Review: Bruce Dickinson – Tyranny Of Souls (2005)

Even with Bruce Dickinson happily reinstated in Iron Maiden, there would be a future for sporadic collaborations between the singer and Roy Z. Tyranny Of Souls seems to complete a career-defining trilogy of albums for Dickinson.

Tyranny Of Souls
Released 23 May 2005
Produced by Roy Z

Bruce Dickinson had completed his artistic odyssey with 1998’s brilliant The Chemical Wedding, coming full circle in musical terms and reclaiming his throne as the world’s premier heavy metal singer, before surprisingly (although posterity might say inevitably) returning to Iron Maiden in 1999 for a fantastic second stint that is still going strong.

If Accident Of Birth had led into The Chemical Wedding, it certainly feels like Tyranny Of Souls is more of the same and mostly in a very good way. Dickinson’s interest in all things science fiction and alchemy continue to inform a cohesive bunch of lyrics that he drapes over guitarist and producer Roy Z’s indefatigable riffs and leads and power chords and acoustic strums.

Bruce Dickinson and Roy Z at the time of creating their fourth album together, Tyranny Of Souls in 2005.

Z’s production is solid as ever, the mix seeming a bit clearer and more listener-friendly than the overly compressed heavy crunch of the predecessor. There is more room for Dickinson in the mix, but Tyranny Of Souls still sounds very much like the natural follow-up to the previous two collaborations of the singer and his muse.

The opening trio of songs is strong: the catchy melodies of Abduction, the razor-sharp metal of Soul Intruders, and the uplifting Kill Devil Hill which is possibly the album’s most affecting song in the way it allows Dickinson’s vocals to soar like the one-of-a-kind instrument it is.

After this the album somewhat surprisingly winds down the intensity level for a couple of tracks, Navigate The Seas Of The Sun and River Of No Return both packing a little less of the trademark Dickinson high-register impact, until the latter’s chorus that is.

Dickinson has often favored macabre imagery for his solo albums, and for Tyranny Of Souls he would choose this piece by German-born renaissance painter Hans Memling.

A highlight in the second half of the album is the patented air-raid metal of Power Of The Sun, but the momentum is arrested by the underwhelming Devil On A Hog and Believil, before it all reaches a satisfying conclusion with the epic title track. The latter was originally written for a proposed “Three Tremors” project with Dickinson alongside Rob Halford and Geoff Tate. Dickinson had wanted Halford and Ronnie James Dio (because, of course), but Maiden management disliked Dio management and suggested Tate, an idea that collapsed when a Tate and Dickinson meeting produced zero points of agreement. Dickinson and Z would just do a record, thank you.

Although such a record is obviously the Bruce and Roy show, honourable mentions must be made of the contributing players: David Moreno (drums), Ray “Geezer” Burke and Juan Perez (both bass), and the weirdly mysterious Maestro Mistheria (keyboards). It might lack the more colourful character of the Tribe Of Gypsies band that had backed Bruce on the previous couple of records, but it rocks just fine.

Dickinson had a very productive latter half of the 1990s, producing Balls To Picasso (1994) and Skunkworks (1996) in the immediate aftermath of leaving Maiden, before settling for making records with Roy Z and Adrian Smith in the form of Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding. After his and Smith’s return to Iron Maiden for the new millennium, the Steve Harris mothership would churn out the better-than-expected albums Brave New World (2000) and Dance Of Death (2003), and Dickinson would manage this Tyranny Of Souls interlude just before heading into the modern Maiden masterpiece A Matter Of Life And Death (2006).

It was the end of the era of such prolific output. As Iron Maiden eased into their second golden age, there would be more touring and less recording. Maiden would take ever longer between new records, averaging one every four or five years, while there would be a monumentally long wait for the next Dickinson and Roy Z collaboration. It’s a bye-for-now, see-you-some-other-time, and as such Tyranny Of Souls is arguably the inferior of their records while still packing enough great songs to be very good.

Christer’s verdict: 4/6

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


2 thoughts on “Review: Bruce Dickinson – Tyranny Of Souls (2005)

  1. Good review! TOS is a good album but just not as good as AOB and especially CW. Wasn’t Believil even a COW-leftover? These days I find myself returning to River of no return, Believil and the title track, when I feel like listening to this record. All in all TOS feels more patchy compared to its predecessors.

  2. My favourite release of the reunion era: 4.5/6. It’s easy to listen to, more of that patented Bruce-Roy Z brand of classic metal and hard rock with modern touches. It’s satisfyingly heavy and melodic. It is epic in places but does not overstay its welcome. Oh , the joy of a sub-45 minute record! I think Devil on a Hog is a great rocker, but Believil is a dud. I know CW is the classic album, but I’d rather listen to ToS or AoB. I’m looking forward to the long-delayed collaboration with Roy Z. Will the old magic still be there? I hope so!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s