! I still think the track is much longer than it needs to be, but as I mentioned, the groove is definitely one of its strengths.

  9. By way of explanation, I’m not judging this record in relation to anything other than Maiden’s catalog and where they are at in their extremely long career. In that context, it’s my opinion that this is definitely one of their better albums, but not one of the greatest.

    Time will show how that verdict holds up.

    Compared to whatever else is out there in the metal genre right at this moment, the album may very well have deserved a higher rating, but that’s not my concern. For context, my retro reviews of the 1980-90 period can be found here, and given time I’ll get through the 90s and beyond. 🙂

    In relation to the other post-2000 records, I think The Book Of Souls is clearly better than The Final Frontier, and about even with Brave New World and Dance Of Death. More cohesive than the latter two, but possibly not quite as sharp on individual tracks. We’ll see in time. But so far I still think A Matter Of Life And Death is the best of this bunch.

  10. For me The Book of Souls is 5/6. It’s a very guitar based album. It’s a heavy and atmospheric album and ranks behind AMOLAD for the best post reunion albums. There’s not one song I don’t like, but the standouts are If Eternity Should Fail, When the River Runs Deep, The Red and The Black (this song is awesome – not understanding the criticism, it’s a Harris penned track, therefore it will sound like other Harris epics), The Book of Souls, Death or Glory, Tears of a Clown, and Empire of the Clouds.

    The lesser songs, even still good are The Great Unknown, The Man of Sorrows, Shadows of the Valley, and Speed of Light.

    The album is consistent however and I think the production is pretty good and much better than TFF, which had a dry and sterile sound. All in all it’s an impressive feat for a band in their 40th year to still be producing meaningful and thoughtful music.

    • I agree that the production is good. The sound is fatter, there’s more reverb (including the snare) than usual, and so it just sounds bigger all in all. But there is still a lot of space and dynamics in it, which is credit to Shirley. Enjoyable to listen to.

      When it comes to The Red And The Black, this is probably one of the tunes that are going to divide fans the most. I don’t agree that it sounds like other Harris epics, just the ones post-2000. That’s my problem with his epics these days, although I love Blood Brothers and For The Greater Good Of Good. In the 80s his epics covered a lot of ground – from Phantom to Hallowed, from To Tame A Land to Mariner, from Alexander to Seventh Son. Even the 90s brought diversity in the form of Afraid To Shoot Strangers and Sign Of The Cross, but something got stuck the moment he invented The Clansman… These days his epics are cut from exactly the same cloth every time, the same progressions and roughly the same melodies. But I think this one is good, certainly better than When The Wild Wind Blows.

      • Christer you nailed it with the production, it definitely sounds fatter and fuller. Regarding The Red And The Black, I think it has elements of Rime, The Clansman, and The Nomad. It is rehashed, but feels fresh in its own right.

        Much of this album has riffs, melodies, and structure borrowed from other maiden albums. I’m fine with that. That’s what you get when you make music for 40 years. Everything I love about maiden is represented on this album. For example The Great Unknown, which I’m starting to love more than like has elements of sound from These Colours Don’t Run, Look For The Truth, and New Frontier.

  11. as i wrote before, the dude who´s picking and writing the singles should get fired. i mean, when did we get a single that sounds like something that the rest of the album sounds. holy smoke, from here to..,wildest dreams etc etc. not the strongest pieces. and whats the reason to write theese mainstream singles? just dont get it? and i haven´t even mentioned the videos.. the rest of the record is suprisingly strong, but i strongly disagree with the empire stuff. but glad for the lack of those bass and hi-hat moments. i think that the melodies have gotten pretty boring the last couple of records with a lot of one string stuff, but the riffs kicks ass.so more riffs and less melodies 🙂 for me the best moment of the record is the very first song. 4/6 is a fair verdict. good review christer!

    • Thank you! 🙂

      But to be accurate, the first single off Fear Of The Dark wasn’t From Here To Eternity, it was Be Quick Or Be Dead. And I’d say El Dorado was pretty close to representative. But being representative of the entire album isn’t really the point of a single. Would you say that Run To The Hills is representative of the rest of the album? Is Flight Of Icarus representative of tracks like Revelations and To Tame A Land? Is Wasted Years representative of the rest of the album? If I had heard Can I Play With Madness outside the context of the album (which I didn’t) I might not have had an accurate impression of the forthcoming Seventh Son. Not much in it that points to Moonchild, Infinite Dreams or the title track…

      And you can bet that Maiden don’t “write these mainstream singles”, they write the songs and then pick a first single after the fact. If a song was actually representative of the entire album, that album might have been really repetitive, which The Book Of Souls isn’t. It repeats a lot of stuff from earlier tracks, but has great variation within itself.

      Anyway, the singles are probably of more effect with the media and the metal masses than with us nerds anyway. No need to flirt us into a new album. 🙂

      • @Steven Wall: Well, he’s not right. Gangland and Invaders are shorter than Run To The Hills … Quest For Fire and Sun And Steel are shorter than Flight Of Icarus … Aces High, Losfer Words, Flash Of The Blade and Back In The Village are shorter than 2 Minutes To Midnight … Deja Vu is shorter than Wasted Years … While Can I Play With Madness is indeed the shortest tune on that album.

        How’s that for picking nit? 😉

      • @christer: spectacular! 🙂 Maybe he was referring to Can I Play With Madness specifically, or it just reflects the casual attitude they have to singles (or at least, the casual attitude that Steve wants to project).

      • Might very well be the case. Martin Birch could also have played a part in picking singles, at least Bruce has said that Birch was the one who suggested Run To The Hills. 🙂 Like Tomba said, in the 80s it made sense to pick a song that had a chance of radio play and MTV rotation, even for Maiden.

  12. hmm, fligt of icarus was very similar to the rest of the album, with tracks like the trooper, quest for fire,sun and steel, revelations and die with your boots on. But wasted years and can i play is in my opinion the weakest tracks of those two albums mentioned. Why not do a queen and put out the “bohimian rhapsody” as a single. it worked out pretty good for them :). anyone noticed that the speed of light riff sound pretty much like enter sandman? If to tame a land would have been on this record, it would have been one of the shortest tracks. its funny how times change. one topic you perhaps could write an article about. The videos. would be intresting to know what video people thinks is the best one? i kind of like wasting love.. and yes, run to the hills was representative since it kicked ass like the rest of the album 🙂

    • You know, this is probably a pointless back-and-forth… 😉

      I don’t think Icarus is representative of Where Eagles Dare, Revelations and To Tame A Land at all, arguably the strongest tracks on POM, but I love Icarus nonetheless. And I think Wasted Years is one of the 3 strongest tracks on SIT, without being representative of anything but itself really.

      But if your idea of “representative” is that you think the song is great, then we’re obviously putting two different meanings into the term, and should just drop it. 😀

      The Speed Of Light riff, yeah, good point. But I’m surprised that I haven’t seen anyone compare it to Stranger In A Strange Land. Different tempo and rhythm signature, but pretty much all the same notes in the right-ish order.

  13. yes, its absolutely pointless. i know that everyone likes different songs on albums. but neverthanless, run to the hills was something different than say wildest dreams. the song was fighting for radio air play time and such things. today with facebook, spotify and everything has changed. its pretty simple, put out the strongest track, if its 18 minutes or 3 minutes, who cares? maiden dosen´t get their fans through radio or tv, they get them through word of mouth and quality since 1980!! of course a great track is the same as representative. i do not see any other company marketing their stuff with the worst products they have come up with..? before book of souls came out, wich songs was all the fuzz about? it was the dickinson stuff, the 18 minute epic, it was certainly not about a 5 minute song wich sounded exactly like everyone had expected when we heard it. and it says absolutely nothing about anything at all. hell no, try with a knock out in round one just for once and put up a 18 minute single, that would get the media talking! “new, fresh, intresting” instead of pushing the repeat button and hoping that it works one more time.. that was my point. man, they used to have the guts to do things like that.. just listen to the angel and the gambler, it REALLY takes guts to put that song out as a single 🙂

    • Oh dear, we’re gonna have to just disagree then… The Angel And The Gambler is not a sign of guts in my opinion, it’s a sign of a complete loss of direction and quality control. Futureal should obviously have been the first single, as Rod argued at the time. And since then, I’m quite sure that loads of fans would rate first singles like The Wicker Man and The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg very highly on their respective albums. Personally I also think El Dorado is one of the best tracks on that particular album. If you don’t like Speed Of Light, that’s fair enough. I really don’t care what song they put out first. No tune can properly represent a whole album, the way I see it.

  14. Well I quite like this album. I think Bruce’s vocals sound quite flat and a little strained, but no different to the last few albums. Saying that, I wouldn’t want anyone else singing, just feel they ought to drop an octave or two.

    I would say that most songs are overly long, I’m sure this record would be even better if it lost 20-30 minutes.

    Really don’t like the spoken part at the end of If Eternity Should Fail, and don’t like Empire Of The Clouds (every one else seems to rave about it though!).

    So I give it 8/10 ( or 4.8/6 )!! It’s a grower though, so that may rise.

    • Alan, listen to Empire of the Clouds fresh when you wake up. Don’t listen to any other songs from the album. On its own it’s quite an accomplishment. Not sure it fits on the album, but as a stand alone it’s amazing. I was lukewarm to it at first and now I love it. There’s a lot going on in the song and you need to be emersed in it to appreciate it. A song is great if after 18 minutes it doesn’t seem that long. The 18 minutes moves much faster so to say.

      I like the ending to If Eternity Should Fail. It takes me back to Seventh Son album and the beginning of Still Life. The only song I would cut back time wise, even though I really like it, is The Red and The Black. Maybe a bit too much guitar work in the middle/end section, but it’s good musicianship otherwise. Almost like a Maiden jam session.

      It’s funny, I liked maiden in the early years because of the short punchy tracks and even though I still love those songs, I prefer the proggy, atmospheric, longer songs of Maiden these days. I’ll take Paschedale, Sign of the Cross, and The Longest Day over NOTB, 2 minutes, and the trooper if I had choose what to listen to at a concert.

      • So would I, but only because the three oldies you mention have been played to death. If they hadn’t performed 2 Minutes and The Trooper since 1985 I wouldn’t be so sure. 😉

  15. Great review, congratulations! After 5 days listening to it, I can say that it’s my favorite one since BNW. Although I think DOD has brilliant songs (Paschendale in on my top 20 and Rainmaker is maybe better than any of the shortest tracks of the new one), I think TBOS is stronger as a whole album. Comparing to AMOLAD, which I consider a powerful album in its entirety, I think TBOS has better melodies. Besides that, I’m not a musician and just know music as a fan, but, in my humble opinion, the guitars sound better too. And, of course, it’s much better than TFF, which is, in my point of view, the weakest album with Bruce, just better than Virtual XI.

    In my opinion, the highlights are If Eternity Should Fail, The Book Of Souls, Tears Of A Clown and Empire of The Clouds, but, as I’ve just mentioned, I thought the whole album just awesome, except Shadows Of The Valley, which is the only one I didn’t like that much.

  16. Hi Christer, been following you for quite some time now. Great work, great review as always!
    Here’s my two cents on the new album:
    IF ETERNITY SOULD FAIL 8/10
    Massive intro, I think that’s what they tried to achieve for the Final Frontier, but didn’t quite accomplish. The song itself is simply the best opening track since Wicker Man. Epic chorus, which gets your hair stand up at the back of your neck. Nice little outro as well.
    SPEED OF LIGHT 7/10
    Good single. Fresh, inspired and simply fun. Vocal lines during the verse and the chorus could have been a little better.
    THE GREAT UNKNOWN 8/10
    Again, what a great chorus. Surely epic is the right word here. Typical intro, great celtic melodies, great structure and a massive Bruce Dickinson.
    THE RED AND THE BLACK 9/10
    Sounds familiar doesn’t it? A typical Harris galop, including football chants and amazing time changes. For me you can’t go wrong there. Standout melodies which bore into your brain. For me the best track so far, which will make it into the setlist I’m sure.
    WHEN THE RIVER RUNS DEEP 7/10
    A little bit too generic for me. The time change from verse to chorus makes it worthwhile though.
    THE BOOK OF SOULS 10/10
    Masterpiece. Song structure and lyrics are just staggering. For me one of the best songs Maiden has ever written. I really dig the oriental flair of the song. The chorus is beyond amazing and the time change in the solo section is just stupendous.
    DEATH OR GLORY 9/10
    Rumbling start followed by a killer riff. Maiden have always had a knack for great pre-choruses ‘Turn like a devil, shoot straight from the sun’. Songs like these that make this record so diverse.
    SHADOWS OF THE VALLEY 8/10
    Solid song, but also a little too generic. Reminds me of Fallen Angel.
    TEARS OF A CLOWN 7/10
    Somehow untypical song, with some great lyrics and some great solos as well.
    THE MAN OF SORROWS 6/10
    For me the weakest song on the album. I don’t think this bluesy side fits Maiden too well. For me the song simply lacks of cohesion.
    EMPIRE OF THE CLOUDS 8/10
    Much has been said about this song. Surely one of the strongest songs Maiden has ever written. The intro, the storytelling and the structure are outstanding and it doesn’t seem like 18 minutes at all. The time changes and the middle section (“Irish fiddling”) are simply stunning. As mentioned before, the breakdown section is a bit odd and the melodies could have been shortened a little bit.
    Considering the artwork and the whole process the album was created I’d add have an extra point.
    My verdict: 8,5/10

    Also, here’s my (conservative) setlist guess:
    1. Intro
    2. If Eternity shoud Fail
    3. Speed of Light
    4. Can I play with Madness
    5. The Trooper
    6. The Book of Souls
    7. Heaven Can Wait
    8. Coming Home
    9. The Red and the Black
    10. Blood Brothers
    11. Tears of a Clown
    12. Hallowed be thy Name
    13. Fear of the Dark
    14. Iron Maiden
    15. Wasted Years
    16. The Number of the Beast
    17. Running Free

    • Great review, Fabio! At this early point, I agree completely with your best and worst tracks on the album. Yay, title track! Meh, Man of Shadows. 🙂

  17. Christer, I know you (and most other people) feel that the intro to Shadows Of The Valley sounds very much like the Wasted Years riff. I must admit that I failed to spot that (although it’s blindingly obvious now), I thought it actually sounded like the intro to Out Of The Silent Planet from Brave New World. Don’t know if anyone else spotted that.

    • I know what you mean! Actually I think the chords under the melody are the same chords as in the opening of Silent Planet. I have to admit that this track still throws me, I can’t get past the recycling. The guitar signature from Wasted Years, the chord progression from Out Of The Silent Planet, and the chorus from The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg. It’s hard to take.

  18. I’d probably give it a 3/6, but that’s how I’ve felt about pretty much all the albums since Bruce returned. I can certainly understand that after doing this for damn near 40 years, they are going to start plagiarizing themselves… but a few tracks really stand out here. The Harris epics are basically boilerplate on this point… and the almost direct rehash of the Wasted Years opening on Shadows of the Valley was a tad jarring… many stretches throughout the album give me a general vibe of old ideas warmed over and stitched together. That isn’t to say this is a bad record… the highlights are more numerous than on Final Frontier… As expected, they are damn fine musicians and Bruce still brings home the bacon… But I guess I’ll fondly remember the times when the nine minute epic was something to look forward to at the end of an album… and not something you had to slog through every other track. I know a lot of fans that are more hardcore than myself have fully embraced the more prog-like tendencies since BNW, but I think they’ve been masking over a drop in songwriting quality with extended bouts of instrumentation. I really hate to come away as a downer, as I do like the album, as even Maiden-by-the-numbers is a good listen… I just felt that a lot of these tracks didn’t justify the extended running times and would have benefited had they been a bit more concise.

    • I guess I like the album a little more than you do, but you make a good argument. I completely agree about the running time not really seeming necessary, and I also miss the days of the albums building up the epic, as all the 82-86 albums did. In 88 they put the epic earlier in the running order, but I remember how epic Infinite Dreams felt too, and it was just over 6 minutes!

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