Sunday, September 13, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Maiden- "Book Of Souls" [CD Hardbound Edition] (2015)

'Maiden's 16th Studio album, "Book Of Souls" arrived on my doorstep Labor Day Weekend, so what better way to spend a Monday off? As Iron Maiden are one of the few Heavy Metal bands my partner and I agree on, it was especially nice to share this one with my significant other (you'll come to love Von yet, you'll see!). I bought the CD Hardbound Edition, though I was tempted to get the 3 vinyl version! The artwork is quite good throughout, see my teaser photos.

The album, overall, is quite good, with all band members getting a chance to shine. In fact, the release feels more like a showcase for each member's unique style and personality. Of course Bruce has TWO songs about planes, including opera-ballad closer "Empire Of The Clouds." Yes, there's three of eleven songs longer than 10 minutes, but none drag; they are nuanced and interesting enough to flow well. The album has plenty of throw-back riffs; "The Great Unknown" is similar in riffage and arrangement to "Alexander The Great" on 'Somewhere In Time,' for example. It's a bit lacking in hooks but it's a good tune. Steve Harris' song, "The Red And The Black" is probably the oldest-sounding (though "When The River Runs Deep" plunders the depths of the 'Maiden catalog) and best track on the album. Lyrically, it's Iron Maiden's "Ace Of Spades." Tons of gallops and the album's first and best 'whoah' sing-along!

The first part of the album closes with the long title track, nicely book-ended with an acoustic riff. This song probably has the most balanced start-to-finish arrangement for musical feeling, with only "Empire Of The Clouds" worthy of competing. Before I move on, "If Eternity Should Fail" is a good mostly mid-pacer with some decent gallops and opportunities for Bruce to stretch his vocal chords. Also it's very strong in the song's latter portion! "Speed Of Light" is another solid track, probably my second favorite on the album, with a great video. It really sets the throwback theme in motion with Bruce's opening vocal delivery and, most importantly, the cow bell!

I suggest taking an intermission (as I did) before starting the 2nd half of the album, beginning with "Death Or Glory" an appropriately energetic song to perk you up after "The Book Of Souls." This whole portion of the album deals, lyrically, with death. This fact, coupled with my proposed 'showcase' of all band members, truly makes the album title 'The Book Of Souls' exceedingly apt. These latter songs are still strong, but not as good as the first half, to me. Of course, the album is a bit of an endurance test so I'll have to try each track individually to fairly rate its merit.

Ok, so a summary of 'Maiden's longest-ever song (18:03 minutes!), "Empire Of The Clouds" about an experimental airship crash. Why? Because 'Maiden are Nerd Metal, that's why! And I love it. So the song takes about 4 minutes to drop in the guitars, building up from Bruce's simple but catchy piano line. The song stays mid-pace throughout and re-drops the guitars for the last minute or so. I really like the track, but if I were arranging it, I'd make more use of the guitars playing the main piano line, as it is really catchy! Again, great track, not gimmicky, historically accurate and enlightening, a fitting closer for an excellent album.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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